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Cut The Bull Chapter 2

by Geebie 

Posted: 25 May 2007
Word Count: 2956
Summary: The Goms have emigrated to Bulgaria, but their first impressions of the country they have never visited are a far cry from Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence.

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Chapter Two
It’s ironic that our first impression of Bulgaria should be a purpose-built, package holiday resort instead of rolling hills and rundown farmhouses.
By 7.30 a.m., Mr Gom’s nicotine reserves had plummeted to danger levels causing him to stagger out of bed in search of his Regal Filters.
“Don’t bother getting up, it's windy and dull," he puffed.
I had no intention of moving from my warm, cosy nest, but this impromptu news bulletin gave me a momentary release from my coma.
"Not Darlo-on-Sea, please, NO!" I protested and then curled up into a ball and fell back into a deep sleep. When I awoke a couple of hours later to the roar of Cartoon Network, I remembered this nightmare and rushed to the balcony. Well, it was a bit cloudy and it certainly wasn’t bikini weather. As I wiped the sleep from my eyes and scanned what looked like a pot double of Blackpool’s Golden Mile (minus tower), I realised with horror, that it was lined with luscious green oaks and sycamores.
“Mr Gom, are you sure this isn’t Darlo-on-Sea? There isn’t a single palm tree out here, it looks just like South Park.” I might have been desperate to leave dear old Blighty, but I’m not swapping like for like. “I‘m going to have to quickly shift into Plan C mode,“ I thought.“Look, there’s still time to change our plans. Turkey is only a bit down the coast. We could hire a car and go and live there. It’s always hot in Turkey”.
“Yeah, hot with friends of bin Laden.” Mr Gom replied. He was having none of it. In the space of two weeks, his life had changed beyond recognition and politically correct and tolerant of other races and religions he was not.
“Look, we’ve paid for two weeks in this dump, let’s just chill, have a bit of a holiday ourselves before we start working to your hidden agenda.“
“What have a a a - “, I could hardly spit the words out, “a package holiday?“
“Yeah why not? You might find you really fit in!“ he smirked. “And anyway, it gives us chance to look around the place. Give it a day or two and the weather’ll cheer up. “
“I don’t know if I can Mr G. Last night, when we checked in I heard a woman asking where she could hire a car to visit the island”
“What island?”
“Exactly Mr Gom, she said she wanted to visit the island of Bulgaria. I mean do these tourists just stick their finger into any old page in a brochure and blindly book? Do they just scan down the columns of costs and ignorantly pay up?”
“Thick cow. Look Mrs G, at least just get yourself a deck chair and try to relax a bit before you start forcing me to move to friggin‘ Turkey. I‘ve been as stressed as fuck going to all them leaving do‘s. I need a break and so do the kids.”

I’m not one for sitting still at the best of times and with two raucous boys to entertain I suggested we explore the Golden Mile.
“Mum, this is a kid’s paradise,” Benjie exclaimed when he saw the multitude of kiddie rides and tat stalls.
“Is this where we’re going to live Mum?“ Max replied in awe. This was a far cry from my idea of paradise. I had envisaged peasant villagers in dark headscarves carrying massive baskets of raspberries to my door as a welcome gift. I had dreamed of the kids running carefree through fields, chasing after sheep and riding donkeys bareback, until reality slapped me in the face like a Tom and Jerry cartoon; there aren‘t any shops in remote country villages. The Sands sole purpose for being is to extract as much money as it can from every tourist that passes. Just about every type of business coexists here. One set of entrepreneurs have four vicious parrots waiting to nibble your ear to make you grimace for their master’s lens, across the street a bored iguana strikes a pose with two skimpily clad Scandic girlies. Another nut further down the street jumps out saying "Hello Cowboys" to the boys. He is trying to sell old time photos, where you dress up to the nines as some historical character. It's funny watching all of the Admirals and their first ladies posing together. It's probably the first photo some of these couples have had together since their wedding day.
“Crackin’ place this.” Mr G added admiring the sea of endless beach bars belting out music from the ’80’s. “Plenty of shops for you to look at too.”
Immediately the Sands began to grow on me. Here the streets were lined with stall after stall of designer fakes. Name your brand and it’s here, at prices guaranteed to make Donatella Versace curl up and die.

In the Communist days, Golden Sands was the playground of top brass from the entire Soviet bloc who booked their package deals with “Bolshevik Holidays“. Today it is just another hair braiding, tattoo engraving, tat selling resort a cross between Blackpool (without arcades and grime) and South Beach, Miami (without chic Yankee style and burning year round sun). There’s an abundance of package holiday makers, PHMs, revealing too much of their lobster tans and speaking in loud English, German and Scandinavian accents and of course, we would never fit into that category would we? I don’t want to do the Sands a disservice. It’s not all cheap tat here. Someone has tried to inject a little culture and class into the resort by adding an impressive collection of beach art, which is discreetly positioned along the main prom. There are bronze nymphs holding on to each others feet as they glide through an imaginary ocean, a series of giant hands reaching out of the ground as if to grab at freedom and my favourite piece, a simple carving of a bottle, which faces the ocean. When you look into it you can see the blend of colours from the grass, sand, sea and sky. The beach is separated from the main walkway by swimming pools, bars and restaurants and after the deck chair ridden seashore, you have the Black Sea, except it isn’t really black. It’s only called the Black Sea because further up the coast the sand is mixed with a healing mud and this makes the water look darker.

If we had been well disciplined parents who took our children’s education seriously, we would have spared them from the extreme dose of PHM disease they were about to contract. But we could never be called responsible parents. Mr Gom and I had our own unique parenting style and our little angels are the product of our laissez – faire method. The four key mantras at the cornerstone of our approach to parenting are - :
“Do what you want, just do it quietly“
“No I’m not playing a game with you; it ruins your sense of creativity”
“They really will self regulate their behaviour, it just takes time”
“Get it yourself, I’m not your servant”
Instead, we signed them up with Mr Bear’s Kiddie Club, the PHMs answer to quality holiday time. The club was run by a sloth-like creature called Kaz. She was a pasty white 14 stone lass with huge dark circles under her piggy eyes. Her bottle blonde locks were forced into a tight scrunchy and in the spirit of the resort she had a henna tattoo across her arm and four visible piercings. Sprawled across the club sofa, leaving very little room for anyone else, she explained the diverse program of activities whilst MTV blaired in the background. We signed the boys up for everything and came away with little change from a hundred Leva note.
“I never knew watching tele could be so expensive.” I moaned thinking of the Mulberry bag I could have bought instead.
“They won’t be watching tele, this morning they’re using face paints so they can draw blood and scars on the Reps to simulate a roadside crash and this afternoon they’re making cocktails - I thought I might go along for that one.” It seemed like my whole family was unleashing the PHM within, whilst all I could do was cringe at the abundance of flabby white flesh gyrating to the sound of Chubby Brown’s “Alice.”

After three days of horizontal deck chair dancing, I grudgingly had to admit that there are a lot of benefits to being in a family resort. Apart from Mr Bear who occupies the kids for a staggering four hours a day, there are always plenty of other youngsters to entertain them, allowing me to pretend that I am childless instead of spending every five minutes yelling “Stop that”, “Put him down” and “NO”. The latest new best friends, are a couple of Swedes, who do not speak a word of English other than the obvious, “Volvo” and “Ikea“. All I hear from the pool is "Benyameen" and occasionally when I look up I see the four of them sailing across the pool piled on top of a Swedish airbed - sturdy, safe and built to withstand any amount of hammering. Then there’s the free babysitting service where you leave your room phone off the hook in the hope that if there was a hotel fire, the receptionist would be kind enough to yell loud enough to alert your sleeping babes. This service was a must for me and every night leaving the kids with non-stop violence courtesy of Cartoon Network, Mr G and I enjoyed the amazingly low prices of the roof bar, where you have to drink three times as much just to spend the same amount as you would at home.

By day four, I was beginning to resent all things touristy. Package tours are the epitome of bad holiday taste. After all, who in their right mind wants to shack up with a load of drunken, flabby white Brits for two weeks? Surely the whole point of our move is to escape other Brits not share Chinese meals and babysitting with them! I know you are probably thinking “What a snobby bitch”. I know I’m being mean to my fellow compatriots. After all, we all came from package holiday roots once and indeed some of us are still firmly entrenched in the PH system, but I just thought Mr Gom and I had in some way cured ourselves of this disease. How wrong I was! On day five, I turned my back (to toast it in the burning sunshine) for just a couple of hours and Mr Gom had befriended the obligatory PH couple, arranged to go out with them and swapped addresses, vowing to keep in touch. An overdose of sunshine soon cured me of my PHM aversion. During one of my soirees at the roof top bar, I found myself coerced into a karaoke session by another fellow PHM.
“Och come on and enjoy yourself. It’s not a real holiday until you sing your wee heart out,“ Carol, a delightful heavy smoker and drinker from Scotland, cajoled. She had been crooning along to the same karaoke tape at the Sirena hotel for the last four years. She knew every word of every song and although she couldn’t sing a note in tune she didn’t care. Her husband Ernie was her rock of support, encouraging her every step of the way and oiling her voice with copious amounts of "cherveno vino" - red wine to the linguistically challenged. Downing Mr G’s brandy in one swift gulp, I grabbed the mic and belted out “Knowing me knowing you, ahaaa…” Actually, I was good. Seriously, I know most of my friends will never forget my drunken rendition of Abba‘s greatest hits at our local‘s Christmas party, but this time I only sang the bits I knew I could and compared to Carol, I was like Madonna! And on I went “Ain’t no stopping me now …“ Finally after I’d delivered the final chorus of “Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree, it‘s been three long years, do you still love me…” there was a ripple of applause. I was truly fab and even Mr Gom who is scathingly critical about my chances in the music business said I my talent was unique.

The problem with all of this instant fame is that this morning, I took the boys to the pool in disguise. Dressed in a new bikini, large pair of dark shades and a baseball cap, I hoped that my fellow PHMs would fail to recognise me as the star of last nights karaoke show. At 8 am and with a stinking hangover I could not face being mobbed by fellow PHM’s who may now think I actually have something in common with them, so I headed for the beach deciding that the poolside was far too visible. After what seemed like hours (but was probably only 10 minutes) of entertaining the kids and their collection of international mates, I headed for my sun lounger and crashed out, leaving the little darlings to cope with the perils of beach life.
After a couple of hours, some Bulgarian guy with a 1970’s curly perm and a bad taste in Hawaian beach shirts woke me. He was waving a set of photos at me saying "Lovely, lovely. Lady you buy, only 10 Leva". I could barely drag myself out of my sun-induced coma to focus on several shots of Ben and Max posing with an enormous banana, belonging to some sick pervert dressed in a very bad monkey costume. I managed to utter "No money" before I slipped back into unconsciousness.
Around lunchtime, I decide that I had had all of the sun I could handle for one day and proceeded to round up the boys and herd them back to the hotel. “Mum look. We had our photo taken with a funny man,“ Max exclaimed as we passed the photo shop. I glanced up at the board displaying the day’s photo shoot victims only to be struck by the fact that most of them were photos of my boys. As if this shock was not enough, we approached the mountain of steps up to the entrance of our hotel and the slim tanned lady in the kiosk next to the steps stopped me. “Very good Kinder” She reported in a distinctive language developed from the mix of languages she was required to learn to serve her customers. “Boys cross road, no problemo, buy lots of fruits here. Very good Kinder”
“What the hell is she on about?” I asked Benjie
“Oh, it was just when we went for some apricots and peaches. We were starving and you wouldn‘t wake up. We thought you might be dead, so we took some money out of your purse and bought something healthy.” he explained.
“We thought if it was healthy you wouldn‘t be mad at us for taking the money” Max added.
“Hey, well done boys. You know how proud I am when you use your initiative without hassling me. And by the way, if I‘m asleep on the beach again, don‘t talk to strangers.” They both rolled their eyes at me.

When I got back to our cell, Mr Gom had just surfaced and was puffing on his cig. “What a night!“ he exclaimed. “Actually, I was kind of trying to forget about it.“ He laughed, “After I put you to bed, I went for a breather and two tarts accosted me outside the hotel.”
“No way.” I know I had found Mr G attractive enough to marry, but I’d never really considered him as being attractive to anyone else but me. After all with his spindly legs and no bum attached to his pot belly, how could anyone else think he was sexy?
“They were all over me, asking if I wanted to go and have some fun with them. You wanna watch your step, I could be a sex symbol out here.”
And then it dawned on me. Two desperate and drunken holidaymakers had stumbled into him as they staggered back from the poolside bar. In the darkness and of course, through their beer bottle goggles, they probably thought him a good catch, but in the cold light of day, he would have been just another drunken PHM to add to their collection before they packed their bags and headed back to Barnsley or Sheffield.

As the days rolled by, I didn’t seem to be able to shake off that holiday feeling. Locked in PHMland it was hard to feel like we had really emigrated. I know we had only been here a week and all we had done was saunter along the Golden Mile and crash out on sun-beds, but still I had expected to feel something like the people on those TV programmes who throw in the towel for a new life and then proceed to tell you how it’s not what they expected or it’s better than sliced bread. Anyway it wasn’t until the end of the first week as I sauntered off to the breakfast room, I saw a group of Germans waiting to go to the airport, cases packed, warm clothing draped round their shoulders ready for touchdown in arctic Hamburg and that’s when it suddenly hit me - for us there would be no close to our holiday; there literally was "no going back". I mouthed a silent “Yippee.” We had made it. We were expats. We had no ties to the UK now and it felt so good.

2954 words

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Comments by other Members

Luisa at 21:23 on 25 May 2007  Report this post

It's great to read more of this. Have you finished writing it now?

I love all the humour in this - "Darlo-on-Sea" was brilliant - and I enjoyed your attention to detail. I loved the parenting section. I found some of the descriptions sad rather than funny, though, for example "It's probably the first photo some of these couples have had together since their wedding day." Then again, I'm a big softie. All in all, you've certainly got a strong voice coming across in this.

I can't remember exactly whether this was completely fictional or more of a travelogue, but either way, I think you might need more of a narrative thread pulling through the chapter - more of a story. The final paragraph was very engaging, but some of the rest of it reads more like a list of descriptions that aren't moving the plot along. I hope that makes sense and doesn't sound too harsh - I don't mean it to!


little monkey at 15:56 on 28 June 2007  Report this post

I realy enjoyed this and found it a funny read with a really likeable MC. I felt I scan read in parts, so maybe it could do with tightening up a wee bit.

I really liked it though

ang at 17:46 on 15 July 2007  Report this post
Hi Geebie,
Sorry taken so long to read this.
I enjoyed this, though I felt it read a bit too much like a travel log at times and needs a greater injection of the plot.
It was very enjoyable though, just needs a little bit of an edit.
Can't wait to see what happens,

Patsy at 17:34 on 10 October 2007  Report this post
Hi Geebie,

Sorry to be so long coming to this. You have some really great characters here to build on. I enjoyed them, and their fly-by-night attitudes :)

You just need to do a bit of tightening to make this more show, and less tell. Let us see more through the eyes of your characters. I loved the whole Peasant villagers in dark headscarves w/ baskets of raspberries details -- give us more of that by comparing what she sees with what she expected to see to give us a better feel for the palce.

Some of the terms like "PHM", and "Darlo-on-sea" went by me, but that could be a UK/USA thing! And perhaps I just need to go back and read Chapter 1, and some of my confusion would be gone :)

Patsy :)

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