And people wonder from where novelists get material? The ex-husband of a friend of my wife’s is buying a house in Bulgaria. He’s planning to move there permanently (it’s not a holiday home) in early August.
I bumped into “Melvin” yesterday during a post-cat-sitting stopover at our girlfriend’s house. That girlfriend and her new husband are VERY GENEROUSLY letting “Melvin” flop there until he moves abroad. But I wouldn’t be surprised if when the time comes she drives him to the airport to make sure he actually leaves the country.
While she and my wife were in her dining room talking, I had set up at the kitchen table to try to do some writing. When he walked in, though, that was mostly the end of that. I could tell he wanted to talk.
“So,” I asked casually, “you’re moving to Bulgaria?”
As the words came out, I remembered lines from Casablanca:
Rick: You want my advice?
Annina: Oh, yes, please.
Rick: Go back to Bulgaria.
Fortunately the world has changed much for the better since 1942. Before his impromptu “life in Bulgaria” lesson began – he even pulled out his laptop to share photos of the house and area with me – I knew the names of two cities in Bulgaria, Sofia and Varna, and other than bits of historical trivia nothing really substantive about the country.
He explained that he had found a comfortable, two-bedroom house. It belonged to British expats. They’re selling it to him furnished.
I decided I’d ask him pointed questions. He has just hit 60 – he’s a decade older than his ex-wife. Bottom line, why Bulgaria?
He’d been made redundant earlier in the year from a job he’d had for 30 years and now wants to retire. “If I stay here [in England],” he explained, “I’ll need to get another job. With my pension, I can live there okay. Not rich, but not have to work.” (Even though he’s much older, I still felt strange talking to someone about retirement when he is someone I used to see regularly as something of a peer. We have seen little of him since the divorce.)
He plans to live there probably for the rest of his life, he said. He wants quiet, to putter around, and to do very little. The house, in a town called Elhovo, cost about 1/10 the price of what many another house like that would go for here in Britain. Maybe he’ll get a dog too.
At one point, I noted that I’d worked with a woman in London who’d been to the Bulgarian Black Sea Coast on holiday, and that she’d loved it.
“I do too. Oh, yes, there are lots of Brits here and there,” he replied. But he was determined, he added, not to buy in a community full of other British expats. “Too many of them, and it’s awful. You get the fake pubs and Union Jacks and the rest. And it gets very cliquey among them. I don’t want that. When I was over there buying the place, you know I even met an American. She’s there teaching English.”
“Oh, yeh, an American wandering around teaching English,” I laughed. “That’s definitely not a surprise.”
I have to believe at some point a woman will be involved. Unlike Ukraine, he hasn’t mentioned one yet. I can’t see him living out his life mostly alone talking to plants and a dog. But maybe that is indeed what he wants?
Have a good Tuesday, wherever you are in the world. 🙂