Thursday, October 16, 2014

Five weeks with someone else's teenagers

13th Julya month since the fire and I arrive home with Paul's youngest 2 children who are staying for five weeks.    When the flights were booked 8 months previously we started making a list of places to visit and things to do with them.   Unfortunately all plans are null and void as rebuilding our home HAS to take priority.   However it was Jim's 13th Birthday the week they arrived and we couldn't let that go unrecognised, so a trip to Ruse it was.   First off Jumbo, which I thought was just a toy megastore but it's actually a home wares shop as well, Jim picked up some plasticine and as it was his birthday how could we not get it for him.    Then no trip to Ruse is complete without a visit to at least one builders merchants so a flying visit to Mr Bricolage was followed by a leisurely lunch in Ruse' main square.    


Paul choose the establishment based on the food would appeal to the kids, not only because of the length of the waitresses skirts/belts­, at least that's his story.     After lunch we had a wander around and Jim decided he needed to check the water temperature of each and every fountain/water feature.   


 Luckily he didn't want to check the water temperature of the Danube when we went for a walk along it's bank.  

A couple of days later and the builders are all finished, off site and we can start on the other jobs that will make our house home again.   Not many teenagers get to work with mud plaster and mix cement during their summer holidays but thanks to help from a neighbour, Ruby and Jim Paul managed to get the concrete ring beam done so work on roof 2 could begin when out master carpenter friend was available to oversee.

You may have noticed I wasn't involved with concrete  making - the month since the fire rudely reminded me not only was I a 'mere female' but I was also getting older.   As I'd ignored the warning signs my body was sending me I managed to cause some back injury and dislocate my hip.    The hip dislocation provided some light entertainment as Paul relocated it for me - along with my ankle and knee doing sound effects as each one popped back into place.

More light entertainment was provided when a neighbour told us that Dencho (our Kmet [mayor] who had driven past when the fire was blazing) didn't realise we still had no electric and if we took our customer number up to his house straight away he would get on to the electric company on our behalf.   Within 2 minutes Paul, Ruby and Jim are walking up the hill to Dencho's house when he drives past them and waves when Paul tries to flag him down.   The kids were less than complimentary about him and he is now to be referred to as The Kermit. 

Despite my concerns about the holiday not being what had been 'promised'  both Ruby and Jim coped with the situation very well, with only the odd moans about not going anywhere/doing anything.     Paul did take them to some local water falls one day, a couple of our friends also tagged along and seemingly they had a nice time with a 'supermarket picnic' lunch.   An international music festival had been organised in a village about 30 kilometres away so all 4 of us went to that, with Ruby and Jim staying longer and getting a lift home with a neighbour, as Paul and I needed to get back for the animals.  


   We also went to a carboot sale further afield although the main purpose of that trip out was to visit bigger, and quite beautiful, waterfalls.  

   I know at least Jim was disappointed that we didn't get a visit to the coast and I think both Ruby and Jim would have had a better time if we had been able to put the pool up for the summer, but we would have needed electric to run the pump.

A week before Paul was due to fly to the UK with the children we had a last minute enquiry through Helpx from an Australian who wanted to come stay.    After ensuring he was fully aware that we were still living in very basic conditions we agreed to his coming to help out - if nothing else it meant that I would have assistance around the place for heavy lifting whilst Paul was away.   Least said soonest mended.

Paul drove up to Bucharest airport for their flight to UK and I drove back to Bulgaria.     We had been told that it was quicker to use the ring road although Paul doubted this so drove straight through Bucharest.     On the drive back i was in 2 minds as which route to take,  but despite never have driven there myself decided to go through the centre as the roads were in much better condition than the ring road, and I was in a bit of pain at this point.    Even though I took the scenic route, once or twice, I think Paul is correct and it's much quicker than the ring road.    Once back in Bulgaria I decided to stop at the builders merchants in Ruse to have a walk around and stretch my muscles out, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.   Visits to Baumaxx, Praktiker and Mr Bricolage resulted in me returning home with some twin and earth electric cable and some new light fittings - luckily Paul approved of my purchases on his return.

So now I have 10 days before Paul returns and although I think 5 weeks was too long for a visit off Ruby and Jim,  especially this year,  the house is weirdly not right with them not here.   Only consolation about them not getting the holiday they expected is they got to experience real life, with all its problems, and spend some quality time with their dad seeing what an extraordinarily talented guy he is (even highlighting his daughters hair, with help from his son).

Shocking Service


On the 13th of June we had a house fire that destroyed our house, including the electricity meter and fuse box.   Whilst the fire fighters were still there we had 2 visits from EnergoPro staff, one to make the wires safe and the 2nd one to take a photograph of the melted meter.

A couple of weeks later we were starting to be proactive, rather than reactive and realised we would need the electric back on, for the builders if nothing else.   So on the 23rd June I went to the Popovo office, with my friend who was on holiday here to find it all locked up, a local suggested I speak to the electric desk in the post office, that was also unmanned.  One of the post office staff informed me Energo Pro staff would not be at work until the 26th of June, don't you just love these random company holidays.   Fast forward to the 26th and a return visit to Popovo office, 10am and all locked up so a trip across the square to the post office where I'm told to try again at 12noon.   After wandering around Popovo, and a coffee or 2 (the town's not that big) I eventually get to talk to a person, via an interpreter they phoned,  and was informed the paperwork needed to be issued at  Targovishte office.    When I got back, from the 2nd failed mission, Paul informed me the Energo Pro meter reader had been around!!!   
Paul, Diana (friend) and myself went to Targovishte the following day, because our spoken Bulgarian isn't great we wrote down what had happened and our need for a new supply.   We were told it would take a maximum of 7 days, and they would ring us when on the way.

On the 2nd July an engineer called to reconnect us and informed us he could do nothing as he expected us to have a meter and fuse box.    We were told to go to the Targovishte office and pay 250 leva.    The builders, who were on site by now, seemed to have difficulty understanding why the electric company couldn't manage to do a simple job like getting us power on site.

We went to the Targovishte on the 3rd July and paid 220,32 leva (Approx £95) and were told a maximum of 30 days!!!!!!!!    I will admit to having a incident of leaky eyes in Energo Pro offices.    And so the wait begins.    The leaky eyes resurfaced when we popped into the supermarket on the way home and an acquaintance asked how things were going.    She suggested we talk to a local (English speaking) advocate who was good at solving problems, we didn't know of him so she said she would wait for us to finish shopping then we could follow her to his office.   The advocate took copies of the paperwork we had been given and said he would need to go into the Energo Pro offices but would phone us the following day.    We never received his phone call, possibly because I wouldn't give him Power of attorney.   
The following afternoon I took the train to Sofia ready for Saturdays flight to the UK, possibly I was being overally optimistic but I fully expected to return to a finished roof (builders off site) and working electrics.    Oh well. best laid plans and all that.

Pepa & Boyan, our neighbours tried to help us, they contacted officials at Razgrad, Targovishte and Varna who all informed them the delay was due to lack of equipment.     On the 26th of June the Popovo office had at least a dozen meters.    How can a company get a contract without government officials ensuring they have the experience and equipment to supply what is expected of them.    Oh yes, this is Bulgaria you need neither experience or equipment if the brown envelope you hand over is padded enough.

It takes until Sunday the 27th of  July before we finally run out of patience and I send an email to Energo Pro customer services informing them that if we do not have a supply by the end of the week they will be in breach of contract and liable for any subsequent expenses we incur.   I also suggested that as soon as the contract was breached I was going out to buy solar panels which they would be invoiced for.     We received an automated response telling us to expect a response to the email within, yes you guessed, 30 days!!   

Monday 28th we get a customised response informing us that our request for an 'urgent connection' has been forwarded to the local office    WTF   We don't want an urgent connection we want what we paid for 25 days previously

Wednesday 30th July, I phone Energo Pro  to find out what is happening I am told, according to their terms and conditions, they have until Friday to fit us a meter.  When asked if this means we will have a supply by Friday I get the response "you should", pushing the point and asking if the person I was speaking to meant we were 100% guaranteed a supply by Friday she admitted it was possible but she wouldn't say definitely yes, when asked for her name I was given a surname only and told I didn't need more when I requested her full name.   Telling the Energo Pro customer services person I am entitled to know the full name of the person I am speaking to under European Law obtains the full name  -  I have no idea if this is a European Law but then most Bulgarian customer services personnel have no idea of European Laws either.  

2 hours after this 'phone conversation (which may have been more 'heated' than the above paragraph suggests) we get an email informing us we will have a supply by the end of the week.   The energy company will just connect to a meter outside the house everything after that is up to us so as an ex-pat electrician had offered to connect us an emergency supply to the house I 'phoned his wife to let her know he would possibly be needed in the next couple of days.    Paul and I had already discussed not wanting to rewire the whole house ourselves so this was an ideal opportunity to give some work to someone who was offering some emergency assistance, he gives us a temporary supply so we can get walls and ceilings ready for fittings and then we employ him to do the rewire.    We had been given a 16 way consumer unit, with a RCD and an Earth Leakage breaker, which a friend had surplus to requirements so we knew wired up correctly our electrics would be super safe.

Thursday I am at the neighbours borrowing their internet connection when Paul 'phones to inform me that Energo Pro have arrived and are putting us a meter and supply in, so much for the 'phone call telling us they were on the way.     I wander back up the hill to double check it's for real, this time, and then 'phone the wife of the electrician who had offered to put an emergency supply in.     Energo Pro had nearly finished the installation when Paul decided that we couldn't wait for the electrician and connected the mains to the consumer unit and then on to some emergency sockets.     It's probably just as well he did this as the offer of assistance had been 'just words'.   

The Energo Pro engineers were fantastic and did a really good job of installing our new meter it is just unfortunate that the administration side of the company is absolute rubbish.   One thing we did learn, which our Bulgarian neighbours weren't aware of is Bulgaria has an energy 'watchdog'  -  their website is  for those who may need it in future, we hope you never do.