the skinflint philosopher

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

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Twins and time

Rather than my own middling quality photographic attempts, (as a good thrifter I am still using the camera on the old and battered iphone 4 that was given me second hand when a kind friend upgraded, and I was sat up at night feeding Tiddler and kept falling asleep and needed something portable to help keep me awake), I’ve been rootling about learning more about Digger’s side of the family.

Pictured here in this wonderful image is Digger’s mother, now Tiddler’s Baba (grandmother). She takes centre stage, with her twin brother to the left, their older sister (now the Sofia Auntie D) on the right, and their cousin on the far left. Behind them, both so proudly smiling, are their grandparents, that is Tiddler’s great-great-grandparents. Digger does a spot of maths and estimates the picture was taken circa 1952.
The story goes that the Uncle P, the first born of the twins arrived in the night at home in the rural village. A local ‘midwife’ (i.e. somebody else’s baba) attended, delivered Uncle P but was concerned, and great-grandmother was put on the back of a karuca (каруца), and taken off on a bumpy road to get to the hospital in the town, some distance away. Without prenatal care and scans, they were unaware of a second baby, and our Baba was only born later, unexpectedly, and fortunately with more complex medical care and not on the back of the karuca. This is why the twins have ended up with different dates of birth, one day apart.

I wish this picture was in colour. The twins are wearing terlitsi (knitted slipper socks), and all of the children sport knitted socks and leggings. Great-great-grandmother’s heavy apron and skirt and headscarf can be seen, and the cousin’s skirt and cardigan look to be knitted or woven in a traditional design too. Great-great-grandfather wears a tall kaplak bear fur (or black lamb wool) hat, and what looks like an ex-military coat.
A photo below (iphone 4!) from a modern but traditional style fabric in use today may gives you a hint of the possible colour combinations, or take a look at some of the ornate embroidery and vintage clothing on this webpage. 


The heavy duty wools are clearly to keep out the cold continental winter air. I’ve also discovered these children’s knickers/shorts tucked away, perhaps sentimentally,  with moth balls in the back of a cupboard in the apartment we are borrowing for our stay in Bulgaria. I ask Digger if they were his when he was little, but he admits to nothing.


I don’t know about the level of insulation gained, but I imagine an individual wrapped in a pair of these bad boys, plus all the other layers on top, would not be moving anywhere very fast, and you would certainly need plenty of warning for a toddler toilet stop.

It was definitely a different world, nearly three quarters of a century ago, and makes me sit and think a little on Tiddler’s relationship with her grandparents, both the Bulgarian side and those in the Westcountry, and whether she will be looking at pictures of us all in decades to come, and what she will think of us, and what she will remember, and what stories she will have heard. Hopefully she won’t be thinking about our underwear.

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It takes a village…

…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