In the 1970s, two major BBC dramas whisked viewers from the gloom of strike-torn Britain to sun-baked Crete. Both The Lotus Eaters (1972) and Who Pays the Ferryman? (1977) were filmed on location and boasted excellent performances and production values as well as memorable theme tunes. The shows probably did more for the island's tourism than countless travel brochures. Watching these series on DVD for the first time – or simply revisiting them to revel in TV's golden era – is a treat. Their creator was then a little known TV hack named Michael J. Bird, now acclaimed, posthumously, as one of the greatest (and most underrated) television writers of his generation. Following the huge success of these two shows, Bird created other classics – still with a Hellenic slant – The Dark Side of the Sun (1983 ), set in Rhodes, and The Aphrodite Inheritance (1979), set in Cyprus.
Now freelance writer Dave Rice has created a website in memory of Michael Bird, who died in 2001. Launched five years ago, Rice said he was elated when his site scored 50 visits. Now it has notched 13,000 hits worldwide, perhaps testament to viewers' dissatisfaction with the current deluge of vacuous reality shows masquerading as entertainment. The website has a detailed breakdown of all Bird's written ventures, including his TV series (complete with cast profiles, interviews and episode synopses). Bird is also the subject of a major new biography by Rice, available from the website. Watch the shows and you'll probably get itchy feet. Well, Greece is a mere hop and a skip away from Bulgaria!
FOREIGN FORUM www.expatinbulgaria.com
Bill Bryson's travel book Neither Here Nor There described Sofia's women as “the most beautiful in Europe.” But perhaps you think the women in Plovdiv are better-looking? You can contribute to the forum on this and many other compelling subjects via this registrationrequired website. There are also sections on entertainment, lifestyle, travel, real estate and business.
The Bulgaria page of this site features many dishes including some of baba's favourites: homemade Banitsa, Monastery Gyuvetch, Tarator, Kavarma Kebap, Bulgarian Rhodopean Moussaka and mish mash. “Bulgarian cuisine has grown out of a wealth of culinary traditions, both local and foreign, combined in a way which is uniquely Bulgarian, offering cuisine with its own characteristics, originality and exceptional variety,” the site tells us.
SOFIA SHATTERED www.pbase.com/ngruev/sofia1944/
Pictures of Sofia from 1944 after several Allied bombings. Yes, it's true, despite the recent smiles between the two Georges (Bush and Parvanov), Bulgaria was on the “wrong” side in World War II, prompting an Anglo-American bombardment towards the end of the conflict. Tsanko Lavrenov, Bulgarian painter and writer (1896-1978) took the 24 pictures, seen here for the first time by kind permission of the Lavrenov foundation. The bombing raids in 1943-1944 resulted in the deaths of 1,374 people, with an additional 1,743 being injured. A total of 12,564 buildings were damaged, of which 2,670 were completely destroyed. This is but one section of a large website that offers a fascinating historical archive of Sofian life.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers