A banned Russian painkiller

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sam_0649There’s something quite magical about an impromptu party – the kind that just happens when just the right amount of alcohol meets the perfect tune to get you off your seat, and, of course the right people. The number of people doesn’t matter – it’s the quality of their energy that counts.

I came home from the bar one night in Voditsa with Elly and Dancho after a really good evening and, apparently, just the right amount of alcohol. We went into the house and turned on the music and suddenly the three of us started dancing around the floor. A little more alcohol and some energetic searching on the computer for just the right song that someone wanted to dance to and there we were – having a party.

The word ‘party’ is something that I’ve had occasion to think about during my time in China. The word is used loosely here and way too frequently and always incorrectly. Chinese people do a lot of things really well – making great food, living amongst 1.3 billion people, high speed trains etc but they definitely do not know how to party. When you are invited to ‘a party’ in China, it means going to a restaurant for a meal. There may be wine, but it will be served in minute portions in very large glasses and you can’t just drink it freely – it’s for toasting. People either walk around the table and toast everyone individually or whenever anyone picks up their glass, they shout ‘cheers’ and everyone sips their wine. Nice dinner but not a party.

Bulgarians on the other hand do know how to party. It takes very little for a bunch of Bulgarians to start singing and dancing and then the dancing usually moves onto the tables. I’ve never met people who are so fond of dancing on the table but it does add to the general atmosphere. I was walking home from a friend’s house very late one night and I met three of my neighbours sitting outside with a bottle of Rakia. They invited me to join them and about 15 minites later we were dancing in the middle of the road.

The vital ingredients of a party are: loud and very good music, lots of alcohol and people. There should always be food too but this is mainly to occupy the people who don’t dance and to stop everyone getting way too drunk. Food is rarely commented on after a party however, it’s absence is always noted.

When it comes to people, quality wins over quantity but if a party is planned, then probably it’s expected that a lot of people will turn up. On the other hand, an impromptu party needs a minimal number of people to get the action going. I remember a great little party once when I lived in Castle Douglas in a flat on the main street above a shop. My sister Lynne and I were pregnant but not so big that we couldn’t dance. We’d been to the pub – I cant remember if her and I were actually drinking alcohol – I do remember it made me feel sick when I was pregnant. Anyway, when we got home with Davy and Roy, our partners, we put some music on and suddenly we were all dancing around the floor. We danced for ages and the next day some of our friends asked why they hadn’t been invited to the party – they’d seen us dancing through the window.

Which brings me back to the subject of my story – an impromptu party in a little village in Bulgaria. There is a widely spread out ex-pat community around the villages in our area and sometimes we bump into each other. One night, my friend Cal asked if I wanted to come with him to a nearby village to have a drink with some Polish friends who lived there.

The bar in Boyka is quite nondescript and is really just a few tables inside and outside of a shop but it serves the purpose. We began with beers and then a bottle of whiskey joined us and the session began. When it became apparent that we were the last ones in the bar, we decided to move to our Polish friends’ house, which is sometimes called The Jazz Club, but that’s another story. I think we moved on to drinking Rakia at this point but there was that crucial moment when it was understood that a soft piece of music would make everyone sit down and chill or ….. we could hit the Polish Ska. Great, very loud music in a very small room and soon we were all dancing.

I usually prefer to dance on my own or to dance around someone in a sort of general connectedness. Actually dancing with somebody when you’ve had a lot to drink requires a high level of concentration so I try to avoid that but it’s so funny how your mind forgets important things when alcohol is around and you’re having fun. I’m thinking particularly about one really important message in life – ‘do not jive with Scotsmen when you are drunk’. I know this very well –I used to live in Scotland and I have clear memories of being whirled around the floor and thinking ‘when will this end’ and being amazed that I could keep my feet. It’s happened loads of times and I always think that I’ll never do that again but the Scots are another nation that knows how to party and before I knew it, I was jiving to Polish Ska with a Scotsman in Bulgaria. I kept my balance due to permanent movement and having no space to fall and between the 6 of us, we had a great party and eventually I fell into bed in one of the spare bedrooms and was immediately in a deep lovely sleep.

A shriek woke me up and then shock when I realised it was me who made the noise. I don’t know if it was the cry that woke me or the pain because every time I moved, there was an excruciating blast of agony in my side. I was suddenly very awake and I lay quite still trying to figure out what had happened. I felt like I has been stabbed but that obviously wasn’t the answer – there was no blood. Then I started to get a vague memory of one point in my jiving session where Cal had spun me around and I sort of bounced off the wall with my arms in the air. Alcohol of course is a magnificent painkiller so I was guessing that I broke something when I hit the wall and just didn’t notice.

It took me a good while to get off that mattress on the floor in that bedroom – every movement was horrendous pain but eventually I made it to the kitchen where all the other happy partyers were having breakfast. Everyone was sympathetic and Cal was suitably mortified at having broken my rib. He and I set off for Voditsa – me in agony on the bumpy roads and Cal trying to think of ways to make it up to me. He bought all the ingredients for a full fried breakfast which was lovely but it didn’t stop the pain.

Cal and I had some business to do that morning on the computer but as we went into the house the pain was getting worse with each movement. I called my daughter and asked her if she had any strong painkillers. She said that she has some banned Russian things that might do the trick and she told me where they were. I painfully found them, took one and waited for them to take affect.

Standing up straight was causing me the least pain at that point so Cal and I got to work – him at the computer and me standing still, looking over his shoulder. This was fine for a while then after about ten minutes I realised that the pain was subsiding. I was just about to feel good about this when I noticed that I was starting to feel a little weird. I was very distracted by this feeling as it gradually started to take over my body but I must admit that it was also pretty interesting. Suddenly I had to lie down.

The only way that I could comfortably lie flat was to have my arms crossed over my chest in a sort of death pose. By this time most of my body had stopped working. I don’t think I could have got up if I had wanted to. I was really spaced out and it seemed that the only thing that was still functioning was my ears. Cal carried on working and I grunted in response to his questions while I felt like I was having an out of body experience. It wasn’t unpleasant, just unexpected and very very odd. But the pain had gone away.

After some time, my daughter came in and said ‘My God, you look dead.’ I mumbled that I wasn’t, just my body wasn’t working. Cal told her what had happened and she looked at me in amazement and said ‘What! You didn’t take a whole one did you?’ ….useful information, too late.

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