Friday, 19 April 2019

Short vignettes on life in Chile



Went to a rummage sale in a church to see if we could find any bikes or plants and oddments for our flat. Found none of the above but did find lots of Americans - All different shapes, sizes, ages and reasons for being there. Oddly, not one Chilean among them. Even so, this religious mono-culture enclave did share a common factor of all being quite lovely. “Come along” They said, almost in unison. “We ain’t too godly and there’s a whole lot of things going on that you might like….” Ummm. Food for thought. In principle people are people whatever their beliefs. In experience, however, god’s a sneaky chap and will wheedle his way in somehow.


We went to a huge fruit and veg market across the other side of Santiago. Fantastic! Crowds jostling for positions to buy produce. Piles of huge avocados, deep red tomatoes, sweet tasting potatoes (other stuff with different word endings are also available). The stalls are manned / womanned by people calling out for business in football style chants “Ogee Ogee Ogee” or generally shouting to one another over the riffs of Latino music that changes from stall to stall. The smells, energy and general ambiance of the place filled our heads and hearts and left us both with the same inane grins that we had in the last big market we visited here.

Weighed down with enough fruit and veg to feed a troupe of monkeys for a month we decided to follow the local consumer fashion by acquiring a shopping trolley – A red one with a white ‘go faster’ stripe. You can throw your jibes about getting old but it’s a sensible urban solution. Admittedly, not a minute goes by without a wheel trundling over one’s foot but it’s better than straining huge loads on our backs and, as a bonus, we get to feel part of the red trolley gang!! “Gerroutatheway you leopard print trolley punk”

At same market we tried a Chilean concoction called Mote con Huesillo - basically a syrupy liquid poured over husked wheat with a dried peach plopped in for good luck. We also had a Churrasco sandwich. Thinly sliced beef that melted in your mouth that was served with avo, melted cheese and a big smile from the guy who cooked it for us. Delicious.

There is a concert supported by our language school in a couple of weeks. A Bowie tribute band will headline and there’s to be 70’s and 80’s music too. It’s in a local pub. All good so far except for the facts that the doors don’t open until 11.00pm and the band starts at 1.30am. Yes!!!! 1.30am in the morning! These people never sleep. Well, not at night time anyway. Pubs are generally open till 2.00am. Clubs don’t open even open doors till 11.00/11.30pm and rooftop parties on the tower blocks don’t finish blasting out music until 5.00am. We’re changing to accommodate but it takes some getting used to. Thank god for earplugs and alcohol.


Weather. What weather. We have been here nearly a month and have had a smattering of rain for an hour around midnight once and a day of cloud. The rest of the time blue skies and sunshine. The temperatures are around 26 to 28 in the day at the moment. The sun is hot but the shade is pleasantly cool. The nights are warm and we sleep with the windows open (noisy bastard parties allowing). We have aircon but we never have to use it. It’s perfect. We are told that in the winter - we are now in early autumn -  that although the nights are colder the days will still be sunny and warm. Woo hoo.

We tried our luck at a local pub quiz recently. A bi-lingual affair ran by an American expat. We went with Veronika. A fellow teacher from Hungary. 28, uber confident, very little tact, never wrong and the sort that will deffo get you in a fight (although in her defense, she is entertaining, sweet-natured and we are very fond of her) – a bit like the gobby daughter I never had. Anyway. Pub quiz consisted of a few Chilean references but mainly American pop culture. Normally we do better than average at a pub quiz. Here, we came a firm last. It seems we know nothing about fucking High School Musical or who Jim Carey was talking to on twitter. Anyway. The booby prize which we had to accept among faux cheers were free tickets to either a comedy show or another pub quiz. Fearing a downward, never ending spiral of degradation with the pub quiz option I think we will try out the comedy show. The highlight of the evening for me personally was watching the one of the winning team, standing at the top of the stairs in a mock Freddy Mercury manner, singing the entire song of ‘We are the champions’….no time for losers….to the assembled runners up. Very funny and all taken in good spirits.


The gym we have joined is always empty. There are loads of machines and weights but there is hardly ever anyone there. Max 7 people at a time. Fantastic. We are going about 4  times a week. Sometimes 5 and the weight is slowly coming off whilst the body definition is coming back. Don’t get me wrong. We ain’t in great shape but we are deffo feeling a lot better for having a regular regime of activity. We are so hi brow though. We listen to plays or ted talks instead of pumpin’ music. I even asked the staff to turn down the piped beats yesterday as I couldn’t concentrate on my talking book whilst doing free weights among a small group of gorillas.

WE Became a proper Chilean the other day. Got our ID cards and RUT numbers. Rut numbers rule here. They get you discounts on shopping and track your purchases, identify you for bank accounts, driving etc. Your whole life instantly trackable. At this rate, by the end of next week, we can officially start growing moustaches and speaking fluent Spanish.
Talking about Spanish. We have started Spanish lessons with Jesus. Funny enough as a stand alone sentence but feel free to drop us a line with any amusing thoughts….. I hope did doesn’t get cross, Lets see if he can work another miracle etc. My personal favourite from Rachel was that “starting lessons with Jesus on Maundy Thursday (day before good Friday) was chancing it”.

We spent a couple of hours in the Museum of human rights and memories the other day. A jolly place that details the Pinochet rule and the infringements on human rights that took place: shootings, torture, persecution. All the old favourites of any militaristic regime. Interestingly the old scoundrel’s rule wasn’t all bad. He did lots of reforms and brought about a lot of improvements to life (for many, obviously not those who were politically opposed or in the wrong place at the wrong time). Life before was one of soaring inflation, lack of food and poor government. Consequently, a lot of folk we have spoken to miss the good old bad old Pinochet days. Perspective huh? It’s a funny thing. Do the means always justify the end????

Met a lady in the life with a dog called Rose Marie. Chatted to her and her adult daughter a little on the way down. Today got in the same lift with her and Rachel. Introduced them to one another and within two floors it was all kisses and offers of any help. They are such lovely people. Its almost a daily occurrence to be warmly welcomed and we are informed that they are the least demonstrative of the Latin American countries.

At a flat warming party the other night we stumbled up to the public roof space about 1am in the morning to look at the view and basically drink lots of rum in a high place. When we came out onto the terrace, we found blaring dance music, disco lights and balloons and, rather wonderfully, a deserted dance floor. The 7 or us spilled out onto the floor and started dancing. Suddenly, we noticed standing against the far wall, 5 skinny men. All about 28 – 32 years old, all looking a little taken aback at our arrival and all, bizarrely, dressed as superheroes in different colours. One soon game over and politely (not giving away what his possible superpowers could do to us) asked us to please leave as it was a private party. We apologised and retreated to another section of the roof which was a around the corner from the party and even though we were up there for another hour or so, we saw no other guests arrive or any of the super folk dance. Too busy looking down on the mean streets of the city and ready to swoop down and apprehend baddies I guess.

Party ended with the host unconscious on the bed for a couple of hours they throwing up over their bed, self, another friends sleeping bag etc. No worry. Grown up Sicko Superheroes were at hand to help. Brought the party to swift and rancid smelling halt though. Just as well it was 4.00am and if we hurried home we might just catch the last hour of a rooftop party nearer home!!!

Final point. In case you never hear from me again. I have a new student starting next week. Can’t say much more in a public space but it transpires she is an ex-model, very wealthy and married to an arms dealer. Can’t wait!



Friday, 29 March 2019

Nothing luke warm about Chile




Well, where to begin. We are here in Chile. The flight was tiresome and very long. The train from Norfolk broke down so had to wait for ages outside Stowmarket then swap. Then tube across London, flight to Paris with a couple of hours stopover there and then the 14.5 hour schlep to Santiago. We arrived knackered and Rachel sporting a furious headache and sniffing like she had man flu.

Flying over the Andes. Out of shot is Rachel groaning
The school has put us up in a homestay for a couple of weeks. Our landlady is about 75, lovely and completely obsessive. She cleans the spotless duplex everyday from top to bottom. But, weirdly, she only sweeps the carpet (which seems somewhat at odds with her fastidious cleaning regime). We get a simple breakfast and varied yummy dinners everyday. These meals which are taken by all of us can be a little strained. Then, no sooner has the last mouthful gone into my mouth she is up and at ‘em. Clearing the table, washing, drying and setting all straight. We cannot help. We tried. She sweated and looked very uncomfortable so we left it. She is so obsessive that we cannot even make a cup of tea without here scurrying to her kitchen to shoo us out so she can do it. Rachel did balls it out one day and had to complete the task with her watching like a hawk watches a mouse. 
  
Chess playing it the square
We were supposed to have arrived in Chile 12 days previously in order to complete the jobs of finding a permanent place to live, sorting out identity cards, bank accounts, phones, and various bureaucratic feats of translation whilst getting to know our way around and ways of both the city and the places we work. However due to slow work by solicitors drafting our contract and the Chilean immigration peeps, we arrived with seemingly only a couple of days spare. Worry not, said the director, we lied. There’s another week really so go forth and deal with shit! As it turns out we are now nearing the end of the month and have only put in about 10 hours each anyway. Seems almost criminal to going to head office to collect a month’s money for such paltry effort. More on that later.

One of many fountains in Santiago
Chile is so much more than we thought it would be. It was never on our radar and we had always spoke of Ecuador, Peru, Colombia as places to visit. But here we are and we love it.
The country only has something like 17 million people in total so, apart from Santiago, where 7 million people live, the rest is pretty empty. Geographically it is roughly 4,300 km long by 177km wide. On the west is the Pacific Ocean and in the east The Andes. In the north there is Atacama desert and the south, Patagonia. It has been, in effect, an island up until about 30 years ago.

One of many parks in Chile. Possibly the only shot ever taken
without hundreds of couples sprawled on the grass
The people are without doubt the friendliest we have encountered anywhere. I recently read that Chile is the happiest place to live in South America. The locals try to be helpful, they smile and laugh a lot. Kissing is the traditional greeting and the parks are rammed full of canoodling couples who occupy nearly every piece of spare ground there is. 

Collectively they are not shy of talking and seem very respectful of our clumsy Spanish.
The sun shines every day. We have been here for three weeks and only seen clouds for a couple of hours. It’s just coming into Autumn here in the Southern hemisphere and the days are about 30 degrees with the nights dropping to about 18 – 20 degrees. It’s a dry heat so, unlike living in the Far East we don’t have to deal with humidity. It’s perfect. We have aircon but have not used it. Not even needed a fan at the hottest parts of the day.


The city is sprawling with arty, bohemian areas, business areas, huge uber modern shopping malls and heaving markets crammed with stalls and shops selling anything you can want. We walk around smiling the whole time because of the ambiance, heat and sound of Latino music that pervades any walk through the streets. There is definitely a European feel to the place as opposed to an American one.

Chilean wine is cheap. Even the cartons contain good quality reds and whites whilst rum, gin, vodka et al cost about £6.00 a litre. We are fairly frugal in our spending and this is just as well since generally it’s not that cheap compared to other South American countries. We could end up spending a fortune but there are plenty of cheap alternatives to eating out and since we have our own place can cook when we want.

Say no more
Our school has nine branches around the city and is, along with the British Council, the most respected language company in Chile. Everyone has heard of it and our kudos star has risen because of it. We are based in Las Condes – a more upmarket part of the city with tree-lined streets and little parks all about. We have an apartment that is a15 minute walk from our main office, although we do have to travel to a satellite branch on Monday and Wednesday evenings which involves a bus ride. The branch manager is a guy called Ivan. A very charismatic and laid back individual that thinks at 5ft 9ins, I am tall. I am so pleased. He tells us not to worry and eventually we will get more hours but for the moment just enjoy all the time we have off. The other local teachers are lovely and supportive and seem to all do more work than us. I wonder whether as token Brits we are treated a little differently. We will see as time goes on. For now we will struggle through with our 9 hours a week and, whilst not teaching, chat to Ivan or the others, go to the gym or mooch.

The Blender buidling - Apparently we will be
doing business lessons in there
We have joined a gym called Pacific with has 60 branches nationwide and loads in Santiago. For about £15 a month we can go to any of the gyms and do classes or use the machines. This will be a great boon for us as we love being able to work out and, when we are travelling proper, is the one thing that we miss a lot.

I mentioned that we are living in Las Condes. A feat that took some doing. It is one of the most expensive parts of the city so we are pleased that our 50m flat has only set us back about £600 a month – we do get a £200 subsidy from the school but even so…. We have a one bedroom place with a balcony big enough to enjoy sitting on. There are nice gardens at the front of the place with a decent sized pool we can enjoy that is surrounded by loungers. There is a gym, meeting rooms and party room for hire as well so if we are taken with the idea of relaxing or exercise it is only a matter of jumping in the lift. We were a little premature in saying yes to the apartment but that was due to the lack of responses from estate agents. Consequently, when we moved in we were surprised to find it filthy with horrible worn out cutlery, crockery, etc. All is good now though. We chucked out the old and brought in some new and brazened out the situation with the landlord who has agreed to reimburse our costs. In fact here has turned out to be something of a good egg in the end. We are sat in our tower typing this blog and looking at several other blocks facing us. We can see all of humanity from our window. It takes some getting used to since they like to party at the weekend and there is little privacy but we will get used to it, like anything else. It’s a trade-off. This is a most excellent location that allows us access to anywhere in the city via the Metro which is only a 4 minute walk away. We can walk to work and the nearest gym. And, I guess, we feel safe here. The most likely bother we will get will be from a chihuahua with small dog syndrome.

This feeling. This situation. This life. This is why we travel. This is why we keep doing what we do. We can’t wait to eat up Chile. To make Chilean friends, enjoy their company, frequent their bars and dance at fiestas. To explore the city to spend time at the coast or in the mountains walking or simply hear the murmur of voices, catch different smells and eat different foods.

Adios Amigos or as they sometimes say in Chile “Ciao Piscao”.

(Meaning ‘See you fish’ just like, the sadly less popular saying, ‘See you later alligator’.






Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Goodbye Montenegro


So it's the new year and we spent the last two weeks of our time in Montenegro doing fairly mundane things on the whole. I did a fair bit of running and together, Rachel and I, picked and produced five photo books from our huge collection of pictures from the first year of our travels. It was a mammoth task and after we have achieved the same thing for the successive 5 years or so we will have our whole adventure in some kind of hard, coffee table friendly format. Although it will have to be a sodding great big coffee table by the look of it. The task was made more onerous due to the Printerpix website crashing or having server problems or something which caused the loss of pictures already uploaded going missing. I don't mean one or two pictures either.  I am talking about 100 or 150 pictures. These then had to be uploaded again, scaled again and positioned again. We burned through about 15 gb of bandwidth and nearly 4 days in time. I was furious and after one final push managed to process the order. Just waiting for them to come back with loads missing now....Post script they are perfect



We went to Dubrovnik in Croatia one day. It was only 57 km away so not far (in theory) and we were doubly interested in going because it featured in several 'Game of Thrones' episodes. Yeah it was nice. But there were no dwarfs, dragons, giant warriors or naked queens being unceremoniously marched through the streets so I was a little disappointed.  Still the cobbled thoroughfares, little lanes and solid castle walls were pretty impressive. Just not sure it was worth four hours of driving and braving the cold winds.



In those last days we walked and talked and did all the stuff that seems to fill our lovely days together and then our house owner came home. And with the car fueled, oiled and stocked with food we set off towards Calais some 2109 km and 23 hours away. Or rather it would have been but due to road closures the whole way up Croatia we were forced to detour to lesser roads (that's a difficult thing to achieve when the roads ain't that good to start with but we are professionals and downgraded admirably). Consequently we had to drive a hundred kilometers more on roads that allowed 70 kph at top speed. Man did it drag. There is this strange arrangement half way up the Croatian coast where Bosnia and Herzegovina divides the country in two. It's called the Neum corridor and means that you have to do two border crossing in about 9 kilometres. After our detour however, we were brought to a crossing in the countryside which was only for goat herders and locals, so had to turn about and do a detour on the detour to get to the proper crossing. Even with all of the problems you can't take away the fact that the coastline up from Montenegro, past Dubrovnik, Split and then through the mountains is stunning. Beautiful islands dot the coast that is ragged with many small bays. And, turning inland, the landscape becomes more mountainous and wild the farther north you travel.



As we drove we began to see more and more signs of snow on the hills, then on the sides of the road. Nothing to worry about and made all the more lovely because the day was sunny and warm. Really warm in fact. Shortly after we entered Slovenia we bought bread and cake from a bakery, pulled up on a point overlooking a charming valley and sat on benches outside of the van for lunch. Little did we know that 4 hours later we would be sitting in a snowstorm stranded on a motorway in Austria.

Anyway back to Slovenia. It is a lovely looking country and each of the 4 or 5 people we had to speak to for some reason or other were friendly and open. I think it could be on our list of places to go back to because we didn't have time to stick around. The roads wound through the hills and gradually the snow about us started to increase. Interestingly, it would seem that we would enter different climatic zones after driving through a series of long tunnels. Sometimes coming out in fog, then snow, then sun. Very weird. Crossing Slovenia didn't take to long coz the roads were empty and then, once the Alps came into view, the weather started to darken and it started to spit a little rain. That then turned to sleet and that soon changed to snow. 



A few days previously, Austria had a massive dump of snow.  This had caused a few problems and although the snow wasn't due to be that bad again, the residual piles of the stuff grew as we left Slovenia. No sooner had we crossed the border than the snow got heavier and heavier, and started settling on the roads. So that when a car in front left tracks in the snow  it became covered immediately in new flakes. Then came the first sight of red tail lights ahead and all came to a stop. Lorries pulled over to one side of the road and cars to the right. Plainly they knew the drill here as this was to allow emergency services a clear route to some trouble up ahead. It turned out that a lorry had jack-knifed about 100 metres ahead and had completely blocked the carriageway. So we waited and waited and as we waited it snowed and as it snowed the lorry drivers started putting on snow chains and the cars started to disappear under the blanket of white. We felt secure in our van with our full tank of fuel, lots of heating and cooking gas, food supplies and our own toilet but even so it was scary as the snow got to 6 inches. Rachel said she felt like she was in a horror movie since outside looked bleak with a few shuffling figures walking up and down the ranks of cars like zombies looking for flesh or in this case possibly for our supply of biscuits and warm cups of tea. We drew the curtains and and munched quietly! It took three hours to clear the wreck and suddenly there was motion. People running back to their cars, tail lights and headlights lighting the sky as the flashing blue lights diminished and we were off. In true aryan style the traffic sped forward. The road had been ploughed and the way was clear for the foreseeable future. So we all surged forward to escape what could have been our snowy deaths. And although it snowed heavily the momentum and numbers of the pent up traffic triumphed and turned the snow to slush and sprayed it to the sides of the road which after a another hour became German slush and after another hour became a clear and bitingly windy night. We pulled off the autobahn as soon as we could. We ate, we made our bed and cuddled up with the temperature sitting at a balmy minus five outside.




On the way out to Slovakia a couple of months previously we stayed at Alan and Petras and after a series of texts we arranged to stay again. Not only did this mean a warm and comfortable bed for the night but turned out to be an impromptu farewell dinner party with surprise guests. Thank you A and P for the excellent hospitality and to Sonja, Marcus and Ralph for your company and parting gifts.

And that's about it. The roads were clear and manic and lead to Belgium and Calais and two mornings after with the van stuffed with cheap booze we sailed home to England. But that's another story I guess. Toodaloo.

More pics at http://www.rachris.co.uk/gallery.html






Thursday, 3 January 2019

Montenegro


Well, here we are in Montenegro. The housesit is in a flat in the town of Tivat. A town that centres around the Porto Montenegro development and harbour. It's set on the coast of a large, virtually enclosed sea inlet that is sided with hills that slowly climb up to become mountains. It's really only a summer place so out of season half of the restaurants are closed. Still there is stuff going on over Christmas so it doesn't feel empty.



We are looking after Buddy. A Dubai born fellow who looks a bit like a vertically challenged retriever. He was rescued in Dubai, then carted off to a couple of other countries before he and his Australian owner Katrina ended up here, where she is an English teacher. He's low maintenance except for spending most of his days scratching at the door to get in where he will stay for 5 minutes before scratching to get out. The owner lives with the door open and wears a coat in the cold flat but that isn't happening as it's December and we didn't sign up for freezing, so we are sometimes at loggerheads with the little fella.

Our first day alone on our own we found a pub hosting an ex-pat Christmas lunch so tagged along for a few hours of drinking, networking and eating a yummy lunch. Not a bad group of people. A few of whom we have met up with again during our stay.


We are only a short distance from the bay so walk Buddy along coastal boardwalks, roads and small stony beaches daily. Its nice. The Adriatic reflects the blue of the sky and our first 10 days are mainly bright with only a few clouds.


On the downside it seems that a large number of the indigenous population suffer from the surly manner we have found in all of these Eastern European countries. Consequently we are often left hanging with a smile dying on our faces as we are blanked. I don't know why but the national traits of bad driving and being grumpy go hand in hand but our extensive research suggests that it's an endemic problem. It's a shame because when we have broken through they seem pleasant enough, although still a little reserved.

Example: I got offered a drink by a neighbour the other day. He saw me coming out of the drive and nodded (We had nodded once or twice before - or rather I had). Anyway, he saw me and, lifting his cupped hand to his mouth, said. "Come, drink". It was 9.30am but when in Rome and wishing to be amenable I agreed and followed him without a word as he route marched to his garage and poured us both a small glass of home brew petrol. "Salut" he said. Still not smiling. "Salut" I responded. And downed it and, just as I stopped wincing, noticed he had only taken a small sip.  He then looked at me blankly as I tried to communicate, unsuccessfully, for a few minutes. The whole time there was not the smallest glimmer of a smile on his face. He then points at my empty glass in my hand. "Drink" he said as he started to unstop the bottle. This could go on for some time - me drinking and babbling and he staring so I declined and scarpered down the drive, shouting more thanks over my shoulder as he stared on impassively.

Final collective thing about your Montenegrins - they are a very tall race. I cannot count the number of 2 metre tall people we have seen. We feel like we are on the set of 'Land of the Giants' and have to be quite nimble to avoid being squashed underfoot. All the women wear heels as well. So, with their already long legs plus a further 4 inches of 'fuck me' heels it takes ages for me to properly letch and I have found I get bored before I have even got to the thighs. Give me Rachel's little legs anytime. I've letched at hers thousands of times over the years and am still captivated.

We drove to the nearby town of Kotor the other day and climbed the mountain path to an old crumbling monastery that hangs on the hillside. It has an impressive city wall connecting it to the old town below and its possible to get to it via some steps on the wall. Steps, however, always ruin a good tramp to my mind so we opted for the rugged old donkey path and had to access the monastery by climbing through a window in the fortifications. From there the donkey paths, known as the 'Ladder of Kotor'  zig zag their way up and away into the mountains. We clamber for a few hours and  look down on the sea inlet and red tiled roofs of the old town. All very pretty with the sun glinting off windows and the water beyond..


Christmas in Montenegro will be recalled by us with frequent and very loud bangs. For 3 days before Christmas up to a couple of days after new year we were jumping, spilling drinks or shrieking in surprise as someone lit yet another touch paper and bunged these bloody things somewhere nearby. The only upside being the dog would come scurrying in and stay in for a while until he forgot and ventured out.

So the last three days have been pretty interesting. Every night over Christmas and New Year the local town has put on entertainment in either the evening or afternoons. Tivat has a pretty swanky harbour with swanky shops, swanky restaurants and mega swanky superyachts. Anyway the council pushed the boat out a little here and laid on something every evening. The square on the harbourside has been lined with pop up bars and the sky lit up with lazers, lights and twinkly LEDs fixed on cranes, buildings and the impressive stage.

On 30th December we had disco night. A great band complete with afros, white suits and stacks. Also two very energetic dancers who wore their coats to keep warm. They were good and tried to lift the crowd but just couldn't get 'em dancing. Got me and two or three others dancing but that doesn't take much nowadays.

The big night has arrived. The bangers are so close together they no longer make us jump but rather form a background continuous tone to life now. We start the day off with a walk along the old harbour, get some shopping then drop into a smokey restaurant bar - You can smoke inside here and a large number of people do. Just like the old days in Blighty when you used to have a shower before you go out then need another to wash the smell of fags off when you got home. There is a terrible entertainer keeping the locals happy with Balkan gypsy sounding singing (toneless and loud) and over exuberant organ playing with the balalaika option being used rather than piano. Still all jolly and we tuck into sausage, fried potatoes and beer.


The evening's entertainment was an Abba tribute band that carried the tunes well enough but, once again, failed to excite the crowd beyond a gentle sway and the occasional girly hip wiggle. We stepped away from the stage after a while and camped up in one of the bars overlooking the square. We were then amazed by the appearance of the main act - Zeljko Joksimovic. Mr Joksimovic was Serbia's 2004 Eurovision  entry and was the runner up on that fateful night. 2008 saw him being the producer and composer of the next Serbian attempt and then, somewhat stuck in a rut - some might say - was the presenter in the 2012 show. Anyway his star obviously continued to rise in the Balkans and he had a string of successful records leading to 2019. The roar was enormous when he arrived on stage. I had ne'er seem such emotion. The crowd, as one, suddenly started to move and sing to one another in a 'hairbrush held as a microphone' sort of way. It was lovely. Not my type of music but the locals loved the sort of euro-electric-serbian-gypo-dance-at-a-different-speed-to-the-beat kinda stuff and we tapped our toes appreciatively for the ambiance more than anything else. Midnight arrived, the fireworks erupted in a short but impressive array, backs were slapped and Mr Jok rocked on.


New years day. Although officially the first day of the new year is more of a pause, a comma, a hiatus than a proper day. It's the day when any resolutions made are often, conveniently ignored because it's hardly the right time to stop smoking, drinking, eating too much etc. It's a time for nursing hangovers, comfort food and a quick one in a pub before life kicks off on the 2nd.

Hence this last blog of 2018 will include this magical day because for us it was a great end to the last year and a start to the new.

We drove to Budva along the coast. The sun shone, the wind dropped and people were out. We parked about two km from the old town and sauntered along the glittering Adriatic to a classical concert in the ruins of an old church or something. The Opera pieces and stirring choice of music were perfect. We then walked around the old alleyways and byways of the town until further music caught our ears and we, with hundreds of others, sat at tables on the shingle beach whilst a folk band played to the setting of the sun. Quite magical.

So that's it for 2018. Happy new year to anyone desperate enough to read this stuff. iIn 2019 we start here for a couple more weeks, then there's a 2000km drive to England, a brief visit to Spain and then on to live and work in Chile for a year. It's a dull life but someones gotta do it!

Bye for now,

Chris and Rachel

Love this. Spot the gap between good intention and bad management