November, the month in which…

…Steve put himself to work.  He & 3 locals did a big land clearance job for an ex-pat, which took him a few days and was very physically demanding.  The cramps and aches were decently financially rewarded tho.  Here he is on an easier job, helping friends:

Steve drilling thru the wall at Fi & Dave's to make an opening to their new 'garden'

Steve drilling thru the wall at Fi & Dave’s to make an opening to their new ‘garden’

… the days & views variously looked like this:

Ivy in Zanjice

Ivy in Zanjice

A clear blue sky over Sveti Andrija

A clear blue sky over Sveti Andrija

Rainy day at Topla

Rainy day at Topla

… we picked the last of the produce from the organic garden:

2 small pumpkins & a titchy butternut squash

2 small pumpkins & a titchy butternut squash

Rocket & sorrel leaves

Rocket & sorrel leaves

Yet more chillies!!

Yet more chillies!!

The first mandarin - not only this year but EVER

The first & only mandarin – not only this year but EVER

… we had some fun times with mates, notably: an epic evening with Fi & Dave, playing Super Scrabble until 3.00 am; our pre-Christmas curry night at Jack & Hayley’s (now quite a tradition with us!) during which we sampled some of Hayley’s yummy beetroot chocolate Brownies, as well as the usual spicy delights; a fun evening at Carrie’s with great company and enormous amounts of food & drink (the parsnip soup was a triumph) at which I was brought to my knees, literally, when I missed the bottom step in the darkness.  As with all photos on this blog, click the pic below to get it to open in a new tab in full size (particularly relevant for this one in which the scabs don’t appear until full size!)

Scabby knees

Scabby knees

… I was VERY busy!!  I flew to Scotland this month for a week’s work with Who Cares? Scotland.  For the first time ever I flew direct to the UK (Stansted) from Montenegro (Podgorica) thanks to Ryan Air’s cheap, twice weekly flights all year round.  As I flew into Stansted, Lewis Hamilton was driving the last few laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.  I wanted to avoid hearing the result as I intended to watch the race the following day and see for myself how the championship was won, but there was no avoiding the news as the TV’s blared out Hamilton’s victorious celebrations.  Hurrah!  (Thanks to Lewis’ official website for the photo below!)

Lewis Hamilton wins 2014 Driver's Championship

Lewis Hamilton wins 2014 Driver’s Championship

The work with Duncan and his organisation was as inspiring, infuriating, exhilarating & exhausting as ever!  Click here to visit their website & become a friend.  We packed a lot into our time together, including a visit to Duncan’s Mum where we tasted the delights of Haggis Lasagne and I got to sleep in the ‘Faraway Tree’ and enjoy a soak in the Best Bath Ever. The next morning on our drive from Anthea’s house to Lagganlia, we saw a red squirrel and a herd of red deer.  Altogether a very beautiful, very Scottish experience.  (Thanks to wickipedia for the photo).

We spotted a herd of red deer on our way to the Cairngorms

We spotted a herd of red deer on our way to the Cairngorms

Back at work, I ran development sessions with management teams & facilitated the organisation’s residential by day and performed Karaoke and ran the bar by night…  Remarkably, not only was Duncan still talking to me at the end of the week but he even treated me to a delicious Chinese feast and escorted me & Jess to the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh where their mate Scott was playing in a funky band called ‘The Retrophones’.  I had the full range of drinks that I yearn for in Monte: a pint of cider, followed by a Pimms, followed by Port! Saturday we went for a walk with Islay, Donald & Mila & I relished the last hours with the kids, especially Islay who is now officially my friend.  She beams her special (& rare, apparently) smiles at me and follows me around chatting.

Back in the UK I stole a few precious days to be with family & friends.  I got drunk with Nik & Mick; hung out for a bit with Lil’ & Hugo; had Sunday lunch with Mum & Dad; helped Dad with some chores; had Sunday dinner with Becky & family; was reunited with old friend John C after 10+ years and supped the best half pint of cider for years; had dinner, wine & conversation with John A (I did have a full set of John’s but John B died); had my annual service (Dr, hairdresser, optician, massage & reiki) & had an evening with my sister Chris & hubby Dave in their cosy new temporary home.  I flew back & fitted in a business lunch and coaching session before I finally arrived home! 13 appointments in 4 days!!

… I made onion marmalade.  The only thing to do when life gives you onions.  More of this in a separate post!

… I visited Trebinje in Bosnia with my friend Daca, was wowed by the old walled town, enjoyed the markets and the super cheap produce (but not the pushy street peddlars!) and bought a lovely hand-knitted hat for €7!

… I struggled through this weighty tome & made it to A Place of Greater Reality regarding my adoration of Ms Mantel.

My awe of Mantel diminishes slightly...

My awe of Mantel diminishes slightly…

I do however have increased respect for her.  This novel about the French Revolution is a triumph in so many ways – the research, the dedication, the effort!  It conveys the madness of those times so wonderfully and brings to life the world-shaping characters so brilliantly.  But for all that it is not as accessible and un-put-downable as my previous reads (Wolf Hall, Bring up the Bodies & Giving up the Ghost).  I did blanch halfway through and question my commitment to go on.  I’m glad I persisted but it bordered on a chore towards the end – until the very last section, which is gripping & moving.

… I experienced further disappointment with the reading of this book:

Over-hyped?

Over-hyped?

I had been urged to read this book by Jim, whom I’d consider a literary coach of mine.  Disappointment struck in the very first lines when I realised I had seen the film and remembered how the story was going to end.  I consoled myself with thinking that I could focus on the writing instead but frankly, found the quality lacking.  I’m sure the book has a massive impact upon reading when it’s magic has not been previously revealed – the concept is clever, compelling, disturbing…  However the writing style for me left me a little cold.  An annoying pattern is established early on of referring to an event and then going onto describe this event – it felt clumsy & childish.

… I continued to get interesting, fulfilling, well-paid work here in Montenegro.  The months ahead hold workshops to be designed and delivered and coaching programmes to be run.  The foreseeable future feels secure and financial worries are receding.  The month ahead has a fun-packed, busy, productive agenda – our first Christmas & New Year’s Eve in the UK with friends & family for 8 years!  We look forward to telling you all about it in 2015.

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Last week me, 3 friends & Daisy Marmite hiked to the magnificent fortress Tvrdava Vranovo Brdo, perched high on the cliff tops above Perast.

I knew nothing about the hike before I embarked on it.  Probably best.  If I had read the full description in the hiking guide, I may have faltered… 9 kms up to a height of 720 ms above sea level seems a lot.

Despite horrendous weather the previous day, Friday dawned dry and bright and unfolded into the perfect day for hiking – sunny but not hot, mostly clear skies with enough cloud in the distance to make the mountains look interesting & dramatic and a light mist hovering above the sea to make the Bay look magical (or rather, ‘mistical’?!).

Nov - Perast 2

The view across to Lovcen from above Perast

We had a minor false start when after walking for 5 minutes or so, Berni commented on the fact that we were not going ‘up’ and she definitely remembered the path going up quite steeply, quite quickly.  Plus there were no marks to follow and this trail is well marked.  We re-traced our steps and found a path connecting with the one we should have taken.  From that point if we couldn’t see the marks, we found our way by following the edge of the stone path that was usually visible to some degree and realising that the path was a consistent series of switchbacks.

Half way up there’s a ruined church:

Den's been framed!

Den’s been framed!

The path was moderately difficult – there were some jagged rocks and it wasn’t exactly ‘easy’ on the legs & feet (my calves ached the next day and I had a slightly bruised foot from the uneven terrain); in places the path had fallen away and we were walking very close to the edge of the cliff; and there were a few obstacles to traverse (piled up brash to make an animal barrier).  But the view was consistently stunning and improved the higher we climbed:

Climbing high – probably at about 600 m here…

Sometimes the path wound through wooded, shaded areas and it felt nice to be in dappled light and out of the sun’s glare.  Mostly though the path was very exposed – this is not a hike to do in summer with the full force of the sun beating down on you.

Over 2 hours into the hike & still no sign of the fortress – we weren’t flagging exactly, but we were beginning to wonder exactly how much longer the upward stretch was, always mindful of having to come back down.  At last the fortress came into view!

Walking along the old stone paths, with the fortress finally in sight

Walking along the old stone paths, with the fortress finally in sight

The fortress (aka Sveti Andrija) was extensive & impressive.

Sveti Andrija

Sveti Andrija

This sign, with other great hikes marked on it (including THE biggie – the Coastal Transversal (KT) that runs from the Orijen Masif all the way down to Rumija near the Albanian border and beyond) indicates height as 719 m but by the time you get into the fortress itself we’re at 743 m.

So many hikes yet to do...

So many hikes yet to do…

On reaching the summit we congratulated ourselves with a snack break.  Daisy got treats too and plenty of water.  Hayley generously shared with us chunks of cheddar cheese and Green & Black’s chocolate!  What a treat.  Suitably fuelled, we began the downward hike, but not before a triumphant group shot:

Nov - Perast 7

The fab five! From L-R: Emma, Hayley, Berni, Den & Daisy

Now we were not focused on looking up and getting a glimpse of our destination, we noticed some beautiful flora & fauna.

Shrooms!

Shrooms!

Nov - Perast 10

What a beauty!

Nov - Perast 14

An intriguing plant. Leaves like rosemary, a very pleasant & slightly citrus fragrance and showy bright blue blooms. Does anyone recognise this plant?

I personally find descent more difficult than ascent – it’s a killer on the knees and my ankles feel weaker taking the weight of my body on the downward slope…  We did manage the ascent in around 2 hours so it was slightly quicker but I’m sure this was a lot to do with our confidence in knowing the path, not getting lost and not stopping for photos as much!

As we start the descent, the clouds were building above Lovcen

As we start the descent, the clouds were building above Lovcen

Back at our starting point, 5 hours later and we were very pleased with ourselves!  Daisy was happily panting and couldn’t believe her luck at getting such an extended walk.  We enjoyed food and hot drinks at Conte, in Perast and watched the sunset.  A perfect end to a perfect day…

Bernard Sullivan’s great little book has full details of this hike, entitled “High Over Perast”…

An interesting book, with a variety of great hikes

An interesting book, with a variety of great hikes

 

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