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Bloody Hell !!!

My latest set of blood tests were a crashing disaster…now I wait to hear from my Doctor so we can figure out what the hell I’m going to do.  Perhaps I can wrap the house in plastic and become the woman in a bubble.  Mind you, can’t see my Gina being too keen on that…

 

On & On & On & On

it went…the never ending illness !!

As today has been quite a good day, I’ve got Jillian to bring me the computer so I can try and catch up on a few things like emails and my webpage. So, here I am.

I was supposed to be in hospital last week having an operation, but because of my lousy blood results the Doctor cancelled.  I have had two tests just over a week apart and was very excited to get a marginal improvement in the second week, though 800 white soldiers instead of 700 still isn’t that fantastic AND, keep in mind, I should have a minimum of 4,000….but I was pleased and, considering it got as low as 300 in the early days,  it gave me a much needed little boost.

I’m ‘medicating’ up at the moment as I’m about to start another run of bone marrow sampling and blood testing.  Please god there’s been an improvement because if there hasn’t, we running out of places to go.

I still have to avoid all sick people though, which isn’t that difficult in a village with 400 people and great clean air. There’s a constant supply of Jewish antibiotics (chicken soup filled with freshly slaughtered free range chicken and chemical free winter garden vege) coming across the road from my fabulous neighbour, Hristina.

I asked Jillian to bring me some jelly crystals, because you can’t get them here yet. My reason for asking was to do with cooking, but as I’m not doing any, I’ve rediscovered the joy of eating jelly.  Quite possibly helping to keep me alive  🙂

Having Jillian here has been so healing for me.  I know there was a huge spike in my improvement when she first arrived, but I think a lot of that was pure excitement and I seem to have settled back into a circle of good days and bad. She’s gone from being my strength, my support and my nurse and added dog walker and carer, turkey buddy, garage sorter and clean up miracle lady and even hairdresser.  I got it into my head to put a colour through my hair the other day.  Hey, I look like shit …I’m all scrawny and my hair is just a mess, and I thought a bit of colour might help.  Got my ambitions mixed up with my capabilities, didn’t I ? Got the colour in, got the hair tied up and then went to pieces.  I’m finding if I stand too long, I become really nauseous and very weak.  So there I am in the bathroom, too weak to call out, hardly able to stand and wondering if lying on the bathroom floor would be good or bad for my struggling health.  Thank god Jillian got a little concerned about the silence and came and retrieved me.  She helped me to the sofa so I could lie down ( after covering the pillows with plastic…I’ve got dark auburn dye in my hair remember ) and there I remained until the sickness passed…far too long for the colour in my hair, let me tell you.  When I eventually had the strength to be led back to the bathroom, where Jillian then rinsed my hair out, I emerged a much darker haired woman…and I don’t think it helps the whole sick look.  Porcelain white skin against dark, dark hair…Goth gone wrong springs to mind.

Anyway, that kinda led to a few days back in bed.  I’ve been sleeping like the dead and Jillian insists I stay, as long as I feel better for it. And I confess to feeling better and better when  I do sleep my days and nights away.

And let’s not forget the fabulous food she is cooking for me.  OK, I can only manage a very small plate but she’s making me wonderful food full of wonderful flavours and all based on just what benefits my blood will get from it. So it’s not just about soup & jelly.  I’ve been treated to salmon & chicken poached in garlic oil with lots of lovely ‘blood’ veges…beetroot, broccoli, mushrooms, all served with rice or potatoes.  Mind you, I still get menu envy a lot because Jillian’s having even more lovely stuff that I can’t eat. I’d love a slice of toasted pannetoni or some Christmas cake, but they’re just not on the list at the moment.

I’m still losing weight but have decided there will be no new clothes.  I actually bought a belt the other day, the first one I have ever owned, and I think I only got it because Jillian didn’t think tying my jeans up with string was a good look.

I think I am truly finding out the meaning of the words ‘fragile’ & ‘feeble’.  This is just so debilitating and I’m used to being strong and able. It’s very hard for me.  All my muscle has gone so I have nothing to ‘hold’ me up when I want to climb stairs or go for a little walk.  My legs shake and my heart goes into overdrive, and that’s when I do bugger all.  I look like a baby elephant who’s trying to survive a drought…muscles are gone, fat’s disappearing but the skin remains.  I have all the skin and nothing to put in it.  I can’t even look at myself anymore.  It was funny at first…not any more.

Anyway, I don’t have a lot of news, given that the scope of my world has been reduced to my bedroom and the lounge room.

I’m having an airing tomorrow as I head to Yambol for blood test #20.  Lets hope these result are good…I’ll keep you posted.

back to sleep for me……ciao for now

Chestita Nova Godina to everyone…That’s ‘Happy New Year’ for the non Bulgarian speakers

I’m not dead !!!  and nor is Gina…and thanks to everyone for asking

Though at times I feel mostly dead, I think my recovery has been more than assisted by the arrival and presence of this woman

My sister ‘ Cyclone’ Jillian arrived just before Christmas and has been my nurse, my strength and my support…and has become Gina’s new best friend…forever !!  (BFF apparently)

I’ll be back with more detail later, but for now, I’ve been ordered back to bed  🙂

I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year

is a sound I’ve heard a couple of times since this whole mess started. The first time was when I was sitting in my hospital room waiting for Dimitir to come and take me back to Miladinovtsi.  I was feeling very, very beaten and very vulnerable and suddenly, there he was, my guardian angel ( the younger) standing in the room looking very concerned about me.  This is a terrific young man. The amount of times he was helped me and my friends and sorted out the seemingly impossible and everything he does, he does with warmth and kindness.  This is a ‘good’ man, an expression I think gets used rather more frequently about people than many really deserve…Dimitor does. I’m sure he’s not perfect, but he has a warmth and realness about himself that is very hard to find these days.

He helped me sort out all the hospital stuff and get my own Pharmacy organised, bundled me into his car and delivered me safe and sound to my home.  I crawled into my bed, just happy to be alive. He has phoned me almost everyday to be sure I am OK and when I gave him a list of stuff I needed to start treating all my problems, he did my shopping and delivered it out here to me.  His parting words ”  you phone me any time of the day or night if you need help” and I know if I did, he would be here like a shot.  He has his own life, his family and his work and yet he will always find time to be there for people who need help.

I settled in as best I could, given my condition.  Colin was still here for two days and then he was off.  On the Tuesday  morning, at the crack of dawn, he departed.  Hristina came over and once he had gone she got me back to my bed and settled.  As she walked away back to her house, I heard that rustling sound again and I think that’s when she very gently folded her senior guardian angel wings around my house and me. There would be no interlopers, no intruders, only her and the local doctor, who was coming to change my dressing and give me B12 injections every other day. Once he had finished, and after a little chat with me, she shooed him out .

The house was disgusting.  I had been sick for so long by this stage and nothing was being done to keep the place in check.  Hristina sat on my bed one morning sort of looking around and commented that things weren’t that clean. She understood that I could not do a thing. On the Friday morning, I was lying in bed when I heard a bit of giggling and shuffling about.  Hristina and her friend, Donka appeared downstairs wanting to know where Gina was, and once they knew she was outside, they went to work.  Six hours later they had transformed the place, especially my floor, including my bedroom. I had smashed another of my big glass doors and though I had bought the new glass before I got sick, I then got too sick to repair it.  In came the cavalry,  …in the shape of Hristina’s husband Volcho and Donka’s husband Ivan.  Before you could say it, the house was lovely, the door was fixed and back hanging and I was sitting in my bed crying.

This concerned them all greatly and they wanted to know if the things they had done weren’t good enough, which just made me cry more. Hristina and Donka tucked me in and they all left me to continue my healing.

Now, I’m not eating a great deal, though things are getting a little better.  It’s been pro-biotic yoghurt to try and repair my innards and a little banana here and there.  On the Sunday, the mob appeared back in my house. They were having a ‘Banket’…as it sounds, a get together with food and a few drinks.  Obviously I wasn’t up to it and Hristian and Donka pressed a little napkin with something warm in it into my hand.  I opened it up and there was a small piece of freshly fried fish.  I decided to brave a small bite, having no idea how my body would respond.  God, it was the best thing I have ever eaten,  It had been rolled in flour and a little salt and fried.  It tasted like nothing I had ever put in my mouth, and I’ve been lucky to eat some damned fine food over the years…it was amazing, and I can still taste that warm, salty, fishy flavour.  I was sitting in bed eating it very slowly and just relishing the taste when Hristina asked me if it was ‘dobre’ and I started to cry again.  She asked what was wrong with it and I then had to try and explain that she had given me the best thing I could ever remember eating.  I think she thought I was completely nuts !!

They gave the house another little cursory clean and then disappeared for their day together.

How can I ever thank or repay these people.

I continue to sleep.  Not so much drug addled sleep now, so things are obviously on the mend, but I have a long way to go.

Betcha thought I was dead …actually, so did I. And there’s still a fair distance to the edge of the woods that I’m fighting to get out of !!.

After my terrific summer drew to and end and I waved goodbye to friends, old and new, I headed home to make the ‘getting ready for winter’ list.  I had all the usual: pull up the summer garden and get everything ploughed, pack away the pool, generally tidy the place and make sure everything was working for winter, fireplaces etc…the possibility of spending weeks fighting for my life certainly wasn’t included.

Colin was moving in for his last few weeks in Bulgaria before his return to the UK, so we got him settled and I turned my attention to things to do.

As you know from my blogs since returning to Bulgaria, things have been pretty fantastic. Of course there’s been the odd glitch…life wouldn’t be life without them.

I got so much done with the house and garden and got to enjoy two fantastic summers, meeting new friends and catching up with old. I was happy, healthy, strong and content and really looking forward to my future here.

Now I’m not so sure….

But let me step back to my time in Australia in 2008/2009.  In 2009 I just went to the docs for an annual checkup, as you do.    I got a call from the surgery late one afternoon asking me to get down there ASAP.  As I figured nothing’s that urgent I replied “‘tomorrow?” and was promptly told “no, now”. When I arrived, I was informed that I had returned a very strange blood result and as such, had no immunity.  I made the joke that if I caught a cold I’d die…and he replied ‘possibly’.  It kinda started to hit home and I underwent another round of blood tests and was then dispatched to Royal Perth Hospital for further testing, because the results were not improving. When your blood is tested, you should have between 2,000 and 11,000 white soldiers to protect you against invading forces…I had 600. I spent a dizzy day at RPH only to be told later that afternoon, that everything have returned to normal. ?????  Good news, I didn’t have AIDS, wasn’t HIV positive, showed no signs of any other immunity disease, no visible active cancers…in fact the doctor said I was one of the healthiest people he’d ever tested. All and sundry were perplexed by theses events, but how can you treat something that’s not there.  So back to Geraldton I went and never gave it another thought.

Moving forward to September 2011

While I was tripping around with Di I got a little cut on my left index finger and be damned if the bloody thing would heal…I also had a small burn, which was healing but ever so slowly.  I figured perhaps just another sign of getting older.  The  ‘Australian incident’ never for a moment crossed my mind.

Now, I’m a pretty energetic soul.  Colin kept telling me I’m hyperactive and should slow down and my neighbours were constantly telling me to slow down and to find a ‘good man’ to do all the work that I was undertaking.. ..but while I was traveling in Spain and France I had a couple of moments where I just flagged. I said to Di a couple of time that I must be having too much fun…and I was, believe you me, but one day I just didn’t have it in me to go with Deb and Di on a day out.  I stayed home and nana rested!!

When I got back and did a little blog for France, I put up some pics of Di, Deb and I.  I looked at myself and thought ‘jesus christ, you look like shit’ and funnily enough on the other side of the world, my family were making the same observations…did we discuss it ?  don’t be ridiculous, we all just got on with our lives…as you do.

My finger still hadn’t healed so I popped into the chemist and got a little cream that sorted it in a couple of days…or did it ?  er, no

I was still feeling weak but plugged on thinking I could rest all through winter.

Then there was the little red spot under my right arm. I figured it for a bite but within days I had a large, angry red ‘thing’ that was starting to go blue/black. I was off to Yambol for a massage and decided to pop into the doctor in Insovo and get a script for some antibiotics. She lifted my arm, winced and told me to get to a surgeon,  I said I was going for a massage and she said absolutely NOT !!

Anyway, what can I say..I popped into the office of a surgeon at the Polyclinic….he winced as well, told me it was septic and packed me off the (thankfully) the new hospital.  I’m thinking “how in the world could something like this go septic in three days ??”

Next surgeon lined up, took a look and said ‘operation’ . I was a little stunned but told him I’d go home and get some bits and bobs and come back.  I wasn’t going anywhere and by 5pm was flat out on the operating table, tits akimbo (again) being prepped.  Post Op, the shit really hit the fan. The drips were coming thick and fast, lots of blood sampling being done and in between the feverish haze I was dwelling in, a small thought of 2009 in Oz popped into my head. And when one of the doctors came and told me they thought they may have created the right cocktail to halt the infection, I knew what was happening…the infection was winning the battle and I had nothing to give.

That night really was hell, but I woke around 4am and I was dry, not lathered in sweat and the blinding headache I’d had for three days had abated but I was completely exhausted. Of course, the next morning the doctors were happier…temp down, sweating, steaming stopped, but I still had lousy blood results.  They sat me down to tell me I had a very dangerous problem, but before he started I asked my translator to tell him about Australia.. He wanted my records, which thanks to some friends and a terrific little doctor that I had in Geradlton, were there hours later. Same problem, only this time I got to see how serious it could be.

He told me I was to get to Sofia to a specialist hematologist as quickly as possible and recommended a specialist hospital there.  Armed with all my records I went to my translator and friends Diliana to get things organised.  I’m glad I did as she recommended what turned out to be a far, far superior hospital and it gave me a chance to find out what as in my Yambol report. They were diagnosing leukemia, which came a a bit of a  surprise, but by this stage I was so sick I didn’t really care.

Next morning I was bundled up in Colin’s car and on my way to the Tukuda Hospital, and we couldn’t have got there sooner. We managed to end up at the back of the hospital and, with the help of a random woman, found the hematology floor.  I staggered into the office of the head of Hematology, Dr Radinov, ( much to his surprise) and while he was asking who I was, how I had got into his office, why wasn’t I registered etc etc, I just slumped in a chair and said ‘please help me, I’m so sick and I don’t know what to do’

He immediately went from official director to caring, warm, concerned Doctor.  I was in a treatment room before you could say ‘jack robinson’ and my treatment, after a few formalities, swung into action.

I was put into a room and isolated for starters…shouldn’t have been near anyone, apparently…I had a terrific Doctor appointed to me, Dr Amene.  He is one of those big, shaven headed, rather scary looking guys and he was fantastic. Once I was settled and he’d had a good chat with me, they bought in something that looked like a hat stand and had about half a dozen different bags handing off it. The next four days were a blur of tramadol, antibiotics, blood and various intravenous infusions and the constant changing of bags and strangers holding my hand and caring for me . But I could feel myself emerging from the darkness and through it all, every now and again I’d peer out through a hazy world and see a large mountain looking down on me. Once I was back in the real world I realised the hospital was at the base of the Vitosha Mountian and it was an enduring and strong image to see in my weakest and most vulnerable moments.

Day five saw a battered and bruised shell of my former self emerge.  Dr Amene asked me to stay an extra night and as my friend Dimitor was bringing some people to Sofia on the Saturday, he agreed to bring me home. I had the extra night of observation and though my white cells were showing some improvement, my red cells had decided to join in the fun and weren’t looking great, hence the blood transfusion. My blood pressure was sitting around the 80/54 mark, which was also an issue. My liver, kidneys and pancreas had also taken a bit of a kicking through the whole mess and my Doc had concerns there as well.  Seems the only organs that sailed through unscathed are my heart and lungs, which is kind of ironic given I hammered them for 36 years with as many fags as I could jam in. !!  They are both in great shape and very strong indeed…at least a little good news  🙂

And so to Bed Land I have come.  I am very ill, there’s no doubt about that.  Like the doctors in Australia, Dr Amene is shaking his head over this. They can all see the problems, but there don’t seem to be a lot of answers.  I do suspect that Dr Amene isn’t just going to shove this under the carpet and hope it goes away…he seems to have a great deal of interest in what’s happening and suggests I should be monitored. I’m  back there next week for a check up so lets see what we can come up with.

The local doctor has been popping and giving me B12 injections and the good news is that my blood pressure has rising to the dizzy, and very respectable, heights of 110/80.  Hes also been changing the dressing on the wound under my arm and that’s coming on at last.

Dr Amene says I’m a fighter but I confess to having some dark moments just now.  Six months ago I was a strong, healthy 56 year old woman working like a navie, taking on everything the world could throw at me and enjoying every second of it, loving my life and all it was giving me. Just now, the trip from my bed to the dunny (maybe 10metres) is really hard work.  This is not for me.  Let’s hope the improvement continues.

My sister Jillian, the same rock that got me through last time, is flying in on the 20th and I know that will bring some sanity into my existence. She’s amazing and I admit to lying here counting off the days until she walks in the door…hopefully I can walk out to meet her, not shuffle to her like her granny 🙂

I wasn’t going to put any of this up here but have had so many messages asking what the hell is happening.  I’ve also been swamped with emails but I only have about an hours working time in me each day( and half of that is spent getting the geese fed and kicking Gina out for some fresh air ) and I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the energy to do individual messages.

There may be stories from Bed Land…though let’s be honest, it’s a pretty boring place even when I’m too sick to be anywhere else.

Ah yes, perhaps there’s life in the old dog yet…

Hola

and so to Barcelona we went…on our way to spend time with Deb Westerberg in France.

Deb gave me the name of a guest house in Barcelona and a great suggestion it was.  Slap bang in the middle of the city, with a lovely view of the city streets from our balcony

and very close to Las Ramblas and Plaza de Catalunya. No matter how much of a tourist trap Las Ramblas can be, it’s always worth a wander through.  The sites, the smells the food and characters are all terrific to experience

and let’s not forget the drinks and sweets

Just makes you want to climb in and feast, doesn’t it …and this market is there every day of the week selling lovely fresh produce.

November 16th :  This has been waiting for two weeks to be finished and published. I have a  valid reason why it isn’t, which includes a stay in hospital and I will go into that very soon.

I sometimes think the gods are really testing me here  🙂

For now:  TO BE CONTINUED

What do you  reckon might be going on here ?

if you’re guessing ‘grape picking’, you’d be right, but then what are we up to here ?

What you’re seeing here are the first steps towards the very first ‘Chateau Southern Cross… that’s plonk from my very own grapes !!

I had a bumper crop of grapes this year and as I knew I was going to be busy and also away for a critical part of the harvest time, I gave a lot of them away to a fella called Michael who comes here for holidays and likes to make wine. I also asked Hristina if she would like the rest for rakia or wine for her and Volcho. Though she said yes, she clearly had another plan for them.

When Di and I arrived back from Plovdiv, we  were thinking rest and preparation for the next page of our holiday.  Hristina arrived here first thing one morning and informed me that it was time to pick the remaining grapes and that they would become wine…for me.

Di was upstairs waiting for me when I called her and told her to postpone any plans because I would be picking grapes. She was very excited and definitely up for being involved, so to work we went.

Hristina bought over the thing that you an see on top of the barrel and set it up in the garage.  We wrestled the bloody wasps for the sweet, sugary grapes and bucket by bucket Hristina put them through the mincer (no idea of the proper name).  We had a terrific time and Hristina really took a shine to Di, who was doing her best to talk Bulgarian to her.  When you do this, it doesn’t matter how bad your Bulgarian is, the villagers are really tickled that your at least try.  Di was actually doing very well indeed and Hristina  spent most of the working time helping her and chatting away to her…

I did explain to Hristina that we were going away and I wouldn’t be here when it was time to add the sugar. “Nyma problema’ she said, she would do it for me while I was away having a holiday, and she did and it’s now sitting in a plastic barrel downstairs festering away….or should I say maturing into a fine vintage  🙂

The first vintage is only about 20 litres and I do have to credit Hristina with most of the production, but it’s done and if I’m still here next year, I’ll certainly do it all again.

It was a great experience for me and for Di as well I think…If it’s drinkable and I go as far as to bottle it, I think I know the very photo for the label

After our rather unexpected busy day, we then threw a few things into a case and headed off the Sofia to catch a plane to Barcelona

I know I was only away for four days and I had a great time in Turkey with Di, but I have to confess that when it was time to return home I felt just a little excited…I do love coming back here.  I had also left three people and Gina in charge and thought perhaps it was time to get back and relieve them of their duties.

Before I headed down to Turkey, a couple from Denmark ( Australia) came to stay.  Amanda and Di walk together in a walking group in Australia and so when Di was talking about coming to visit me, Amanda and her husband Stuart thought that Bulgaria sounded like somewhere worth visiting as well, so along they came.

They are terrific and it was a pleasure having them here.

Their start in BG wasn’t that great.  They came from Istanbul with a bus company called Metro, and even though the company says on their website that they come to Yambol, they don’t,  and have a very bad habit of dropping people off in the middle of bugger all…precisely what they did to Stu and Amanda.  I arranged to pick them up from Yambol but when Stu rang, they were clearly NOT in Yambol and had been dropped in a village called Zimnitsa, about 20 Ks from where they should have been. I headed out there and found two waifs looking slightly shell shocked standing in the middle of a place they probably had never thought they would visit. I bundled them into the car and so began a very enjoyable few days leading up to my departure to meet Di.

These two were here for some rest and recreation, a good holiday, so you could have knocked me over with a feather when, on their first morning with me Amanda asked if she could go and dig up the rest of my potatoes…” don’t be ridiculous’ I cried ‘you’re here for a holiday’.  But there was no stopping her, She insisted that she really wanted to spend time in the garden and who was I to refuse her.  She was down there for ages and, with some help from Stu, got another great patch of my spuds up, which was a terrific relief for me as I was already falling behind with everything that needed doing around the place.

The weather was incredibly hot and we had many a pleasant evening sitting in my fairy light garden enjoying a few cold bevies and some fabulous fresh food from my vegetable patch. And,of course, they won the heart of the resident tyrant (Gina, not me) and she managed to con many a walk out of them as well, especially Amanda.

I was taking them down the Sozopol for a day, so with Colin in tow, the three of us headed out for a lovely day.  The weather was still blistering hot and the place looked gorgeous. We had a beaut day of walking, looking, good food and sights like this

We were sitting in a great little restaurant overlooking the water on a stunningly beautiful day when this cruised past…fabulous.

When I was heading down the meet Di in Istanbul, Stuart and Amanda were moving off to tour through Bulgaria, intending to come back for a few days before Di & I headed off to France.  I was going to put Gina in the kennels for the days I was away…well, they liked it so much that they asked if they could stay in the house while I was gone and were perfectly happy to look after the old girl in my absence. I was very pleased.  It meant Gina wouldn’t be uprooted twice ( she was going to the kennels while I was in France) and I knew she’d be more settled and less neurotic at home with strangers than in kennels with strangers.  Don’t forget, in 2008 I put her in the kennels for 6 months and didn’t come back for two years…she gets very suspicious when I drive anywhere near the kennels these days.

Anyway, I did the Istanbul run and Di and I came back to Miladinovtsi to a very happy dog and equally happy house guests.  We had a couple of days before heading off to the other side of Europe. We took Stu and Amanda to Plovdiv, their starting point for an eight day walk through the Rhodope  mountains, and said our goodbyes there

Di & I headed back to Miladinovtsi to prepare for our departure to France.  We didn’t have a lot planned and figured a nice, easy restful time before embarking on a cross Europe journey would be good, but the best laid plans…

After the extraordinary day we had at Gallipoli, Di and I had another day to spend in Istanbul and spent it being real, full blown tourists. We did an open top bus tour, which was really fun and saw Istanbul in a completely different light…especially the bridge over the Bosphorus

It was quite stunning…and the lights changed colour all the time.  I did try to take pics as it was changing, but these were the only ones that didn’t look like something from a bad LSD trip.

The trip was a lot of fun and we got to find out things like where Istanbul ladies go to get any extra hair they might need

and the preferred method of travel when moving furniture

We found this bloke trying to entice folk to have their pictures taken with him

but at 5 euros a pop I figured that was way too expensive, so I convinced Di to sidle up next to him so I could get one of him for free

She looks like she’s actually talking to him, doesn’t she…she’s not, but she’s damned good at getting close to someone without them being aware of what’s really going on.  This wasn’t the only time I got away with doing this.  I got this bloke as well

The ‘photographer’ that was working with this guy told me I couldn’t take his pic…a little late methinks as I already had it …

and this guy, who was dispensing water to hot, thirsty tourists, just looked great

One of the last things we did before leaving Turkey was go for a ridgy didge Turkish bath and not in the touristy places…we were told about a real place where the Turks go by a couple who were staying with me ( more about them later) and so we decided to take the leap and see what awaited us.

Hooley Dooley…if you’re shy or have body image issues ( thank god I’ve reached the “I don’t give a tinkers toss” stage of my life) then don’t even consider it. If you want one of the best things life has to offer and want to feel better than you ever have in your entire life, then get thee to a proper Turkish bath house.  It was fantastic…but let me take you through it…

First we had to take everything off…forget about undies or bras, everything comes off and you’re given a Turkish towel to wrap yourself in. Then it’s off the the incredibly hot, steamy room with a huge slab of very warm marble in the centre that you’re told to lie on…by the way, this is all being done by charades and gesticulations …not a word of English was spoken in this place. You lie there and just sweat !!! Even my legs were sweating, which is something I don’t think I’ve experienced before. Di and I were just about dying in the heat when the rather voluptuous woman, who was clearly our bath lady, came in (just in her bra and knickers) and indicated that I should follow her. I felt a little nervous about leaving Di on her own and a little apprehensive about going with this stranger on my own but I figured what the hell…I reckon I was far to old and saggy for white slavery, so off I went.

I was taken into the room next door, relieved of my towel and told to lie face down on another slab of marble. She put on what I can only describe as looking like large oven gloves with a light sandpaper on them. She proceeded to lather me up, and I mean LATHER me up… I reckon all that was showing under the huge pile of fluffy suds would have been my eyes peering out.  Anyway she then rubbed and scrubbed  just about every square inch of me. She turned me over and repeated the entire process on my front, breasts and all !!  She really was amazing and just kinda flipped you over and dealt with you like a great slab of meat. Like I said, no point being shy and retiring here. She then poured buckets after bucket after bucket of exactly the right temperature warm water all over me…front, back, top, bottom.

Later when Di and I were comparing notes, she asked me if I had looked at the water rinsing off me…I hadn’t, but she did and that it was grey…which we can only assume was all the old skin and dead tissue being sluiced off our bodies.

The next thing I was wrapped in a huge fluffy dressing gown and popped out into a waiting area for the next stage, which turned out to be the most incredible massage I have ever had. This woman was small of stature but as strong as an ox, but with that special ability to give you a massage that found all the achy painy areas and dealt with them accordingly and for the rest, just a terrific massage.

When it was all over and we returned to the real world, we both felt fantastic and my skin was gorgeous and stayed that way for weeks and weeks.  The process obviously took off layers of ‘ick’ and revealed nice new, soft, baby skin which I reveled in for ages.  Even now, it still feels better than it has for years…

I highly recommend it 🙂

Soon enough it was time to say farewell to Turkey and get back to Miladinovtsi where my Gina and some guests, Stuart and Amanda, were waiting for our return…

In amongst all the fun and laughter of Istanbul, Di and I made the trip to see Gallipoli.  Like all Australians, I grew up with the story of the wartime debacle that occurred there, starting on the 25th of April 1915 and dragging on for eight months with terrible loss of life on both sides. Gallipoli has become a shrine to the Australians and New Zealanders who died there and a service is held there every April 25th which sees thousands of us heading there to pay homage to the dead. I have always talked about going there since coming to live in Bulgaria.  I mean, it’s just across the border from me, but time and circumstance saw me never making the journey.

When Di told me she was coming over, I figured this was as good a time as any to make that journey.

We were bussed up there at the crack of dawn by a tour company called’ TJ’s” and there started an amazing day and one that had a profound effect on me, something I really didn’t expect. Our tour guide was TJ himself and he was absolutely fantastic

TJ is a Turkish man married to an Australian woman and his knowledge was extensive. He told us things about that whole dreadful time that we were never taught in school.  I can’t believe how little I knew about it. He also gave us stories from the Turkish perspective, and that was good to learn about as well.

TJ had various documents with letters and stories and he asked for volunteers to read some of them out. I stepped up for the first one, as no one else seemed willing.  It was really hard reading the words of someone who had perished there

and I have to say, I was somewhat disappointed with my fellow Australians on the tour, none of whom stepped up to do the the later readings, which were done by an American and a Canadian.  And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with that because both countries had men involved, but this is an important memorial for us and I was surprised that no one would put themselves out there.

Though I found the whole area very sombre, I was asking myself why so many people I have spoken to over the years told me that they got really upset at the Gallipoli battle grounds. I certainly felt quiet, but I didn’t feel ‘upset’…until I read this

I just found it so moving and I crumbled. I felt like a bloody fool, but couldn’t seem to stop the tears.  It was a most interesting reaction for me and made me a little more understanding about the effect the place can have on you.

The entire area is dotted with graves and monuments, with Lone Pine being one of the most important to Australians

It’s also a place of great importance to the Turks and they have a beautiful monument there as well

including this beautiful sculpture

This was the last Turkish Gallipoli veteran who died when he was well into his 100s. It’s a beautiful thing…

Di & I did take a little time to get our pic taken at one of the sites and also to dip our toes into the sea….under far better circumstances than all those men who never made it back home.

I know that  visiting Gallipoli, even after all these years, was something I won’t ever forget.  It’s not a celebration of war, it’s part of our history as a developing country.  Australia was so young then and this devastated not just the country as a whole but small towns that lost a great deal of their male population.  It had to be an awakening for us and something that I agree all Australians should know about. The Turks have not forgotten and nor should we.  I heartily recommend that  every one that hasn’t been,  should try their best to get there before they shuffle off this mortal coil. And I’d certainly recommend TJ as a guide.  He made the whole experience live…he’s terrific.

After our quiet time we headed back into Istanbul..there’s more about that and lots of other stuff to come

for now…ciao