This Sort of Thing - January 2024 - Main Course
16 January, Tuesday
I’ve learned that in Manchester my grandson, Toby, is still opening his Christmas presents. Expressing a dislike for the festive season, he’s been heard shouting ‘No Christmas tree!’, ‘No Father Christmas!’ and ‘No sprouts!’ He unwraps gifts one at a time, hugs them, loves them and plays with them for days until he’s forced into opening another one.
It thrills me to know he has my genes and is totally opposed to crass consumerism. Additionally, he’s shown no interest in fine wines and Belgian chocolates.
He’s still only two years old but at his age I was demonstrating outside Woolworth’s.
17 January, Wednesday
Anita the dog groomer cleaned the teeth of Gaia the Shih Tzu, made her bleed and suggested we go to the vet. The vet said the dog has gum disease, explaining why her front end smells worse than her rear. She has such long hair we rely on the whiff to enable us to know which end to feed.
We killed grooming waiting time with butties and coffees at the OMV petrol station café. After a gap of 18 days they were pleased to see us and offered us free croissants. If ever we marry, we’ll hold the reception there.
18 January, Thursday
I paid a lev to park our car for an hour by sending a text message to 13621. For years I’ve done this. Then I noticed on lovely Rita's car parking sign that the number to use is 1362.
Was I in breach of the law? If I sent a Lev to the new number would my first lev be refunded? Was this a special number for Catholics? Why do they have to keep changing things?
This new technological age is all too much for me to handle with ease. I'm sinking fast; I'll soon be down on my knees.
19 January, Friday
We broke the rules at the Third Age ceramics group by failing to drink their cups of watery English tea and call each other darling every 47 seconds. Priyatelkata’s clay tile was impressively artistic but mine not so much. I’m a writer not a person who fiddles around with messy sticky stuff and a rolling pin. Bulgarian Ellen, the teacher, was very sympathetic saying that she too preferred strong coffee.
Balkan style sandwiches and treacle-esque coffee at the number one petrol station compensated for a miserable morning, as did the need to remove outer garments whilst sitting in warm sunshine.
20 January, Saturday
A man at the bus stop said to me, ‘The young boy entering puberty will regard his spots with trepidation but the ladybird will not.’ I replied, ‘It doesn’t look like the bus is coming’ and stood up to wander home through the snow.
I spent much of the afternoon squeezing spots and clearing paths which I found rewarding in similar ways, except a shovel isn’t usually required for the former.
Treacle-esque coffee, cursing the Siberian weather, dreaming of my days in the desert and snoozing on a settee with a menagerie member completed my day.
But where’s the bus?
21 January, Sunday
Sunny but cold. Snowy but wet. Overslept but sleepy. A mind busy but lazy. A head young but old. Noh but a lad. Have I always been so lacking in energy?
A fellow admirer of Pablo Fanque once said ‘Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.’
Everybody's talking ‘bout
air pollution, my ablutions, long lost relations, cat castration, Piroe’s goal celebration
next door’s Alsatian, pile preparations, deep fried crustaceans, tins of Carnation
You may say I'm a procrastinator but I'm not the only one. I know who the others are. I’ll tell you tomorrow if this tactile settee releases me.
22 January, Monday
At 5:45 pm there was still a hint of light in the western sky. This excites me. Only weeks from now I’ll be wearing a sun hat and little else as I scream at mosquitos to leave me alone. I’m bigger than them so they should be scared of me. They’re only doing their job so I don’t like to kill them. The bats enjoy them at suppertime.
I love January as much as I detest December. My new year’s resolution this year is to not be miserable in December and the preceding unmentionable dark month. So far, so good.
23 January, Tuesday
Priyatelkata signed up to go on Saturday to another Women’s Institute ceramics group session, but once every 66 years is enough for me. She also cooked trout with vegetables, herbs and garlic in between bouts of painting flowers and boats in aquarelle. I told her there’s a broken roof tile that needed replacing but she just couldn’t be arsed.
We couldn’t go anywhere because the car doors were frozen shut. To combat cabin fever I shaved my head. I do this once a month to disguise the fact that I’m going bald.
The Bulgarian word for hoar frost is skrezh (скреж).
24 January, Wednesday
An itchy insect bite on my finger drove me mad all day and restricted my movements. The pinkie position whilst drinking tea from an ornate china teacup was almost impossible.
I went to see Alexander, my Balkan barber boy who attends to straggly beards. Discussions revealed that I know Veliko Tarnovo better than he does. His excuse being he’s originally from distant Pavlikeni, 40 kilometres yonder. He’d never heard of Middlesbrough. The cherry on the small town mentality cake was his suggestion that the best local place for coffee was McDonald’s.
He had no suggestions for my spider teacup irritation.
25 January, Thursday
I have an unusually small and quite miserable male cat of two years adopted from Romania with one testicle trapped inside his abdomen rendering castration extremely difficult but without such surgery his testosterone levels leave him sexually frustrated and all the female cats in the street mock him for his physical inadequacy causing him to become aggressive and making the lives of my other cats, dogs, partner and myself quite intolerable.
I have tried inserting garlic up his arse as a remedy, as suggested by our gypsy neighbours, but to no avail.
Yours, Mister Angry of Malki Chiflik.
26 January, Friday
Please don’t think we’re rich if I admit to owning two cars. They’ve a combined age of 32 years. Tatiana Toyota has a CD player and a tomato crate containing the best CDs in the car… ever! Desislava Daihatsu is good in snow. Going out, it’s a head versus heart versus weather based decision as to which motor we take.
It was Desislava’s technical inspection (aka MOT) day today. She also needed a service and minor bodywork repairs. I gave Nikolai the mechanic 10 shiny kopeks and a kofa of rakia and in a couple of hours she was grand.
27 January, Saturday
Priyatelkata went to her ceramic art class this morning. She’s becoming quite Etruscan these days.
I stayed at home to keep baying menagerie members apart as the torment of household incarceration brought on by bad weather struck again. I was incarcerated too but I didn’t shit on the kitchen floor.
Armed with my dog-eared hand-written travel journal, an old Lonely Planet Guide to Iran and inspiration from Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, I’ve spent January writing about my 2011 journey across Persian deserts. Rain lashing against my window makes me hungry for a return to Shiraz, Yaz’d and Isfahan.
28 January, Sunday
With a need to get out, I visited Kaufland this morning but found it more brain-numbing than staying in. They’re still selling advent calendars. Or maybe they’ve just stocked up early for next advent.
Perhaps people would show more interest at this time of year if they sold Pancake Day calendars instead. But I forgot that Pancake Day isn’t a thing in Bulgaria. If it was, they’d call it Den na Pa-la-cheen-kee-tay (Ден на Палачинките).
But we do have two Lents. One before Easter and one before Christmas. And I suppose Ramadan’s a sort of Lent so we could say we have three.
29 January, Monday
It’s Anton Chekov’s birthday. He’s 164. I think it was him who came up with the idea of giving cherries to notable writers. He had an orchard full of them.
He lived all his life in Russia. He was born in a place near to the border of what is now Ukraine-ish and spent many summers and periods of recovery from illness on Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. He died in 1904.
Imagine if he came back today and said, ‘Have I missed anything?’
He married an actress called Olga Knipper. To me it’s sadly ironic that they didn’t produce nippers.
30 January, Tuesday
Our unusually small Romanian cat visited the vet today for an intimate modification which the surgeon carried out quickly and efficiently with his nippers. So now the little feline weighs a few grams less and goes by the very Bulgarian sounding name of Vladimir Boloksov. Apparently his pride would have been more hurt than the region of his epididymides.
I heard the news today that in Gaza over 50% of buildings have been destroyed. So there’s either a massive housing shortage or over 50% of the population have been murdered. I hope it’s the housing shortage but I fear both.
31 January, Wednesday
I had to search Google to see what day it was today. It said it was my Auntie Maggie’s birthday. She’s been gone a fair while so this made me think I should stop saying no to invitations to install Windows updates.
In the North of Ireland, the Stormont Power-Sharing Executive politicians, decided they’re going back to work. They’ve had more time off than Santa. Michelle O'Neill’s a grand woman but now she’s no longer caught between the Devil and the DUP, the smile on her face makes her grander.
And the weather forecasters suggest I’ve survived another winter. Hurroo!
Previous bit : This Sort of Thing - January 2024 - Starter
Next bit: Coming soon!
My own photo - an icy January day in our garden.