A blog. A long overdue blog. Sluggish, we are. Tardy. But enthusiastic, and friendly. It is nearly a month since we left England. A troupe of 8 drove from Newcastle, dropping one delightful member off as we passed through London. We caught the ferry to Calais, and had lunch and drizzle in Bruges. We arrived late at night in Rothenburg Ob De Tauber, where it was not possible to check in to our accommodation but we figured something out, and had a snowy morning eating pastries and retching at the picture book beauty of the town. From Germany we schwanged through Austria and popped out in Slovenia, bedding in Bled. We woke to sunshine and no rain. The first no rain of the journey. Then, THEN we pootled through the Slovenian countryside, enjoying some unexpected off-roading, rejoicing as we hit the Croatian Highway. Lenny hit 140kmph on those roads. It was quite a surprise. Dubrovnik hosted us in a lovely 3 floor, 6 bed apartment, and we strolled the empty streets and port that evening and the following morning. We crossed the Montenegrin border at around 11am, 4 days after leaving Newcastle, popped on the trajekt (ferry) and (somewhat foolishly) took the mountain roads to Podgorica. Here we met with Pat and Sam. The tunnel from Lake Skadar spat us out to Adriatic views, and concrete architecture as far as the eye could see. 20 minutes later, we were driving through the olive groves of Stari Bar.
An epic journey, with some of the nicest folks you could ever wish to share a confined space with for 10 hours a day. One of these folks has done a short photo journal of the trip HERE.
We spent the first few days getting to know The Grove in all its glory. It rained ALOT, but we had a clear evening or 2, allowing us to roast a sheep on a spit. A ceremony of sorts. We began work right away. Chipping off the old external render, ridding the back terraced land of brambles.
Then everyone left.
We had Beth and Dan for a few more days. We settled in to our apartment, did some more graft and twiddled around Bar trying to find shops and objects.
Then Beth and Dan left.
Since then we have been working whenever possible. Clearing foliage mostly, but also demolishing internals and some horrid concrete erections. Generally with a sledge hammer. We go out for drinks in the village. Meeting all of our excellent neighbours, and now friends. We have been known to set out with dreams of a hard days graft, but then get sucked in for a coffee at 11, which turns into rakia and meat at 1, accordion and more rakia and beer at 2 and bed by 4. But then some days we believe we will achieve nothing, but get so stuck in, evening comes and we haven’t stopped to eat/think all day.
A time consuming activity is getting on with the administrative duties. For example sorting our residency permits. We needed to have our obligatory tourist registration papers before our permits. Which needed a country entry stamp no older that 5 days. This was the first we had ever heard of this, and between us we had been to Montenegro some 10 times. So the kind lady told us we were in trouble (for having out of date stamps) and that the only solution was to pay a hefty fine. ‘What if we nip to Albania for lunch?’ ‘Oh yes, that would work too’.
So we went to Skodre in Lenny and had a lovely clay pot of liver cooked in garlicy yoghurt and paprika, seafood risotto, fried meats and a cabbage salad as tall as the pile of papers needed to get a residency permit in Montenegro. And got our passport stamps.
That is an example of how a day never usually goes to plan. What with the highly unpredictable weather, unexpected social excitements and bonkers bureaucracy. But so far, things have without exception been delightful.
Tomorrow a new Zoe will be joining our squadron. The first of many people visiting us to help over the upcoming months.
Actually she joined us 14 days ago as the first bit of dis blog was dun 15 days ago. She’s a ripper of a person, and it is so great having her around
With her help, we have now completed the clearage of the river bank, ready for stage one of the major destruction to begin. Here is a break down of the destruction process, as it currently stands.
1. Build a temporary road down from the road to the garden, which will enable big old machines to enter the property like cement mixers and diggers and PNEUMATIC DRILLS AND DUMPER TRUCKS.
2. Establish a functioning work site with resting space for workers n toilets n that.
3. Build a concrete retaining wall down by the river - this is going to extend our garden out, and prevent our land from slipping, and create a place for dumping a lot of the rubble instead of carting it off to landfill. This wall will be clad in lovely stone so you won’t know of its existence.
4. Begin the demolition process. This will be done carefully and slowly, as our big fat front wall is teetering on the edge of falling forward. The current internals are made from crappy old concrete, that has failed. Beams have shattered, showing their rusted steel innards, and the floor is falling through. These buggered beams are also holding the building together, kind of. So if we were to just smash it all up, the front wall may give up and flop down. The rubble from this bit will be dumped in between our current garden wall, and the new retaining wall. Top soil will be put on top of it at a later date. No one will ever know.
5. Marvel at our big empty box. We can’t wait for this bit.
They say it will be a month long process, but we won’t be surprised if it takes until summer.
Whilst this is going on, The Grove team will continue with the landscaping of the back. Building raised beds, and trying to get the land back to the beautiful terraces it once was. There will also be a lot of organisational work going on, to ensure the swift transition from demolition to construction.
This recent easter weekend we were everywhere - Tom in France, Old Zoe in Italy, New Zoe in Croatia and Chris in Cyprus. It was lovely to spend time in a different place, but we missed Stari Bar. Which was a relief. When you up and leave from a life that was settled and functional there is always risk that you will regret it, or have to convince yourself that it was a good idea. There is not even a glimmer of a question of whether this move was a good idea. The Grove is going to be magical. It already feels fabulous, and the more people that it welcomes the more the character of the place will build.
Our next guests arrive in a few days, and we look forward to getting stuck in to the gardening to ensure a summer bounty. If you know of anyone wishing to get away for a while, enjoying free accommodation and foods for just a little bit of digging, then just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have a busy calendar throughout some of May, but there is space elsewhere.
Spring is HERE in ABUNDANCE. House martins swoop around the valley, butterflies clumsily navigate from wild flower to wild flower, the wisteria is abundant and impressive, the sun occasionally oppressive, the vivid green of the manicured grass on the terraces stands out against the glistening silver of the olive trees, the crystal river pools as it gently flows through the valley, and snakes root on foot paths.
Check out our instagram for pictorial updates - it is the best way for us to keep you all in the loop.
Lots of love and enthusiastic back slapping hugs,
THE GROVE LOT