BEING TAKEN UP A COUNTRY ROAD

by Nadia Damon; photography by Anthony Georgieff

Fixing simple things in Bulgaria is sometimes a complicated affair

road.jpg

There's been a certain amount of excitement in our street of late and it all centres around one thing: a road. And no, I'm not referring to some earnest debate that we've all been having about better links with our new European neighbours, but a simple tarmac thoroughfare that will save us all a bit of time and inconvenience.

Now this might sound like a dull idea for a column, but bear with me: this is big news in our village - and while it certainly doesn't warrant serious coverage on bTV, the promise of a smooth passage for both man and beast is a thing the locals (and I count myself among them here) have dreamed about for quite some time.

Before "the road", I'll admit I just thought my neighbours were resignedly plodding along, not really begrudging the fact that they didn't have a nice smooth piece of black tar to drive, or walk the horse, on every day. Not hearing any complaints to the contrary, I had somewhat hastily decided that they must enjoy the bone-shaking experience of driving along said road after a heavy rainfall had transformed its well-established ruts into even bigger rock-hard humps. I even thought that I was the only person in the village who minded the dirt track-generated dust clouds swirling around on a very windy day, forcing me to furiously blink out my contact lenses and scurry inside before I irreparably scratched my corneas. But it appears I was wrong.

For one sunny spring afternoon a lone JCB arrived at the end of our street. In true Spaghetti Western fashion, the driver sat at the entrance for a while, smoking the obligatory cigarette (or was it a cheroot?), narrowing his eyes and assessing the lie of the land. He then scraped a line of dirt from the side of one small area before abruptly turning around on his admittedly well-worn tyres and leaving.

No one else appeared to have noticed - which was unusual for our street, because the refuse collection normally draws a crowd, even on a wet day. But the next morning I heard the chugging of the diesel engine at 8am sharp. No sooner than the big yellow machine had moved into position a swarm of people rushed out of their houses and surrounded it. Like bees, they encircled the driver hollering questions at him over the mechanical din. Were they excited? I wondered.

Why yes I think they were. For hours they pointed up and down the road, chatting to the driver and smiling at each other. At various junctures they even assisted the driver by standing far too close to the mechanical arm and peering down into the bucket as he scooped up fresh amounts of dirt - almost going for a ride themselves.

In fairness, this may not be a momentous day for Bulgaria on a political or a cultural level, but it's certainly an event for the residents of a small village in the southwest. I can personally vouch for the fact that life here will never be the same without the fear of dislodging a filling on the way home. Reason enough for celebration if you ask me.

I join my loitering neighbours and our eyes meet in tacit agreement. Time for a rakiya.

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