Apologies for the shockingly late posting of September news and welcome to the ‘new’ blog – in a new place and with new features, like captions on the photos and photo zoom.
We’d tried sowing seeds at this time of year before, hoping that we’d fit in another crop of lettuce or spinach before the weather turned bad, but on balance the disadvantages outweigh the potential benefits. The weather is unpredictable at this time of year – it might be glorious for weeks hence, but it might turn cold or more likely rain in biblical proportions – so successful cropping is not guaranteed and precious seed is wasted; if the weather IS glorious, the garden will need regular watering – schlepping up to the campsite on a regular basis just to water a few plants costs time & money; and lastly, continued planting delays the opportunity to dig over the beds properly, ‘rest’ them and pile on extra organic matter to re-nourish. So, September was a month of winding down and enjoying the last of the fresh produce.
This was the month the runner beans got going:
The peppers in pots were doing great and we harvested some fair-sized peppers, both bell-shaped and long and thin (local style)
The tomato plants continued to crop well. The stakes we used just weren’t tall enough to accommodate their height so they started to flop over but at least this made the fruit easier to pick!
Our fabulous volunteers this month, Gili and Katrina, did a number on the garden mid September pulling up all the weeds and dead/ dying plants and pulled the few, underwhelming beetroots.
We picked figs when we could get to them before the birds and the edible dormice and we picked fruit from our Cornus Mas (Cornelian Cherry or Dogwood). We intended to make jam but the pickings were too slim for the effort.
Herbs continued to flourish in September – plenty of basil to accompany the tomatoes.
September was the best month yet for the tyre wall with everything (including late comers like the self-seeded cosmos and nicotiana) flowering their heads off.
Baking & Making
My tuna risotto proved popular this month.
As did the homemade burgers (secret ingredient a little bit of creamed horseradish…)
We had a fabulous pancake evening courtesy of Martijn, a Dutch guest who quickly became part of the gang. He cooked us pancakes to order (in his own special frying pan!) with a range of fabulous fillings including beetroot & apple; mushroom, cheese & ham; blue cheese and apple.
Feelings & Musings
September was a fabulous month for us and the business. Our dear friend Annie arrived (drunk as a lord of course!) and stayed for 2 weeks. Every morning she’d get up (eventually!) and do a number on the campsite building, mopping and polishing, and the rest of the day she would lie in the sun (or in the hammock when it got too hot or she needed a post-lunch snooze).
Not only did we have an easier time because she was helping with the daily chores but her being there gave us permission to relax too. We had some lovely guests in September, not least Ian & Alix who came back and this time with baby Daphne…
Despite being reasonably ‘busy’ for the end of the season it was never frantic and there were quite a few days when me, Steve & Annie lay side by side in the sun all day reading books & doing crosswords.
The guests that came mostly hired our tents and ate with us every evening so revenue was good for this time of year. Martijn, a cameraman from Amsterdam, was one such guest who drove his battered old camper van from Albania to halfway up the hill and walked the rest of the way when ‘Bobby’ refused to go any further. He came looking for a quiet place to finish writing a film script and soon made himself at home. We helped him fix up his van a bit and he offered to make a film for us.
He ‘interviewed’ us about our clothing optional approach and added footage of natural wonders and people on the campsite. You can see the video here. It was an interesting process and speaking personally it made me even prouder of the special atmosphere we have managed to create here.
We were both feeling fit & well and the end was in sight – we’d made it through another season with a good vibe, a guest book full of amazing comments and very little drama. And then the Inspector phoned and wanted to see our licence…
Everyone we spoke to in town was full of tales of woe about the tourist Inspectors making life hell for the businesses in Herceg Novi and elsewhere. Ridiculous fines for the smallest discrepancies (“I’m sorry Inspector, I didn’t realise I had to have a label on my soap dispenser saying ‘Soap’!”). Surely the Inspector would find a million things adrift, even though we thought we were compliant. Well, it was a bit of an anticlimax in the end as she met Steve in a cafe in town, not even on the campsite and appeared delighted with the paperwork we presented (although we are not entirely sure it constitutes a ‘licence’ as such) and all was good.
News came from the landlord that our house in Topla was finally being connected to the mains sewerage. The work would start on September 17th and after that we would probably lose vehicle access for a days/ weeks as they dug up the road. This forced our hand on when to close the campsite since we had so much stuff to transfer from the campsite to store at the house for the winter, that it would be bonkers to keep open any longer than 16th September, especially since we had Gili & Katrina there to help carry & unpack. The result of this decision was that we didn’t drag the season out, waiting for possible drop-ins. Just as the novelty was starting the wear off and we longed for a house with windows to protect us from the chilly evenings, we moved out.
Gili & Katrina were a Godsend and made the transition from the campsite back to house so much easier. They & Steve loaded stuff into the van and out again the other end whilst I packed stuff away in the basement and lockable cupboards on the campsite. I would have struggled to have lifted the heavy items like the sofa into the basement so it was great for me & my back that Gili & Katrina could help take the strain. Monday 16th September was a long day but at the end of it we’d waved goodbye to friends who’d stayed the weekend, our last guest of the season had taken the bus to his onward destination, the place was completely packed away and everything unloaded the other end. We even managed to get most of the stuff in the right place at the house (if not totally unpacked) before collapsing in a heap with a burger from the bus station and a bottle of wine.
We were sad to wave goodbye to Gili & Katrina who had been amazing people to finish our season with but we were glad to finally be alone. We hid for a week – barely leaving the house & just enjoying being on our own. We spent a lot of time slobbing out together, luxuriating in not having to do anything much and enjoying all the comforts of our lovely home: watching TV, making toast & chips (no toaster/ deep fat fryer on the campsite!) and lounging on sofas in the evening in a warm house. We felt very lucky and very happy, if a little knackered as the months of being continually on the go finally caught up with us.
The rest of September we spent socialising – keen to catch up with people we hadn’t seen for yonks. Now we’d had some time to wind down from ‘host mode’ we were ready to ‘do’ people again! So, overall, September felt really, really good – the right balance of achieving stuff, hosting a great experience for people, hanging out with dear friends and relaxing on our own… As I cast my mind back to think about it, I’m still smiling.
The overall feeling is of being extremely lucky – privileged to meet new, special guests and welcome back wonderful old ones; blessed with amazing friends with whom we have incredible experiences that even in our wildest dreams we wouldn’t have imagined for ourselves. We do frequently look at each other & say: “How the heck did we end up here, doing this? Aren’t we lucky, lucky b@*st*&ds!”.
Suzanne Joinson’s book, a birthday gift from a dear friend, was my book of choice this month.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this book. I enjoyed it but the pleasure was slow & creeping. It didn’t ignite a passionate response or a unequivocal desire to tell folk to ‘rush out & read it’. It was – well – odd… There was a strangeness about the stories (3 ladies on a religious mission in the 1920′s, with a sideline of writing a ladies cycling guide alongside a present day theme of a travel-weary, disillusioned lover gifted a strange bequeath & her encounter with a bird-drawing illegal immigrant) and the places (in deepest Turkestan) & names (like: Tayleb, Lolo, Ai-Lein, Mr Steyning). And the really odd thing was the primness of the language and muted expression of incredible experiences that a 1920′s ‘Lady’ relayed, bumping up against modern day language & norms.
I think the slight discomfort comes from it feeling like a less than credible tale, not because it’s poorly told but because it’s a narrative of bizarre arrays of incredible circumstances. And just when you think things can’t get any odder, they do… having said all that, as I write about it now I realise that I didn’t spend time scoffing incredulously, which I think bears judgement on the clever, understated style of Ms Joinson and her absolute confidence in putting all this together for the reader. And if a book sticking in my memory is testament to it’s importance (which I think it is) then I have to confess that the book remains with me somewhere, somehow.
Steve had been plodding away at the fire pit project but with the arrival of Gili and Katrina, a lovely couple from Israel and the UK respectively who found us through Workaway, the pit finally got finished.
So of course it had to be tested…
The guys did a great job in the garden, tidying everything, digging over and piling compost on the beds. I went ahead of them collecting seeds from lettuce, chard, silverbeet and red amaranth for next year’s bounty.
Trees were felled from the top land and cut into logs for the house. Katrina sanded the kitchen table…
There was a huge amount of work involved in preparing to close the site. The signs had to be dismantled and brought inside, everything ‘nickable’ had to be disconnected & put in a safe place (including shower fittings & curtains!), outdoor furniture – sofas, chairs, tables – brought in, bottle windows dismounted and stored away and there was endless lugging of stuff to & fro the van: clothes, kitchenware, books, games, massage table, bikes, stereo & speakers, tents, mattresses, hammocks, plants – including the 2 HUGE tamarind plants that are now barely contained in the Transit. Thank goodness for our volunteers & their strength, good humour & willingness to work.
September was a great month for having fun… And it very much began with Annie who was fabulous company and so chilled out.
Annie & I had a few lazy mornings on the beach together. The water was divine – so clear and the perfect temperature – and the swimming was so good for my back. Having Annie there meant we could leave the campsite in safe hands and escape to Maja & Keith’s for an evening, where someone else was cooking for a change. Here’s a rare shot of us with ‘proper’ clothes on:
Funnily enough those ‘safe hands’ of Annie’s were as drunk as the rest of her by the time we returned and all over one of our guests!!
Annie had barely left the campsite – she was blissfully happy laying in the sun or the hammock – so I organised a girls night out so she could catch up with everyone before she left. We had a fabulous evening at Portofino with good food, a few drinks, stimulating conversation and lots of laughs and we managed not to talk about blokes or kids the whole night. It was wonderful!
We were sad to say ‘Dovidenja’ to Annie but cheered up soon enough when Katie & Tim and the porgs came to stay for a weekend. Our mates are taking the Monty B to Sicily for the winter (where the marina charges are cheaper) so won’t see them for over half a year, so we were happy to spend quality time with them while we could. And we got a lot more of that when we spent a weekend with them on the boat. Friday night was ‘end of season drinks’ on board, timed to watch the sun set over Tivat bay. The plan was to go on to Regatta bar later in the evening but we were having too much fun to leave. Tim ordered pizza and zipped over to shore in the tender to pick them. Cecile was on form getting us all Zumba-ing…
We finally crashed out in the early hours & woke up to a glorious day. Me & Tim took the dogs to shore in the morning for much-needed ‘relief’ and I got stung by a wasp in the process which hurt like hell and continued to swell all day. Apart from that, it was a perfect day.
We motored over to Sveti Marko and were joined by Jen, Nathan & Aoife in Maplin Bird.
Alan turned up in his RIB with Laura, Amber, Freya and some groovy folk who were crewing with one of the super yachts in the marina on board.
Then Dave zoomed in on his RIB with Fi, Danny & Dragan. Last but not least, Marj & Cess & the kids arrived in a very swanky yacht they were ‘looking after’ for a client. There was loads of food, drink & fun.
We hitched a ride back at the end of the day with Marjan & Cecile and had the thrilling experience of heeling right over in a €300,000 yacht with the very capable Marj at the helm, as the sun dipped into the water and turned the sky amazing colours. Daisy was delighted to be back on dry land. She’d been impeccably well behaved – I was convinced that she would shame us by having a big pee or a poo on the boat but she didn’t and she coped pretty well with not being on dry land for 24 hours – but she’d definitely had enough! Unfortunately we couldn’t zip straight home as planned as when we returned to the van it had a puncture. The wheel nuts on the Transit are put on with a mechanic’s gun and are pretty damn tough to budge by hand, especially with the rubbish tools Steve had available. Finally, thankfully, we managed to get hold of Alan who brought over his t-bar & encouragement to help us get the bloody wheel nuts off and get the tyre changed.
Before the month was out, I’d spent a lovely evening at Carrie’s, we’d had a fun evening with the Sawney’s & Carrie at Jas & Tat’s amazing place in Lustica and a big dog walk with Jen, Carrie and Fi and 6 dogs!
What a month of fun!
The sunflower heads attracted the goldfinches this month. The Eagle owl continued to hoot away, his lonely call echoing unanswered. The colours started to change & sharpen as the summer’s haze burnt off and left the sky painfully blue and the greens as deep as pools. It was (mostly) a glorious month of weather.
When Martijn was filming footage for the video, me, Gili & Katrina were on the lookout for weird & wonderful forms in nature. We found many lizards, preying mantids, butterflies, moths & bees and a big fat toad. We also spotted this spider with all the tiny babies on its back. Someone had swept up one of these creatures (maybe even the same one) in the kitchen a day before and we watched in horror as the itsy bitsy spiders scattered all over the floor.
Tags: A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar, Clothing Optional vs Compulsory Nudity video, Cornelian cherry, Cornus Mas, end of season party, friends, growing green, herbs, homemade burgers, Martijn the Pancake man, month in review, pepper pot, spider with babies on it's back, tyre wall in flower