I was in my element in the morning – first a 20 minute stroll to the great little gallery in Stan Stefano ulice on the lovely square in the university area (highlydesirable old residential quarter) where I am known. These guys (along with the Neros Gallery just off Hristo Botev Bvd) have just the paintings I love. This time they introduced me to two new painters – delicate landscapes by Georgy Christov Rubev (trained in Prague in the 1930s) but a bit pricey at 750 euros; and Veselin Tomev (trained in Munich) who had a large coastscape with the most superb sea blue for the same price.
Then InterNos Gallery which I eventually found (with a number 1 trolleybus) at 58b V Levsky Bvd (after a slight incident with a hoodie who refuses to let me out from the seat!). It’s a larger gallery – covering my favourite period of the mid 20th century - but doesn’t quite come up with the goods. They did however have one small Boris Stefchev – for 250 euros – and I am keen to add him to my collection (also Russe Ganchev; Dobre Dobrev).
I had a meeting at 13.00 with my landlord (for him to bring extra chairs; fix wireless internet etc) but had time to visit the Tourist Info Centre cunningly concealed in the underpass opposite the University Entrance – and also the bookshop next to it (for more music).
Connecting to the internet is always a problem when I hit a new country (less so in central asia!) – so don’t talk to me about European Integration! So basic! Why doesn;t a company like Vodaphone (with whom I have a good deal in Romania) offer me a deal in Bulgaria – just next door????? It takes 4 young Bulgarians 90 minutes to set up a wireless system for me. In the meantime I have to find my haggis dealer – his phone number is on my E-mail but Mirela comes to my rescue and I set up a meeting for the transfer!
Then off to my 15.30 meeting with my new BG consultancy company, Dicon – just 10 minutes up the road I am assured. I’ve been told to look for an office next to block 204. The first place I hit (a 2 storey furniture shop) I’m told is number 50 (it’s not marked) and they tell me 200 is far away - so I catch another bus which seems to take me away from civilisation and I hop off at the next stop. There are flurries of snow and my patience is starting to wear thin (why can’t people put themselves in the shoes of visitors????). I phone – and am quickly rescued – to return to the (exact) point from which I started (shades of TS Eliot). Number 50 sits next to another 2 storey building – blue with graffiti – which is the one I was seeking! I tell my contact that in future they should forget about the address – and simply describe the place as the „blue 2 storey building with the graffiti next to the furniture shop"!! They think I'm joking - but I'm deadly serious!
The meetings go well – but not the simple task of printing a few Burns’ poems. It’s a pdf file – and the system can’t cope! But eventually I get the four critical ones (Address to the Haggis; Tae a Louse; Tae a mouse; A man's a man for a' that)
I know Sofia from the 2007 project I led here - when I rented a great flat for 18 months. The project was to develop a capacity to train local officials in the implementation of the famed European Acquis. And, in the initial months when we trapped in a game going on between consultancy companies and a corrupt Ministry of Finance, I had some fun working on the implementation and "compliance" (the key EU word) concepts. I was cheeky enough to use a famous Burns' quote as the lead for the Inception Report -
The best-laid plans o'mice an' menThe haggis assignment takes place outside a theatre. I wonder if Andy has ever been accosted for drug dealing?? It’s now 18.30 and I still really don’t have the proper accoutrements for a Burns supper so, after picking up tatties, carrots and (the superb Bulgarian) leaks (but no naps), I phone around and get agreement that Rabbie’s do will be postponed 24 hours!!
Ganf aft agley
An' leave us nought but grief an' pain
For promis'd joy
The painting is a Petar Velchev I have - up in Sirnea.