the skinflint philosopher

Attempting to thrift our way to a better life, with a toddler in tow!

Ciao, Bulgaria.

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You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.
You can take a Bulgarian back to Bulgaria, but he’s not necessarily going to stay there.

The decision has been made that this visit to Bulgaria has come to an end. We have spent five months here, plus the two months overland travel time on the road in the campervan Leo to get here.
Here is a quick review:
1. Tiddler’s bilingualism has seen a huge boost through attending a local nursery, and hearing real conversations around her. Prior to arriving here she did understand a few things Digger would say to her, but we have now progressed to a very good understanding (she translates some things into English for me to understand), she speaks various correct words and sentences, alongside a general constant stream of gobbledygook which is her playing with sounds and language, which neither Digger and I can fully interpret but is all part of the learning process. Digger also feels more inspired to chat with her in his native tongue, now he is getting a conscious response. (My language skills are now being tested in order to keep up!)

 


2. Stay-at-home mama life suits me. Having worked for more than 10 years in the secondary education sector, Digger’s big fear of me resigning from my post in July last year would be boredom, particularly in Bulgaria with the absence of my friends, my normal routine, and playgroups/events I could take Tiddler to. Yes of course, it would be better if all those things could have been here too, but I have not been bored. We have cooked, and baked, and crafted, and invented games, and acted out make-believe stories. I have had long conversations with my child. I have sat and brushed her hair, for no reason other than to chat. We do yoga together. We have read stories, and made our own books. Tiddler has started to learn to read and I have the time to help her. Digger laughs at my ‘letterwork’ folder I have put together with resources for her reading. “I can tell you are happy because you have got plastic wallets and are organising your files! You enjoy her learning to read more than she does because you get to have bits of paper, and post-its, and a checklist of things to tick off once she has done them!” There is no point being defensive, because it is true. I am an educator by trade, a purveyor of instruction and worksheets. I may be more used to teenagers in the classroom, but I am learning how much fun a pile of coloured beads and reward stickers can be. As an only child, Tiddler has a lot to gain from books.

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3. Financially, it has not been too bad. Having both given up work in the summer of 2017, our biggest expenses have been removals and travel. Firstly, to get ourselves and our possessions off the island where I had lived for over a decade, and into storage at my parent’s house in the westcountry in the UK. Then the travel overland through Europe. We justified it as being a long extended holiday, the opportunity that we would not have if we were working and limited to days off. Campsites, the van itself and even petrol and road tolls all chipped away at our travel kitty. We were concerned with safety for Tiddler and so chose not to park up in lay-bys as many other travelers on the road could do to save their pennies. But the open road experience, as summer faded to autumn and we still traveled on southwards into the sunshine was worth the costs involved.
Once in Bulgaria, we were able to use a family apartment as our base, so bills were limited to electricity, water and wifi. Food bills were reduced through raiding Diado and Baba’s supremely delicious range of preserved stocks, bottles and supplies. Unexpected expenses came from Leo’s hydraulic suspension breaking on the potholed Bulgarian roads. Digger and Tiddler both had chest infections in February, and without having registration numbers as residents, we had to pay through the nose to even see a doctor, who eventually came to look at Tiddler in the dark and drafty corridor of the hospital between his shifts, and that was only because Digger managed to get hold of his personal mobile number. We paid for the prescriptions to be written, and the antibiotics and the syrups to be bought. Digger also had expenses to pay for the aftercare on a carpal tunnel syndrome operation on his hand. He was charged per stitch by the scissor-wielding dour-faced nurse, even when I told him I could have cut them out myself at home. He has faith in me, but perhaps not that much.
We also had to factor in the nursery fees, inexpensive compared to the UK but we had not planned for it, expecting Tiddler’s grandmother Baba to be here, not for childcare per say but for entertaining Tiddler and prompting her language development. Diado is a lot less verbose although he tries his best. The lack of playgroup-type opportunities also meant Tiddler needed more children to interact with, and so we opted for a private kindergarten to fill the gap. Baba talks to us on skype from Canada, just another Bulgarian granny farmed out to support the childcare of relations overseas, further evidence of Bulgaria’s declining and ageing population problems. She is visibly upset every time we speak that she has missed this opportunity with her granddaughter.  If she was here, I believe we would have stayed longer.

 


4. May you live in interesting times. It hasn’t all been roses of course, but I can’t deny that it is interesting. Digger and I have bickered more than before, mostly because he has been mooching around the apartment with limited access to power tools. Digger is a man who likes to work and be useful, and the wintery weather, the flu, and his hand operation have all conspired against him. He has done odd jobs with his father and for friends, but as we decided against buying a run-down old property at this time to bring back into use he has had nothing to get his teeth into.
But I like a challenge. I like dealing with currency I don’t recognise, and food I haven’t tasted, and taxi drivers who need to put their glasses on to read the address I am waving at them because I can’t pronounce it. I like not having to be embarrassed when Tiddler makes a personal comment about someone, because they don’t understand and then I can explain a little about manners. I like the snow, and the sunshine, and the weirdness of the winters here. I like learning about the customs and the folk tales, and developing a taste for rakia with my lunchtime salads. I like walking to the farm to collect the still warm milk, and have grown to be accustomed to the whooshing sound of the rickety lift that takes us up to the fourth floor.
It is not an easy, or a clean, or even a very efficient place, but I have never once regretted the decision to be here.

 


Digger however, is itching to go. As I type this he is downstairs ‘playing’ with Leo. He wants to go now, to get on the road. We leave in 11 days, weather permitting. Right now the snow is falling and I am not relishing the prospect of cold nights in a campervan. Bulgaria has been on the news as many local people in the rural areas have been taking the storks into their homes to save them. These long-legged birds, supposedly the heralds of spring, have arrived over the last few weeks from Africa alongside the better weather. This current deterioration back into minus temperatures has seen them frozen into their nests, and icicles growing on their feathers as the cold air rises off the ground, unable to open their wings and trapping them in the fields. The villagers are going out with baskets and blankets, plucking up these huge birds like statues, and bringing them into their homes to defrost.
download(Stork image from novinite.com)

Should better weather arrive, our route is planned for Bulgaria, Greece, southern Italy, but then we veer off from the outbound route and sail across to Barcelona. We are due to arrive back in the UK in May, with no house, no work, no definite plans. I’m hoping for some inspiration along the way.
I asked Digger last night, “Do you still think we did the right thing, giving up work, trying to do something different with our lives?”
“Yes” he says. “I don’t want to live out of a suitcase for ever, I want to be settled, but I don’t want to wait till I’m too old to enjoy life. We just need to find the right place to be.  Bulgaria isn’t right for Tiddler’s future. We need to see what we can find instead. But yes, we did the right thing”

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Author: Theskinflintphilosopher

Call me thrifty, prudent, tight or even a miser, but squirreling money away is definitely my thing. The ins and outs of how saving money became a lifestyle, in order to work towards a specific lifestyle change. Follow me on that journey and learn to look at life in a different way.

11 thoughts on “Ciao, Bulgaria.

  1. Another wonderful chapter my dear pal. Your parcels arrived today, bless you for your precious kindness. I have been in the slough of despond with the bluddy play and the vexatious eejits being stroppy and what not, it’s been like pushing water uphill. But this chapter transported me to your side xxx love you maximally

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wishing you all the best for the performance tonight. Don’t break a leg, but you know what I mean. Hope you get some good supporters along in the audience.
      Glad the gifts got there without any trouble and very quickly too! x

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  2. the saying goes, we sometimes regret the things we did but we always regret the things we never did. You took a chance, and you tried a new life, and you have learned that Bulgaria is not the place for you. who knows where is right, but I admire your courage. I have loved reading all about your Bulgarian adventures and look forward to reading more. Sending you lots of love x

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    • Thank you very much 🙂 We will of course always visit Bulgaria to see Digger’s friends and family, and keep the language alive for Tiddler, so it is not written off as a destination (and the summers are gloriously hot so I might even pop back with Tiddler in August as we suspect Baba will be back from Canada by then, if funds allow, as if I do that I shall fly). It is just not going to be a permanent home for us.
      There are so many pluses to bringing Tiddler up in the UK- the NHS, the schooling system, the swimming pools!- and while it is all well and good for Digger and I to opt out of our former lives a little bit (having had all those experiences), we are more aware in recent months that we do not want to deny Tiddler certain opportunities. So we just need to find a solution to get a balance of best of both worlds i.e. maybe to be in the UK (within reasonable travel distance of my family), but with the possibility of continuing to work less for other people, and more for ourselves. We do not want to get straight back on that treadmill! If only I had a prize winning novel somewhere inside of me!
      Well, we shall continue to have to live the thrifty life so I hope they will be plenty more to continuing blogging about, wherever we end up 🙂

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      • I am certain that the life you envisage is possible – you just have to keep looking. Like you I agree about the NHS, we really don’t appreciate it as much as we ought.

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      • Yes, keeping optimistic that something will turn up, or we will have a good idea…. We have been watching episodes of The Good Life on you tube the last few days to keep us motivated! Digger keeps grumbling about why he can’t just buy a piece of land in some little corner of the UK and live on it, but unfortunately it is not that simple. If we want legalities and institutions (such as the NHS) that suit us then we can’t just turn our noses up against ways of doing things that are not necessarily convenient for us.
        We were very good at living thriftily, and feeling proud of our savings and lifestyle, when we actually had two salaries coming in to allow us wriggle room and rainy day money. It’s not quite the same when we are facing doing that on one wage or no income (as we are at the moment). I could go back to teaching of course, but I resent the notion of paying someone else to look after Tiddler so I can put myself under stress in the classroom dealing with other people’s children.
        Anyway, further doom and gloom tonight as possible delay on leaving as Leo’s suspension is not working properly again today! It’s only just back from the garage! Digger is in a miserable mood but we have got it booked back in for Monday morning at the same garage- hoping it is just something that has comes a little loose from the actual fix they did, and not something else gone wrong with it entirely.
        I hope you are having a better weekend and don’t forget to change the clocks! 🙂

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      • Oh my heart goes out to you, and I hope it all went well at the garage! I agree with you. I would love to just buy land and live simply too. At least you aren’t tied to any particular location. I’ve just moved from Sussex to Hampshire – and E has only just got a job here too, we have been apart for a while which hasn’t been easy! The further North the less work there is available.. its a catch 22. but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. By the sound of it you have the right attitude and skillset, it will all resolve itself eventually. But I do understand that uncertainty is the hardest part.

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      • Yes and no re the garage….. we have just heard back that they can’t fix the hydraulic suspension in time for us to leave as planned (and would be very costly as would need to import the part from Germany or UK) but they can replace the original suspension, and will give us a little money off to take the hydraulic parts of our hands. So we are still going to be out of pocket quite considerably, but we should be able to get away as planned next week, rather than our greatest worry of having to scrap the campervan and fly back! At least they think it is fixable….. but now a waiting game for the next few days until it is completed! Never rains, but it pours.
        Totally agree in our experience with the issue of property prices increasing as work (and nice weather) improves too! We are now considering Somerset as an option as a cheaper part of the Westcountry. Digger likes Wales but I always think of it as raining a lot there- we have had all of that inclement wind and rain while living on the island and I was hoping for a little more sunshine if at all possible! I hope you and E are enjoying Hampshire, and settled into work etc. That must have been difficult relocating on your own first- hope you have been able to make friends easily.

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    • I forgot to say- I tried your peanut butter biscuit recipe! I tried it with a health food version of peanut butter which I find quite dense and oily, so I wasn’t sure if it would work, but the results were very good and Tiddler ate plenty. I cut back on the sugar too, and was thinking, shouldn’t there be flour in this? but the three ingredient version is lovely. Thanks for sharing it!

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