Only a week ago, I cannot be precise as one day seems to merge into the next, my niece and her partner arrived in Bulgaria and are staying with me whilst they get a feel of the country and may even in the future possibly move here and live a similar dream themselves. At the weekend her partner and I drove to Sofia airport to collect my eldest sister with her OH who were coming to help and give me support. The drive to Sofia was pretty uneventful and on arrival her plane had landed and so hiding behind a pillar in the arrivals lounge I waited and waited for what seemed like forever. Eventually she appeared through the sliding doors and she scanned the crowd of people who were waiting for friends and relatives themselves looking for Dimitar (the taxi driver I had told her would be picking her up). Creeping up to her all of us got a surprise, her that I had come to collect her, me because she had not arrived with her partner, but my younger sister as he had given up his booking to allow her to come with my elder sister. I cannot write what the conversation, reactions were as there were too many expletives contained within it, but I am certain you can all imagine of the surprise, joy that a large part of my family were here to support me. It was a major thing for my younger sister as she had only flown once before, over ten years ago and had spent most of a day in London getting an emergency passport in order for her to be here to give her support .
Their main reason for them coming was that on the 5th April, the 40th day of Sara's death, in Bulgarian Orthodox tradition a ceremony is carried out at her graveside by the priest and is seen as the time that Sara's spirit leaves this earth and she enters heaven. The day before there was the dash down to the florist in the next village and we pretty much cleared her out of flowers to enable us to make up bouquets on behalf of myself, my sisters and my parents who sadly could not attend, but were with thinking of me at this time. Fortunately the weather was good and the service took place and was duly attended by family, friends, both English and Bulgarian. My Bulgarian neighbour and her friend had already asked beforehand if they could plant for me at the service pansies and forget-me-nots on the grave. After they planted them I carefully watered them in. As you can imagine the days leading up to the actual service were fraught with a helter-skelter of emotions, of joy that family members were here to support me, to periods of tension building up to the service and spells of sadness and grief of missing my beloved Sara. I had also got a little stressed as I wanted to read out a poem I had written in memory of Sara at the service, but was unsure if I could keep my composure at the service, but with the support of sisters by my side I read out a poem at her graveside to all.
A poem in Sara's memory
Bulgarian neighbour and friend planting flowers on Sara's grave
The mass of flowers bought by those who attended the service.
Family members had also brought with them painted stones with messages
which were duly placed on Sara's grave in her memory.
After the service all the people who attended the service were invited for a meal that I had provided at the local restaurant, again part of Bulgarian custom is that after the service it is customary to have a meal in Sara's memory. After the meal that consisted of soup, then Bulgarian burgers (Kufteh) sausages and potatoes followed by the usual highly sweetened Bulgarian dessert before everyone left a necrolog (obituary poster) was handed to each to place on doors and gates in the village/home in Sara's memory along with a gift of food including biscuits, Kolivo (Bulgarian ritual food made from boiled wheat, sugar, milk and crushed walnuts and cheese scones made Sara's recipe were made by myself, my sisters and niece.
Sara's necrolog (obituary).
It has been fortunate to have family members over for the week as many jobs that needed doing, but had not been able to be done due to the typical March/April weather of one moment blazing sun to the next day heavy rain. So early morning was set aside to get the troops together to prioritise what needed doing and setting to get some of the tasks carried out. My eldest sister enjoyed hoeing in the garden morning and evening. My niece assisted with planting tomatoes in the newly dug trenches that I had made for them that helps with watering them later in the year. My nieces partner sorted out removing dead and diseases wood from some of the trees in the garden as he is a tree surgeon and my younger sister and I sorted out concreting the base for the pool that will sooner than later be put in place to help with cooling me off during the day when I am working away in the garden.
Tomatoes, runner beans & cucumbers planted.
Concrete base for the pool completed
Along with the reduced risk of night time frosts and the increasing day time temperatures earlier sowings are now beginning to emerge.
Beetroot seedlings emerging
Carrot seedlings with the occasional weed seedling
Lemons getting bigger and enjoying the sun
On the livestock front the eldest batch of Light Sussex chicks have been sold making way for now 20 plus Light Sussex chicks of varying ages now being housed in the outdoor shed and being given access to the outside pen during the day. Sadly with the first batch of Indian Runner duck eggs only two hatched, I think partially due to extreme daytime temperatures (a couple of days 30C +) and the problems with one of the incubators the eggs were initially in being a little temperamental. They seem to be healthy enough and eating well and on a better note I candled the next batch of Indian Runner eggs which are in a more reliable incubator and of 24 eggs, 23 are fertile and are due to hatch at the end of the month.
The goats Millie and Tilly are now regularly going out with the goat herd during the day and coming back around 5pm totally exhausted whereupon they immediately have a drink then lie down and ruminate the days browsing/grazing so feed costs are down a little with them. It would seem that both are likely to be pregnant as neither have been back in season for nearly two months so there may be possible kids at the middle and end of July. To increase milk production I have been searching for Anglo-nubians which also their milk also contains a higher butterfat and have managed to find a couple, one only a kid the other an adult which will enable me to produce more cheese with the possibility of selling some at car boot sales next year.
After one day of being up at 4am until 10.30pm making jams and brown sauce, my niece and I attended the first car boot sale at Hotnitsa for the year and pretty much sold everything including cheese scones and quiches my sister and niece had made for me to sell. I am only going to attend one car boot sale a month at Hotnitsa as literally there are not enough hours in the day to get everything prepared what with increased amounts of livestock and now maintaining the garden.
Whilst my sisters were here we did mange to get out for a couple of days and visited a couple of local spots and check out some of the local wildlife and I had the opportunity for a swim in the river
Time for a cooling off period
Surrounding landscape The storks are back in town
Now my sisters have gone back to the UK and much of the garden planting has been completed, I now have time to sort out other legal aspects following Sara's death. I have managed to get her death certificate translated so that I can inform relevant people in the UK (banks, work pension, and pension/tax office) and have also arranged to see a solicitor in Veliko Tarnovo to assist with changing the house deeds into my name, all part of the process and all things I do not relish having to do, but necessary.
I thank all my Bulgarian and English friends for their support since Sara's passing, but more importantly over this last week to my sisters, niece and her partner who have been a source of strength, comfort and help to me whilst I go through these last days of the period of mourning as is seen in Bulgarian custom. They have known when to back off when I just need "my time" to reflect on the situation, they have been there for that all important hug of comfort when the going for me just gets that little bit too much, and have been there to take a little of the pressure off me in getting the backlog of tasks in the garden carried out.
As I sit out each evening and light the candle in the lantern that was decorated and given to me by my sister, I think of what I had in the all but too short time I had with Sara (two days after the 40th day service would have been our eleventh wedding anniversary), but more importantly knowing that by having that time with her and carrying her memory with me of her that I can continue my journey and see it as a new beginning (ново начало) and not an end of a journey.