Monday, August 31, 2015

Mummy Mummy, that man's drinking wine!

On a plane to Jamaica
I sat next to a Faker
whose Goya had made her
lots of peseta
I said, a plane to Jamaica
that's a fine dream maker
but she wrote on some paper
Croatia not Jamaica

After Dr Seuss.... or possibly Dr Pepper

And so we found ourselves on a stunning island that could pass for Santorini with the blue printer ribbon run out.

All of the houses are the same colour and there seems to be only one supplier of roof tiles. There is an awful lot of white, with the older houses constructed from the same stone as the Vimy Ridge memorial on top of a hill near the road to Arras.
The island is a fifty minute ferry ride from Split, and I can concur with Child A's opinion, as it was her who put us on to the place, that the Dalmation coast and its islands are stunning.
Driving here is easy and the Croation government are investing heavily in their road system and the islands are served by an excellent and extensive ferry service plus a squadron of sea planes operating out of Split.

Three days in to our stay and we had done little but chip away at a personal veneer built up over a hectic six months, when Melinda, a small girl aged 7 (I'm guessing) ran around the pool shouting.

"Mummy, Mummy that man's drinking wine"

I resisted the opportunity to quote Bill Hicks

"Like a f%$&ing fiend"

I should make it clear that I was not sitting on a park bench in unsavoury trousers, lurching through the middle of town, bottle in hand or seated on a back pew in Church. I was sitting on the balcony of our apartment overlooking the Adriatic preparing to take lunch with Madam, whose imbibing went unnoticed by Melinda, and imagine the scandal at the revelation that Madam worked in education - the shame!

How did it come to this?

I'm all for getting the right message across with regard to alcohol, but come on Melinda, and good luck with your family's quest for everlasting life, but give a guy a break on his hols.
They didn't see our plate of cheese, ham and nubs of bread and I'm sorry Melinda but I may have lapsed with regard to my five a day during my stay, but hey, things will get back on track as soon as we get home.

We continued with our lunch, of course, and hatched a plan that including ending my morning dip, that served as a livener to shift the fug of all this hedonism, to run to Madam on her recliner and remark.

"Rachel, Rachel, they're doing Zumba by the pool"


Melinda will confirm that we spent most days in wine. Madam is making the most of the excellent internet connection that serves this remote isle, by each evening watching ancient episodes of Magnum, Monk and Quantum Leap - sorry Melinda's Mum, there's no documentaries being taken in on this trip, and hey Flash, there's a better internet service on this isle than the one we receive forty minutes from the UK's capital where we can but dream of "live stream". This Croatian service even coped with the arrival of a teutonic Wifi harvester midway through our stay as a trio of teenagers fresh in from Jutland gave battle via the medium of FIFA football online.

The facts as we have them:

Can "Live Stream" on an island - population 14,000, fifty minutes from mainland city - population 150,000

Can't "Live Stream" forty minutes from capital of G8 country = population approaching 9,000,000

Wildlife included hundreds of swifts and swallows in the town that performed each evening over dinner,

a snake,
a cat that lived in a telephone box
and plenty of Pomegranates.

Croatia's take on Pointless was a sombre affair with few jokes or banter,

and their version of Richard Osman was of average height but still claimed the table and chair option.

Each afternoon we hit the pebbles that serve as a beach in these parts. This part of the Adriatic is as clear as the spring fed waters off Corfu and the snorkelling is close to spectacular, there are many fish

The Shimano multi-purpose many piece rod that serves for spinning and float fishing made the trip, and the harbour offered great sport on light tackle with float fished bread fished on the drop between the boats, but I have recently acquired a 9ft, 8# Airflo four piece that conveniently fitted into the case (little did Madam know that the portmanteau was selected with this in mind) and a box full of pike flies that also made the trip and I spent a few hours working my way around a quiet bay bothering the bass before taking beer on board by the beach.

We made one excursion to the highest point of the island, It seems like a good idea most years, but inevitably ends up as a discussion on "scariest roads we have driven" The view from the top, taking in the sandy beach at Bol and the island of Hvar was worth the worry of sharp bends and precipitous drops.

We also visited several coastal villages, there are very few in the middle which is mix of olives, vines and scrub. Not once did we find a crowd on the island bar the queue for the ferry in the island's capital, and for a couple of middle agers looking to recharge and defragment, the quiet atmosphere is perfect.

Split was the exception, to the crowd rule. An interesting City it was popular with tourists, back packers and the cruising set,
many guided tours were underway where the fine details of the fascinating Diocletian palace which sits at the heart of the city were being explained in many languages.
There were also many opportunities to have a photo taken with what must have been a cohort and a half of roman centurions

Food was fine, with fish inevitably to the fore, the Italian influence is obvious, understandable, and very well done in most cases and the wine was ok. The big surprise was the quality of the steak that we were served, nothing short of sensational and good value with our bill rarely more than thirty pounds.

It was on returning from one of these gastronomic adventures that Madam made the observation that there is hardly a scrap of litter to be found anywhere on island, in the street, side of the road on the beach, in the sea. A second observation followed that there was also very little graffiti, and suggested the local population take great pride in their environs. Whether this is a natural symptom of a country still in the infancy of independence or perhaps it has always been thus.

Church on Sunday was quite the draw with standing room only and quite a social scene in the few coffee houses on the front followed the preaching.
There was even a cessation in the regular games of cards played by a particular generation of men each morning on the tables along the front when church commenced but the dealing was done again soon after. the church doors closed.

There has been much in the news recently about the "swarm" of boats on this ocean moving people from many nations without the required permission. There was no sign of this activity until one night we were visited by an armada of fifty or more boats manned by tribes from many nations,
"The yacht week" they call it, and if you feel so inclined give it a google,
In simple terms it comprises a flotilla of boats carrying five hundred souls or more, rocking up on the beach opposite your apartment with their own disco. It didn't seem to sit well in this quiet spot, and the five minutes chanting of "Yew es Ay, Yew es Ay" at four in the morning in response to triumph in some international drinking game wasn't appreciated on this side of the creek.

The contrast if they came across a boat brim full of desperation further down the coast couldn't be more stark.

There was further stark contrast to be found in the evening as some seriously big boats rocked up for tea to mix with the contented locals. Ear wigging conversation at neighbouring tables, where despite the bling, Versace and Armani, conversation often betrayed heads too far up their own backsides and kids forced to behave noisily or badly to seek attention, it was plain to us as to which side of the divide we would prefer to fall.

Louis de B was again the choice of reading matter and his latest book "The Dust that Falls from Dreams" It's ok, but not nearly as affecting as "Birds without Wings" or as unputdownable as "Corelli and his mandolin" but the "War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts" and the rest of the trilogy always serves as reliable read and it was that with which the week was finished.

And so there you have it we didn't do an awful lot in the week but returned thoroughly refreshed. I had grown a "holiday beard" a la Paxman and Milliband, its a patchy affair with bits of grey and gold among the brown, Madam is unsure, but is adamant that it is preferential to the "holiday nasal hair" I usually cultivate. Like our elders we did a lot of sitting , cup in hand silently taking in the ocean. It may not be the tartan flask in a Ford Anglia on the front at New Brighton, but you know what Melinda,

Sometimes you just gotta sit, with liquid refreshment to hand, and stare at the sea - it's good for the soul.

Matters arising that I forgot to mention during preparations for our trip.
1: Southern Electric - not the biggest fan of their billing department, but the gang who rocked up in the middle of the night to restore power after a horse chestnut cashed in its chips and left lines draped across the roof of our home were brilliant, we never lost an oven chip ( apologies again Melinda)
2: Fishing picked up a little, although Otter's had been about. Many fish in unexpected places avoiding the deeper reaches where they were vulnerable to Tarka. Plenty of sedge and a trickle of olives proved tempting to less nervy fish
3: Rain in the middle of the month, freshened things up a little , and grass has once more gone green, rain will only help.

Normal service will be resumed sometime soon

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