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I’m going to borrow a line from the late great Spike Milligan and instead of starting back in September and working forwards, ‘I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas’…or in my case, walking backwards to Christmas, because I reckon it will be late December before I catch up.

I’ve decided to start with the time I took off with an old and very dear friend, Di Stevens… first stop Turkey.  Di was flying into Istanbul so I decided to go down and meet her there.  Istanbul can be a very intimidating place when you’re alone, especially as a woman and I reckoned two of us would be far more formidable than one.

First and foremost, it was terrific to see her again.  The school reunion just before I returned here in 2010 was the last time we had seen each other and of course, as it always is when you catch up with friends from Australia in a strange and foreign land, it had that slight bizarre-ness about it.  We sort of looked at each other a couple of times over the next few days and said ‘ we’re in Istanbul !! ‘.   – a real, ‘we’re not in Kansas any more Toto’ moment.

And secondly, we had a great time.  We explored the very beautiful and historic that Istanbul has to offer, with the blue Mosque ever beautiful as the backdrop in Sultanamet.

we had a really good look through the Hagia Sofia, a Church built by the Greeks…here’s a little history for you.

‘From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the Greek Patriarchal cathedral of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Patriarch of Constantinople of the Western Crusader established Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931, when it was secularized. It was opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.
When I’ve been to Istanbul on other occasions, the Hagia has either not been open (maybe a Monday) or the Qs were so long that I decided my life was too short to stand there that long.  Di a & I persisted and it was certainly worth it…it’s stunning.

It’s so huge that it’s almost impossible to get a picture that shows it’s size.

And just below where the Sultans used to sit

lay the church mouser ( I presume)

There were hundreds and hundreds of people in that place and the cat didn’t bat an eyelid.

We walked and walked around this very beautiful city, but even in the grounds of the Blue Mosque there were bits and pieces that amused…there were the mosque chickens running around the grounds

and the ever present dogs and cats

They have the most interesting corner shops you will ever see

Isn’t that just gorgeous !!

BUT...why oh why in a city of such great beauty and history would the shops be full of these

and the gentleman responsible for these horrors:

tried to stop me taking pictures because why ???  “someone will steal my designs’  he cried…  I looked him straight in the eye and replied ‘I don’t think so matey’, wandered off, put my long lens on and took them anyway….wedding ideas anyone ???   🙂

We spent our first day taking in Sultanamet…the next day we headed off to Gallipoli and I’ll write more about that later.  Right now I have a huge cauldron of tomato sauce that needs bottling and a sink full of beetroot waiting to be pickled and bottled or chopped up and frozen for winter roasts.

I’ll be back

So…the guests have gone, the house is in total disarray, the country is slowly moving from summer green to autumnal colours, the ground is covered in gold and red and, before I waved my old friend Di Stevens off yesterday, both of us and Colin got to see the first snows for autumn/winter 2011.  Yep, we took a tour through the mountains and the Shipka Pass and the surrounding mountains weren’t just dusted with snow, some of them had a good heavy coverage !! Is this a harbinger of the winter to come ??  I kinda hope so…I do love snow, as long as I don’t have to drive in it, and last winter was, quite frankly, a little disappointing in the snow stakes.

I’m still not back with you in full.  I have a million photos to upload for this blog…can’t have yarns without pics. Though here’s a little taste of what I’ve been doing for the last three months

Two of the most terrific women I know…and we got to spend a little time in France together, which was pretty special. And look at that colour co-ordination !!  We emerged from the house for a BBQ at Deb’s and, Voila !! we were the purple tarts !!

There will be more about that little trip later…

..and I do have a few vital things to prepare for the rapidly approaching winter and then I can dedicate myself to catching up here.  Thank god I’ve got a good memory  🙂

I’ll be back

I know I promised to catch up and I will…but first I have to get back home.

I’m in France just now with two school friends, Di Stevens, who’s on holidays and Deb Westerberg, who lives here, but I will soon return to Bulgaria to make preparations for winter and then I suspect that then I’ll have more time than I know what to do with.

For now, it’s three old girls catching up and have a bloody good time. !!

If you’re in Western Australia, apparently there’s an article about me in the latest Scoop magazine…perhaps someone could send me a copy…moxje bi ? (maybe ?)  🙂

I’m off to enjoy what southern France has to offer and to spend some quality time with fabulous old friends…

ciao for now

and I’ve been so busy, I’ve hardly had time to scratch myself. Again my website suffers and this isn’t really a proper catch up either…just a little  teaser about what’s to come.

It’s been a very busy time indeed and a real mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly…actually, I have to add the very, very good and enjoyable to that as well.

The very, very good is all about trips around Bulgaria with both Colin and my cousin Kerrie….yep, she’s been with me again.  Might have to name one of the rooms after her.  🙂

The  good is a mixture of day to day stuff and getting the contents of my garden preserved.

The bad and the ugly is something that, at first, had me quite angry, but the situation has become so ludicrous that I’ve spent quite a lot of time having a good old laugh. It’s all about an Englishman in this village who needs to get a grip.  His behaviour has become so bizarre that I’ve enlisted a little help…more about it later.

And someone mentioned that I haven’t said much about Gina lately…..what can one say about a large black & white blob that spends her days reclining in luxury as she makes up for all the bad years ?  Not a lot really…she gets love, food, a daily walk and plenty of sleep. She’s happy, she’s content and that’s all I want for her.

I will be back…

In my life I’ve done some pretty silly things and have been lucky enough to come out the other side mostly unscathed. On Sunday I almost spoilt my recovery record when I did possibly the most incredibly stupid thing I have ever done in my 56 years.

I had a very busy and hard day in the garden and the weather was very hot indeed. But wait…I have a pool now, somewhere to go and cool down and rest my often weary bones, so I finished up the work and spent a good hour wallowing in heaven.

When I got out of the water, I was sitting in the late afternoon sun drying off when I realised that the pump was making a strange noise. Can you see where this is going yet ??

I was soaking wet, wrapped in a wet towel, no shoes and a silver ring on each of my thumbs.  I walked over the the power point and unplugged the two ends of the power cable…one to the power point and one to the pump !!!

I can’t even describe the effect the next few seconds had on me and my body. I was trying to get rid of the two ends of the cable and it was like it was glued to my hands.  I could not, for the life of me get free of them. And I had blue ‘lightening’ arcing back and forth between the two thumbs rings I was foolishly wearing.  I felt like my brain was slamming on the inside of my head.  The only thought that went through my head was ‘please don’t let me die like this’ and someone heard me, because the next thing I experienced was the feeling that I was being lifted up off the ground and I was then ‘flung’ onto the concrete…SHIT !!

I hit the deck on my right side slamming my shoulder and my head onto the cement path…it was a thumping, painful moment but at least the pain of the electric shock had ceased.

I lay there for a moment and then the shaking started so I staggered upstairs, rang Colin and asked if he would sit with me for a while until I felt better.  I’ve never experienced anything like this and had no idea what effects it may have on me. My whole body was in shock, my heart was beating like a drum and I had the worst headache I have ever had in my life. I didn’t want to be alone just then.

When he got here I had a warm shower and he made me a hot, sweet tea and, of course, in no time and after a couple of painkillers, I started to feel much better.  I sent him home and had a reflective evening while contemplating the utter stupidity of what I had done.

And three days later I sit here with a sore right side of my head and a bruised and sore right arm and shoulder.  But what about the bruises all the way down my left arm ???  Apparently, electric shocks can do that, leave you bruised and battered.

I guess life is about learning and sometimes we need more than just a kick in the head to remind us about taking care and thinking before we rush in and do things.  I’d rather be buying a new pump for the pool than creating work for my family who would have to sort out my funeral.

Oh, and by the way, the pool pump is fine…just had a little air in the system.

Once again I sit here thanking my lucky stars and wondering for how much longer my incredible good luck can hold out.

Last night, this is what was shining down upon me…

I’m talking serious moonlight here…you could almost ‘feel’ it on your skin

on the subject of days off…

I’d promised my friend Stefka that I would have a few days tripping around Bulgaria with her while she was on summer holidays.  Stefka is a teacher and works hard and long and doesn’t really get a lot of time for herself.  I heard about a village north of here called Etara and asked Colin if he wanted to see it and if we went, could I take Stefka along as well. ‘Not a problem’, he said. It gave him a chance to see more of the country and gave me a chance to spend some time with Stefka.

It turned into a BIG day out.

Stefka’s daughter, Ina, came along as well and as we set off I suggested that as we were going past it, perhaps Colin might like to see the Russian Church in Shipka.  The Shipka Pass was where the Russian army, with a band of Bulgarian freedom fighters, eventually defeated the Turks and drove them out of Bulgaria after a 500 year occupation.  Russia donated the church to Bulgaria in honour of the battle at Shipka Pass. This whole area is very important to the Bulgarians.  I’ve been to both the church and the Shipka Pass before but on the two or three occasions I have been there, either the church wasn’t open or the monument on top of the Shipka Pass wasn’t open…this time I got to see it all.

It’s summer, the Bulgarians are holidaying and seeing the Russian Church in all it’s summer glory was wonderful.

It’s a beautiful monument set in peaceful and tranquil gardens and even though there  were a lot of people wandering around, the place was still very calm…made you want to whisper.

I got to photograph the inside this time and it really is spectacular

and the outside of the building still took my breath away with it’s intricate beauty

Soon it was time to press on and we wound our way up the mountain towards the Shipkas Pass.  We made the decision on the way up to also spend time at the Shipka Pass monument.

Given his love of history, I figured it was something Colin really shouldn’t miss and I’m glad we did stop and spend time there…nearly two hours in fact…but it was just so interesting to see everything this time and to get inside the monument and read what happened and why.

We climbed the five stories of the monument and the views were amazing…standing on top of the world

Clearly I’m not very good at joining pictures, but this will give you some idea of what we were looking down over from the top of the monument …it was breathtaking.

Inside the monument was so interesting.  At last I got some information about what transpired on that mountain.  I had the time to have a good look around outside as well and there are smaller monuments dotting the landscape, all constructed for a different participating country, including Poland, &  for various Bulgarian and Russian heroes of the day.


and all through the hills, cannons are dotted around

and though the site of horrific battles and terrible bloodshed and loss of lives, there’s a certain air of reverence and peace about the place

Certainly my best visit to both sites to date…

And as if we hadn’t squeezed in enough, we headed even further into the mountains to the lovely village of Etara.


It’s not just any village. It’s a living, breathing museum to artisans and craftsmen.  Every building has someone in it working away at their craft or specialty.

And how much do I want a ride in this ?

This is a terrific place. It obviously ran on water and there were operating water wheels and other water driven facilities all around the village

and what better way to wash your rugs than to skoosh them around in here

and then let the water run away naturally down here

and one of my favourites was the Bulgarian bagpipes made from a very natural fibre, an entire goat skin

and be damned if later on in the day, I got to see the bagpipe maker starting a new set from scratch

a little value adding going on here…

There was a lot to see and something else that caught our attention was the roofs on the buildings

They are great slabs of granite interlayed all over the roof.  They must weigh a tonne and yet everything looked very sound.

Sadly, time was by now agin us. We hadn’t quite planned on such a big day and Colin and I both have animals that need attention, so just slightly reluctantly we started out journey back to Yambol and Miladinovtsi.

A terrific day in terrific company

Plovdiv

As long as I’ve been living in Bulgaria I’ve heard great stories of the old town of Plovdiv and the Roman amphitheatre which dwells within.

Colin suggested a day off and as he is a great lover of history, he has always wanted to see the Roman ruins in Plovdiv.  Seemed like a damned fine idea to me as I was much in need of some time away from work, so off we went.

Plovdiv is a terrific day out.  There are beautiful churches, Roman ruins, lovely architecture, great antique stores ( which I avoided like the plague) and just lovely walks around the old city.

Colin’s major interest was the amphitheatre but on the way there we saw some lovely things.  We visited two very beautiful churches, St. Marina and St. Dimitirs.  We couldn’t take photos in St. Marina but we could in St. Dimitir

It was pretty much all marble and very beautiful inside

We spent a little time in both churches and then continued our upward climb to where the amphitheatre was, this time passing some lovely architecture

and eventually we came over a little rise, down a few steps and there it was…actually, the first thing we saw was this

It was a stinker of a day and this little fella was out for the count in the heat and in exactly the same position when we left a considerable time later….but he did move his head, so he was alive.

And right below him …

And what, I can hear you ask, is going on in that ancient piece of property ? Well, they use it for performances and when we arrived it was being prepared for a concert that evening.

It was slightly odd seeing all that technology in amongst this

But it certainly didn’t detract from that tremendous sense of history that one gets in places like this. Colin was in his element and I did wonder if he would ever want to leave.  While he sat and absorbed & enjoyed where he was, I gazed around and noticed that everywhere I looked there was something of interest peeking out from amongst the surrounding environment…

 

I was particularly impressed with this house teetering on the rim of the amphitheatre

with a most interesting backyard adornment firmly ‘tied’ to the side of the hill.

I can only assume that the risk of damage to the amphitheatre below if they tried to move the stone was greater than securing it to the side of the hill…and this in a country that experiences earthquakes !!!

We wandered off back through the town visiting museums, gazing wistfully into antique shops and enjoying all that was happening around us.

There are further discoveries still being excavated and statues being cleaned up

and let’s not forget this famous figure,

carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders…

A great day out in a lovely place and I can only recommend going there to anyone who comes to BG…it’s gorgeous.

I’m off to pick some more tomatoes now.  With any luck I’ll get another entry up before this day is out…or perhaps I’ll just have a great big Nana nap.

Except for a bit of vege picking, I’m not working today at all…Hooray !!!

And so it came to pass that as quickly as Storky came into my life, he left.

He continued to come for food for a few days and to return to his family nest at night then, one morning, I looked out and all the nests were empty. It’s amazing how they all just get up and go once they’ve mastered the art of flying.  I’ve been watching the storks around the area get more and more proficient with every flying attempt, and this included my little mate as well, and now they are all apparently about 3-4 kilometres away feeding up in preparation for their long haul to Africa for the winter.

My cousin Kerrie was here for their arrival in April and she returns in two weeks…she’s hoping to see them before they leave and I thought she might, though now I am having some doubts about that.

I do believe that being able to get so close to a stork, one of natures loveliest creatures, was a huge privilege for me. I consider myself to be extremely lucky and even if he never returns here I will always remember the pleasure of having my very special visitor standing at the front door looking for breakfast every day and learning to fly in my garden.

And the rest of my days ?  Busy, with some nice distractions in amongst it all.

I know I said I would never, ever get one but look what’s now occupying half my side garden

It’s just been so hot and I’ve been working so hard and for a bit of cement and a few hundred levs I now have somewhere to rest my aching body after a big  (hot) days work around the place. And god, it’s fantastic !!

And what changed my mind ?? One very hot day I dropped in on some people and they had one sitting, glistening in their yard.  I was so hot and sticky and uncomfortable and I just looked at it, asked how much they were and went off the following week to Bourgas and bought one.

There’s been a bit of phaffing around getting it set up, but with a lot of help from Colin it’s all coming together beautifully. The queen of fairy lights has acquired a few solar lamps and lights and it looks particularly lovely at night

I’ve done some brick paving around the edge of the slab…and yes, I’ve done it all myself and now there are only two little corners  that have to be sorted.  One will be a little lawn area, which I’m working on, and the other, on top of my emergency water supply reservoir, is being sorted by Colin. He has already put in a little water feature for me

and it’s lovely to sit down there at night in amongst all the twinkling lights with the gentle tinkling sound of water in the background.

I realised one day that all I was doing was working to make the place lovely but not spending any time enjoying it… so now I have been making a point of pouring myself a big glass of cold wine and going and sitting in the garden in the evenings, both right down the back looking back towards the house and down by the pool, just enjoying the peaceful little corner that I have created.

The vegetable garden continues to  produce at a huge rate.  I have been bottling tomatoes, making relish and giving baskets full away…and still they come.

Some of them are HUGE, the size of a dogs head, but they’re so sweet and delicious.  I’m getting at least this many of the bigguns every day and my cherry tomatoes and Roma tomatoes have only just started to ripen, so I’ve still got plenty to do before winter.  I got my hands on a large quantity of raspberries and blackberries and now have a good supply of jams and stewed berries for winter. And I’m STILL working in the yard in amongst it all !!

But this is me you’re talking to so, of course, there’s been days off and days out…more about that soon.

Last Sunday night  Storky was running around in the big garden flexing his rather large wings.  I had guests here and could only keep half an eye on his antics.  Sometime later I wandered down the back yard and was somewhat saddened to find him gone.  I knew this was a good thing, because he must move on, but I was slightly stunned at the suddenness of his departure.

Next day I was out on the front balcony hanging my washing out when the gang of turkeys down below me in the street suddenly took flight and in a state of great agitation fled back to their home on the other side of the road.

I looked out to see what had spooked them and flying down the road in a most stylish manner and yet completely without gracefulness was one stork. Altitude, very low…flying style, just hilarious.  I waited for the crash landing on the road but he made it over my fence and when I went downstairs to the front door, guess who was there waiting in the garden for breakfast. ?  Yep, Storky. I could see the expectation in his bright eyes and sure enough, when I appeared with the food dish, he got very excited.

He had a very big feed and a very big drink

and then settled back in for a peaceful, safe a day in the garden

Where did he spend the previous night ?  no idea, but the next day at approximately the same time he started the flying antics in the garden again and once again, he vanished but this time the neighbours saw him go and told me very excitedly, that he had settled in the nest up the road from me.  Now, the fact that he could fly up to a nest was great news, but he had the wrong nest…his home was over the other side of town.  Sure enough, about half an hour later I saw him fly over again…slightly less clumsily this time and a little time later Colin came to tell me he was back in the right nest, which is down near his place.

And the next morning ?  I opened the front door and this time he was actually standing right on the step with his best ‘where’s my breakfast’ face…

I’ve become the restaurant and day care centre for this delightful creature. I’m very happy that he’s returning to the nest every night, but suspect that his mother isn’t feeding him anymore. I really don’t know, I know so little about them, but he’s going home and night and spending his days with me.

He is however, spending a lot of time searching for food in the garden and standing on the highest point he can find in the garden and doing a lot of wing flexing, so I reckon I won’t have him here much longer.