Back from the land of many vegan options! It was as ever interesting to be in London, where I fit in easily but feel out of place, where I am free but everything is so expensive, where there’s lots to do but I now feel purposeless. Back in in screwed up Croatia where this morning the friendly post office worker informed me that now one must use a “proper” envelope , new rules! I had to buy a new envelope to put my homemade envelope inside…. that’ll be Croatia working hard towards climate catastrophy as usual. When I discussed this idiocy with the woman at the stationary shop -stocking up on regulation envelopes – her final comment, so often heard over here to explain such incomprehensible bureacratic numbskullery was “That’s Croatia”. Too true but at least I’m not in Brexitland anymore.
How do, its got a bit cold here, not too bad but enough that I lit my wood burner for the first time this ‘winter’? just to take the chill off when I got back from Belgrade. Belgrade!! Yep I took a train down to the Serb capital to do some vegan tourism and work out exactly who the comrades are down there that I know! Belgrade was warm, I was walking around in a t-shirt on one day! The flat I was staying in was an old school block with a centralised hot water and heating system that was on all the time. Thanx to Sanja, I had a grand time and look forward to returning to Beograd again soon. Check my Happy Cow reviews if you want to find out just how suprisingly good it is for vegans!
Anyway back at Barabrith the neighbours cows have had their morning grazing field extended up towards our upper garden.
I have been busy on our Ebay accounts selling stuff to keep the debts at bay. I have also started an Etsy account to sell the Anarchopuzzles jigsaws that are my latest “get rich slow” scheme. I got my latest box of puzzles from comrade Sned, the other half of the puzzle project in Newcastle today.
The most recent bit of shelf construction completed in my room was the long awaited photograph album shelves. Yes before the arrival of digital camera and smart phones ‘we’ used to have photographs printed on paper and we’d store them in albums for future perusal and amusement. How quaint! The problem with hard copy photographs from ones past is pretty much the same as with digital ones though! Who the hell is that? Where was I when I was doing that? When did that happen? You gotta label the photos asap. In the old days you either wrote on the back of the photo or in the index of the photo album. The album below is my shining example of best practice, sadly never repeated, where I typed out descriptions of each picture on a sheet that is stored in a pocket in the back of the album for that very purpose! So here my, now deceased, mother makes a belated appearence in my blog with the pink umbrella I bought her for her birthday in 2004!
The weather changed for the cooler and it rained quite a bit this last week but the last few days have also had some glorious sunny days that were not too hot to be outside doing some gardening in. First I had a quick snack out in the gazebo, Kaufland’s soya yoghurt with fruit and cornflakes added in.
It also gave me a window to do another section of the repainting the concrete walkway around the house. I chose to do the steps up to my door.
Or in deed to take out a bike to deliver my latest ebay sale to the Krnjak post office in the short 4 hour window it is open in the early morning each day. Then I had the chance to try the track that comes off the main road near Krnjak and follows the ridgeway along the top of the valley around to the woods and then back down tothe top of our road. Unsuprisingly the road is a bit steep to start with but once up high its a nice ride till you reach Slatko’s big white sheep dogs (time to get off so they recognise you as human rather than an alien intruder!)
It was a short ride but enjoyable and a nice change to the main road.
My folx have gone, Marko and Sunni have gone to Sibenik and so I am free to do what I like. A week or so ago we heard a wierd noise that sounded like some animal attacking the structure of the house. The next day I discovered a load of the polystyrene insulation and bits of wood and plaster on the walkway below an enlarged whole in the wall below the underhang of our roof. Something was trying to get in, or out! I put sealing up this route in to the roof cavity on my list of things to do.
Now I’m going back to painting the red walkway, it’s time to tackle my stone stairs.
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.
This evening Nada asked Marko if I had found a wife!! Her reasoning being that why else would I be engaged in all these tidying up and redecorating exercises!
In truth the repainting of the concrete pathway around the house has been on my “to do” list for a year or so. Similarly the attack of Health and Safety conciousness is not new, I decided it’d be prudent to paint some white stripes on the steps that go around the house after almost falling on my nose one night having tripped on one of them! The VIP arriving on Friday that has stirred me to get this and other “intended but never succeeded” projects done is my Dad. Friday I pick the old man and my brother and sister up from Ljubjana airport and they will be here for a long weekend..
Stonky, our neighbour turned up with a plastic bag full of great big fat Penny Bun mushrooms. For some reason Stonky and Nada do not eat them, they don’t eat Parasol mushrooms either!
That evening we brushed off the wild woodland residue of dust and dirt and cut away any bad bits then sliced them into slithers! This is easy with the stems but the green underside of the caps easily turns to sludge when compressed. Then the slithers were spread out of a sheet to dry. The next day we put them out in the sun. Now they are dried shrivelled and safely stored in clean jam jars for future culinary use.
We kept back a few for the next days meal and Marko turned them (and some parasols) in to giant mushroom battered fritters.
We also got a load of Black Trumpet mushrooms, also known as Dead Man’s Trumpet. These were turned into a mushroom rissotto and the rest were dried on baking trays on the wood burning oven in the apartment.
It’s mushroom season, it rained a week ago and now its warm again and so the little and not so little fungi are popping up all over the woods in our area. We have been eating Parasols, Penny Buns, and Black Trumpets (sadly no more Chanterelles or little foxes as they call them here!). Today we all went in to the woods to see if we can find the “Gypsy Cave” – again! – and when I say all , I mean all, Matchka the cat came too!
Stonky gave us new directions to find the rocks with the cave and we set off with a new confidence. Matchka was understandably rather slow coming along the road past the madly barking dogs, but to our delight she went into the opposite field and then reappeared after the dogs house. That kitty has balls!
There follows a load of photos of mushrooms that Sunni has kindly identified for me, some are not named because they are too old, rotting or the stem is not visible to be easily identified from a photo. If you want to see such sights you would need to be here at the same time each year and be lucky!
We didn’t find the cave, that search will be resumed on another day!
The first visitor we had at Barabrith was Blazh the demon cyclist and keen photographer who regularly goes off on week long rides around the Balkans, off road and on! He rode down to see us from Zagreb and I thought “I must try that sometime”! Google maps say it is only a 70km journey but the hills towards the end of the route made it feel like a good deal more than that. I guess I am not quite as cycle fit as I used to be 🙁
Here are the photos from the trip, more text to follow later.
Visitors who cycle to Barabrith from Zagreb will get my earnest respect!
We have two chimneys one from Marko and Sunni’s apartment and one that serves the dining (pool) room and my attic room. The apartments’ chimney was too short and so the smoke would sometimes blow down the chimney. The answer we surmised was to install an extension and so it was up on the steep roof again for yours truly.
The other chimney is a wreck. I can’t believe the roofers who did our attic extension last year were so unprofessional as to not mention it and to attach the new metal work to bricks that are flaking away, but hey it is Croatia!
More on this topic tomorrow night, if I dont fall off the roof that is…..!