From the pen of Turlough Ó Maoláin ...

The Chronicles of Bulgaria

Rocks Off


This week in Malki Chiflik we celebrated Testicles Away Tuesday which isn’t an official holiday in Bulgaria but we’re working on it. We could really do with a saint who might agree to patronise the day but, apart from placing an advertisement in the local paper which could possibly invite the risk of calls from non-beatified timewasters, we don’t know how to find one. We thought that St. Eustathius the Cobbler of Georgia might be interested but he is already the patron saint of cobblers so consequently very busy and unable to help us with our testes. We asked if he had a business partner with space in his or her diary but unfortunately it turned out that he’s a sole trader. There doesn’t seem to be many saints around these days. I suppose they’re all sitting at home with their facemasks on waiting for Saint Gorgonia, the patron saint of people afflicted by bodily ills or sickness to do something about this Covid fiasco that a lady on the bus was telling me about the other day. And even when that’s all over they’re bound to want to go out for a bevvy to catch up with their mates and maybe even go on a bit of a holiday before they start thinking about taking on any new work. So finding a saint for a new cause seems to be a bit of a lost cause.

Anyway, saint or no saint, we decided that we would mark the occasion by taking our two most recently adopted cats to the vet to have some intimate modifications done. When I write these blog pieces I like to use them to share my experiences of Bulgarian traditions but in this case I am going against the grain a bit. In Bulgaria (and most of the world, it sadly seems) it is a tradition to not have your dear little animals neutered and to just let nature take its course. So, having already rescued Mitso and Ludo from the street, we decided that as their parental guardians we should go a step further to rescue them not only from the bitter territorial fighting in which unmodified cats become involved, and are often seriously injured, but also from temptation and evil. There are adulterers and fornicators at large in our village, especially Tiddles who lives three doors down from us and who seduces passers-by with that provocative little silver bell on his collar, and we had decided that we didn’t want our innocent youngsters to have any involvement with them. However, our main priority was that we didn’t want to have to take any responsibility for the birth of unwanted babies.

Seven days and seven nights before the Feast of Orchiectomy, Priyatelka and I visited the premises of a highly acclaimed local veterinarian to discuss the preparations for the ceremony. The nice lady receptionist told us that we would need to provide two male cats that had not eaten for twelve hours and a tribute of 140 leva (approximately €70) which amounts to 70 leva per cat or 35 leva per testicle. I was tempted to ask about situations where cats with one or three testicles might have been presented to the vet but my grasp of feline genitalia and of the Bulgarian language was insufficient to enable me to do so.


Photograph A: For anyone who isn’t interested in cats, this is a railway locomotive that we saw last week in the village of Tsareva Livada.


For anyone who isn’t interested in cats, this is a railway locomotive that we saw last week in the village of Tsareva Livada.


Priyatelka, who seems to have inherited DNA from the Yorkshire side of my family even though she’s French, caused a little animosity by asking the poor woman if she envisaged any sort of buy-one-get-one-free promotion in the near future; she added that it was the sort of thing that was always on offer in shoe shops. Smoothing over the negative reply, we agreed a date and time for when the procedure would take place and went home to prepare our fluffy little friends for their big day; preparations which amounted to absolutely nothing for six and a half days followed by twelve hours of starving them (which was easy as we had often done this before in error) and sticking notices up all over the house which bore the words ‘DON’T LET THE CATS OUT’ so that hopefully we would remember not to let the cats out.

Tuesday morning arrived and the not-so-happy couple who by then were desperate for something to eat and to go outside to go through their regular toilet schedule in the part of the garden where our favourite and most delicate plants grow, were ushered into their luxurious pet transporting boxes and carried outside. They were both making a lot of noise which we assumed was due to them being excited about going out for a ride in the car. They couldn’t possibly have known that within the hour they would be under the knife in the operating theatre and we would be sitting in the supermarket car park eating chocolate to help us overcome our guilt at having put them through such torture; something we had been practising since the day we met and long before the cats were even born. The fact that the Sex Pistols’ album Never Mind the Bollocks had been playing in the vet’s waiting room hadn’t helped the situation at all.

Several hours and several bars of chocolate later, but still wracked with the guilt that we’d tried to eradicate, we returned to the vet to collect Mitso and Ludo whose gonads had by then been well and truly eradicated. To enable all to see clearly that the operation had been carried out successfully, the vet had shaved the target area on each cat and completed the procedure with a generous coat of iodine to give that alluring, high visibility effect to any wound on any species of animal. I was surprised that he hadn’t added his name and contact details for enquiries from prospective clients. We were warned that the furry bundles might be a little drowsy and nauseous for a while because of the anaesthetic and they might feel a bit sore and grumpy once the painkiller had worn off, but they seemed happy enough when we got them home, suffering more from embarrassment than anything else.


The preoperative Mitso and Ludo, totally oblivious of what lay ahead for them.

The preoperative Mitso and Ludo, totally oblivious of what lay ahead for them.


Our neighbours have three very small cats which we suspect might be our cats’ siblings. We’re not sure if our neighbours are aware that they have these cats as, when they see us in the street, they always come to us for food (the cats that is, not the neighbours). We are saddened by their neglected state but we don’t want to mention them to the neighbours in case the neighbours think that we want them ourselves and they give them to us as gifts. Bulgarian people are very generous so in Bulgaria, as you are leaving someone’s house after visiting them, they often give you something to take home with you. It could be some delicious home grown vegetables, a jar of honey from their own hives or a jug of lovely fresh-from-the-goat yoghurt, but more often than not it tends to be a cat. This is how we have acquired most of our cats and, although we love them to bits, we don’t want any more because it has become apparent in our house that we are no longer the dominant species. Our dogs aren’t very happy about it either. Anyway, to add to Mitso’s and Ludo’s humiliating situation, on arrival at our gate we were greeted by the neighbours’ three small cats playfully lying on their backs on the path with legs akimbo to display their family jewels. If cats could speak I know they’d have been saying ‘Hey, look at us with our intact genitalia’ … in Bulgarian. I haven’t dared ask any of our Bulgarian friends what these words might be in case they get the wrong idea or phone the cat protection people.

For the remainder of the day and during subsequent days our fluffy little pals gradually looked more and more comfortable and less and less sticky (I won’t go into detail in case you’re eating your tea while you’re reading this). However, still a little confused about the ordeal that they had gone through, they have been trying to contact Saint Phanourios, the Eastern Orthodox saint for finding people's lost belongings after fervent supplications. Our other cats seemed happier too as, having gone through the neutering experience themselves in the past, they were aware of its calming effect and that consequently the end was in sight in respect of the mayhem and chaos that the arrival of these two kittens / beasts from Hell had caused in the seven months since we had invited them into our normally tranquil home.

I apologise to any readers who are not animal lovers. This article has been about cats and the previous one was about dogs so I suppose reading them may have proven to be a little boring. The next one will be about South American three-toed sloths and then, I promise, that’s it … the end of the animal stories. So please bear with me.



Author’s note: Thank you to everyone who reads my ramblings and to those who leave comments. My feelings of gratitude intensify with every article. If you do leave a comment may I remind you to include your name so I know who you are and I know who’s watching me so I can tick you off in my little book of paranoia?     

Number of comments: 6

12/02/2021 20:05:46 - Paulien


12/02/2021 23:44:53 - Erik, E-mail address is hidden

You have no idea how the phrase 'eating your tea' is visualised by a non-Brit or Irish. Very confusing! I believe Johnny has rotted by now, so indeed never mind the bollocks! Great writing!

13/02/2021 09:03:46 - Paul

Always a delight to read your ramblings Turlough. Well written, very funny and something I can relate with and confer. Looking forward to the 3 toad sloth!

13/02/2021 14:29:47 - Jan

Fabulous reading, must go back and read the previous ramblings

13/02/2021 15:35:45 - Del, E-mail address is hidden

Oh my....I nearly peed myself laughing!!!

09/11/2021 21:27:07 - Orang Ganteng, E-mail address is hidden,

You have no idea how the phrase 'eating your tea' is visualised by a non-Brit or Irish. Very confusing! I believe Johnny has rotted by now, so indeed never mind the bollocks! Great writing!
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