2015 retrospectively

2015 was a year of change with some lows but mainly highs.  I met a wonderful Bulgarian student – Tsveselina (Lina) Ivanova, a really talented photographer. It was  photos of her Granma in her Bulgaria village that precipitated the perusal of Bulgarian properties.  Linas work can be seen at

http://www.pylotmagazine.com/stejerovo/ and http://bit.ly/holbornfour

The decision to relocate to Bulgaria, to our dream home was made, as was the purchase of the house in Gradishte, the renovation of our UK house and now it’s sale all germinated from those photos of a life we had been dreaming of but thought we’d never be able to achieve, ergo, going off grid.

James moved out to his own home with Brutus and Lexie and now William has his own very palatial bedroom.  Ashley, from his Facebook page, is enjoying travelling with his girlfriend Michaela,  and is working for BMW!  Amalia left home for Brighton and university and found her personal nirvana. Her flatmate Illias can be seen looking like a member of the taliban!jamesbillsdogsDanielle was accepted and had a conditional offer at 2 prestigious universities for the next academic year. We took her and Alfie up to Liverpool on a discovery day.  It became apparent that the University of Liverpool is far more interested in how much they receive in grant funding for research than undergraduate study.  We were so glad she had the opportunity to see before she bought, so to speak.  She’s off to Trinity St David this weekend and is hopeful that they will live up to their image.  Paige and Ryan, sadly we only hear from other people how they are.  William started big boys school and has changed immeasurably this year.  I carry a picture of him with me to work and he sits next to my monitor smiling away in his school uniform!



I was offered the opportunity to sit on 2 steering committees, one regionally and one nationally as well as producing a homemade video that helped my favourite charity win £225,000 in grants.  Terry has honed, learned and mastered so many skills this year, all of use in renovating our home in Gradishte.  Vinnie and Bodie have escaped from the house over 10 times, (at least) this  year and are now “known to police”.  We lost two cats this year; Saffie aka Fronie, Fronoula, Frenella who came to the house in 2000 as a crossbred British blue grey; a spitting bundle of nerves.  For 15 years she has crossed the road whenever she wanted and at whatever speed she deemed appropriate.  The squeal of car tyres were frequent and caused us to hide below the window frame in case anyone knocked the door to complain.  She sat every single day, come rain or shine, and waited for the school children to pass and stroke her.  She jumped in our cars and vans and was queen of the animals.  Nancy aka Princess Nancy Bon Qui Qui Sinatra came to us aged 10 weeks; a delicate white wraith with rag doll tendencies.  A gentle, gentle soul she wanted so badly to be friends with the dogs but used to run which the dogs took for an invitation to play.  It ended very badly for our Nancy.  Archie aka Archie, Chow Peewit, Danielle’s cat, was adopted by an old lady behind us when he refused to come home because of the dogs.  He comes to see us every now and again but he’s changed.  He was Dani’s 16th birthday present and arrived aged only 7 weeks in a cage with a ribbon round it.  A tabby with eyes that could melt your soul he was skittish and nervous but so loving.  He and Nancy had 2 litters of the most divine kittens.

I learned to make bread, butter and some cheese.  I successfully expanded my vegetable growing skills and learned how to preserve  my haul.  Terry and I had a magnificent year in terms of salvaging items for Bulgaria that were being thrown away or for sale at ridiculously low prices.  A set of scaffolding, a solid wood burner, a selection of tiles, 4 old school radiators that despite their terrific weight I still want to take.  We freecycled a bathroom suite, a walk in shower, a used kitchen, a fridge and a freezer.  I salvaged a 1950’s circular glass fronted cabinet from a tip, sadly one of the glass sliding doors broke!  We actually freecycled over 1000 concrete roof tiles that nearly broke us to pick up, transport and stack in the garden only to find there were not enough to complete the roof.  Getting rid of them was painful.  Oh yes and we freecycled a complete concrete garage which we dismantled, transported and bought home.  It stayed stacked both in the garden and down the side of the house before he hired a van to pay £60 to get rid of it when we made the decision to relocate.   Some of the stuff has been passed on to the kids or used in our own renovation but we still have the good stuff.

Terry inherited a 2003 Transit that his boss was going to throw away because of the rust on the floor.  He worked for 3 weekends solidly on the driveway welding it back to health and it flew through it’s MOT.  There was no excuse for not driving to Bulgaria to check on the house. The 3 day drive was epic and one of the best holidays we’ve ever had.  We drove the aptly named Dirty Gertie from Gosport through France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Romania.  We cooked along the way on the much loved rusty red 2 ring gas burner and made short stops for long drinks and toilet breaks.  We had only  days in Bulgaria and in those days any worries we had about our adventure evaporated.  The beauty of the country, the simplicity, the neighbours, the food and of course our house in its wild jungle of a plot.  We worked like trojans, clearing part of the garden, arranging the water and electric connections, fixing the roof, cleaning out the inside of the house, measuring it and making videos and taking pictures.  We reconnected with some ex pats we’d met on our first visit.  We feel in love with our future life.


Our house in the UK hasn’t sold and it’s been on the market for 10 weeks.  It is very hard to remain pragmatic about the time of the year and Christmas etc when we are raring to go.  Of course it has given us the opportunity to make the sure the family have time to better understand our decision.  For 2016 we still have 2 or 3 little houses to buy in Wales for the rental market.  We have a very small budget so there is bound to be more renovating and or refurbing involved which is time and money consuming.  But ultimately unless this house sells it will take longer and longer to make our next move.  I’m trying to be brave!


The snow has fallen in Bulgaria and Gradishte is all white.  Angie one of the ex pats who moved to the village last year sent us the picture in the header.  Temperatures have reached -20 by night and electric has been on and off regularly.  It hasn’t put us off because whilst the snowy pictures tell one story the heads of snowdrops can be seen even now poking through the snow, the vegetable and seed suppliers of the area are taking orders for seed potatoes and fruit trees.  Spring is coming in Gradishte!

Vinne and Bodie escaped as 2016 hit and directly after a house viewing.  Our worst nightmare was realised when a Facebook campaign identified Vinnie as having been hit by a car and on his way home in the back of a kind passerbys car.  We knew it was bad when Terry carried what could have been a lump of meat out of the car.  We rushed him to the vets and were given the option to take him home after a massive shot of painkiller and injections of fluid under his skin for hydration. For 5 days and nights we nursed him.  I could often be found lying next to him on his bed washing his dear battered face with my tears.  His head had taken an absolute battering, his snout, eye sockets, lips, tongue and gums were bruised black and swollen.  He could only take an ear pippet full of water at any one time.  But love and the will to live won over and Vinnie is recovering.  I might add that Bodie, who accompanied Vinnie on this near death escapade, actually hopped into the car of 2 lovely girls who then delivered her, with a pink ribbon round her neck and skipping along by their sides, to our house.  The girls, twins,; happened to have been Amalias classmates.  We gratefully received Bodie back home too!  I couldn’t bring myself to photograph Vinnie whilst he was at deaths door in case it was the last picture we had of him.  So here are the two reprobates in a happier time!



I have started Bulgarian lessons with a Masters student, Stoycho.  There are no excuses and it has taken me 2 days to learn the first lesson; the alphabet. the verb “to be” and in negation and a small list of vocabulary including a conversation.  I have had to read, write and verbalise.  Jeez I’d forgotten what being a student is like.  I surprised Stoycho when he asked if there were any particular sentences I would find useful; they included the following.  Can I buy your cows milk to make cheese?  I want to buy chickens for laying eggs and chickens for meat.  Can you give me an estimate for ….  Can you speak more slowly.  Help!  and a number of other rather random expressions that made him howl.  I also learned that his grandfather grates raw swede with cabbage and carrot as a salad!  Who knew 🙂

As usual a thank you to  the blogs auntiebulgaria, http://movetobulgaria.blogspot.co.uk, and http://debrazzaman.blogspot.co.uk (New Start, New Life in Bulgaria) for their updates.  They provide my daily dose of all things Bulgarian!


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