Terry and I have had visits from the good burghers of Gradishte on a regular basis. But they have been almost exclusively the old boys of the village. Originally they came to ensure Terry didn’t make any mistakes. Eight months on they come and park themselves up to watch and wonder. Few have seen the inside of the house. Ilia, Yeorgie, Stefan and of course the Doktor (Vet). So on a day when the old boys were all agog with offer on the property behind we gracefully received a impromptu conference call from Ilia, Stefan and Marin. After all the conflab Stefan and Ilia shyly said their wives would love to see the house. This was on a Tuesday. A tremble of fear rumbled down my body as I smiled weakly and said of course, how about 10am on Friday. As our visitors left Terry and I looked at each other – 2 days to get the place in shape for the ladies! Taking into account we have 10 pups, 2 dogs, 3 pigs, a cat and a huge yard that is predominantly mud a battle plan needed to be formulated. And we followed it with military precision. So on Friday morning with the house shiny and redolent, the garden in a much better order, bulbs springing up and the sun shining I decided to bake a cake!
The recent freezing weather has caused the oven bi polar temperature swings that makes cooking with it a kamikaze exercise in disappointment and burned pans. BUT I am an eternal optimist and felt that everything would be ok. I knocked together batters for a lemon drizzle cake and a banana cake. I eyeballed the oven and it seemed to be compliant. So I popped the batters in and started cleaning up the cake debris. Five minutes and all was well so I turned my back to clean the stove top. As I swung round to wash the dishes I saw versuvial boiling on both batters and steam pouring out the sides of the oven. I reached the controls in 1 stride and shut the oven down. I watched, nose almost to the steamy glass and saw that the rolling bubbles subsided and settled. It was 8 a.m by then. Terry was sweeping the outside paths and I still had the good china to wash. Renovating equals broken cups/mugs. So as I skitted between the sideboard and the kitchen carrying my best china I played Russian Roulette with the oven thermostat. What I actually ended up with was 2 cakes that were charcoal encrusted. I’m not sure how but as I maniacally carved off 40% of each cake I was left with the equivalent of 7 individual portions of extremely anaemic cake. Not to be beaten I started a lemon syrup for the drizzle cake. Of course it thickened too quickly and as I poured it over my sad lemon individuals it almost solidified before reaching the cake. Lemon Toffee cake anyone? My heart was absolutely racing by now but not as quickly as my brain. I knocked up some cream cheese frosting and smothered both the lemon and banana cake with it. And in what I can only describe as colossal aberration of judgement I topped each cake with a glace cherry. I carried the cake in and put it on the sideboard; behind a large vase of dried flowers.
So at 09:50 Terry and I peeled off our deshabille’s and got dressed. We anointed ourselves and the house in smellies and when the bell rang we wafted out, all calm and collected, to greet our visitors. Ilia, his wife Grozda and Svetla, Stefans wife. Stefan we were told was in Sofia at a political rally. Svetla handed over a bunch of snowdrops and a box of what looked like a chocolate cake. God moves in strange ways! The ladies admired the progress in the garden, congratulated us on getting the pigs and then pointedly looked towards the interior of the house. So Terry and I helped the ladies up the stairs and showed them our latest work. Grozda was touchingly parochial about us. I was not sure if I had read Svetlas body language and facial expressions properly. She was very complimentary in that slightly stern Bulgarian way.
Terry showed off the downstairs bathroom and the janitorial cupboard which met with much approval. We quickly popped our head into the front room and thankfully the puppies were all asleep. I ushered our visitors to the dining room table and as the orders for drinks came in I was grateful for learning how to make a good Turkish coffee during the years in Greece. As drinks were set on the table and conversation began with the help of Google translate Grozda’s face lit up and even as she started speaking I knew she’d spotted the cakes! “Oh” she said “Did you make those”? I ran through about 20 ludicrous excuses before deciding to bite the bullet. I placed my anaemic offerings on the table. Ilia picked up a banana cakette, wolfed it down and said it was “hubovo”. The ladies shared a lemon cakette. I could see them both trying to place the cream cheese frosting. Both were very complimentary but it cut me to the quick that they were nowhere near my usual standard. I felt a wave of sadness. D and C if you are reading this you will understand my pain! The visit ended on a high note and I was glad we’d passed muster for the village ladies, well 2 of them. Though I can bet a stotinki to a leva that the visit will be the subject of a few conversations to come.
The positive outcome was that the house and garden were ready for James and Pete’s visit. And on that point I have to own my terrible mothering – I had told Terry that the lads were arriving on Tuesday morning. Well that was until Sunday evening when James rang in an absolute panic. I’d misspelled his surname on the e-ticket and he was flying the next morning. I started a rolling sweat that began at the roots of my hair and dropped like mercury in a thermometer to the soggy soles of my feet. I sounded matter of fact and looked like a swan; serene and proud above the water but paddling like steamer underneath. As it turns out EasyJet offer the option to change spelling mistakes of up to 3 characters free of charge. So ticket amended and printed off at my Mom’s and loaded with smokey bacon for Terry, James was ready to fly.
Terry went to pick up the lads on Monday morning as I held fort, attending to the puppies, last minute tidying and of course cooking. I only get to see James twice a year. The weather was still holding out so when the dogs began barking I let them out to greet James – I knew they’d be ecstatic. As I ambled out I was greeted not only by Terry and the lads but friends Tony and Deborah too. We combined as friends who have much in common, including permaculture and family with long gaps between meetings. About 5 conversations were being held synchronously and the noise level was phenomenal. I held back and watched the social interactions unfold. I slipped off to the kitchen and James then Pete’s followed and we caught up our own news quietly.
This holiday was a working one for James and Pete’s. They started work stripping wallpaper, repairing wooden floors, sanding and varnishing a couple of rooms of James’s house. It is a house of surprises. Externally it shows as an almost L shaped nondescript home but open the walled garden and the front of the house is revealed. It has split level flooring, well appointed rooms and as a superb extra he has half as much space again in the cellar. A large hallway and 2 rooms. 1 is enormous and I think is destined eventually to be his media room. The other has an open fireplace used as a meat smoker and shelving. A lovely garden and great outbuildings. It all needs tlc and some minor structural work but all in all it’s a cracker of a property.
We only managed a meal out at Perfekto where the lads chose the heaped and sizzling Sachs plates for their mains whilst Terry and I shared 1. We must of had at least 2 starters each, 3 rounds of drinks, purlenkas (like greek pitta bread) and salad. The cost was 82 leva I think and it was stood by Pete’s as a thank you for putting him up. I managed to spend some time at the house with them and it was really lovely.
The weather was vile and continues to be vile with snow in parts of Bulgaria yesterday. So when Terry drove the lads back the following week to Sofia it was torrential rain on the way out and snow on the way back! I can honestly say that it has been a blight. The house is permanently muddy. The floor to the summer kitchen is caked in mud daily and my poor mop is suffering. The washing machine is on 24/7. Add to this the debris from 10 puppies and it is chaos here. I’ll bet the boys aren’t missing that moment when they all begin to evacuate their bowels and bladders in quick succession!
Terry has been battling on with the mud repairs to the outbuildings. And to his absolute credit he has set in supports that will be decorative enough to improve the look of the building. He has all the roof trusses made and installed. I helped on this part of the build. We were like a pair of pack rats scuttling along wet wooden rafters trying desperately to cover the roof with plastic sheeting. Which we did too. Even through the torrential rain Terry has persevered so that all we need to do is baton and tile the roof before we can start on the insides. Overall the structure will become a roofed gatehouse with 2 buildings either side and a covered vehicle entrance. The side that abuts the pig sty and feed room will become a large chicken house with netted run in front. The other side will become a 3 1/3 walled area that can be used for a covered eating area or storage. We also found a 60cm round porthole window for 60 leva on a buy sell site. That will give the second room a focal point. The chicken house needs 3 roosts and 4 nesting boxes and then we can pickup our 9 point of lay chickens and a rooster that we’ve ordered.
And to finish up random puppy pictures