My sister had threatened last year to return to Barabrith and even worse to bring my brother along too. It took over a year to get it together but the deed was finally executed this month with the partial compensation that they brought Dad over too.
We only had three and half days to cram everything in (aka I had to entertain them for over 50 hours) so a program was put together. Bearing in mind that my brother, henceforth known as Plog, has not been here before and there have been significant changes since the other two visited last, the first item on the list was a tour of the estate. This takes time when every change whether past or future needs to be pointed out as part of the Barabrith progress plan!! Oh yeah! Inspecting the book storage attic in the wooden house (see photo), checking on the pistachio plant growth, surveying the future site of Malcolm’s cottage, marvelling at the wood shed, my bedroom, the gazebo and the wooden house paintwork are just a fraction of the itinerary.
Second item was the Partisan hospital and Petrova Gora Monument. This we had not much time to do as I needed to play taxi service for Marko at 5pm. I drove about as fast as the dodgy surfaced road would allow a non fourwheel drive to go and we managed to squeeze a quick circuit of it all in. The Monument is still sealed off from us – the public – as the film set gets bigger and bigger.
Sunday brought more lovely bright weather and so Dad, Plog and I went off for a walk through our woods and round the valley a route I am thinking of calling “The Dogs Walk”. Dad is 83 and since his appendix op a couple of years back he’s been a little less steady on his feet but he likes a walk and is game to try and tackle off road challenges when armed with a walking stick. My sister Rebecca, technically the youngest of us, stayed behind to rest! It took Dad some time and trepidation to make it up the hill through our woods but once out on the ridge of the valley he was fine. Slatko’s dogs heard us coming and welcomed us in their usual noisy style, my brother was impressed with their size, Dad waved his stick at them!! Slatko ineviatbly invited us in for a rakia and my brother did the honours for all of us though Dad did try some too “ooh very strong”. When we made it back to the house coming down the road taking the full force of every annoying barking hound there is around we found Rebecca blissfully asleep in the sun under the gazebo, a Balkan holiday in late October!!
Sunday afternoon, Marko made a quick pasta lunch and then the Elliott’s headed off to Ozalj castle. It’s still a novel thing to have “new” car that is comfortable, smooth and fast. I detest the fact that I had to buy it and use it so often but for visitations like this it makes things much easier. I omitted to inform my lot that the Croatian car insurance system would allow them to drive the car but they seemed happy to allow me to chauffer them around! Ozalj castle is open on Sundays till 8pm and there is no charge to enter the grounds and wander around which is great because it has good views of the river valley and railway line. The castle is a great jumble of buildings from different periods. Seeing as we were with Dad we happily paid the £4 each to go round the museum. The curator was happy to talk in English which was good because my brother pestered him with many questions, as he is want to do and then Dad did too! Sunday evening was scheduled to be pool night but they were all too tired and we planned to be up early for the next day.
Monday morning I was up at quarter to six preparing breakfast and a packed lunch so we could be on the road by seven am and on our way to Plitvice National Park. We were away by 7.30! I had filled my nano Ipod with Tom Lehrer and suprised Dad with songs we first learnt from the one bit of “music” – the 10inch record An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer – that he passed on to me that I really appreciate.It wasn’t exactly a sing along but it was a “shared moment” and a rare moment of agreement that “he’d never get away with those lyrics” in such puritanical times as now!
When I was here last month it cost – the generous – Scarlet 250 kuna for each of us to get in, thats about 30 quid. Now it had passed the 30th of September the price had dropped to 100kn each (£12.50) and it was less busy and better weather!! Sorry Scarlet and Lil! We strolled off at Dad’s gentle lurch pace and saw some of the best of the park in the middle section and the walk up to the top lake. I noticed that the water level was significantly lower than it was only a few weeks before and this made quite a difference to the waterfalls. It was 10.30am, we’d been walking around for about two hours when I got a call from cousin Dulcie. It was a call we knew would come one day but you never expect it when it does. Wendy, Dad’s sister had had a fall and was unconscious. Many calls across Europe and a short walk to “Station 3” (our picnic stop) later we got another call to say she had died. Weird for me as it was, I was relatively “close” to Wendy – she liked my sense of humour – this must have been a really “wierd” scenario for Dad. Walking around a really beautiful natural park with us, his kids whom he only gets to see all together very seldomly, enjoying a guilty break from the “stress” of looking after his complicated and demanding sister and then she’s gone! We were all rather worried about Sandro who was looking after Wendy on his own and would inevitably be upset by the experience. Using mobile phones is no longer unusual in fact it is unusual not to be using them constantly! But out there in the middle of nature deaing with the end of a life that started back in the 1940’s talking with a paramedic about the condition of our sister/aunt the fact that we knew within moments such news that a generation ago may have taken days to get to us was extraordinary.
At the end of our seven hour visit to Plitvice we split so Dad and Plog could take the short easy way up to a cafe at Entrance One and Beka and I walked back through the park to Entrance Two. That meant that Bex and I spent about eight hours doing the park. The walk back along the edge of the big lake was great we only saw about five people in the whole half hour!
Sunday evening they were again too knackered to play pool 🙁
Monday morning I made them their last “Jon style” museli and yoghurt and then we finally had a pool session before bidding farewell to the kids and much indecision about which route to take to Ljubjana airport. We did the scenic back route which is much nicer to look at and drive. Maybe I’ll end up being a taxi driver if all else fails financially. I dropped my folx off at the airport with the unfamiliar knowledge that I will propbably see them all again soon; at Wendy’s sending off.
I spent the evening in Ljubjana walking around, eating cake and then catching up with comrades at a vegan meal event at the Infoshop in Metelkova. I drove back through some serious late night fog, playing with the cruise control system and listening to the new Culture Shock album. I was knackered by the time I crashed out on my bed.
Goodbye aunty Wendy, you were a joy.