Winter driving, Ikea and porcine preparations

On Tuesday evening  we received a call from our friend David.  The lift he’d arranged for his family to the airport had to be cancelled and could we possibly help.  Of course we agreed with alacrity.  We arranged to pick up Stephan, Helen and Kieran the following morning at 11am for the 3 hour drive to Sofia airport.  I looked at Terry and said “we only have full beam on the Landy and the windscreen wiper jets are blocked”.  He simply looked up and said “Don’t worry. I’ll sort it”.  I know better than to badger a busy man.  Later that evening, in a marvel of serendipity we both looked at each other and said “Ikea” at the same time.  Ikea is about a 15 minute drive from the airport and we needed more of the fabulous concertina blinds we’d bought earlier in the year.  They don’t have strings or silly poles that catch on everything.  The have the same kind of mechanism that ‘touch to open’ drawers use.  You simply touch the discreet centralised tab and they rise and fall effortlessly.  I’m going to digress here a little.  Has anyone noticed that the colour palette across Ikea products is such that it is difficult to successfully match the colour scheme with goods from anywhere but Ikea?  Excellent marketing, alongside the layout of the stores and the long and winding path that leads you halfway through your visit to the place of comestibles, the home of meatballs, pale gravy and crimson jam.  Once nourished the hapless customer hikes through torturously numbered aisles to retrieve their goods and finally to the till.  The placement of reduced items, just before the till area, ensures that bargains are bought on top of full price items rather than instead of.  And of course after the versuvial eruption of commoditorial excess the customer, in a final feat of marketing genius, is greeted by a veritable smorgasbord of every item on the restaurant menu to have been packed, wrapped, boxed, jarred or pickled for their later delectation.

Wednesday morning arrived and Terry was  up and working by 7am to get in some work before the trip.  I tentatively brought up the subject of the car maintenance.  “Stop fretting” was what I received for my troubles.  My mind flew to other matters of concern; snow.  An endless list of possibilities up to and including road fatalities flashed through my mind.  I took affirmative action.  I picked up a capacious shopping bag and filled it with; Amalia’s sleeping bag, my work boots, my work jacket, a thermal long sleeved top for Terry, the first aid kit, a large packet of  cheese Doritos, a bar of hazelnut milk chocolate, tea and coffee supplies.  That was for 5 people and I forgot water, however it took my mind off car maintenance.  At 09:30 I insisted Terry get changed and with a will of solid steel negated to bring up the car issues.  The snow of yesterday was still laid across the village like a virginal dowry throw.  The puddles glistened with glacial veneer and the foliage wore white mop caps and stalactite earrings.


Terry fiddled briefly with the headlamp bulbs and threw a bottle of water over the windscreen before jumping in and beckoning me to do the same.  This is the moment when I have to accept that Terry knows his vehicles and if he’s not worried then I shouldn’t be.  It’s hard!  Just up the village and along the newly laid stones that dissect the grid of houses along the middle of the village we pull up at David and Catherines house.  David pops out with Zacker their newly adopted Staffie cross.  She was delightful and beautiful in a way only a Staffie can be.  Soon the wooden gate disengorged Kelly, Keiran, Stephen, Helen and finally Catherine.  Her face crumpled as the time came for her son, her sister and nephew to climb into the car.  Fortunately her daughter Kelly will be staying till December.  All encompassing hugs, tears and laughter were all displayed in a kaleidoscope of emotions.  Then we were off!  We stopped for diesel and began our journey.  Much lively conversation was had whilst Helen handed out Catherines beautifully crafted rolls filled with cheese, ham and garlic mayonnaise (I was glad I had packed my haphazard emergency supplies carrier bag in the boot!).

The snow on the road didn’t pose any problems nor did the lack of headlights but the glare of the sun off the laid snow was torturous and was compounded by a very dirty windscreen and no way to clean it.  Terry was almost nose to windscreen before I finally broke.  I insisted we pull in at the next station and clean the windscreen.  And after a fairly hairy junction with traffic from 6 lanes all vying for precedence and a conspicuous lack of traffic lights he conceded.  A couple of bottles of water, some coffee and we were away again.  The airport drop off was of the best type.  another persons family group.  No tears just genuine hugs.


We made haste to Ikea and I sat chewing my nails as the light as 2pm was diffused by a blanket ceiling of ominously snow laden clouds.  What about the headlights???  I managed to restrain myself because if I’m honest I love to look around Ikea.  There we go I’ve admitted it.  I don’t want everything but I do want things that make my life easier; zip lock bags, storage containers, alternative lighting and of course blinds.  Obviously we picked up more things.  We picked bedding.  After 1 hour and 45 minutes inside Terry took my hand and I smiled benignly at his outward display of affection until he pinned it to the trolley and led me to the tills.  I took this imposition as an invitation to ask about the headlight situation.  Pointedly.  Terry replied that we would pick them up in Praktiker.  Praktiker as well; my heart sunk.  It was -4 and icy, the heating in the jeep had decided it wasn’t going to produce any heat and it was almost dark.  I’ve mentioned before how it is possible to buy 1 of almost any item.  Well here for your edification is a whole row of single nails, screws, bolts etc.  Bags are provided, a code number and a automated scale.  Gotta love Bulgaria!


And Terry being Terry bought tile adhesive and headlamp bulbs in under 15 minutes and in a bold display of his manliness stood out in the barren wastes of the carpark, an icy and determined wind finding its way into every crevice whilst he fixed the headlight situation.  Two things struck to mind.  1. I feel blessed to be together with a man who “can” and 2. We need hats, gloves and scarves on the a.s.a.p!  We leaped into the jeep and turned the heating on full blast in the hopes that it might have reset itself.  No, of course not.  That would be way too simple.  With the headlights fixed I was feeling incredibly laid back and just shrugged and said it’ll be ok.  Seven minutes later I was scrabbling over the back seats as we sat in a long queue of traffic with icy tentacles covering the screen, and retrieving the bag.  I unrolled the sleeping bag and pooped it over my cotton skirt and tights and handed Terry my work jacket for his legs.  On a scale of 1 out of 10 the efficiency equivalence probably stood on that scale at 3.5.  Our breath created chocolate scented puff  balls as  we tried to make brave of the situation.  After watching Terry jab consistently and copiously on every button on the air con panel I snapped.  I turned it off, waited 14 seconds by chanting 1-14 pink elephants, turned it back on and changed the Hi display to a set temperature.  The heater burst into action and we both laughed in sheer joy.

The return  journey was warm, dry and 3 hours long.  What is ingrained in my mind is that the weather and conditions have ameliorated Terry Schumakers F1 style of driving.  It was a super pleasant return journey,  my buttocks remained relaxed and the imaginary brake under my right foot stayed still.  We weren’t too chatty because in the inky night there was only about 3 metres of visibility and both of us concentrated on the road.  We arrived home and remembered that we’d asked a friend to lock up and leave the key in a previously arranged spot.  We could hear the dogs desperately calling as we searched high and low for the key to the house.  Nothing!  We frantically made a phone call only to find out that a miscommunication had happened and our key was with our friend in his local bar, 45 minutes away.  We agreed to meet halfway.  So eventually we arrived home at 9pm to a rapturous welcome from the dogs and the ruler straight tail of Teddy Edwards purring in delight and twitching it in response to our words.

So I pose the question to myself again.  Are we winter ready?  Somewhat is the answer.  Today the sun is blazing, the ground is almost dry and we’re all stuck upstairs giving a final sanding down to the floorboards and skirting boards before we put the first coat of PVA on.  Terry has started laying the bathroom floor tiles and the fabulous granite and marble mosaic inset wall in the bathroom is finished and looks amazing.


We are going to make a new bed for the bedroom.  None of our existing beds really suit the space and with 2 more bedrooms to furnish nothing will go to waste.  In between all of this we have also sorted out the wood room (aka the second downstairs hallway in the old house) and cleared out what I call, tongue in cheek of course, the Inglenook fireplace.  There must have been a small ingress of water down the breast to the earthen floor because it was slightly sunken and damp.  I also noticed that the back of the fireplace wall has had a circular shaped aperture bricked up.  I am presuming that it was a bread oven at some time and would also explain why there is such a deep and long column in the next room.  This room will be the main kitchen next year so I am thinking of putting a solid fuel range against the column so that we can plumb into the existing chimney from the fireplace/bread oven. The second hallway also has original chunky quarry tiles on the floor that I’d love to reclaim.

Alex and `Paul our friends in the village had posted a photo of the centre of Gradishte. The approach  from the German Bar towards the triangulation of mini markets and cafes, the lone barber, the old boy who fixes umbrellas and shoes and the hardware store also owned by the mini shop owner.  She shuts a shop when required to go to the other or leaves a customer in charge.  Fortunately there is a cafe in-between. The square is triangular too and is home to the local authority building.  I’m guessing the Mayor resides therein.  There is also a community centre.  Of course none of this is visible but it is clear as day in my head.


Work on the pig sty is underway.  The area has been cleared and the pre existing pig sty stripped to what is still usable.  To our absolute joy both areas have already got concrete flooring.  The sty floor however needs some repair work.  The rotten roof is off and shutters in place to pour cement to stabilise the walls.  We’ve had brilliant sunshine for days and the temperature is up to 9-12 degrees over the next days so acceptable for working with cement.  Aptly named pig wire that’d we’d Freecycled in the UK has been installed to make a pen and tensioned to deal with porky escape antics.  Hopefully it’ll be cemented, roofed and tiled by Wednesday.  Whilst typing I’m looking at the images of the pig sty and think what a lot of people think,  “They’ll never make/do that”.  I have become accustomed to Terrys “No such thing as can’t birdy, let’s get cracking” and crack on I do.  He’s not let us down yet!


The guy we are buying the pigs has kindly posted some pictures of the drift of piglets are belong too.

My final note this week is about the reality of living in your renovation project.  It is not for the faint hearted.  I try and take photos of the positive aspects or areas that have already been finished.  Here are some shots of the garden in the middle of our renovation.  I fear if we took photo’s of the rooms in the old house that is still to be renovated we might just put off any budding renovators.  Every room is either packed to the gunnels or being used as a workroom.  The beauty of having an interconnecting old and newer barn extension is that during renovation we can shut the door on that part of the house.  When it’s finished if we don’t have guests we can also just shut the door.


The pig sty and the remains of 2 outhouses and the double gates into the garden.  After the old house renovation Terry will make these into his workshops.


Empty sand bags, ballast, YTong blocks and a pile of rubbish.  All to be cleared before the pigs arrive.  At least it’s at the back of the garden.


Wherever the urban giraffe lays lies a pile of rubble in it’s steely wake


The remains of this years herb garden.  I still have celery, parsley, thyme, rosemary and mint growing but it’s getting close to harvesting for the freezer time.


There is a whole pile of building waste outside the front door, a trailer full of ballast on the garden and building materials and tools everywhere.  Vision that’s what it’s all about; having the vision to see past what something is to what is can become and then letting it evolve.


Grass because there is actually some in the garden and it is still verdant and strong.  And despite my fears the tender young garlic and onions buds that are shooting up through the soil are still intact despite the snow and frost.

2 thoughts on “Winter driving, Ikea and porcine preparations

  1. Love the pictures of the piglets. My grandfather used to have pigs on his farm and we loved watching the piglets running around .. too cute for words..


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