Unusual things

July 13, 2007


As I’m so drenched in town culture I am always surprised to see things I have only seen in cartoons or read about. So the sight of storks everywhere makes me squeal with delight. I have also seen woodpeckers and the funny holes in trees they make for their nests.


French Interests

July 13, 2007

As soon as I wrote that the Bulgarian nurses and doctor must be very alone, they were visited by Madame Cecila Sarkozy, the French President’s wife. She also had ‘talks’ with Colonel Gadafy. Mme. Sarkozy has read up on Jackie Onassis in preparation for her new (unelected) role so I am sure the Bulgarian government can now relax.

What do you? Episode 1

July 13, 2007

Stefan and Nip

We’re renovating and selling old houses in a mountain area in Bulgaria. So the day starts with workers calling up to our bedroom window at 8am. Neither of us can EVER get up in the morning. It sometimes feels like you’re under siege as people, deliveries call day and night.


It has been so hot and sunny (this is to annoy people in the UK who send tidings of floods and grey skies) that we sometimes take everyone for a picnic and swim after work to nearby lakes and rivers.


The slogan ‘You are Not Alone’ is seen in towns all over Bulgaria. It is for the campaign to release the 5 Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor (who now has Bulgarian nationality) held in Libya. Today their death sentences were upheld by the Libyan court. They were convicted in 1999 of deliberately infecting 438 Libyan children with the HIV virus, 56 of whom have since died. Lots of political wrangling going on, but can’t help thinking what an empty, silly slogan it is. Of course they’re alone. They probably left for Libya to earn much needed money that they could not get here. The HIV infection has been blamed on poor hygiene in the hospital.  A tragedy for both ordinary Bulgarians and Libyans.

Saturday night fire

July 11, 2007


It was late evening when Stefan shouted at me to chain up the dogs and get to the river. There was a fire and people were running so I just followed. Stef raced around the village in the car to warn everyone. Then the shocking site of a burning house in the dark. Women, children and old people were in a chain to the river (very dry because of the hot weather) with buckets, pans, anything. I ran into the front garden and saw the old couple who lived there with bare feet trying to get back into the exploding house – it was engulfed in flames, glass flying. I led the sobbing woman to the neighbour. I was in shock myself.  There followed a long night fighting the flames with dirty river water. Some men rushed to bring their agricultural pumps. Nobody could see anything as it was pitch black. They just threw themselves into it. We were all falling over in the mud, water over us all but all united.  The old-fashioned, lumbering fire engine arrived 3 hours later from Kotel and then didn’t work. Another one arrived much later and Stefan went to guide it. I then spent hours watching him on the burning roof with the hose. The firemen wouldn’t go up there. All I could see was his little pocket torch so I knew he was still there.

The fire was started accidently by the old man who had lit his fire at night because there was a chill after the heat of the day. I have a picture of him a few days earlier cutting the Linden tree.


I’m still thinking about that night. How everyone worked together. No moaning about the appaling conditions or how someone could have been killed. No waiting for ‘the emergency services’.  I saw one young man in one of the rooms chucking buckets of water and was sure the roof would collapse on him. Everyone was brave. Those who just watched (there were few) were talked about the next day, but the village seemed happy that we managed to put it out ourselves.

Learning Bulgarian

July 7, 2007


So have been here 3 months & still guessing at the alphabet. It means I sometimes buy funny things at the shops because I have misread. I still can’t find out what ‘sour cream’ reads like.

I have now found a Bulgarian teacher so really have to work at the lingo. So far I’m hiding behind Stefan who has to translate everything and I fear he is very selective about what he translates. There will be no stopping me then.  I will be able to take on the village gossips. But think it will take several years.

Jan Bowman

July 2, 2007


I was just thinking of leaving the air con of the Sliven wifi cafe to make my way home to the mountains when I revisited my friend’s website www.janbowman.com.  She is a genius. I just had to share it with you. Why don’t Birmingham just give her loads of money to complete her book on the city? See above Ladypool Road Ice Cream in Birmingham.  Wish I had her talent. Damn.