Officially Homeless

Officially homeless.

For the first time in my life.

Come Thursday, when I move out of my apartment, that’s what I’ll be.

Yes, I still have some work but not nearly enough to keep a roof over my head in the UK and keep my head above water with the extortionate cost of living and mounting debts.

So, tomorrow, all my stuff is going into storage and I’m going to live in some cheap places for a while.

Brexit has screwed up the European possibilities with its 90/180 day rule, but I still have a lot of days left in my current quota. Several European countries are not in the EU either, so expect photos of me living it up in Montenegro and Albania anytime soon.

First stop . . . Bulgaria. Never been there, know very little about it, but from what I see it’s beautiful, vibrant . . . and cheap.

I’m heading there to cover Bansko’s Digital Nomad Festival and also write a travel piece. I’ll also look into visa options that would enable me to live and work there legally (damn Brexit again!).

I’ve been trying to learn a bit of the language, which isn’t going so well, as the Cyrillic alphabet is proving something of an uphill climb. I’ve managed as far as още вино, моля (more wine, please) which, who knows, might be all I’ll ever need.

One thing is certain: I’ll never have to say the phrase ‘Ще взема шкембе чорба, моля’ (I’ll have the tripe soup please).

Tripe aside, there are some dishes I’m looking forward to trying, most notable banitsa, a pastry made by layering a mixture of whisked eggs, Bulgarian yoghurt and Bulgarian cheese, covered by layers of filo pastry and then baked. I think Greggs call it a cheese slice.

I’ve even been sampling some Bulgarian wines at a fabulous little wine bar in Cardiff called Nighthawks. It’s opposite the castle and has a very eclectic wine list and is well worth a visit.

Who knows. I might become Bulgaria’s answer to Nigella. Just so long as I can find a Bulgarian plastic surgeon to put in the groundwork.

I’m feeling full of trepidation and have found myself involuntarily bursting into tears; but I’m also very excited. It’s not the first time I’ve landed somewhere and known no more than one person (if any, come to that) – Paris, Los Angeles, New York, Valencia. I carry my passport with me everywhere, sure in the knowledge that if someone approached me and said I had to start a new life in X, Y or Z now, I could do it.

I am a Witness Protection Programme’s wet dream.

I wasn’t this adventurous when I was younger, but when New York’s Twin Towers were attacked in 2001, it spurred me into action. I asked myself what my one regret would be if I were to die that day. It was that I had never lived in Paris. Within days, I was on the Eurostar and living in a beautiful apartment near the Seine in the city that remains my number one love.

Maybe I always had that wandering spirit. I blame my parents. I was never a naughty child, but Mum warned me that if I did veer from the straight and narrow, ‘We’ll sell you to the gypsies.’

I rather liked the idea. Gypsies in Enid Blyton’s books held a certain glamour. As I was terrified of authority and potential punishment, I had to indulge my love of rule breakers by reading rather than action.

In one of Blyton’s Noddy books, there’s a Gypsy family called The Tootles, who camp at the bottom of Noddy’s garden before stealing his car.

And oh, how I longed to be the sixth member in Five Go to Mystery Moor. There, they become embroiled with some gypsies who are receiving smuggled American banknotes, which turn out to be forgeries from France.

George and Anne are taken prisoners and held in a cave, but rescued by Henry and William, a boy from the riding school. I’d love to know Henry and William’s back story.

Blyton often brought gypsies into her narratives and, although a world away from my own seemingly perfect life, I often hoped that my parents would just hurry up and make the sale.

People keep asking me Why Bulgaria? I don’t really know. My only experience of Eastern Europe was a six-week trip to Poland in 1983, courtesy of UNESCO. We were told to go laden with jeans and coffee, as the political situation in the country had induced incredible hardship.

We returned home with our still full suitcases. The kids we were looking after turned up their noses at the lot, and it transpired that their parents were members of the Party and had everything. We ate better in their homes than we were doing at home. Alas, not so at the camp, where gristle and potatoes was the daily meal. Every day. I survived the six weeks on a diet of cherry vodka and chocolate, which were in abundant supply.

Bulgaria came onto my radar, along with Romania, because of my obsession with property. Having visited the old Yugoslavia before it split up, I saw property prices rise in that area as people started to snap up places considerably less expensive than Spain (and it really is beautiful). At that time, Romania was considered the one to watch and, indeed, prices are creeping up, and it’s overtaken Bulgaria.

I love places that have a combination of sea, mountains and cities, and I started to learn more about Bulgaria from several natives I’ve met (all of whom have the most fabulous sense of humour, by the way – and historically, the Bulgars have an, er, interesting background). They work in the UK in order to send money home to their families, as Bulgaria is a very poor country. Poor it may be, but it is rich in history and culture. And did I mention cheap?

En route to Bansko and for the travel piece, I can’t decide between the capital, Sofia, and the second largest city, Plovdiv, as my first stop, though I will definitely be spending time in each. Both flights (BA for Sofia, Ryanair for Plovdiv) are more expensive than a month’s accommodation.

Do sign up to my website (if you haven’t already) as I’ll be writing about my adventures in the travel section there. Obviously, I’ll be posting on Facebook, too.

And so, another chapter begins. An odd, unexpected one.

Nazdrave! As they say in Bulgaria. наздраве!

You see? Speaking like a native already.