Apologies for such a tardy review.  You may imagine that “no news is good news” and we’ve been too busy to blog… well, sort of.  Thankfully we have been busy but also pretty poorly.  First Steve (more of that later) and then me.  I’ve been in agony with my back for the last couple of weeks.  Today I just had my last treatment and now have to be ultra sensible to rehabilitate slowly, get my back and stomach muscles  strong again and stablilise the vertebrae.  Sitting in a chair at a ‘pooter to blog is the very last thing I have felt like doing.

Anyway – I’m here now so let’s get on with it….

Growing Green

As usual, we went from welcoming the sun and warm weather in June to complaining about the heat in July and seeing plants struggle in the rising temperatures.  I have been getting up early every morning (6.30 – 7 am) and watering the garden, whilst it’s still cool and before the blistering sun hits the beds.  It’s a lovely way to start the day – pottering around in the garden in the cool, enjoying the peace & quiet whilst everyone snoozes on – and sometimes if Daisy’s very lucky she’ll get an early morning walk whilst I lay the hose on the beds to give them a really good soaking.

The bean plants have been flowering like mad but apart from a handful of beans, they’re not fruiting properly.  I’m guessing it’s the same as last year – they’ll finally get cropping in September/ October.

The shaded bed has been a success, mostly.  As you can see in the photo below, plants look lush even in scorching July.  The cucumbers have been the best we’ve ever had, lettuce has grown for longer without bolting and the chards have flourished.  Sadly the rocket has been a disappointment – a combination of poor/ old seeds (getting local seeds next time!) and possibly being too damp/ shaded for them.

Aubergines & peppers have done terribly in the beds.  I actually transplanted a specimen into a pot and when I saw how it flourished, I dug up a few more and transferred them to pots.  I’m not sure if it’s the quality of the soil, or the position of the pot (part shade, part sun – at different times of the day) or the amount of water but they are SO much happier and I will be planting all my peppers, aubergines and chillies in pots next year.

Tomatoes did well in July.  We did get a few big & bouncy beef toms but then the plants faltered.  The cherry toms are the clear winners as far as tasty, reliable, regular cropping goes.

We do get some funny shapes!

Courgettes yellow & green and the mighty marrow came & went in July.  This year we have managed to keep a few plants alive and they may well crop again in August/ September.

We picked a pumpkin in July – very weedy specimen, the squashes have all done really badly this year and we need a good re-think about this veg.  Do we grow them at all and if so where?  Seeds that have sprouted from the compost heap at our house and grown their way across the garden do so much better than in our veg beds, despite the lack of water – so plenty of feed at their root and plenty of space seem to be important.

You’ll also see a few local beans in the pic below.  These were really easy to grow and I think would have cropped well if planted sooner and not treated as such an afterthought – will defo be bunging those guys in the ground next Spring and hoping for an early crop of beans, since the runners fail to materialise until the end of the summer.

Notice also the red chillies.  Since we still have bagfuls of chillies from last year’s harvests, I didn’t bother picking the chillies regularly to encourage more fruits and simply left them all on to grow red.  We’ve had a few nice ones and I feel chilli jam session coming on with all these tomatoes and chillies…

We pulled our first onions in July – here’s some red and whites drying on the raised bed wall… No buying onions now for a month or 2!

The pear tree was so weighed down with fruit on it’s little branches this year that we lost a couple of pears from the tree early…  Small but full of flavour.

The tyre wall looked amazing in mid July – brimming with life.  The colour scheme was not entirely as desired – petunias, alyssum, nicotiana and sweet peas dominated so everything was mostly white, pink or purple but the sun flowers started to ripen and wave their yellow flags and the shocking orange and yellow of the marigolds squeeze into the gaps…

Baking & Making

Nada or as we say in Monte “Nista”.  Apart from keeping the hungry hoard fed with pizza, quiche, curry, homemade stews, stuffed veg and the like I’ve had neither the time, nor inclination to make owt.

Feelings & Musings

July started with Steve being poorly.  He had an eye infection, had been lacking energy and not feeling 100% for a while.  Days turned into weeks and he got worse not better.  Clearly not ‘just a virus’ that his body would deal with then!  I phoned around and found him a doctor – highly recommended and who spoke great English.  By the time Steve went to see the lovely Zorana, he was in a right state – weak, breathless, dizzy and imagining all kinds of nasties.  He got a thorough check up from the doctor and was reassured about all his vitals – heart, lungs, blood pressure were all fine.  Turns out he had a urine infection, which left untreated had really taken hold.  A big dose of generic antibiotics didn’t do the trick so he had to provide more urine samples and swabs to the lab to identify the specific bacteria.  Once identified the treatment was straightforward – antibiotics for 7 days but no exposure to the sun and no dairy products 2 hours before or after taking the pills.  For a ‘tea with milk’ addict such as Steve this was a tall order and though he had his thobe to keep his body covered from the sun, it was too hot to be wearing clothes.

It was a scary time, seeing my main man so poorly.  Turns out he’s not Superman after all and even the Mighty Stevo, who never gets ill and never falters, is apparently not invincible.  In addition to the worry was the extra work.  Steve really couldn’t do much at all.  He would get up after another feverish night and sheets soaked in sweat, sit around for half an hour and then fall asleep again on the sofa.  It was crazy.  I took up the slack, keeping the place clean & tidy, taking care of all the garden chores, emptying the compost tea, keeping on top of the laundry and the tent hire bedding etc, etc.  Occasionally I needed his help to erect a tent and afterwards he’d be completely knackered so I tried to spare him any unnecessary exertion.  Inevitably this meant I pushed my own physical limits too far, moving mattresses on my own, carrying too many water bottles and too many bags of shopping.

Towards the end of July my back seized up.  I was in discomfort but thought I could handle it.  A friend had given me a massage as a birthday present so I gratefully went to see the therapist she has arranged for me.  It was a good massage  but myself and the therapist violently disagreed about the treatment for my lower back.  She ordered 10 days of electro-therapy and I asked her how exactly this was going to reposition the vertebrae that I could feel were now misaligned.  I knew I needed chiropractic and she wouldn’t listen nor could she explain how/ why her recommended remedy would benefit me.  I was absolutely steaming with anger when I got out of there – and despondent as it turns out that she was the Head of the Physiotherapy faculty in Herceg Novi.  If this was the best medical advice and treatment I could get then God help me!

I know my body pretty well these days and know what exercise and stretches to do to click myself back in shape.  I tried to self-treat and asked Steve to help by massaging and stretching the lower back.  At one point I was literally crying with pain and frustration as everything just became agonisingly locked solid.  I realised then this was serious and I needed professional help.  In desperation, I phoned a local friend who I knew had suffered back pain in the past.  Thankfully he was back from Belgrade and able to provide a number for a certain Doctor Delic who has given me hope and pain relief over the past 2-3 weeks, via sessions of acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation.

As if this wasn’t enough, I had to find myself a gynecologist to perform a smear test to ascertain whether or not I had contracted the bacterial infection from Steve.  Sure enough I was positive for the infection too and although I wasn’t yet showing the symptoms I had to undergo the treatment.  By now I was rattling with pills – Chinese herbal medicine prescribed by my mad witch doctor/ chiropractor, antibiotics (no dairy, no sun, no alcohol), acidophilus to boost the good bacteria in my body and as many Ibuprofen as I could get away with to give me some relief from the pain.

So that takes us to the end of July and I won’t spoil August’s story.  There was a lot going on beside all the pain and discomfort though and all of it good.  July turned into a cracking month for guests – friendly familiar faces of ‘regulars’ (people that come back every year for 3 years are defo regulars, right?) and lots of new folk too.  Many people stayed longer and ate with us more often which was good news and we also got plenty of drop-in business and bookings on the fly (“We’re coming tomorrow” etc.)  Our guests were wonderful and though many of them saw us hardly at our best, it didn’t seem to matter – the campsite had its own special rhythm and people loved it whether we were ‘hosting’ or not.

Despite Steve’s illness he managed to drive all the way to Podgorica in July and present all the bits of paper and documentation to the Ministry of Tourism to apply for our licence.  This time he managed to not leave all the vital paperwork in a shop – yes, that was a story I forgot to relay in June.

Small but important diversion….

At the end of June, Steve and Bobo drove 2.5 hours to the capital and obtained the final forms we needed from the Ministry.  They popped into a T-Com shop to pay our phone bills and Steve left the folder with all our precious paperwork, accrued at some cost in time & money over many months & years, on top of one of the machines there.  They then drove all the way back from Podgorica and only then did they fail to find the precious folder and realised their error!  There was a hour or 2 where I cursed my husband for ageing me prematurely as I gnawed my nails and felt my hairs turn grey, waiting for news that the damn folder had been recovered.  Bobo phoned a friend of a friend and asked him to go to the T-Com shop (which couldn’t be contacted directly because, get this, they don’t have a phone!!!!) and check for the folder.  The guy went (allegedly) and reported back – “No folder” Aaargh!!!  In the end Steve, clutching at straws that the guy had gone to the wrong T-Com shop or in fact had not gone at all but had just said so to get Bobo off his back, phoned our landlord who happens to work close to the Ministry.  Valdek went, found the folder exactly where Steve had said it would be, met up with a wife of another friend of Bobo’s who was coming to Herceg Novi that evening and handed over the documents.  They were finally back in Bobo’s hands at 11.00pm that night!

Back on track…

Having submitted all the paperwork we then awaited an inspection from the Ministry.  We were dreading it but it went more than smoothly, thanks to Steve’s earnest charms and Chedo’s wonderful translation.  The Inspector came and ticked off all the requirements: yes, we have a ‘Reception’ (a desk & chair in the basement and the ‘Mind Your Head’ sign is turned around & now has ‘Reception’ on it’s reverse); yes we have a first aid point; yes we have a compost toilet; yes we have fire precautions (bucket of sand, source of water close to the fire pit).  Ah, the fire pit.  No apparently a BBQ won’t do, it has to be built of stone or bricks into the ground. With some blustering from Steve about his builder letting him down, the Inspector ticked the form to say there was a fire pit and indicated to Steve that he better bloody well get one built now or else we’ll all be in trouble!

A week later and we got the call to say our ‘resenje’ was ready – we now have a piece of paper that legitimises us as the first, official, wild camping campsite in Montenegro!!!  Well, for a year at least – next summer we have to go through it all again!  Now all that remains is for Herceg Novi council to assess us to decide how much money we will make and therefore how much to tax us and then to issue a licence from the Opstina of Herceg Novi.  So, it ain’t over yet and maybe the worst is yet to come…

So, to summarise July: painful, back-breaking, hard work, scary at times, busy, heartening & hopeful and not to be forgotten in a hurry.

Reading

One of our guests left me both Hilary Mantel’s masterpieces.  July was ‘Wolf Hall’.

I was very dubious to be honest.  Historical novels are not my thing.  Isn’t this a story that everyone knows anyway?  Two friends had read the books, both of whose opinion I respect greatly yet one had said “Brilliant, unmissable” and the other “I wasn’t that impressed”. It’s a big blummin book to be uncertain about!  Was I really up for it?

I was hooked from the start – Thomas Cromwell’s head being pounded into the pavement by his father and that was it.  This book is less about the story (although that is wonderfully conjured and revitalised) and more about the writing.  Beautifully crafted sentences.  A shower of superlatives just won’t do because it will be doing Ms Mantel an injustice – she that is so tight, so focused and yet so cleverly creative within the small space of story…  Just read it.  The end.

Work

Unsurprisingly we didn’t get too much work done in July.  The lovely Amy (from Barbados no less, but you’d never guess …) came at the beginning of July and helped for a week: cleaning, clearing terrace walls, picking up stones from the tent pitches – nothing glamorous but all important.  Steve was on the decline then so just having another soul around to help wash up or shift mattresses was handy.


Play

Not much time for playing this month.  I escaped for a day to visit my friend Mary at the sumptuous villa she had designed and project managed:

We had a coffee together at the lovely little boutique hotel in Dobrota, Forza Mare, where I had my first ever decaf coffee at a cafe in Montenegro (progress indeed!) and we shared an outrageous cake, oozing with cream and strawberries.  Then onto Porto Montenegro in Tivat for a late lunch courtesy of Danny where I finally got to sample the delights of Mitsu, the fantastic Japanese Restaurant.

I turned 43 on 19th July and this was the highlight of my month in terms of relaxing & having fun.  Dear friends from the Monty B had invited me for a day out on the boat on my birthday and it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.  I felt a bit bad at leaving a poorly Steve behind but we had some lovely guests, including our regular Dutch family, who I hoped would make sure he didn’t do too much in my absence.  The day started with a trip into town to pay bills, sort out paperwork with our accountant and other boring stuff but with duties discharged I was free to have some fun.  The first adventure was the bus ride to Kotor to meet the Monty B (I was leaving the van in town as we would end up in Herceg Novi) – can you believe I’d never taken a bus in Monte before!  What a delight!  Cheap, comfy, air-conditioned-ish.  I thoroughly enjoyed being driven round the bay and the gorgeous scenery en route that never fails to make me smile and wonder, was like a present all of itself.  Got to the marina and was greeted by the sailing yacht Monty B festooned in my honour, silly dogs an’ all!

I had a truly wonderful day – relaxed motoring round the bay with dear friends and Pimms with ice at a naughty early hour.  We were joined by Fiona and Jenny for a late lunch, beautifully prepared by Katie.  Hugs from girlfriends, homemade cards and presents – all so touching and wonderful.  I felt really spoilt.

Dave picked us all up on the RIB and drove Katie & I back to Herceg Novi, leaving Tim and the dogs to mind the boat and listen to the cricket.  Katie was not going to desert me on my birthday night, even though the ‘party’ had become simply a small BBQ as most friends couldn’t make it.  It was a perfect night – close friends (Katie, Nik, Hayley & Jack) + old friends (Belinda, a friend from Othona was renting our house for the week so she joined us) + lovely guests: Marieke, Jonathon and the kids who did this:

and this:

and Mare & Meyn made pictures for me from leaves and paint, which are still stuck to the cupboards in the kitchen because they make me smile every day.  Petra & Axel were new guests who’d become friends, who bought me a gorgeous pair of green earrings.

The food was delicious, the rum & cokes & fizzy wine flowed and the evening unfolded wonderfully with chilled tunes and star gazing.

Nature Watch

July has been hot.  Hot & hotter.

We’ve been invaded by crickets – not quite the plague of a couple of years ago but enough to be annoying.  Marieke & Jonathon even bought me a plastic one as a joke birthday present but Daisy loves it more than me…

The upside of lying about a lot (because between us that’s basically what we’ve done in between bursts of activity servicing our guests) is that you get to see a lot of cool stuff happening around you.  Steve and I saw a lizard dart out across the rug in the outdoor living room and catch and eat a cricket in front of our eyes.  It was amazing!

Steve and our regular guest Jim also got to see our resident Eurasian Eagle owl stretch its wings and show itself to the binos.  Next time it’ll be my turn…

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