COMPOTES FOR COMPUTERS, DATES FOR FOODSTUFFS

by Stamen Manolov

In the Communist period, Bulgarians often used real-life traits of their national character to poke fun at themselves.

One of these traits, the Bulgarian inimitable propensity to make a hash of things because someone, somewhere did not understand what was going on, and as a result suddenly hurdled themselves in blissful yet innocent astonishment, made the rounds in the sunset days of Communism when this country was supposed to start manufacturing... personal computers. The joke went on something like that: "It has transpired that the computers we were supposed to export to Japan turned out not to be computers but compotes. And we didn't export to Japan, but Japan sent them back to us."

The stern-faced general running the country under the coronavirus state of emergency managed to replay that old-time joke, almost literally.

At the beginning, the stern-faced general announced the Boyko Borisov government had pulled a barter deal with the United Arab Emirates to get 15 tons of PPE into Bulgaria in exchange for 32 tons of Bulgarian foodstuffs. The foodstuffs had been secured by a private company.

Everyone was astonished when it transpired that Bulgaria had only received about 3 tons of PPE. The rest of the payload consisted of... dates. Said dates were put in storage at the warehouses of the Bulgarian Red Cross.

The stern-faced general appeared on TV and said the government, which had previously hailed the deal as a major breakthrough, could not be held responsible because "private donors" could supply "anything." Why, then, would privately donated dates be stored at a government-run facility remained unanswered.

Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov of the extreme nationalist Ataka party announced dates as such were "delicious and nutritious."

The government is yet to decide what to do with the dates. Reputedly, the dates will be distributed to the "socially weak." Whether anyone noticed the direct reference to the notorious bons mots dating back to 18th century France is yet to be seen.

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