Wednesday 5th August
We left the hotel early and headed towards Levski and the hardware shop. We needed to buy blocks and cement. The blocks, to quite literally block up the bathroom and all the goods we were leaving in the house, and the cement to start the roof repairs. We also had to take a deep breath and look at the upstairs of the old property properly. We knew there were 2 holes in the roof and that there was both ceiling and floor damage due to those holes but we had studiously ignored them. The wife of the hardware store owner was an absolute sweetheart. She had about 5 words of English and a few German words thrown in but between us we managed to ascertain that they didn’t sell sand but did sell a cement compound that would work on both the blocks and the roof. We loaded the blocks and the compound and headed to the house. As we drew up outside the house the rubbish truck driver had stepped down from his vehicle and was chatting with neighbours we hadn’t met. He gave us a cheery smile, jumped back into his truck and pulled away. As he did so the neighbours; 2 women stepped across to the van and introduced themselves as Peppy and her daughter who I’m mortified to say whose name we can’t recall. As we gesticulated and threw around the few words we have learned Peppy ran off and returned with tomatoes the size of a babies head and shiny green peppers. We tried to offer some money but we were refused with much finger shaking.
They were so incredibly kind. We pulled up outside our house and began the daily chore of unscrewing the screws holding the windows and doors shut and unloading both house and van of tools and equipment. We had picked up Banitsa’s from our favoured bakers in Levski so there was no need to cook a fry up this morning. The Banitsa is wonderful soft doughy bread stuffed with white cheese and with a beautiful crusty outside. We sat and munched our Banitisas and girded our loins for the jobs ahead. We got out the telescopic ladder, the broom and shovel and extra heavy duty rubbish bags we’d bought from the very well stocked Kaufman supermarket in Pleven. Terry set the ladder up through the hole in the bedroom ceiling and he cautiously popped his head through the hole and then scrambled up into the loft space. He beckoned me up and I followed suit. The loft space was a revelation; as Terry was examining the roof damage I was bewitched by the ephemera of days past that was collected in the rather beautiful loft space. Earthen floors, exquisite rafters made from tree trunks; not a straight line to be seen. I saw a wooden spinning wheel, wooden chests, vintage coloured glass serving platters, old china, clothes, bags, shoes and skeins and skeins of wool waiting to be knitted. Terry called me round from my reverie to help him document the damage so a plan could be made. There were 2 areas to be fixed. A smalll area in-between the old and new building which was made difficult by the fact that it could only be fixed from inside the roof. It would mean Terry would have to make most of the repairs sat on the roof and them jimmy himself back in and place the last tiles on the roof from inside. The other repairs was on the corner of the old house. The roof has actually collapsed and the batons to hold the tiles had snapped. This one was going to be difficult because it would mean leaning out over a 40ft drop to replace the wooden batons before tiles could be replaced and cemented in. We climbed down and Terry announced he was going to buy some wooden batons by himself. I was flabbergasted and hugely proud at the same time. I was usually pushed forward to do all talking. So I set off to start the job of clearing the upstairs of the old house. I had forgotten that the hallway and the third room all had beautiful wooden rafters and apart from a lot of rubbish were actually in good order and that the doors though almost back to bare wood were quite charming.
The upper hallway beams and the lovely doors from the outside stairs. The hope is that we will build inside stairs from the downstairs hallway so that we can have a wide wooden balcony that runs the length on the old house.
The third room currently has no window but has wooden beams. We are hoping to make this a wet room as the upstairs to the old house will be the guest quarters. The damage to bedroom 1 was quite serious, part of the beams will need to be repaired/replaced and the earthen floors were so wet that a small area had fallen through. Bedroom 2 despite having the collapsed part of the roof hadn’t sustained so much damage. The beams were all in tact and the floor too.
Bedroom 1 from the hallway
Bedroom 2 and the minor roof damage
The floor damage to the earthen floor of bedroom 1
The damage to the ceiling and rafters in bedroom 1 looking more scary than it actually is
Terry returned after an hour and just as I was begining to worry what had happened to him. He was beaming and carrying the wooden batons he’d gone out to buy. We and a quick catch up and he recounted that with the use of Google images and the usual gesticulating he’d managed to get exactly what he wanted. Terry made short shrift of the repair between the old and new house and then we had to make a tour into our jungle garden to find the tiles needed to repair the collapsed roof. We found enough by the old pigsty and carried them up into the loft space balancing across the rafters. Terry made up some “pug” and carried it up to the loft and I followed. Terry really was a star, balancing precariously over the edge of the roof with his Paslode in one hand and a wooden baton in the other and me having a nervous breakdown and sweating like a shire horse inside the roof! Just as we had a system of pug passing and tiling going we heard a cheery Bulgarian voice from downstairs. Terry sent me down and there in the garden resplendent in blue overalls was an extremely inebriated Bulgarian man who despite my protests began telling me his life story. Terry came down and the man continued, as far as I could make out, to tell us he had been an International truck driver, had had a Spanish girlfriend and perhaps even a child but things went wrong. He then presented us with a small plastic water bottle of what he told us was homemade whiskey. We thanked him profusely and attempted to return to the roof repairs as dusk was falling. The man, somewhat precariously, joined us in the roof space and attempted to help Terry by tapping out the tiles into triangles. Unfortunately his skill was not matched by the volume of home-made whiskey he’d consumed and tile after tile was broken. He said he was off to get a machine and as he exited the loft via the ladder we heard an almighty crash as he missed the rungs and fell to the already compromised earthen floor. Terry and I looked at each other and then the ladder – there was no sign of the man but 10 minutes later we heard him return, none the worse for wear and toting an admirable sized angle grinder. Given that we had only a generator to power any electrical tools Terry went and bought his own smaller angle grinder to cut the tiles. For a split second I thought there might be an “angle grinder off” but the man smiled and said it was too dark to continue. We all shook hands and decided it was indeed to late to do anything more. We packed up for the night and only then realised that the water people still hadn’t come to fit the meter. We were seeing Andre, Ivelins brother in the morning to complete the paperwork for the house so we decided to bring it up with him. The drive back to the hotel was without hitch and we had a truly delicious meal at a local tavern, pizza, pasta, chips, courgette fritters, yogurt and dill dip, belisimo salad and beer. It was all hot delicious and fresh and cost a mere £9.