…to raise a child.
After the last blog post ‘Brown is the new black’ introducing you to urban living in Bulgaria, it is time we had a bit more of a slice of village life. Diado takes us back to the beautifully quiet Pear Village, and the house he was born in, nestled in a high valley too far from a main road to be prosperous any more.
The warning signs controlling whether cars can overtake seems rather over-excessive. We do not see another moving vehicle during the whole visit. This is a village where you can walk in the roads with abandon.
The mayors office stands empty, no longer in use.
We leave the tarmac and head onto an old bridleway up to the house, with the only evidence of any life (or neighbours) being the wandering cows watching us pass.
Diado estimates the village used to have over two hundred people, at the time he attended the now long-closed village primary school. An internet search yields the census data for 2013, when even at that time only 36 people remained.
The house itself stands empty, locked up after the death of Diado’s sister and now owned by his nephew, who has no interest in it, preferring to live in town. There is no market for this sort of property as rural Bulgaria is littered with them.
A typical Bulgarian build, the house is solid, if now lacking in grace. The very base of the house is made from stone, gathered from surrounding fields. The main structure is an oak wood frame, with pale and now dusty hand crafted cob clay bricks for the bottom level, and traces of clay plastering remain on some of the external walls. Above this, more commercially made red bricks, but the pictures show a clear jigsaw approach to house building. What was available, and could be afforded was used, and this in turn was patched up as necessary. Terracotta curved tiles balance precariously to form the roof.
At the side of the house a semi circle of cob bricks show plans for an extension that never materialised, as another possible opening to the chimney vent was left accessible.
In the overgrown orchard behind, Tiddler runs wild, while Digger and his father contemplate their own histories and memories of the house. Digger remembers being sent to stay with his grandparents at this house in his long summer holidays, walking the woods with his grandfather and making charcoal. He has often told me in the past how his university studies (silviculture) and professional qualifications (forester/tree surgery) have stemmed from those experiences.
While they talk, we hear a sharp whistle in the forest beyond, and a while haired man and a wriggly black spaniel puppy emerge. The diados greet each other with a warm handshake and chat in the empty field of days gone by. The dog is being trained for truffle hunting and the neighbour calls after her, “Sara, Sara!” as she chases after Tiddler’s thrown sticks instead of putting her nose to proper use. We just find ordinary mushrooms instead.
I peer through the warped glass windows into a frozen step back in time, only it isn’t really, as this is the reality of many of those thirty six villagers still living as they have always done, while the world changes around them.
We cannot deny the benefits of modernity, but we can all mourn the loss of something at the same time.
Diado’s class in the village primary school
Diado in the nearby town’s secondary school
Diado as a young man
Diado during his military service