Monthly Archives: January 2015

The House at the End of the Garden

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When I started looking to buy a house in Bulgaria I knew that an inside toilet was certainly not a given. None the less imagine my dismay, when on viewing this house I discovered that, not only was the toilet outside, but it was a squatty.

I was reminded of a high school trip to Italy that was something of a teenage disaster from the get-go. Firstly, my best friend and I were given the dubious distinction of riding in the same carriage as the staff supervising the trip, thus effectively quashing our plans for all kinds of late night high jinx. The call of nature gave us eventually provided us with an excuse to break free of our stuffy confines, only to be confronted by several of our travel mates contemplating the yawning chasm between train cars that had to be negotiated in order to get to the toilets. To cut a long story short a fair few of us couldn’t make the leap and opted to cross our legs all the way to Milan. I can’t say how far that actually was, other than it is A Long Way, and something only a teenage bladder would consider possible.

Once we arrived in Milan there was a stampede to the WC’s where a rather stern woman asked us if we wanted ‘to sit’ while offering us a sheet of toilet paper. Gaping in confusion, and at risk of holding up the queue, we were quickly herded in the other direction where on pushing open the stall doors were confronted with a hole in the ground. Never having seen such things we promptly high tailed it back to the coach waiting to take us on to Ravenna, unrelieved.

Yes, well did I remember that trip when I first looked at the privy. But, as all the other boxes were ticked it would have been foolish to pass up this house based purely on its toilet facilities, or lack there of. Also, the agent assured me all could be put to rights in about four days at a very reasonable cost. “Good” I thought “because I can’t use that!” But suddenly it seemed ridiculous to think that I couldn’t use a hole in the ground. Would rather not, maybe. Would REALLY rather not – but couldn’t? There and then I decided that until I conquered my fear and loathing of the dreaded squatty it would stay.

I have to say there was nothing nasty or unpleasant about it. It didn’t smell bad or have any other unwholesome surprises, but I quickly discovered its use is an acquired skill and not as easy to adopt as one might imagine. However, having left myself no other option, I soon overcame my dislike, distaste and distrust of my humble squatty.

Nearly two years on my bathroom is still awaiting new tiles and decorator touches but, I’m pleased to say, that in pride of place it has a fully functioning, sit down, flushable toilet.

Armchair gardening

winter-33917_1280Today, the garden is under cover and, just as a sprinkling of Christmas decorations can hide the scars of on going renovations in the house, this festive mantle lifts the garden out of the doldrums.

2014 was not a good year for gardening in Bulgaria. Not that I have so much cause to complain, in fact I was extremely lucky and was spared the devastation suffered by others in certain parts of the country.

Certainly, there was an abundance of rain and a few savage storms descended on our village, doing a fair bit of damage to the plants etc., but in the scheme of things I count myself as being very lucky. Not to mention it made me appreciate my modest successes of the previous summer even more!

The seemingly never-ending rain and abundance of weeds that followed was wearing, to say the least, and after clearing the veg patch and replanting a couple of times I pretty much gave it up as a bad job. As a result the harvest was very small. The early peas and beans gave a good showing and a small patch of beetroot battled the weeds bravely. The garlic came on well, producing enough to see me through winter and the onions, although small, have been tasty and many were the perfect size for pickling. Just when I thought that was all I would harvest a forgotten row of carrots pushed on through as did the patch of leeks…all was not lost!

The fruit was another story. Neither the apples and plums nor the quinces put on any show – well, there were a very few plums. However, the raspberries, although not abundant, certainly made up for in taste what was lacking in quantity. The strawberry plants that were planted in spring simply disappeared.

The area immediately to the rear of my house gets the sun for most of the day, becoming almost unbearably hot in the height of summer. However, years ago previous owners had many grape vines and even now a few descendants are valiantly hanging on, trying to regrow, so it seemed sensible to have a pergola built to support them and (hopefully) make for myself a pleasant, shady spot to work (or pretend to work) outside. This summer the vines grew away beautifully and although the early promise of a few grapes was dashed by a particularly fierce hail storm, the vines themselves hung on tenaciously and prospered. With a bit of luck this summer I will have my outdoor office with perhaps the added bonus of some fruit as well.

Although my 2014 garden was a far cry from the bountiful and beautiful fruit, flower and veg filled secret gardens nestled on the other side of my neighbour’s walls there is always hope that I will catch up to them this summer.