Wednesday, 24 March 2010

#3) It's a Birthday!!!

Dear uncle Lubcho I antie Irji,

My name is Martin and I was born 3.5 kg on 21 January 2005 just after lunch time (which was convenient so we could all eat lunch, which is important if you know my mum and dad, especially as we had not eaten since the night before). Mum says my delivery was not that bad and she would do it again any day although apparently she lost her voice from shouting while I was being born and said some bad words to the people at the hospital. Which was naughty. But she feels a bit proud as she did not have any pain relief other than 'gas and air' and she says they should call that just 'thin air' and stop misselling to the general public as it does f**k all.

I really want to meet you but you know how in Bulgaria you are not shown to adults for 40 days because adults breathe germs and stuff so we will have to be patient. My 40 days are up on 1 March which is kind of cool because it coincides with Baba Marta which happens to be my ‘name day’ and also the first day we will be moving into our new house. So I am probably going to be having my 'Pogacha' party then but I will let you know details nearer the time. But may be if you have got a cold or anything you could come and see me another time as I would not have had my immunisation yet. I am available most days since I have very little to do at the moment but sleep, eat, poo and that's about it most of the time. Oh, and I also like to be awake between the hours of midnight and 6 am every night. Mum says to Dad that may be we should consider relocating to the other hemisphere to accommodate my sleeping patterns and that Australia sounds like a nice place and that hopefully our friends will be able to come and visit occasionally. But I am not sure when we are going.

I am sending you a picture of me so that you can recognise me in the crowd at the party in case there are lots of people. The predominant opinion is that I look like mum but she disagrees. She thinks I look like Dad and even more like some guy called Yoda but I don’t know who that is yet.

I am not sure if the Yoda guy is coming to the party or not but mum says THE FORCE will be with us and that we hope you would be too.

Kisses and cuddles,


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

#2) 25 random facts about me

1. I spend most of my money on concert and theatre tickets. Annual bill often runs into 4 digits. I keep a list on the back of the kitchen calendar of who I have seen which I sometimes look at to remind myself of the good times and of how lucky I am to have had the opportunity. This year to the list I am adding Sharleen Spitteri (Texas), Tina Turner, Megadeath+Judas Priest+Testament, Pink, (wait for this!): Girls Aloud (you wouldn’t have guessed, right?), Oasis, The Prodigy, Take That, ACDC and Buena Vista Social Club. There will be a couple of musicals and/or stand up comedy at some point as well. Not bad for a credit crunch year I would say. But sometimes I look at the weekly Ticketmaster ‘new concerts tickets’ listing (to which I obviously subscribe) and do not recognise a single name. Who are these new bands and singers and acts and where are they coming from left, right and centre??!! Bottom line: I am getting old. I am no longer part of the cool young ‘in’ crowd. Oh well. It’s crowded there anyway.

2. I failed my driving test more times in total than a normal person will care to admit to: 2 times on the theory (which for me was rather unexpected and happened only because I chose to go to Sozopol instead of putting my efforts in memorising multiple choice questions about stopping distances), 2 on the parking lot (can’t explain that one, but I am shit hot now on emergency stops and uphill starts) and (wait for this!) 8 times streets driving. In Pernik. Where there are 2.5 cross roads (the half being the only T-junction) and as many traffic lights (with the half being the one which always flashes amber). My passing in the end had something to do with my uncle kind of knowing and being kind of neighbours with the Sergeant from KAT who gave me a 'pass' in the end (and told my dad, waiting for me at the finish line, to not really let me drive unsupervised for some time). No bribery money actually changed hands though. I blame the failure obviously not on myself but on the fact that my driving instructor was a retired Army general (or a suitably impressive high Army rank), who used to beat me with a stick across my hands tightly gripped on the steering wheel if I even did a wrong "manevra". I was scared and now I know full well that scared people are not very open to learning. You've got to create the right learning environment for learning to take place. And the right learning environment for me is more about the carrots than the sticks. Literally. 10 years later (and not having driven in the intermediate period) I passed on 1st attempt my driving test in the UK (where apparently, I am told, is quite difficult to pass): for the theory + danger awareness simulation with a score much higher than what my driving instructor scored and also on 1st attempt on the streets of London with its lot more cross roads and traffic lights and even cars on the wrong side of the road. Go figure.

3. My sister is my best friend. Strictly speaking, on technicallity - she should be disqualified from the competition on the basis that she is family and that title usually goes to others - people you chose yourself and who were not imposed on you by the circumstances (which in my case worked out fine obviously). So I have a bunch of other friends (I would say 10 – it’s just easier to keep track of them on my fingers) who I call my best friends and who meant at one point or another (and still mean) soooooo much to me even though we may not necessarily keep in touch that regularly. But I know they are there and we pick up where we left off every time. All of them are Bulgarian and half of them are in Bulgaria. Some of them are not even on Facebook despite my best efforts to get them to join in (for some reason Facebook just does not catch on with the Bulgarian over 30s). The early friendships you forge just stick, don’t they? I hope that they know they are on my "hit" list and that the feelings are mutual, Facebook or no Facebook.

4. Despite all the need of the real world for teamwork, I feel awkward working in teams. Most of the times. I am a loner at heart. I hate ‘sharing responsibility’ – what does that mean? It’s either my responsibility or it is yours. Can’t be both. According to some guy called Belbin who came up with some theory of how teams operate and what roles people play in those team (and you can wiki this if interested or ask me for the questionnaire if you want, it is fascinating!) I am a Plant. A massive one. Like – the highest score for Plant from anyone in the room when I do the questionnaire. According to the wiki short version of this theory “Plants are creative, unorthodox and a generator of ideas. If an innovative solution to a problem is needed, a Plant is a good person to ask. A good Plant will be bright and free-thinking.” Agreed, this is me - proud and loud. All a procrastinating situation needs is one of me to be planted in for things to start ralling again. So there you have it. If you need ideas, and open blue sky thinking, and oxygen – I will be there for you - I am a Plant. I put that fact on my CV, quote unquote. Interview panels never fail to ask me about it. Which just proves the point - the Plant tries hard to stand out and one way or another - finds a way to do so.

5. I looooooooooooove my job. My job was in the Grand Plan. It’s just that I thought I will be doing it in about 20 years time. I didn’t intend to change the Grand Plan, circumstances forced it to change. But to be honest – best thing that happened. I now live a zero stress level life (zero.nil.nyla.none.nada). Can’t explain but it made a massive difference. Zero stress level life is incredible and you probably only fully appreciate it when your life was way off the stress-ometer scale before. And I finally found something which I feel and I know I am absolutely good at. I know it. They know it. I am an Asset. No longer a Liability (accountants talk, can’t escape that fact). Awesome feeling though. Every single day. Beat this if you can. This, and the 6 months summer holiday. Who cares about the money.

6. I would not describe myself as a party animal. I don’t think I ever was one. But at one point I was addicted to reading ‘Time Out’ magazine. I had to cancel the subscription. It turned out that not knowing what was happening in London was the much cheaper option. That was the compromise I had to make in the name of not going totally bankrupt (which will be pretty damaging for an accountant, albeit a non-practicing one). Deep down I still want to know though. Having places to go gives you direction and drive and mostly - surprisingly good times. So very occasional short trips to the WHSmith magazines sections it is then. For the time being.

7. I loved it when I was little to cuddle up with mum and dad in the mornings and have my back scratched and pictures finger-drawn on it for me to guess what it was. Still the case. Scratch my back and you've won me over - I will purrrrrrrrrr like a pussycat [dall] and give you anything. And I made sure Martin cuddles up with his mum and dad in the mornings to have his back scratched and pictures finger-drawn on it for him to guess what they are. Largely, you can do a sun, or a house, or a pink power ranger, or a yellow power ranger, or a digger in much the same way - he does not seem to mind or know any better as long as tickles and giggles come out of that. It took me a while to get him to appreciate it but we got there. I am also training him to scratch my back in return. Firstly, it teaches him about give and take. Secondly, I can't exactly get my mum to do it no more. And thirdly, it would be a good skill to have mastered when he hits the jackpot with the girls one day. I hope he (or they) thank me for it. Best thing ever when he does it now though for the whole of....well, 5 seconds. Attention and consentration span are still under development.

8. Dogs. Not cats. Even though I had only 2 dogs versus about 3-4 cats over the years. Once you have upgraded to dog (which is what happened in my case) - you've had it. Who wants to fly Economy when they have drank the champaigne in Business Class? And the dog has to be a cocker spaniel. Ginger.

9. I don’t really know much about art. I am not an intellectual. I wish I was but I am not. I don’t really do art galleries much. May be occasionally. Museums and Photographic exhibitions – yes; but art galleries – not really. I don’t know how to work out what the artist wanted to tell me. I kind of think people who claim they know are border case delusional. I think they presume to know but they don’t really, only the artist knew. And may be sometimes (most of the times?) even the artist did not want to tell us anything at all - (s)he just had the urge one day to paint something. But I can tell when a picture is visually pleasing. That’s how I judge art – on the visual impact. On reflection – if I do do art, tends to be art that has something in common with photographic images. Mainly undistorted reality then. Jack Vettriano and Mark Spain. And recently - Michael Orwick. Just about the only artists I can name. Because I find them rather visually pleasing.

10. Animal prints. Love them or hate them - I love them and I think they are cool. And you can’t convince me otherwise. You can take the girl out of Eastern Europe but you can’t take Eastern Europe out of the girl. I can only negotiate on the 'how much' of animal print because there are limits to everything.

11. Movies and books can make me cry. If they do – I am more likely to remember them. Favourite film – Bugsy. Favourite books – The Temple of Gold and The Great Gatsby. There are of course others too but these came to mind straight away. Crying no doubt was involved in both cases. Including on every repeat viewing or re-read.

12. I rather like plants (and not for the connection with point 4; this happened to me way before Belbin gave me a weird label). Mostly green plants. I am not much after colours in plants (although after happy colours generally); colours in plants are ok only if they don’t clash so having the all green is just safer. I don’t think I look after my plants by the book. I don’t actually know what the book says. But even though they don’t look as good as when I bought them - they are there. Palm trees or Peace Lilly mainly. Home. Garden. Office. It’s Palm trees and Peace Lilly all round.

13. Entirely coincidently, I quite like Lilly as a name for a little girl. Although by the looks of things if one day we have a girl it has been decided she will be an Ana. Just tried playing with the combination but Liliana just does not do it for me. Anyway, that’s not me dropping a big massive hint so no point dwelling on it too long. And everything is always open to negotiation anyway.

14. It would be cool if I was a stand-up comedian. But you need balls for that and mine are only small. Or a photographer (say National Geographic or urban black & white or something). Failing that – interior design sounds interesting. These will be the top 3 alternatives. Since I am not really looking for a career change, luckily any one of those can be taken up as a hobby on a small scale. I guess I sometimes actually do them anyway - with great pleasure: cracking a joke occasionally (althoguh admittedly wittier on paper) or getting the paints and brushes out on a whim and doing a DIY colour-over. I submitted a photo to 'Time Out' magazine for the 'London through my lense' rubrick. It never got printed. Or if it did - I was no longer subscribing by then so I don't know. But I might look into those as serious hobbies some day so watch this space - the time is not 'out' just yet.

15. My childhood memories start at before the age of 4. Possibly 3. I am certain when I say this because granddad died a month after I turned 4. And I clearly remember him and the day he died and all the neighbours coming to give their respect. Mainly I remember how many shoes were outside the front door. Lots of them. The 4 year old found that rather impressive. Weirdly, in my head I judge the volume of friendships, and people whose life you touch, and the respect yu get by the number of shoes that turn up at the doorstep when it matters. So yours better be there! And I have lots of memories with granddad of things which obviously would have happened before 4. Like we regularly went for a walk so he can buy me kebabche from the train station. These were the best kebabcheta in the world. No other kebabcheta have ever come close. And 30 years later I still start crying when I think about the fact that he died then and I never really got to know him. But I feel really good that grandma got to see and know a bit of Martin. That’s probably why (despite that I loved her just as much, and quite possibly even more since we had 30 years of history) I don’t really cry about her as much as I might be expected to.

16. I love the weather in the UK. Controversial, I know. But I am ready to convert anyone who is willing to listen. You never really get too hot or too cold in the UK - we are just suspended in that 10+ to about 25C max range of the thermometer. In 13-14 years in the UK I am yet to experience the sensation of ‘frozen toes’ (something that I would get in Sofia between the months of December and March on a regular basis). And that’s without apreski or any other boots type apparel. In the summer, you don’t really need air conditioning at work or at home in the UK – you can just open the window in summer most of the time and that will do for cool air. You never really get hot and sweaty and like you didn’t shower just before leaving the house (unless sometimes packed on the Tube but that’s got nothing to do with the UK weather, it’s got to do with the transport system which by the way is also not as bad as people say – I almost always get a seat on the Northern Line). And you only need one wardrobe collection. There is no real need for winter leather jackets and ushanki hats, equally – you don’t really need very many vest tops which on men (hairy underarms or not) look ridiculous anyway. One spring/autumn collection of clothes will do you just fine which works out cheaper, takes less space at home and is less confusing in terms of finding your style. And in the UK spring comes in Feb!! I mean the daffodils will be out any time now and if you have been to Trent Park in Feb you will know what I am talking about, and if you haven’t – you must go. UK in Feb (early March at the very latest) lifts the spirits. You don't have to wait until April and possibly May for it like the rest of Europe. And it is green all year round – winter or summer – the UK is green. No dusty yellow and dry-brown sun-burnt landscape, no dirty grey fogs and see-through colour sticking out branches. Green. You’ve got to appreciate this. And if you want the proper sun and the heat waves and the flies landing on your water melon slice – you get on a plane from Luton and there you have it.

17. Costume parties = fun. Drafting the invitations for them – one of my favourite bits. Have organised lots of them. Will be organising lots of them. It’s just the way things are. Don't like it when party poopers don't join in because they are 'too cool for school'. It does not take that much really. Loosen up!

18. Men get emotionally attached to their cars. Frankly, I think I am emotionally attached to my laptop in much the same way. When I had to give back my Deloitte laptop I think I had withdrawal symptoms. I am still in mourning for some of the stuff that got lost with that laptop. I don’t even know exactly what it was I lost – may be my emails to and from people when Martin was born which I probably wish I still had and a few private emails from various people and various times over the last 8 years which I like to go back over occasionally to piece together how things unfolded. But even though this may not sound to you like it amounts to much, it breaks my heart to know we parted ways. Me and my laptop. Of course I had ordered a new one before the old one had even gone. When the new one got here – I wasn’t too sure. I had chosen a yellow one for starters and it turned out to be not the mellow yellow I had expected but a stand up/stand out/in your face yellow. It just wasn’t the same. But over time things change and this one is so much better. The yellow is just the right shade after all - wakes me up before I go-go. What that tells you about commitment in general is a whole different story. So if it is 3 things to have at a desert island – my laptop will be one. I just hope they have an electric socket and an internet connection there to last me until the ship which will save me sails by, and we are onto a winner. In such case, Ship - no rush.

19. On graduation from high school I got an award (I think it was a book, can’t remember, I was in shock, it really was not expected) for achievements in Spanish. Spanish was the only subject in which I did not achieve a 6. You look at the diploma and it is 6 from top to bottom (naturally, I am a nerd after all), except Spanish for which I believe I got 5.66 (or something along the lines of having had a 5 in one of the years of schooling). And yet – it was Spanish I got a special recognition award for. Another one to go figure! I think it might have been a pen. May be it was an engraved pen. Loco!

20. I vividly remember the first time I kissed a boy. I am trying REALLY hard as I am writing this to remember his name now for the record. I really can’t. Gee! Was I a Vamp woman? Don’t think so. I remember exactly where he lived. And the name of the girl he dumped me for – Bojana. Not the prettiest of names, right? Although beautifully Bulgarian. Eliza is kind of cooler. And apart from the connection with Hans Christian Andersen and Divite Lebedi/White Swans (which obviously is my favourite fairytale. Note - Eliza is a princess – Hear this, Bojana? Beat this if you can!) it has a hidden meaning. It is made up of the first and the last letters of my parent’s names. Emil i Zonka. Pick out the begging and the end and the ‘&’ in the middle and you get Eliza. Sadly, Emil i Zonka no longer speak to each other, and the only connection left there is just a name. That, and the legacy of incredibly complicated Chrismases "with the family" nowadays.

21. On July 21st, 2008 I discovered Aerobics. The rest as they say is history. Only Christmas puts a spanner in the wheels of that one. A big fat spanner for that matter. It took me 4 months of every day 1 hour aerobics sessions to shed 4 kilos, and only 4 days over Christmas to put all 4 kilos back on. Where is the fair in that continues to remain a mistery to me.

22. I don’t really like confrontation much. Not in person anyway. I will not complain in a restaurant even if the food is awful. May be because I am adaptable. Most probably because I rather like food (directly linked to the need for the discovery at #21). And I find it really uncomfortable if someone else at my table starts complaining. But I am the queen of paper trail complaining. I regularly write to complain and get refunds and the like. I wrote to Procter&Gamble customer service once with a hair conditioner enquiry. I can only imagine the look on the customer services rep when they got the letter. They wrote back. With a free £20 voucher for even more Procer&Gamble conditioner. And I hadn’t even complained! Just wanted to prove my sister wrong about some hair conditioning facts (Google was not that popular, if at all, back then in case you wonder why go to such lengths). Competitive then might be an adjective that describes me well.

23. I love grated carrots salad with olive oil and [lots of] vinegar even though I never really ate carrots until recently. Parsley, corriander and dill are still very much off the menu. As I said - carrots. Not sticks.

24. Spending time doing nothing much with Martin is proving to be one of the most enjoyable things I have had the opportunity to do and I keep reminding myself how grateful I should be for it. So I try as often as I can not to miss the moment pass me by. Bacause let’s face it – in not so distant future ‘Keep out of my room!’ signs will start popping up all over the place, it will be uncool to be seen with your mum in public let alone let her kiss you and eventually phone calls to university dorms will remain unreturned. I am not kidding myself about the course of things. Which, coincidently, is the explanation of why mothers-in-law have notoriously poor relationships with their daughters-in-law. The eternal conflict. But I have cracked it for you. Right there. The moment she starts getting let in his room, kissing him and getting his phone calls - we've had it! So I am all about living in the Now.

25. My secret dream is to one day may be write something and get published. Like a book or a newspaper column or something. Will happen. I mean, I hope so.

#1) The Beginning

Yey! I've made the start.

It is the beginning of a road I only sometimes think about. It seems indulgent to do it more and to do it seriously.

But the end of some things (like today's last Accounting lecture for this year) opened the space for others.

And I have made the start now.

It feels bloody good. And exciting.

It would have been good if I made the start yesterday - 22 March and first day of Spring. It would have felt like a higher sign of some sort. Slightly less glorious on 23 March. But still Spring. And sun. And big earings. And the buzz of a beginning. I mean - come on! I've even set up a blog (not that it was rocket science or anything).

The prospect of countless spelling mistakes. But not creative ones - surely.

No real tangible objective(s) in mind.

Just the flow that I will give myself to for self indulgent pleasure. In the hope that sometimes others will enjoy that too.