The month in which…

…Easter came early and we shared it with good friends.  Despite a heavy night’s eating, drinking and deep discussion on Good Friday, Dave was chipper enough on Saturday morning to make hot cross buns:

April - Dave's buns

Dave – baker extraordinaire!

Steve did the crosses:

April - crosses on buns

Cross-eyed Steve?

And they turned out great!

April - hot cross buns

The buns getting a brush over with honey before cooling

Steve & I made a compost heap for Fi.  She’s in Malawi but it’s her home-coming pressie… We’ve been talking about making one for yonks and finally got around to it.

April - Zanjice compost heap

Steve putting the first t-bag into the 2-chamber compost heap made from reclaimed pallets

Meanwhile Caroline nursed her hangover (she did take photos for us tho!):

April - Caroline

Looking rough, feeling rough…

Saturday night we feasted at Caroline’s with Jem & Kit, the couple who’d come to dog sit for Dave whilst he visits his wife in Malawi.  Another great evening – slightly less booze this time tho’.

We returned home on Easter Sunday, via a disused farm full of well rotted, if somewhat dry & compacted, manure which we shovelled into the van.  Here’s Steve giving it a good soaking in our newly repaired compost heap at the campsite a week later:

April - manure

Good repair job on the compost heap Stevo!

… We took a trip to Belgrade with friends Katie & Tim:

April - Belgrade

First beer & loza of the day – around 11.00am at a cafe on the edge of Kalemegdan Park

April - view of Belgrade from park

View from Kalemegdan of the confluence of the Sava and the Danube

April - Tim & tank

Tim was very excited by all the tanks!

Steve & Tim went off to the military museum whilst Katie & I went shopping and then sat in the sunshine on the main ‘walking street’ in Belgrade drinking, chatting & people-watching.  Later we met up with our friends from the Boka, Chedo & Alena (& little Oggy, coming up 2 years old!) in the Miner’s Bar:

April - Miners bar

Real beer on tap, pinball and table football – we could have stayed there all night.

Steve got nicely squiffy on his Adnam’s Tally Ho! and then we were joined by Paul who took us to a great vegetarian restaurant, Radost.  No signs, no lights (until you were well inside) – you’d never know it was there!  But what a great place (& this from avid carnivores!).  The food was inventive & tasty, the service was warm & friendly, the atmosphere was cosy & intimate…  The house red they recommended – a 2012 Prokupac – was exceptional!  We were joined by Paul’s girlfriend and had a very pleasant evening, eating, drinking & chatting until we were too full & too sleepy to continue.  We headed back to the apartment we’d rented in central Belgrade for a good night’s sleep.

The next morning we took a cab to Novi Sad, just over an hour’s drive north of Belgrade in the Vojvodina region, where our friends Pete & Masa were getting married.

April - marriage

Beautiful bride & handsome groom

We had a few hours to kill in between the marriage ceremony and the wedding party so a few of us went off to a fab restaurant, Aqua Doria, for a few eats & drinks.

April - riverside restaurant

A great riverside restaurant under the fortress where the famous Exit festival is held every year

Back to the wedding party venue for ceremony number 2:

April - bride, groom & dog

Bride, groom & Waldo – a Montenegrin stray taken in by Pete many years ago who made the long journey to Serbia to be the ‘Best Dog’

April - gilrs & Dave

We’re all togged up – except Dave…

April - Steve

Steve scrubs up nicely!

April - first dance

First dance for the newly weds

… We celebrated Orthodox Easter with the locals!  Pete & Masa got married on Veliki Petak (our equivalent of Good Friday) and the next morning Steve & I travelled back to Belgrade to be with our local friends for Easter.

We shared a cab with Dave & Danny & spent a fab afternoon in Belgrade, whiling away the hours before their flight & our meeting up with Toma & family, first at an Italian restaurant and then onto a cool bar where we played Dice:

April - Belgrade dice game

Dice rolling in Belgrade

We headed over to Ada Ciganlija to meet up with Toma and spent a wonderful evening with him, Ankica and her son Kristjan – a lovely young man who spoke better English than our Serbian!  Yes, you guessed it – more food & drink… this time delicious Proja made by Ankica, salads and sliced meats and homemade loza.  Us girls beat the boys at Tac Tic.

The next morning we enjoyed a traditional Easter Sunday:

April - Easter eggs

Painted eggs

April - egg fight

Egg fights with Kristjan

April - Toma & Ankica

Us & our friends – photo taken by Ankica’s Aunt who joined us with her daughter for the full Easter feast

Back to Monte and to reality… and really hard work!

… We began the big project of creating a level (ish) patio for our easting area.  See the full story here. This is the progress by the end of the month:

April - patio last

Patio – end of April. Half way there…

During the patio project we emptied 3 of the 5 baths we use for our DIY greywater removal system, so that’s most of a big job jobbed too!  Daisy & I frightened a big green lizard that was basking in the sun next to one of the empty baths.  He fell in & couldn’t get out because the sides were too slippery!

April - lizard

Green lizard in the bath!

… I worked hard in the garden & grounds: planting up the tyre wall;

April - tyre wall 2

Tyre wall – end of April

tidying the herb garden and sowing new seeds;

April - herb garden

Herb garden – weeded, top dressed with lovely compost & manure & seeds sown.

planting out all my veggies;

April - lettuces2

Lettuces coming along nicely, with radishes, rocket,chard, pumpkin & courgettes

April - beans & peas

Runner bean shoot in the foreground and broad beans & peas

April - toms

Tomatoes – click & look close & you can see a fruit already!

tidying the orchard

April - strimming1

Before strimming…

April - strimming2


April - strimming 3


… We enjoyed the first produce from the garden:

April - chard

Chard – ordinary & Ruby chard too

April - radishes


April - herbs

Chives, parsley & mint…

April - potato & sorrel soup


We used the sorrel thinly shredded in salads to give a nice sharp kick but there’s kilos of it so I made a potato & sorrel soup and put lots in the freezer.

… I experimented with quinoa and made a great gluten-free quiche with it rather than pastry.  It was YUM.

… I read a few books!

George RR Martin book

The 3rd book in the Game of Thrones series

My dear friend keeps sending me these massive tomes, through the post. It must cost her a fortune!  I am so grateful tho.  I really do enjoy these books, tho I’m constantly surprised by that fact!!  I wouldn’t say this is a genre I am usually drawn to but these are rocking great yarns – packed with full & feisty characters, intrigue, love, lust, betrayal, magic and blood, guts & gore.  I’m not selling them well – reading back this description I wouldn’t be attracted to this book!  But it is SO engaging.  I absolutely lose myself in the writing.  The way Martin picks up the story from the last is brilliant.  There are so many characters and ‘Houses’ and plots & sub plots I fear I won’t remember them all but they have left a deeper mark than I realise and I’m fast back into the fray.  I particularly love the female characters who are full-on and brilliantly crafted – I love the fact they are not ‘predictable’ and are full of surprises.

From fantasy to reality:

Sandra Gregory book

What happens when you try to smuggle drugs…

Not a book particularly notable for anything other than the real story of a young woman being convicted for drug smuggling and spending time in Thai and then English jails.  I won’t spoil the story by telling you where the real horrors were found…

And then back to my old friend, Murakami:

Dance bookWonderful, engaging, strange – as ever.  This book felt very ‘grown up’ compared to some of the others I’ve read of his.  Not to say they were childish exactly – simpler maybe and with young people being the main characters… hard to explain but our hero this time seems older & wiser and is a great vehicle for some cool adult views on life, love, death which I really appreciated.  I just embrace each Murakami book as if it’s an old friend – confident that I love to hear what he’s saying and will savour each moment.  I think weirdly what I especially like is the loose threads, the unresolved stuff, the things that kinda work but don’t really when you really puzzle over them and somehow that’s all life’s real vibes bouncing back at me through Haurki’s fantastic and fantastical writing…

If you enjoy reading these reviews and want to share your love of literature with others, come & join us here.

… It was a pink & purple kinda month!  The wisteria in HN at this time of year is stunning – the scent, the shade, the form, all exquisite. Sadly I DON’T have a photo of that!  But here’s some I took on the campsite:

April - wild thyme

Wild thyme

April - petunia


April - irises


April - alyssum


… We hosted a Sunday lunch for 13 adults & 6 kids.  We move up to the campsite imminently so end of April was our last chance for a get together with friends at the Topla house for a while.  – roast ham and all the trimmings and our friends brought desserts galore!  It was a glorious sunny day & we kept the kids entertained by making paper airplanes which they flew off the top balcony.

April - sunny sunday 3

Wine & smiles

April - sunny sunday 1

Nathan looks far more sober here than he actually was!

April sunny sunday 2

Lara & Amber played so well together

… Daisy got attacked by another dog.  It’s usually tethered up guarding goats near to the campsite but off the leash with it’s owner when Daisy & I went walking.  I always feel sorry for the poor hound when Daisy trots by, all carefree & happy, peeing on it’s territory and stealing away any of its bones she can find.  This was revenge!  And territory protection…

It was scary as hell watching ‘Lindi’ the mad bitch chase & bite Daisy.  The goat herder was kicking his own dog to get her off & screaming at her.  The really sad thing was that Daisy usually  with the bitch’s puppy, now a grown-up 2 year old.  He follows us on walks and is really affectionate & friendly.  But because Mum was attacking Daisy, he adopted to pack mentality & joined in too.

Daisy was proper poorly for a day or 2 but the antibiotic injections from the vet every 2 days have worked a treat and she’s back to normal.  The infected wound on her belly is healing well and it looks like she’ll avoid stitches too.  Her mate Aoife came to stay for a few days whilst her owners were gallivanting in Croatia, so that cheered her up.

April - Aoife

The lovely Aoife

… Bookings continued – a good few folk wanting to go camping in Montenegro & hire our tents!  With less than a week to go before we move onto site & begin the big job of opening the campsite for the season, we have SO much to do.  A patio to finish, tables to build, a kitchen to refit not to mention all the usual cleaning, furniture moving, gazebo erecting etc that goes on.  Gulp. Wish us luck people!!

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A couple of weeks ago we began the big task of laying a new patio area for our eating area at the campsite.  Steve began by digging out the first area and Nik helped to move the project along when he joined us for a day of sunshine, digging and shuttering.

April - patio 1

Steve putting a drainage pipe in place

Together the boys made shuttering for the first new slab and prepared mreza (steel mesh) to go into the foundations:

April - nik sawing shuttering

Nik sawing wood for shuttering

April - patio 2

Shuttering done and mreza almost in place

The next fine day it was up to Steve and I to get mixing cement and fill the shuttered area with concrete:

April - Den mixing cement

Shovelling sand first from the pile, then into the mixer and adding cement & water to get a good mix

April - patio 5

The mixer and sand were up by the workshop so each barrow of wet concrete was tipped off the edge into another barrow

April - patio 3

Pouring cement for the first slab

April - patio 4

Tamping! Trying to get a nice even, smooth finish…

April - patio 6

First slab complete! Took the 2 of us a whole day…

April - patio 7

Getting to work with a pick axe digging out the next area

I don’t know what was harder – the physical work of digging out or the brain work of doing the sums to get the levels right.  We’ve opted for a 1 in 20 gradient on the patio to: 1) ensure the water drains off; 2) avoid building a huge great retaining wall (which would have been necessary if we carried ‘ground level’ straight across from the highest point of the slope to the lowest) and 3) to save on materials – less sand & cement needed.  We’re just hoping that the slope doesn’t feel too extreme – we’re now wishing we’d gone for a 1 in 40 gradient instead but it’s too late now.  We’re committed.

April - patio 8

Getting the shuttering in place

April - patio 9

Second area dug and shuttered

Thankfully the Denovici lads came for a day to help us finish slab number 2.  We were amazed at what we achieved with 5 extra pairs of hands.

We put a 5cm layer of gravel into the area before getting the mreza into place.  The gravel came from the grey water baths.  We have to empty them before the start of each season anyway and rather than spend time sifting & cleaning the gravel as we normally do, we decided to use the gravel as hardcore in the base of the slab and get fresh gravel for the baths just before we open for the season.  It felt good to get started on the task of emptying the greywater baths and kill 2 birds with one stone, so to speak.  It’s a task I always dread but with Blazo helping we had 2 baths emptied in no time.

Meanwhile, Nikola & Aleksa raked the mounds of earth we’d generated from digging out into a flat area and built a retaining wall out of nearby rocks – another tent pitch in the making!

April - new tent pitch

He’s so hunky! Nikola carrying rocks for the wall of the new tent pitch

April - Blazo cutting mreza

Blazo cuts the mreza to fit

April - patio 10

The gravel is in. Steve, Aleksa & Blazo moving the mreza into place so Steve could mark the points where the mreza would tie into the first concrete slab

April - patio 11

Steve drills holes for the mreza

April - patio 12

All the gang help to get the mreza in place

April - patio 15

Dado shovels sand from the sand pile into the barrow…

April - patio 14

Blazo, Vedran, Aleksa & Dado take turns shovelling sand & cement into the mixer, getting the mix right and barrowing the wet concrete to the terrace and tipping into the barrow below

April - patio 13

Steve & Nikola were tipping the concrete in, working it in and removing air, tamping & levelling

April - patio 16

The gang and the finished slab! All done in a few hours and even time for a game of Boules at the end of the day

Steve & I got to work on digging out the next section and made pretty good progress until we hit a big tree stump…

April - stump 1


I cleared around it’s roots as best I could, then Steve hacked off all the roots he could find with an axe, after removing a huge rock that the roots had grown around and finally finished it off (we hope!) with the chainsaw

April - stump 2

Chainsaw action!

This is our progress so far for the 3rd slab: dug out, tree stump done, shuttering in and most of the gravel in.

April - patio 17

Steve levelling out the gravel in the area for the 3rd slab

To be continued…

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