Snow is two things, a sign that it is cold and also rather pretty to behold. Behind the door to the right of me in the above photo are boxes and boxes of my stuff still unpacked since I moved over here in April. My room is nearing completion and then all these boxes will be moved upstairs to safety and warmth. In the meantime I’m living in a small fraction of my wardrobe and by chance that includes the above jumper, my favourite and dearly prized ‘pully’. Many moons ago I worked for Alternative Tentacles, Jello Biafra’s record label in their London office. That was where I became friends with office manager Bridget. Besides sheltering me from the bosses wrath when I fucked up, teaching me how to wrap boxes properly and giving me an excuse to take the company car to gigs outside of London I couldn’t have otherwise easily got to.. …… she also knitted me this incredible jumper. A friend indeed! It makes me feel very sad and unworthy that I have failed to keep in touch with her over the last decade. I bought her a compilation of the Farside cartoons that I remember she never failed to find most amusing, even the ones I didn’t “get”. It sat on my shelves for years as I kept putting off making a visit to Mile End where Bridget lives, just down the road from where Emma was killed but that’s another story and no excuse not to visit her. I have promised myself that I will make amends next time I am back in the U.K.
i tried knitting once and failed miserably but it made me even more aware of what a fine job my Ruts jumper is. The Ruts endure in my life like a teenage best friend who becomes a cop. I still love them for what they were rather than what they became. I saw the Ruts DC play a couple of years ago and about 25 years after I should have seen them play at a festival in Nuneaton that got cancelled at the last minute. I wish I hadn’t. It was a sad affair and ruined my dreams of a gig I never saw and never will. Still if I put The Crack on my turntable, or more likely when it comes up on my iTunes, all is forgiven, my foot taps, my fists clench and I ‘ll try and sing along once more, for the zillionth time! Look carefully at the photo and you will see my Ruts road sign. That was swiped from roadworks in Leicester back in the early 1980,s and redesigned. It has followed me around ever since, Swansea, Hackney squats, tower blocks and now Donji Budaćki. I can’t decide wether or not to display it outside as a roadsign guaranteed to confuse the locals or in my future room but it will stay with me like the band till my end.
My Ruts jumper used to only come out on special occasions but at the moment it is the only warm “woolly” I have not packed away protecting my mugs (that is another story). So like the snow my jumper is two things, an indicator that it’s cold outside and a creation that’s rather wonderful to look at.
For the last two days Marko and I have braved the wind and the rain on top of the gazebo. All I’m the cause of getting the roof shingles done before winter descends and screws up its chipboard roof. Our progress was pleasingly swift by our own measure given that we are total novices at shingle installation. By nightfall last night we had three of the four sides completed with the hope of finishing the last today in our hearts.
I reluctantly gave in to a call of nature at about 1 am this morning, threw on a shirt and trousers and ventured out into the unheated wooden house’s loo. Stepping through my door I thought the moon must be out in force but looking up realised this was not the case. Looking down revealed a thin blanketof snow vaguely illuminating Barabrith, oh well!
This morning the brave moped riding postie got me out of bed with a bill from the electricity company and this months London Review of Books which a dear comrade subscribed me to for my first year away from London. Then ignoring my supposed duty to shovel snow – before breakfast? I don’t think so! – I took photos of the first snow of the winter and our gazebo neatly covered in white. No gazebo work today.!
The sun came out today making the outdoor painting business a lot easier! There I was finishing off the intricate and imaginative colour scheme for the wooden house doors when I heard our “door bells” ring! The door bells are in fact the four legged barking creatures that reside at our neighbours opposite. Anything, and I mean anything, that dares pass by between our two houses will be treated to voracious yapping and barking. This is a bit of a pain and also rather useful when it comes to knowing that the postie or bin men has arrived. So the dogs let me know there was someone i.t.a. and I poked my head around the corner to see if it was for us or Stonky and Nada, our neighbours. Three guys were getting out of an unmarked white car stopped in the middle of the road – which to be honest is a single lane road – and looking in my direction. Being of sound mind and with a clear conscience I immediately thought “cops” 🙁 the one with the clipboard called something to me and I thought ok better find Sunni! Sunni didn’t respond to my calls so I headed away from the ‘cops” very aware that they wanted to talk to me and strangely aware that I was wearing a black and red combination coming out of a black and red painted house! Oh how the mind races without much sense when confronted by “cops”. Sunni eventually appeared and asked me who the guys were! Like I knew! She bravely approached them with a “Dobar dan” and it turned out they were from the HEP – the electricity board. 🙂 I then recalled that the Solar panel guy had warned us that we might get an inspection from HEP but it “wasn’t very likely”, ha! Clipboard guy spoke good English and introduced himself by saying “you must be Jonathan” which did make me think they might be cops in HEP disguise!
After a brief inspection we were informed that we need a new junction box accessible to the HEP at all times. The box is too big to fit next to the fuse box so there began a bit of a debate as to where it could go. To be fair “clipboard” guy was pretty friendly, mostly spoke in English and was genuinely keen to install the junction box somewhere where it would not “spoil the beautiful look of this house” – I was beginning to positively take to the guy! It was decided that the box could go on the west facing wall and I can build a wooden box around it as long as it is not locked. The idea of placing the box on our wooden electricity pylon was dropped when one of the guys leaned on it and it moved alarmingly. We will have to arrange for the box to be connected to our meter and solar system but otherwise it all seemed simple and sorted. Nice to be involved in the decision making process for a change I thought.
Later it turned out that clipboard guy had not used English during the bit where he explained we would have to pay 2000kn (about £240) for this service! Oh well at least they weren’t cops!
Back on the sofa tonight I finished sewing up my black “hamburg antifa” trousers whilst wearing my red “zagreb flea market” trousers. A colour theme is emerging!
The gutters are going up and around the gazebo, almost as slowly as the Croatian post arrives here, but it’s happening at last.
Talking of not working properly. We got a letter from HEP the Croatian Electricity Board on Thursday. It came from Karlovac, 17 km down the road and took 10 days to get to us!! It informed us we had 15 days to submit some documents about our solar panels so rather than risk posting them back and missing the deadline we took the documents in on Friday morning.
This bit of land is part of the old corn field that we have reclaimed. You can see some of the new grass that I planted in hope that it will help keep the brambles and weeds at bay. The small trees in the foreground are fruit trees I moved to this maybe future orchard. the saplings by Sunni are fruit bushes we bought from nursery.
Nothing makes Sunni smile more that coming back with a bag full of foraged food from the woods around the house (except maybe when Ena does her crazy curly jumping tricks in excitement at Sunni’s return from somewhere!)
Anyway tis mushroom season. We have loads of inedible ones growing in our grass. Luckily Sunni knows which ones in the forest are edible and so collected two loads like this lot in the last week! Parasol mushrooms I believe they are called. We just fried thump and then did a few in batter. Apparently its not good to reheat them once cooked so we had cold mushrooms on toast for breakfast the next day too. Life can be good, sometimes.
To work on the wood house appealed to me from the first moment I saw it. I can understand and even contemplate building things from wood. The concrete and metal structure that makes up the main house is rather alien to me. Last September Vanja and I made an abortive attempt to paint the worn patches but rain soon stopped that. I have made it my mission to protect the wood house before this years winter strikes. I have been lucky with the late warm weather, today was blue skies and sun, in mid November!! but we all know… winter is coming!
Anyway below are some images from this last week of my mission’s progress. I am now working on the outer wall that is under the “balcony” roof and so potentially I can continue even in the rain but its much quicker and more enjoyable to do such work bathed in the warmth of the sun.
It was a couple of months ago that Marko, and I worked under the direction of Jacz and with the help of Nils to build the gazebo. The next step I was told was the guttering -before the roof! – and yet there the project stalled till this week when we drove out to the guttering specialist shop in Jastrebarsko and spent about £200 on gutters, down pipes, supports, corners and metal glue. The 6m pieces of gutter were sawn in half spoke as to fit in our car and now we have reconnected them to the correct 5.35m lengths ready to hang. Here is Marko hard at work joining two bits of 3m guttering together.
Talking of tools, one of my longest held personal goals is to have a space for organising my tools so that finding a certain size spanner, screw or nail no longer involves rummaging in an overcrowded tool box or “box of bits n pieces”. I am painfully aware that this sounds very “middle aged man in garden shed” but I have desired such efficiency and organisation for my tools since I first bought a tool box and started collecting a useful DIY kit in my late teenage years. So no apologies for the following pictures of the early stages of my “tool room” and expect more as it develops.
Progress on my future lair has been rapid of late due to the involvement of professional electricians and plumbers. The plumbers sorted out the piping but can’t install the utilities until the floor is finished. The builders promise to be back tomorrow – a Saturday!- to get on with the floor. The results of the electricians efforts are already easy to see especially at night.