October, 2008

  1. Bulgarian thoughts from abroad

    October 30, 2008 by Christopher Buxton

    Being away from Bulgaria is a bit like coming off cocaine.

    UK is gripped by financial crisis and a febrile debate on whether to publicly decapitate two highly paid TV/Radio presenters – but it all seems incredibly boring. I trudge through piles of leaves, the days are alternately crisp and then soggy, the daily drama is just not there.

    My fingers stray across the keyboard to access Bulgarian sites – somehow to recapture that daily confrontation with excessive melodrama. I see that “suicide” has taken the place of street assassination in Bulgaria’s continuing soap opera of corruption in high places. A crucial Bulgarian question is whether a right handed man can shoot a revolver into the left side of his brain. Don’t experiment with this at home unless you’re sure the gun is unloaded and you have nothing to do with Ahmed Dogan.

    Previous episodes of “It was suicide wasn’t it?” feature businessmen who were able to shoot two bullets into their heads. Police seem to be baffled. I personally knew a fine young woman whose tragic shooting in a firing range was described as suicide in the papers the next morning even before the police had been able to produce an inadequate report. It was fortuitous that the papers got her name wrong as everybody who knew her found the suicide allegation ridiculous. However the ex-DS owners of the firing range had access to important journalists – the kind that don’t ask questions, don’t get beaten up,don’t have their stories spiked.

    Meanwhile western journalists see their articles on Bulgarian corruption driven to obscure pages by coverage of breast jobs, Madonna’s marriage, the banking crisis, celebrity bonking and the American election. Its good that Bulgaria still has those fearless fighters in Baties Boyko and Voden (Ha ha) Tout le meme chose – tout le meme shit.

    Still no progress on A Bulgarian Story! Petrol continue to avoid contact with Milka, in spite of a promised meeting with Mitko (above me there is only God) Subev. The Town Hall too will not provide adequate explanation as to why a perfectly sound building must be pulled down. Implementation of the Subev doctrine that every building which is built before 1996 should be deemed unsafe would leave Burgas looking like Dresden after the air raid.

    So while Milka sits in a raft without a paddle in the middle of the fast moving stream, Mitko Subev and the Town Hall watch from the bank. Now only just round the bend are the cascades, rapids and waterfall that will smash her raft to splinters and pitch a defenseless old woman into the rocks.


  2. Memorial for Monica Stewart

    October 24, 2008 by Christopher Buxton

    Dad opened the memorial exhibition on his birthday – 21st of October in the Mercury Theatre Digby Gallery. Dad and I were overwhelmed by the number of friends who made the journey – most from London but some from further afield.

    Charmian Eyre came from Birmingham, Ronnie Cunliffe came from Newcastle. John Keenan came from Ulster. Other former colleagues included Celestine Randall, Pam Ruddock, Eve Shickle, Peter Yapp, John Harward, Barry McCarthy, Sarah Thomas, Melvyn Hastings, Peter Laird, Giles Phibbs, Mary Gillingham Ian Granville Bell, Adrian Hutson, Romy Alison, Lorelei Lynn, Miranda Bell and Liz Mansfield rushing up from preparing for her superb performance as Marie Lloyd at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. Former Theatre manager David Forder gave a lovely appreciative speech remembering David and Monica’s contribution to the success of the theatre in Colchester.

    A big thank you to Chris Snow for the preparing and hanging the photos and Chris Holden and Clare Birks for designing the whole thing.

    The photographs reflected the sheer variety of Mum’s work in the theatre from unpaid ASM in Perth, through Summer season at Cromer, on to Oxford, the West End, Birmingham, Colchester, leess, York, Milford Haven, Harrogate and Ipswich.

    The exhibition goes on till the 1st November.


  3. A Bulgarian Story – Petrol turns the screw

    October 5, 2008 by Christopher Buxton


    There have been some shocking developments in this story and it is time to unmask the main players.

    Step forward Mitko Subev the popular football boss and chief of Petrol. Mr Subev states that above him is only God and since he is the son of a general and a protege of Dobri Zhurov (Communist Minister of Defence), he feels he has little to fear even from the creator of the universe.

    Mr Subev who co-owns half the building on Vuzrazhdane 4, wants to pull it down and replace it with a modern office block. He would like to have total control if not total ownership of the resulting building.

    Milka Vulkanova has the misfortune to be co-owner of Vuzrazhdene 4. She is 84 and physically disabled. The daughter of a hard working self made man, she had to suffer considerable discrimination following 1944. All her father’s properties were confiscated and she was unable to work for many years. Thus she has a very little pension. Following restitution, her sole source of income came from rents from her half of Vuzrazhdene 4. She needs this money to pay for the full time 24 hour care she needs in a country where provision for the elderly is minimal.

    Mr Subev has used his financial power to have the house on Vuzrazhdene 4 condemned by the council. An order has gone out ordering its demolition. This was a tortuous process during which his company deliberately did not communicate to Milka what they were up to.

    Following an unannounced commission from the town hall that could find nothing wrong with the building, Mr Subev then paid 36,000 leva to buy his own experts. The resulting glossy report features emotive drawings of residents being crushed in a possible earthquake, almost managed to disguise the fact that even the expensive professors could not find any evidence that the building in its current state was unsafe. Burgas is not in an earthquake danger zone. Most of the older buildings in Burgas are not only in a much worse state of repair than Vuzrazhdene 4 but equally do not answer to the new building regulations. We await Mr Subev’s proposals for the demolition of three quarters of Burgas with interest.

    In spite of her disability and relative poverty, Milka has been conscientious in her relationships with her tenants. Thus she has paid for repairs to the roof and last year spent a considerable sum underpinning the ground floor, repairing damage caused by a chronic leak from the floor owned by Petrol.

    An unholy alliance

    Mitko Subev has not talked to Milka ever since she dared to quibble over his first and “final” offer a year ago. However he has courted her tenants assiduously in the hopes that they will leave and so cut off her only source of income. He has used the computer graphics report to try to scare them out of the building.

    He appears to have succeeded with only one of the tenants, the Austrian insurance firm, Grawe. Their representatives turned up at Milka’s judicial appeal against the demolition order, and appeared to be on very good terms with Petrol. The fear is that they will feel encouraged to sue Milka for lost income if they are “forced” to leave the building before their agreed five year term.

    (Incidentally, despite their expressed fears, Grawe have not withdrawn their staff from the building.)

    In this way Mitko Subev may hope to increase the financial threat hanging over Milka’s head – so she will agree to sell her half of the building for very little money. He has already sent a bill to Milka for half the expensive “expertise” he ordered up without consulting Milka beforehand.

    A final appeal

    Mitko, you know that in principle, Milka is not against your rebuilding plans. She understands economic realities, but your avoidance of meetings and your secretive plotting have done little to increase her confidence in you as a partner. This case is in serious danger of becoming notorious as an example of corporate bullying of a defenseless old woman. All she seeks is a fair settlement which guarantees her the appropriate support to which she is entitled. based on a continued income from the building plot her father bought all those years ago.

    Don’t be a leather-face! You may go down in history as such – and even God might not forgive you.


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