L’Air du Temps

Dear Reader, 


I hold the times when seasons shift very dear, as wafts of approaching bloom, or chill, sharpen my senses, giving me a sense of rhythm and an invigorating thirst for tomorrow.  

Sofia may still be in the grips of slush and mud, but the sun has been gilding the inky puddles, and birds have been singing early in the morning, bringing hope and joy to those who listen. Snow has been melting from the roofs, drip-dripping onto the pavements, and people have started replacing parts of their deep winter clothing with brighly coloured spring pieces.

Spring is approaching and the temperatures are only about -2 in the morning, and about +10 at noon. That’s almost tropical, compared to recent benchmarks. Time to show more bare skin! Similarly to the placid lady above, I want to hang around en deshabille, calmly breathing in the promise of balminess. Spring, 1940, Boris Ivanov (1904-1993). Source: National Art Gallery Catalogue.
Alas, we wouldn’t be aware of happiness if there weren’t unhappiness, so, like a true Bulgarian, let me stop playing the glad game for a while to engage in some mood-boosting complaining.

After having lived with no cold water in my kitchen for two days when a pipe froze in my building’s basement right after the New Year celebrations, succumbing to the atrocious -20 degrees outside, I also had to endure a week with no hot water and central heating because of another water pipe breakdown. When my hot water and central heating supply had finally, and thankfully, been restored, I had to empathise with the identical lot of people in two other Bulgarian towns – Burgas and Gabrovo – who’d also fallen victims to poor, or none at all, basic infrastructure maintenance.

A couple of uneventful days later, my family had to dedicate time and resources to fix a leakage in a central heating pipe in our building, which the neighbours have known to be in need of repair for about two years. Needless to say, leakage started in the evening, so no hot water then, and on the day after. 

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I live in Eastern Europe, I am used to being without basic things now and then. Frequent exposure has even allowed me to develop my own scale of tolerance. Lack of electricity, sugar, refined oil, or processed meat in the stores leaves me almost indifferent, lack of water turns me into a seriously annoyed Gorgon. Source: Click here.

Exasperated, I engaged in various techniques of denial, such as replacement denial, basically meaning I tried to think of things other than hot water.

When that did not produce the desired results, I resorted to fully-fledged ostrich denial, meaning I gave up indoor plumbing altogether. …Or almost.


I do hope I succeeded in maintaining a bit of human dignity and style in the process. Avoiding the icy cold water by washing in white porcelain in the morning, like a Victorian lady, was actually quite fun, but I am still fond of my indoor plumbing, the more so when I have it.

Also, frankly, I shudder at the idea of potentially having to complete this makeshift set with an additional fixture, should worse come to worst.   

Spirit and Matter, or Дух и материя, of 1922, by Andrey Nikolov (1878-1959). Born in Vratsa, he walked to Sofia by foot to study sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts, and later lived in France and Italy. His Sofia house is a centre for culture and debate nowadays.

Complaining being over now, I rather awkwardly jump from the profane to the sacred, to share that I have decided to do this year’s Easter Lent between February 27 and April 16, as a mental continuum to my recent struggles with the idea of purifying ablutions, my frequent thoughts about food and the soul, and my need to perfect patience, temper control and grace. Ablution, absolution, purity, food, sacralisation of mundanity, you get the drift. If I have to descend into technicalities, I know I said, here, that too many carbs did not go well with me during my previous experience with fasting, but what I did not say, was that too many carbs meant, occasionally, eating about 10 dried dates one after the other as lunch dessert, which is about 300 calories, equal to a modest lunch in its own right…So that’s carb gluttony, I hope to fix this this time. In all honesty, I did not spend too much time justifying to myself my need to fast, as, if I can quote a fictional TV character, I am a woman, I can be as contrary as I like. 🙂

If you asked John Berger, he’d tell you that this nude sculpture caters to the sexuality of the spectator while suggesting nothing about that of the model. I don’t know about that, all I see is a beautiful personification of genuineness, vulnerability, innocence, or self-reflection. Andrey Nikolov, again.

Along the lines of being contrary, I intend to treat you to a beautiful and sensual song now, which you may very well have already heard. Its video illustrates nakedness, vulnerability and the creative impulse very well, and its music, Philip Glass-style, is performed by great musicians such as Lyudmil Angelov on the piano. In me at least, the song has also brought forth associations of innocence, of the way innocence is treated by the Western world (e.g. Edith Wharton and The Age of Innocence), and by the Eastern one (e.g. Orhan Pamuk and The Museum of Innocence). Put very simplistically, in Wharton we have innocence achieved through denial, ignorance and repression of instincts for the sake of convention, and in Pamuk we have extramarital carnality rendered innocent by its longstanding sincerity.

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A clothed photo for a change.

My mentality is straddling two worlds, so I am contrary by definition. Thus, happily, I can pull off a Dior look, fast, enjoy this song, and think Pamuk may be on to something, while having Voltaire on my night stand,