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Monday 21 May 2012

57. The one where everyone comes past our house for a nosey

Rush hour in the village!

We’ve been planning to replace our ropey old concrete path with a stone one. Imagine our delight when Rob started pulling up the concrete this week and discovered an old stone path already there underneath. It was quite uneven and wobbly in places so we spent the weekend repositioning some of the stones.

Working anywhere at the front of the house is a blatant invitation for every man and his donkey to stop and spectate, comment or tout for work. This much I know. One time Rob went out to water the front garden and returned dazed and exhausted 30 minutes later. You think I’m exaggerating? Well here, for your entertainment, is an average Saturday afternoon at ours.

First the binmen rolled up. We gave them a rusty old bit of metal fencing once and they love us forever now. The same binman comes knocking every fortnight to see what exciting crap we’re chucking out. He also always takes the opportunity to offer to do our gardening or re-render the house (for a fee of course), and we always politely decline. This week, he offered to do the path for us. We politely declined. This ritual has been going on since we moved here in August.

Next, an old timer strolled over – he’d been sitting on the bench outside the little shop opposite. Our Bulgarian still isn’t very good and conversation dried up pretty quickly after the basic small talk. Undeterred by this, the guy just resorted to naming places in England that he knew.

“Birmingham,” he’d say triumphantly.
“Hmm, yes” Rob would smile and nod.
*strained pause*
“London. LONDON!”

Eventually the old boy returned to his bench over the road and continued watching from a distance.

Then Benny Hill Shepherd (I never know anyone’s name so I just make them up) came by with his sheep, waving a cheery “Hey Bobbeeeee!” Rob is mostly known throughout the village as Bobby. One guy simply calls him “English”.

Penka’s Sister stood over us while we packed some earth in between stones. She told us we should be using sand. We said the earth was okay (that’s what was already there anyway). She then headed into our back garden to inspect our vegetable patch, merrily plucking beetles off the potato plants and crushing them underfoot. After this, there was some more standing over us before she went home. 

Svilen (from next door) popped round to declare the path was “extra” which Google tells me means cool, slick, or gilt-edged! He reserves such praise for special occasions! Then he told us to use sand between the stones. Then, he went to check on our tomatoes.

(I’m a bit concerned that our vegetable patch is not entirely our own and we’ve inadvertently joined a vegetable farming co-op. Svilen is regularly popping round and adding more stuff or weeding the patch. He came into the kitchen the other day proudly brandishing one of our radishes. Our. First. Ever. Radish. Still, at least he let us eat it.)

Our Brit friends stopped by with Turkish delight fresh from a trip to Istanbul. Yum!

Svilen’s two sons rocked up and told us we should have a “pochifka” (day off), making the universal time out sign with their hands. So did several other people express their shock and horror that we were working on a Saturday. Rob just pulled his usual poor-put-upon-Rob face and declared that he never has time off. Which is sort of true actually, but that doesn’t mean he should say it out loud. 

Tsanni – who has a summer house up behind ours – came by with her husband and said the path looked nice. Tsanni is an architect in Sofia and quick to say when she doesn’t like something, so we’re always ridiculously happy whenever she praises something.

Dungaree Man (again, don’t know his name) stopped and chatted with Rob for a while. He’s also doing up a house in the village and really likes dungarees. I have no idea what they talked about and neither does Rob.

We got a random “bravo” from one passing family on a cart.

Quite a few car drivers slowed down to rubber-neck at us. They really love to stare here, it’s not considered rude at all. It’s very strange being brought up to think that staring is rude and then moving to a country where it’s a national pastime. They’re not singling us out for special staring treatment or anything. They’ll stare at anyone doing anything. On Sunday Svilen’s son was strimming the grass verge opposite our houses while four people stood around and watched!  I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere, something about Bulgarians and lightbulbs…

Back to Saturday and, last but not least, Svilen came back around with a block of cheese for us. Then he brought in Stefan The Donkey (who is an actual donkey and not a cruelly nicknamed villager) for a chow on our grass - we have an arrangement whereby Stefan gets to eat all the grass he likes, I get to take endless photos of him, and Rob rarely has to cut the grass. Everyone’s a winner!

That concludes our exhausting Saturday. The one where everyone came by for a nosey. Oh, and we also relaid a path in between all that.