Day 1

Thursday 31 July

So I’m becoming acquainted with the tasks I’m required to do, the people, the creatures and animals, the uncountable insects, and a pet raven that steals my phone. His name is Oscar, and he’s a menace. No sooner had I arrived, than he’s at my pockets trying to nick things. I make the rookie mistake of leaving my phone on the table and he’s off with it in a heartbeat, flying about the ranch and teasing me with his mischief. I figure I’ll never see it again (which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing) but he gets bored with his new play toy and deposits it close by. Scurrying off, he caws his jest in my direction. Still, when he rests on my shoulder, those nearest and dearest to me will know what it means to have this particular “big fuckin’ bird” sitting there. I can’t wait for pictures when my hair is longer.

I get to know the dogs and cats, but names escape me (largely due to Bulgarian titles), save this bundle of joy called Sparta. He is actually a she, but she’s just got this face to die for. She’s the puppy version of the guard dogs here. All Asian Shepard’s, they’re big, cuddly and friendly, unless you’re a gypsy looking to rustle a horse. Woe betide you then. I always wanted a Siberian Husky when I settled down, but perhaps my opinion might have changed. Oh to hell with it…why not have both?

The animals buzz around the new kid on the block. It makes me smile. They’re so therapeutic. I remember countless days of depression and upset where our dog Jack would toddle over and stick his big face on my knee and with no words ask what was wrong. He could cheer you up in seconds. They just know. Mans best friend right enough.

I’m going to like it here.

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The Horse Ranch

Wednesday 30 July

In stupid heat I’m rammed into a tiny mini bus being glared at by locals. I’ve managed to get out of the city, but these things weren’t built for travelers. There’s nowhere for your bags (two rucksack’s, a guitar and a hitch to India sign) so I’m left to squeeze in and pile my stuff on my lap. There’s a tut of disapproval. Clearly I’m holding somebody up.

About an hour later and I’m cramming myself into my second sardine can of the day, bound for the village of Kovachevsti, at the base of the Vitosha mountain. From here, my host Veronika will pick me up and take me to my new home for the next couple of months. Once again it’s not the most pleasant of experiences, although one woman holding a small child is very hospitable and assists me with my bags, as well as indicating where I need to get off. She helps me out of the van when I arrive at my stop. More like her please.

I’m sitting alone on the steps of what appears to be a Post Office, in sweltering heat, facing onto a tiny village square. It’s so quiet I don’t actually think anyone lives here. A door jingles open to a grocery store (which looked all but closed) and an old lady ambles by. A battered Bulgarian flag that’s seen better days droops lifelessly from a pole, occasionally dancing to a welcome breeze. Broken concrete roads lead to nowhere. Signs in windows are faded from the sun, appearing decades old. Somewhere a dog barks. The 21st century all but a rumour.

After a few minutes of pondering my surroundings, a vehicle pulls up. Out jumps an excited 14-something, eager hello’s and helping with my kit. Veronika I presume is behind the wheel, and we finally make each others acquaintance and drive to the ranch. I’m given the grand tour of the digs. It’s something of a shock to the system.

I like to think of myself as being an outdoorsy type, but in reality, when push comes to shove, give me the bright lights of the city any day. Give me a hot shower and a toilet not riddled with spiders and flies. Give me a king sized memory foam mattress. Give me electricity. It does come in handy for the football. However all my creature comforts are to be thrown out the window. The toilet is a hole in the ground in a shack outside, the shower little more than a curtain flapping in the wind, also al fresco. I’m sleeping in a large military caravan with no electricity, and I’m sharing my existence with about 10 dogs of differing breeds, 3 cats, 30 horses, a gazillion flies and spiders, 4 goats, seven rabbits, two chickens, a pet raven and a partridge in a pear tree. And do you know what? That’s exactly how I wanted it. I figured this place will make a man out of me from the moment I was asked the question; “can you kill a goat?”

This is what I need. This will change my life. I’m coming out of this fearless. Except for that large beastie hiding in my shoe.


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The morning after the night before

Tuesday 29 July

Things are different in the daylight aren’t they?  Especially if you’ve been blinded by your own selfish interests.  Change perspectives.  It’s not always about me.  It takes a big man to admit that they were in the wrong.  But I am/was.  She’s young.  Her life is on a different path to mine.  She needs to be 21 for a few years.  And all the time I was trying to shoe horn her into my plans for world domination.  I didn’t heed the warning signs.  I fashioned my own heart break and pushed her away.  She’s living the life she must.  The life I led in my 20’s.  Imagine if I had a 30 something women bearing down on me at that age trying to put a ring on my finger or buy a house.  You would run a mile!  Urgh!  When I think of it like that it makes me nauseous!  I’m kinda surprised she stuck around for as long as she did!  Yet I made her out to be the bad guy just because she wanted to live a little. I tried to cage a dove.  From a different point of view, that must be pretty scary to someone who wants to be carefree.  You can’t tie someone down like that.  It isn’t fair.  Even approaching 35, I’ve clearly still got a lot to learn.

To her endlessly mature credit, a telephone call ensued to explain the situation, and I subsequently find myself in a much better place.  It still hurts to know she’s having fun with another guy, but there’s this simple, but oh so powerful word, one that has evaded me for the longest time both with regard to girls, and the death of my parents.  Acceptance.

And so I sit, nursing a sore head having fallen off the wagon, about to return to the horse ranch and drop off the grid for a while.  But I go safe in the knowledge that things are better.  I’ve stopped telling the same stories to gain a validation from strangers to replace my mum and dad.  I’ve stopped blaming myself.  My hard-drinking days are numbered.  I’ve let go.  And I’ve let her go too.  Maybe one day she might return, but for now I’m happy she’s happy.  If you love someone set them free.

For a long time I thought I was ready to find that special girl, but just as much as she’s not ready for a serious relationship, actually neither am I.  There’s a lot of work to be done on this human – internally and externally – so I better get cracking.  I’m going dark for the next couple of months.  Take care of yourselves dear readers.  I won’t be the same person when we speak again.  Especially if I manage to fall off a horse.  Oh the irony.

See you on the other side.  I’m going to look for Stu.

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Broken in Bulgaria

Monday 28 July

Reading a detective novel didn’t really help.  It inspired something.  Maybe being the son of a D.I antagonised things even further, but nonetheless, I found myself putting two and two together and coming up with four.

I’d not heard from her properly in months.  Her Facebook page was silent.  No response to the “I miss you” text.  In spite of recent chat about coming to meet me if funds allow at the end of August (something that lifted my heart immensely); I had to turn to social media to investigate the truth.   I discovered her, her friend and her boyfriend, and another tattooed, muscle chump in the same endless pictures, enjoying fields and sun and smokes.  Flaunting how much “fun” it clearly was.  His profile picture was of him and her, his status said “in a relationship”.  She shunned pictures with me.  I phoned.  The truth will out.

She answered questioningly.  Deleted my number?  No, she’d “lost her phone.”  So she still had the same digits?  Interesting.  How did I know?  I found out on fucking Facebook that’s how.  And then lots of bullshit about not having heard from me in a long time, and that the age gap had got to her.  This was news to me, as for the entire time we had together it was never an issue.  In fact she was “turned on” by the difference and loved it.  Her job as a an elderly support worker would be useful for us in the future.   And yet apparently she’d told me from the start that it was a problem.  Defensively accusing.  More bullshit.

So too was the “I’m not ready for a relationship” crap.  “I want you to wait for me”.  “You’re the benchmark”.  “I can’t wait to be your girlfriend.”  Said lovingly in the shadow of the home I grew up in.  I could go on, but I won’t continue to spout her endless rhetoric.

She was the first girl to visit my parents graves.  I always said to myself that the girl who does that was going to be the one.  You can take her to a fancy restaurant, stroll along a beach, lie on the green grass smoking a rollie.  But bringing her to where your home used to be isn’t whimsical.  It’s not cheap.  It comes at a great price.

Literally as well as figuratively.  Spending a small fortune on her, flying to see her, flying her to you,  perfect presents for her birthday, and expensive weeks away in fancy apartments.  Now don’t get me wrong; money isn’t the issue.  But the foolish act of blindly falling for someone who inevitably turned out to be so backstabbingly deceitful is.  I was taken for a ride by someone I thought was different.  I was convinced she was different.  I defended her and her intentions to the last.

And now I feel deceived.  And foolish, childish, used and helpless.  There will be many more adjectives in the days to come.  I should have listened to the dearest people who know me best.  My bank balance and heart would be in better condition.  My mind flits from intimate moment to intimate moment.  The deception.  The bare faced lies.  All done in the most sacred sanctity of afterglow.  What was better?  The endless conversations putting the world to rights, or the sex?  Now there she sits with some flawless inked up “hunk”.  Maybe I needed to get abs?  Maybe I needed a tattoo?  What does he have that I don’t?  Does he or will he ever know her as well as I do?  Was the “best sex I’ve ever had” a lie too?  Can he ever love her as much as I do?  Does he kiss better than me?  I fucking doubt it.

“I will always love you”…



“Do you still love me?”

“Don’t ask me that.”

A bullet dodged advised my sister.  Right now I just want to take a real one.  But at least she’s happy right?

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Sofia, old friends, theft and drink

Sunday 20 July

It was getting to be more of a mess. I’d seen nothing of the city. I met with old friends, made new ones, went to the same bar to watch the world cup, and generally out-stayed my welcome. Driving a girls Jaguar down winding mountain roads while getting a blow job was definitely a new experience. Smashing back white wine as soon as I woke up not so much. Assuming someone I care about is seeing someone else was deeply upsetting. Discovering I’d had two bottles of cologne, a 50 US bill, 10 GBP, 5 Canadian and my hair straighteners (yes deal with it) stolen back in Bucharest was a low point.  Including the 10 pound Scottish note with the message “I hope you find your way back home one day” written on the back.  To cap it all, the bag they used to stash all this stuff also contained my night guard that protected my teeth from grinding while I slept. That shit was expensive. My teeth are shit anyway.

The amount of stuff I’ve had stolen from me since traveling is now astounding. But 90% of that had something to do with me being drunk. Most of my recent trauma has had something to do with being drunk. Not dealing with my parents deaths resulted in being a drunk. Telling the same stories over and over again to gain a validation of strangers to replace their love…while being drunk. A coping mechanism for losing a girl? Get fucking drunk. I was drinking before I’d eaten. Down to one meal a day if that, replaced by at least two packs of Marlboro Gold. Enough was enough.

It was finally time for the horse ranch. For the good of my wallet, psyche, soul and health. It was time to go cold turkey on booze, smokes, internet, drugs and girls. It was time to go dark. It was time to disappear.

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