Back in the summer we booked a flight to go and see Dave's parents in the UK. Pet sitter was booked to look after the animals, Venka agreed to milk Millie every day. All organised for a break in the chores. We had wanted to go at the beginning of the month before the threat of frost, but someone else got in first with the sitter (and later cancelled!) so our trip coincided with the time my sister and her husband started their journey through the UK, visiting friends and family, then through Europe on a leisurely drive to Bulgaria to suss out whether this could be the place for the start of a new life, just as we did two and a half years ago. I hope I haven't given too rosy a view with my tales of living the good life.
Preparations for leaving the homestead clean, tidy and easy to manage were slightly hampered when Dave as suddenly asked to help with the apple picking which had been delayed due to the weather, which meant we lost a day while he was off with his Babas...one of whom can, and did shin up the trees like a ten year old, singing as she went. I had made a quick batch of rock cakes for him to take s the timing meant lunch would be late and I'm glad I did as the others had taken food too and they had a picnic there in the field, newspaper table cloth and all. There were pancakes, banitsa, meats and the cakes
|Dave was given apples...and paid.... but they will not keep as they are not perfect. But they can wait for now!|
Dull weather when we woke and that was the order of the day. Easyjet flight was as normal, friendly crew and no problems. There is usually more leg room for Dave's long limbs on their flights. But he did feel rough bless him.
|It's a pretty drive to the airport nearly three hours away|
|The changing colours of autumn|
|Sofia on a dull morning|
|A break in the clouds just as we passed over a brilliant stretch of water|
|Dull again in the SE of England, but the familiar bright green patchwork of fields is such a contrast to the straight lines of the European fields. So British|
|Gatwick, making our more familiar Manchester Airport seem so small and intimate.|
We were picked up by Dave's brother in law, a taxi driver, and was I glad to see him...and Dave's sister of course. Gatwick is an awful airport for those of us with dicky legs, it seems like we were rushing down corridors forever. Every time we thought we were nearly there we started again, then had to queue for ages at passport control. And Dave feeling worse all the time. But it was so good to see the in-laws, and they were so overwhelmed to see their son from so far away.
One day we made a visit to Howlett's Zoo where Dave used to work in his younger days, and where his nephew now works with the big cats. It was a nasty wet day but we met some lovely cats and Dave caught up with some people he knew, as well as some he didn't but who were happy to hear the tales of how life was for keeper and animals in days gone by. He really does miss working with the animals.
|Dave's nephew with one of his beloved tigers|
|Having a Dave ear scratch|
|Because of the weather we used zoo transport to get about...which only had the two seats. poor Dave drew the short straw!|
|Snow leopards, beautiful|
|No, you can't come out to play!|
|My favourite antelope, bongo|
|There were huge borders of hydrangeas, they must have been stunning in the summer|
|Must have been stunning with the amount of flower heads|
|Good year for ornamental crab apples|
So after a hectic round of visits and visiting, shopping and eating all those foods we can't get over here in Bulgaria (like fish and chips and Atlantic prawns) we set off back to Gatwick with overweight suitcases, and what a horrible experience, we have to do most things ourselves and there was no direction as to what we should do or where we should go. So then it was another mad dash to get to the plane. It was lovely to see everyone but great to be home. To hugs and kisses from all the neighbours...you'd think we had been gone years!
|Dave's great niece made us some sweet and sugary cup cakes|
|Lunch in Canterbury, starting with cheesy garlic bread|
|. We don't see many steaks in Bulgaria so Dave had to have at least one|
|We were right by the cathedral gates|
|But not excited enough to pay a huge entry fee|
|Fish and chips at Papa's in Wincheap, freshly cooked and so delicious I actually ate most of my chips! Dave went for the large size|
|Lunch in Canterbury, this time with the in-laws at Panteli's|
|Better weather for the return trip|
|We even saw some mountains|
|And a sunny drive home|
While we were away my sister and her husband had been making their way across Europe in their camper van, Kevin, and were taking a break at Camping VT where we often attend the car boot sales during the summer. So a day later they made their way over to us where they are going to stay while hunting for a potential home. They have a large labrador called Bracken who has never met a cat (but does know Bonnie and Bella) and was a bit bemused when Charlie decided to do his 'I wanna be your friend' loving bit, but when Charlie turned his back Bracken thought the chase was on. Charlie just gets out of the way and continues to make the occasional attempt at winning Bracken round. Spud, on the other hand, after being quite happy to have this very large dog around if it was OK with us, has now become rather scared after being chased a couple of times. It's early days but hopefully time will sort the situation out. It might even do Spud some good to realise he can't always be in charge
|Kevin the camper van outside our house, he is too big to fit where the car goes|
So today we have been showing my sister around the area, seeing what villages feel right to them. There will now be a series of viewings and we will see what happens later.
|Autumn at Hotnitsa waterfall|
Meanwhile the weather here in Bulgaria, though there was rain while we were away, has now settled down to sunny days and cold nights. Great for sitting outside at meal times but it's taking it's toll on tender plants in the garden .Though I have to say the runner beans have flourished and today's pick yielded quite a few foot long, tender beans, with more to come, frost permitting. We are going to be digging up the sweet potatoes and attempting to cure any decent ones for storing. The onions and garlic have sprouted, carrots and beets are growing and the kale is lovely. The two mild chilli plants have been potted up to see if we can keep them going long enough to ripen the fruit but we can't do much about the peppers. Lots of fruits but all green.
Meanwhile the walnuts keep falling a lot faster than they can be processed and we are hanging bags of them in the cellar to see if they will last. We have also picked some late raspberries, chard, leeks and celery. All good stuff for hearty soups for four.
|You'd think these dogs were starved!|
|Hearty home grown veg soups are the order of the day rather than salads now, first of many for our visitors|
The chickens and ducks haven't noticed us being away of course. As long as they are fed they are happy. We are getting plenty of eggs for us all from the hens, the cockerel chick is looking...well...strange, going through and odd looking phase but also growing some beautiful, glossy gold feathers and the drake is colouring up after a drab spell.
The goats are happy to have Dave back. They have put some weight on and look set for winter. Milly is giving more than enough milk for us all but it has to be said that my sister is not a fan of goat's milk in tea...but fine as custard! We had some of the blackcurrants I bottled in summer in a crumble, they were lovely with custard. Well pleased.