Two days ago I drove to Levski and marvelled at the efficiency of nature and the degree of the thaw. The fields resemble nothing more than a melting Viennetta ice-cream cake. The chocolate brown of the earth rippled through the melting snow and tiny flecks of debris layered the surface like a sprinkling of stracciatella. The next morning I opened the door to fluffy marshmallow land. A complete white out. Perhaps an inch of light snowflakes covered everything. During the drive to Pleven to apply for our Residency Permit we marvelled at the spectre around us. The traffic slowed as the road and sky became an ominous white abyss. Fog lights smouldered then disappeared with alarming frequency till the carriageway was almost at a crawl. Drivers and passengers, like some automated mechanical farce, uniformly covered eyes with hands to relieve the glare with tense forward leaning poses and angst ridden faces. Eventually as we turned off the Ruse road the whiteout cleared enough to drive home as quickly as we could.
Bulgaria as a melting Vienetta
I tried to replicate the white out from inside the Landy – not sure I’ve got the sequence right
The tree remained, at one point, as the only thing that could be distinguished and even they appeared and disappeared like malevolent anorexic ghouls!
Our friends Silviq and Ian met us at the Lidl car park in Pleven to take us though the application for our Residency Permits. Terry and I were washed and dressed but I’m afraid we still looked like we live in the country. Our clean shoes were slaughtered by snow and mud before we’d climbed in the landy and dog hair is a constant accessory on our clothes. I had my black “girlcase” jammed with every possible document and about 6 copies of the application form. We traipsed into the immigration office which was akin to stepping into a 1970’s time warp. A dull nondescript grey cubby hole with typed and closely hand-written notices covering all but the 2 ominously closed wooden hatches. Silviq went forward and tentatively knocked on the hatch. She was rewarded with a stoney faced, pin thin woman who stared. Silviq explained that we wanted to apply for our residency permits.
“Fill in the forms and come back” was what we got in very clipped Bulgarian. We headed for the Berey cafe to fill out the forms – in Bulgarian. Berey are the largest commercial dairy suppliers in BG so the cafe served only hot drinks and about 7 types of cake, all heavily influenced by Berey products. Silviq insisted we try a dessert that looked very creamy with layers of flaky pastry but not a Millefieulle. I ordered what appeared to be a chocolate layer cake and Terry a chocolate mousse. Ian declined with his usual deadpan northern humour. The creamy dessert beat everything hands down and I shall try and get the name of it for a future post. It was that good. So with 2 sets of application forms completed and sallied forth back to Immigration. This time the hatch was flung open and with a sneer we were told to get photocopies of every document and get the E.H.I.C cards professionally translated! Of course this could have been alluded to in the first visit. I could feel my stone mask splitting straight down the middle and Terry began to shuffle. Ian looked at us both and made a hand gesture suggesting we might like to just “suck it up and smile”.
We trudged around Pleven for a translation agency despite the fact I had in my rather tightly clenched hand the instructions, issued from the Immigration directorate, that documents should be simply translated and did not require official translation. We finally found an office next to the law courts. The translation would take 20 minutes and would cost 40 leva! So we left the cards to be translated and headed for the photocopy shop. It turned out to be a cubby hole in the entrance way to the local hospital. So tiny was the room that a sign almost as big as the doorway warned that only 1 person at a time would be granted entry. There was a woman ahead of us so we settled in a huddle and began a somewhat strained conversation about the vagaries of bureaucracy. And then the owner of the shop popped out and shut the door behind herself and wafted out into the centre of Pleven! Not a word to her prospective clients. Silviq seemed totally unpreturbed and simply shrugged and motioned us to follow her. Now I could hear Terrys breathing change and I knew that was as good a signal as any that he was becoming frustrated – very frustrated! It was -4 and snow flakes and a light sleet began to fall. Fortunately Silviq found another photocopying establishment and we photocopied the hell out of our bundle, including the completed application forms for future reference. The translations were picked up on the way and we headed confidently back to the office. The same dour young woman snatched the documents, threw out another “Declaration of address” form to be filled in and them smiled sweetly and told us to return at 3pm for the photographer! Our hearts sunk! We took a brisk walk around Pleven and it was then that I noticed that it is a lovely area, full of monuments, churches and old Turkish inspired architecture. Ian guided us into what I suppose is the equivalent of a £1 store and he hurried Terry to the back of the store whilst Silviq and I perused the plethora of goods. I picked up some great bowls for the kids houses and only 1.5 leva a bowl. We could hear Terry and Ian’s voices rising in excitement and stifled laughs. I hear Terry shout out “bird” and we wafted over to find 2 grown men huddled together, their faces shiny with excitement. The cause; stun guns! I rarely ever veto anything believing that as adults we all have the responsibility for our own actions. But I vetoed one of these weapons despite the protestations about pig stunning, intruder deterrent and some kinds of chastisement that were straight from 50 Shades of Grey. At least we left the store somewhat revived.
At 3pm, with feet frozen into leaden blocks of ice and aching shoulders from the continual hunching, we walked back into the office. We were rewarded with a plastic, photo less temporary Lichna Karta and I kid you not, were directed to go and get a photocopy of both sides of the cards for their records! There was a photocopier right next to the womans desk. Broken, we complied and I listened, numbly, to a tirade from Terry that I barely took in. We were nearly there and I was so cold that I was actually nonplussed about any ending to this situation, Lichna Karta or not. However we did get photocopies, we did return and finally the dour young woman opened a hidden door and in perfect English asked us to come inside and have our photos taken – she bloody well spoke English all along! I could have completed the whole operation without having to drag Ian and Silviq along! God alone knows what the expression on my face was but that’s whats going to be on my Lichna Karta. Now I feel truly Bulgarian – I will have a Residency Permit with a picture that makes me look like an Eastern European murderer! And to put the cherry on the cake we were told to come back in 1 month for the photo card. Goodnight sanity! A lovely Chinese meal with Ian and Silviq was an lovely ending to a very stressful day.
Looking surprisingly happy after such a long day, or maybe it was sheer relief
Terry got us home in quick time; both of us were afeared we’d come hoe to a distraught Bodie with puppies all over the place. But as we unlocked the garden gate and walked past the living room window there was her terrifying, lip curling grin in welcome and Vinnies helicopter tail almost lifting him off the ground. Ted, who has a lady friend, nonchalantly turned up an hour later. We’re not sure what he’d been up to but both dogs sniffed him minutely from head to toe. Bodie looks about ready to pop and is busy nesting most of the time.
Well I was going to regale you readers with stories of Bodies false alarms and Braxton Hicks contractions, especially as we were missing all day Wednesday. It all seems moot, she has finished, we hope, delivering 9 beautiful puppies. Now Vinnie our castrated white Staffy covered Bodie with alacrity and and regularity; he was a soldier. So here is the thing. Vinnie has sired 1 other litter with James’s Rottweiller/Staffy cross and we have an almost exact replica of the results except that Lexie had 11 and 1 died. Bodie has 9, 2 black, 1 brindle and 6 white with brindle or black spots. The village Lothario, a black and white Karakachan is long haired and shaggy. If these pups turn out to be short haired I’ll know by some miracle Vinnie fathered them. Fact is stranger than fiction and all that! Vinnie has been in and sat with dignity and respect and now that he’s seen them he’s gone back to his place in front of the petchka in the dining room. Ted went to have a look and got a growl for his troubles. He’s gone too. They needed to come in and see because once Bodie and the pups are settled life will continue as normal. Update, Bodie delivered a very tired and bloody 10th pup at 10pm, almost 12 hours after the first. We now have a white with camel coloured splodges too.