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Cut the Bull

by Geebie 

Posted: 13 February 2007
Word Count: 1509
Summary: A humorous yet informative account of a middle class family,the Goms,who decide they can no longer tolerate their average UK lifestyle. They decide to move to a place in the sun and randomly pick the former Communist state of Bulgaria. She is a shopaholic who worships the High Street, he is an alcoholic who lives in the local pub. Their adorable children are street- wise little brats who have been brought up with the laissez faire parenting method of two people with their own hidden agendas.

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Cut the Bull

To Leave or Not To Leave? – That Is the Question
Nothing had prepared me for our sudden change in emigration strategy. At the start of January 2005, we spent 7 long hours waiting for our visa interview, in an upgraded cattle shed at the American Embassy in London.

The kids told everyone at school that they were moving to Disneyland, we had buyers for our house and most of our possessions had been sold on eBay, but that fateful day, our plans were shattered. An officious immigration bint denied our visa application. Just like that, with no emotion or sympathy. As she stamped our passports with an “Application Denied” stamp, she brutally informed us “No way am I going to permit you entry into the United States”. “Aye, but you let the bin Laden’s in love. My wife has spent a fortune in your country. She’s kept your economy afloat with all her shopping.” and as security bundled us out, Mr Gom yelled, “You can stick your Budweiser where it hurts as well”.

With no plan B in the offing, we lapsed into eternal despair, our choices were-
A. Mass suicide by chewing on the poison ink in our passports
B. Write off our dreams off to experience and to settle back into the rat race

With those options on the table, we quickly improvised a plan C. Find a new host country - in the sun. Living in Darlington where the skies are a greyish white for 90% of the year and marginally less grey for the two weeks, we laughingly call summer; this should not prove too difficult. The UK property market was rising, we could only win.

There really did not appear to be anything to keep us hanging about here. Despite leaving behind terrific friends and much-loved family, we agreed that we should be living life for ourselves.

Desperately I clutched at straws; maybe if we moved south, to Devon or Cornwall, we would experience more of a tropical climate? I searched the Internet for “castles for sale”, but the weather charts for obscure destinations like Warsaw soon deterred me. I avidly watched all of those lucky people on TV who were moving abroad with the aid of a television company. I armed myself with reams of magazines offering, “places in the sun” and started on an all out nag campaign to fuel Mr Gom to action. My reasoning was simple; we were nine tenths of the way to emigrating, mentally we had left months ago, we just had to find a new destination and the way I was feeling even a war torn Middle East looked tempting and warm!

Armed with this ammunition, Mr Gom spread a large map of Europe on the floor. We were going to be objective about this. Mr Gom took an old “Bob the Builder” scarf from the coat rack to use as a blindfold. I fumbled to locate a pin in our “Really Useful” drawer. All I could find was a small screwdriver.
“I want to be the one who picks the country,” I pleaded
“You don’t even have a GCSE in geography, I got an “A” level,” Mr Gom boasted
“Yeah, but, you’ll cheat and go straight for the Costa del Sol ‘cos they’ve got more bars per square metre than anywhere else in the world”
“And your point is caller?”
“My point is Gom that this is a serious step in our future and I’m the one who is going to do it, alright?”
Defeated, he gave in, so long as I understood that if there were a tiebreaker, he would have the final say. As he blindfolded me, I prayed his mother would not pay us a surprise visit and be witness to what was rapidly beginning to look like some bizarre sex game. I raised the screwdriver over the map, trying frantically to cheat and find Tuscany. Hesitating, screwdriver poised, I stabbed it next to the only piece of blue I could see, and then I ripped off the blindfold.
“Where did it land?”
“Finland” snorted Mr Gom
“That’s not fair I’m doing it again. There‘s no way I‘m living near the North Pole”
“I told you, you were crap at geography”
Once again blindfolded and dangerous with screwdriver hovering over the map, I pierced it fiercely, this time a lot further south.
“Where now?”
“Oh, it’s a tie breaker, yippee doo dah, I get to choose” Mr Gom was gloating now. The screwdriver had landed on the border of Bulgaria and Turkey.

Bulgaria! They used to be Communists, I hated Communism. It was the true enemy of the Free Shopper. I definitely favoured Turkey because it was hotter and the sea there was a magnificent shade of turquoise. I had holidayed on the Bodrum peninsula once and I remembered it was full of “knock off” designer gear. I pictured myself lying on a sun lounger dolled up in fake Versace and Armani.
“Turkey, it has got to be Turkey”, I exclaimed. Mr Gom felt differently. He had visited neither country, but he immediately preferred Bulgaria. His reasons were simple. It was more likely to become part of the EU and its property ownership laws looked less complicated. The culture he argued would be closer to our own. “There’s too many friends of Osama in Turkey, we might get nuked if we go there”

I never imagined that I would emigrate to a former Communist country. To me, the Eastern bloc symbolised hardship and oppression; countries locked in a time warp now fighting desperately for recognition in the Western world. I also had bad memories of a Bulgarian skiing holiday I had taken in Borovets, 15 years previously. Fresh from the jaws of Communism, Bulgaria was primitive. The food was lukewarm, there was nothing worth buying and it was bitterly cold.

Yet, I really just wanted to leave as quickly as possible, and Mr Gom’s diligent research showed that Bulgaria was not a bad choice. It offered a low cost of living, a rising economy, potential EU membership, a stable political environment and most importantly hot summers and a coastline.

I was ecstatic that finally, we had reached a firm decision. I had not shared my Bulgarian package holiday nightmare with him, on the basis, that emigrating anywhere was better than staying and anyway, the place must have changed in the last decade, after all the EU was considering admitting them into the Union and they would certainly build nice big malls with all of that EU grant money, otherwise what was the point in joining?

We decided to set up home on the Black Sea coast. This way we could spend endless hours swimming, sunbathing and eating al fresco, whilst the children played on the beach in some other resort.

To make a living in Bulgaria we planned to take advantage of the rising property market by building a house, selling it, building another and so on. If this failed, we were prepared to flip burgers at Mc Donald's to put food on the table, so long as we could enjoy a few hours a day lounging in a deck chair sipping Pina Coladas, or Becks in Mr Gom‘s case.

We pondered for about 5 minutes over the fact that we had no knowledge of Bulgarian whatsoever and to top that, they didn‘t even use the same alphabet there. All of the TV programmes labour the point that it is so much easier to succeed if you have a fair understanding of the language.
“Yeah right, well that’s not going to stop me. The kids will learn it at school and they can do all the translating,” I thought.
Anyway, I was already bilingual, because of my Austrian Mum, it can’t be that hard. Mr Gom reasoned that he was always crap at languages at school and he was not going to learn more than “A beer please”, “a packet of cigarettes”, “Can I have a light? “ and “ashtray please”.

Our children’s’ future did not really figure at all in our plans. We just informed them that Disneyland was off and instead we were going to live on the beach in a big house with a pool. We did drop in the fact that they would have to learn Bulgarian, but we said it would be easy - they would just pick it up magically. They didn’t put up a fight; they were just pleased we were going to take them along! In any case, who were they to complain at a carefree life in the sun?

The cat eliminated herself from the equation by dying a couple of weeks before we left, a post mortem would have revealed shock at the thought of a life outside Darlington! The brainless goldfish closely followed her preferring death to endless talk of Bulgaria. Children can be so resilient...

We had buyers for our house and on 29th May 2005, we moved out and booked four one way tickets to paradise...

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 08:08 on 13 February 2007  Report this post
Hello, wow, I love the plot and I think this will have a lot of fun in it. You can see it geering up to be full of adventure.

It's a nice chapter, but you've a couple of things, don't want to disenhearten you here, but you've too much back story and you're telling the reader too much. The first bit reads like paragraphs you can put in your synopsis one day describing the characters, the problem is you'll have to bring all this info over to the reader gradually in the story and not as a chunk and they have to see it happening rather then get told all the info at once. It's tricky to do.

Bags and bags of potential in this story though,


Luisa at 09:58 on 13 February 2007  Report this post
This is wonderful, and it has so much going for it. It's an interesting idea, for a start - I'd love to read this book. The characters are great, too. Your writing style is light, fun and readable. Your dialogue is great.

I agree with Alexandra about the lump of information at the start. I think you could probably get round this by starting at a later point. How about starting with the attempted emigration to the USA, for example? I think that would make a great first hook. I loved that section, by the way. The earlier parts could then get woven in with the emigration tale?

Tiny nitpick: if she has already worked in New York, wouldn't that change things for her visa application this time, or wouldn't she have at least mentioned it to us earlier?

I absolutely loved the part about the children's names, by the way, and the description of the parenting style was hilarious. (Also I must remember the one about playing with them stifling their creativity - LOL.)

I second what Alexandra said (again) - bags of potential in this story. It's fab.


Geebie at 17:33 on 13 February 2007  Report this post
Thanks Alexandra & Luisa
Your my first people to read my work on this website and I'm heartened that you both enjoyed it, but also grateful for your constructive comments - all I get from my husband is "Is this supposed to be funny, it's our life you're writing about"! Any tips on where I can learn more about drip feeding the info to the reader would be welcome. Geebie

Nikkip at 23:05 on 13 February 2007  Report this post
Hi Geebie,

i really enjoyed this. I do agree that it's too much telling and needs to be thinned out
but you've got some really funny lines in there - too many for me to mention all that I liked but I think my favourite was 'creche instead of credibility'.


Lammi at 08:29 on 14 February 2007  Report this post
This was quite a long piece so I've only had time to read the first chapter, but I endorse the comments that have gone before. That slightly manic, bouncy style reminds me of Mavis Cheek and feels pretty commercial to me. There are some nice moments of humour - I love the four parenting rules, for instance. But start with an incident, go straight into some action, and feed in the background to the family's situation and their characters as you go along, firstly because it's more interesting for the reader that way, and partly because it's enjoyable for the reader to predict or work things out for herself sometimes. Don't lay out your entire stall straight away.

Tweaks: Take out all your exclamation marks. You don't need them and they're a little like laughing at your own joke. Think of Jack Dee's deadpan face when he tells a gag; it makes the quip funnier than if he were rolling about the flooor as he spoke.

I think shit-shovelling needs a hyphen, and you need a comma after 'somewhere near the bottom was Mr G'. After '...Benjamin and Maxwell', try a full stop and begin the next sentence 'We often called them...'

JenDom at 11:48 on 14 February 2007  Report this post
Hi Geebie [from Jen at the Beginners!]

I take it from your response above that this is autobiographical? This read to me like a news feature rather than a work of fiction. Like those lifestyle features one reads in the Sunday paper, so maybe you have something there!

I agree with all the above comments. You need to engage the reader's interest from the very first paragraph. Ask yourself why should this person's life be of interest to readers of chicklit/contemporary fiction? What would make the reader turn the page so to speak? Your character seems to have it all, husband, kids, good jobs, travel... what, as a reader, would I get out of this very successful and very rich life? As Nik Perring states in the Newcomer's forum:

Remember the thee Cs:


Good luck with this and please feel free to ignore my comments if they are not helpful!


Geebie at 16:03 on 16 February 2007  Report this post
Many thanks Nikki, Lammi & Jen
I found your comments a great help and have rewritten chpt one. I'll be posting it soon when i get a reliable internet connection. So pleased i joined WW - it's providing me with so much help and support

Jo S at 21:38 on 16 February 2007  Report this post
Hi Geebie

I see you've taken this off while you rewrite it - just wanted to add that I too think you have great material here for your work, the characters are great and so is your idea. But I do agree with Alexandra's comments about the style - looking forward to reading the rewrite

Jo S at 21:38 on 16 February 2007  Report this post
Hi Geebie

I see you've taken this off while you rewrite it - just wanted to add that I too think you have great material here for your work, the characters are great and so is your idea. But I do agree with Alexandra's comments about the style - looking forward to reading the rewrite

Cornelia at 10:04 on 17 February 2007  Report this post
Someone in my Spanish class told me the Brits were deserting the Costa Del Sol for Bulgaria so I'm looking forward to the first-hand acccount. It will make a change from all that stuff about vineyards and restoring farmbouses in the Dordogne. It sounds like a potential mix of 'Shameless' and 'Benidorm'

I have only just read this piece, not any more, so don't understand about the choosing names and the parenting rules, but it seems to me the biggest problem will be to reconcile events with a credible narrative voice. How will the house-building proceed if the husband is in the pub, for instance? Ot is that part of the unfolding story? I look forward to reading.


crazylady at 04:03 on 28 February 2007  Report this post
Hi Geebie,
This is a very enjoyable read and left me wanting to discover more.
Like Sheila, I came to this a little late, so missed the names and parenting bits.
I like your narrative style and the careless self-belief of your MC.
One crit though - it took me while to work out who is talking. Once I did, it would be nice for her to have a name. Possibly this was lost in the edit?
That said, it romps along and the pace and humour are great. Though it may be hard to sustain this for a whole novel.
Keep posting the chapters! I'm fascinated to see where they end up and how it works out.

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