Ian Stewart – Director British Council Bulgaria from 2002 to 2007
I relished leading a superb team, meeting a range of interesting people as diverse as Prince Charles and Terry Jones (Monty Python), and doing unlikely things including presenting a weather forecast on TV.
When you are new to a country, you want to get things right and the Martenitsa tradition caused me maximum angst in March 2003. Which to buy? Not too big/too feminine/too childish/too expensive, then remember to take them on the day itself, the ‘feeding frenzy’ of exchanging them so that you ended up with the same number you started with, then the mantra of good wishes in Bulgarian or English, and finally how long to continue wearing your decorations. Worry was unnecessary of course, better to go with the flow and avoid panic, however close the deadline.
Whether building a 2 metre model of the DNA double helix in Halite shopping centre, unveiling a poem in brass at a metro station, arranging visits to umpteen events throughout the country – in Bulgaria it seems, it was always going to be all right on the night. Even the sad things like having to close Varna office and our regional centres had positive outcomes. We grasped the opportunities of regional working in a community of 18 countries and led the way in several major projects, increasing our knowledge of geography, languages and the Austrian Airlines timetable in the process.
Our building in Krakra became ever more popular despite a non-smoking cafe and a high chance of being trapped in a lift (always take the stairs). I relished leading a superb team, meeting a range of interesting people as diverse as Prince Charles and Terry Jones (Monty Python), and doing unlikely things including presenting a weather forecast on TV. This year again I’ll hang Martenitsas on the trees in my garden – and try not to worry.