Thursday, 20 October 2016

Unconsciously Uncoupling from London

Places are so important to me. But it turns out people are too...

It's strange how I always start these ramblings with a geographical and temporal moment. I'm currently in a traditional British London pub, as far away as you can get from the Riva cafes, or seaside kiosks, or buses/ferry boats that have been the birth place of many a blogpost. Still, I continue the Croatian tradition of drinking a coffee in a bar, despite the fact that the British guys are drinking a beer. I'm not sure saying where I am is really important, but it acts like a type of mental pause or new 'life' paragraph. More a confirmation that I am still here and alive, and coping wth whatever is going on. In a satisfyingly circular way, this pub was where I celebrated the leaving of my old job back in February. Events of that evening came back to me as I was strolling up to the Brunswick Centre earlier, and I recall it continued my usual leaving-do tradition. This explains why I've only had around 5 long term jobs. I just can't take my gin.

Today has been a mending sort of day, where London and I have tried to set aside some differences. I've always known my year off was to give me and my favourite city 'some space', you know, to take a break from each other. But as any person knows, if someone says this in a relationship, it's utter bullshit. It's actually a cowardly way of ending it. To be fair at least a city isn't going to throw your stuff out of the window, or post nasty things about you on social media... So even though I've experienced tears of horror, and utter culture shock about being back in this great metropolis, there have been some watery smiles of remembrance.

I class the day I mentally 'moved' to London as the day on which I had my first successful job interview. In mid September 1995, I found myself in Moorgate, the heart of City of London, terrified and elated at the same time. And on the brink of the longest relationship of my life. It's been a love affair which has transcended many others, and for twenty years I've been proud to call myself a Londoner. Even when I was away this year, I often had a yearning for the variety and atmosphere which would regularly carry me home joyously when I was truly emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted. But as I sensed at the time I started seriously preparing for this trip, there was clearly something coming to an end between us. 

This feeling has developed into certainty over the travelling during the past week. First of all there was a brief trip to Split to round up the rest of my Croatia belongings, and then an unavoidable trip to London where I have dealt with some essential finance and health matters. In each place there was an important reconnection with some very dear friends. Seeing the contrary one in London, and the kaotic one in Split leaves me in no doubt that the personal spirit is far more valuable than the cold heart of the cities. And how I felt when I arrived was nothing short of horror at being back.

I was strangely disengaged when I was planning my time here. The change in how I am is immediately evident because as dutifully scrolled through my favourite 'what's on' sites, I found myself overwhelmed and suffering a certain level of anxiety. I stopped looking because ultimately I just don't care. I've already had a quiet meltdown in the peaceful surroundings of the Limehouse flat because of the sheer mental strength required just to face the outside world - there had also been a minor incident at a train station which had shaken me, and given me the first taste of adrenaline in many months. 

This was a shock. It served to remind me that I had been living on this drug for years, and related panic attacks were a regular part of life. These not normal, and neither should they be. As I've gone through the week and had the time to assimilate and observe the physical and mental changes, I'm succeeding in keeping my heart rate down, and ensuring my newly found calm-centre is generally anxiety knot-free. The peace has come at some cost, but I think ultimately it has been an incredible thing to capture, and I'll be damned if I lose it again. To continue the place-as-partner analogy, I'm happy to snuggle up quietly on the sofa with Šipan.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Buy my olive oil?

I've not blogged since returning from my jaunt, which suggests that I haven't been doing anything. This being precisely the view of my landlord, he allowed me to catch up with the usual post-trip shopping, washing and housekeeping, and then he asked, 'Klara, želiš posao?' Rather cunningly, he then said it was so menial that I wouldn't be interested. Making like one of the mussels here, he closed up and ambled off, not telling me what it was. Infuriating man. If you want to guarantee my interest, it is this is the only way to do it.

Don't you hate it when people read you like a particularly easy book?

Eventually, after much more wine and cake-based bribery, he admitted that it was something we had discussed some weeks ago but hadn't followed up. Throughout the summer, a couple of people in the village had been selling oil, liqueurs and other local delicacies to all our island visitors. These regular faces by the harbour have now disappeared, partly because they have run out of produce and it is pretty much the end of the season.

Apparently this house isn't even close to running out, despite my best efforts at drinking it all. There are a couple of thousand litres of the highest grade 2015 vintage olive oil in the storeroom downstairs, and we were now looking at a particularly sunny end of September. They had thought about selling bottles of this glorious stuff on the harbour/town square a few months ago, and even asked a few people if they could do it on their behalf. They are so busy here with other aspects of business that taking five hours out of the middle of the day is impossible. Anyway, as a last resort and being the only mug available, they asked me...

So the next warm and sunny morning, there was a mad dash to get things sorted before the various ferries and boats arrived. We stuck labels on glass bottles, they were filled and sealed, and then popped in a basket. I took my wares to my finely crafted market stall. Oh, you mean the rough hewn cube of limestone in the square? You know, the one near the Tomislav monument. Perfect. I nervously set out my bottles, complete with bread, a tasting dish, and waited for customers. 

Not. A. Soul.

Oh well. I was soon joined by Marija and we settled in for a cosy few hours in this idyllic spot. We
chatted, caught up with the village gossip, quipped with local passers by. Work was going on around us; boats being painted, apartments being emptied, nets being mended. The activity here can be subtle but it is there if you take time to look. For instance, a boat today brought someone who was taking away branches of olive trees to be tested - what do they need, how can they be improved? Everything here has a purpose, everything has a rhythm, and it works like clockwork.

Speaking of which, you can set your watch by visitors who arrived on boats, old and new. After a real mixed summer, unusually they were mostly English this week - with a few French, some Poles - and happy to soak up some sunshine. Most people were too terrified to make any form of eye contact with our hard-nosed sales techniques. Some deliberately went the long way round the square to avoid my basket of oil. With a friendly good afternoon, a smile and nod, clearly we were moving in for the kill each time, Moroccan-bazaar style. I didn't think I was that scary.

However, thankfully some people were interested in learning more, and happy to spend a few moments chatting about life on this island. My sales technique is purely information based; you can take the girl out of the library but...! Even as people stood looking at the monument or church, I wanted them to enquire. But as one of the local ladies sadly told me today, she is regularly asked, 'where am I?'. People get off the boats and have no clue what the island is called. So I'm simply valuing the several conversations I had with people who cared enough to natter.

So forgive me if I get mildly tetchy with people who come here for 45 mins and write articles based primarily on wiki research and €€€. You see, the olive oil is a symbol of this place - you need peace, love and time. The effort it takes to get from terrace to plate is incredible; weather, olive flies, harvest, pressing, all of this takes time. The money made by selling is actually the least important because the end product is the way of life. Money is obviously vital but it's not the focus.

Anyway sales is another avenue that I clearly won't be pursuing in future! About 10 bottles this week, no one's retiring yet.


Rocket and Dandelion
In return for selling copious quantities of olive oil this week, payment has been made in the shape of fresh fish. If you work for fishermen, I suppose this reward was inevitable, but it was very welcome. They were waiting for me in the big fish fridge; four huge beautiful shiny mackerel. Before I cleaned and filleted them I admired their colours and brightness. Inspiration was needed as I wanted do something slightly different than the usual tasty oil, garlic, and hot grill combination.

The previous day I'd been out with Marija and her family. She had promised to take me to the fields to get what she described as 'grass' and I was puzzled. I was handed a knife and shown the plant that we were going to collect. Turns out that it was dandelion! We picked a bagful, and I was then handed the lot, as well as some wild rocket for a salad. She told me how to cook it and off I went with leaves that that my granddad used to curse. She said to clean and sort it, then wilt like spinach. I added garlic, oil, wine vinegar, salt and pepper and allowed to sit and cook for a little longer. I wondered how to use this rather acquired taste veg...
Pesto Mackerel Fishcakes

Delia had an idea which combined mackerel and pesto mash. I don't think that putting potato into fish and baking would work for me - far too much effort and perhaps a little bland. So I made a few changes using the basic idea.

  • Pat four of the fresh raw mackerel fillets dry and sprinkle a little salt on them
  • Put 3-4 medium potatoes onto boil and cook until soft. Allow them to dry a little over the residual heat and then mash as usual
  • Whilst they are boiling make a good antisocial pesto - one which makes even the garlic-immune fisherman here run scared. First of all, tussle with a small green caterpillar about whose basil it is...he won, as he wouldn't go down the plughole and waved at me pathetically when I threw him out of the patio door
  • Mine is a large handful of basil leaves, a really big glug of the excellent olive oil, a handful of toasted pine nuts, a couple of crushed garlic cloves, salt, pepper. Whizz up with whatever blender/mortar and pestle you have, then add some grated hard cheese. Add more oil to loosen if it's too 'tight'
  • Throw the lot into the mash and stir in thoroughly. At this stage I also added a rather interesting ingredient. I roughly chopped up a load of the cooked dandelion leaves and threw them into the mash
  • When the cooking oil in a frying pan is smoking hot, add the fillets, skin side down, and cook until just done. Allow to cool a little and then flake into the mash mix. Taste for seasoning and add paprika, or whatever to adjust
  • Add an egg and a little flour to bind. Then clean and re-oil the frying pan to heat again
  • With floury hands to prevent sticky mayhem, form into burger sized cakes and fry on each side until brown and crisp

East London Mackerel Cakes

Given that I'm going home in a week, and I enjoyed the previous day's cakes, I thought I'd try a curry flavour as I'm serious need.

Melting a butter/oil combo, I fried up a small onion, curry powder, cumin, chilli, some finely chopped red pepper, and popped in the final two raw mackerel fillets and sizzle thoroughly. Once it's all cooked and soft, I flaked the mackerel into the new batch of mash and scraped in everything from the pan. Add an egg and a little flour to bind, I chopped up more dandelion and stirred it all together. Cook as above, and add more tabasco for fun.

Serve both versions with a good dollop of hot ajvar.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Lecce - and the return to Šipan

I hadn't really considered the reputation of Bari before deciding on a day and night there, but it certainly struck me as cleaner and more tidy than Naples or Rome. People tell me that it should have been filthy, scary and a place to avoid. Which is why I'd seriously consider going back there for another visit. I've now experienced many Italian port cities and this one, along with Ancona is probably my joint favourite. Bari's old city is a warren of tiny streets, with people living their lives outside on them; from noisy shop keepers conversations and football exclamations, to hushed musical Italian gossiping and lovers' seafront murmurings. The golden buildings were colourfully adorned with painted Madonnas, bright plastic flowers, and clean washing. The low stone archways between buildings framed the scenery like monochrome rainbows, picture perfect and a photographer's dream.

As I headed out of the old town into the new on my way to the train station, the atmosphere changed and suddenly I was in a shopper's paradise. I sat in an ice-cream bar waiting for a morning coffee but I didn't feel at ease. After the natural beauties of Macedonia and the uncertain dirtiness of Albania, the likes of Prada, Gucci, and other labels didn't sit right with my jeans and rucksack so I got up and headed through town to find something more suitable. The little portable espresso bar in the public park was perfect - 2 euros for a chocolate bun and an excellent caffe latte was just the job. I was inevitably joined by a gentleman who was compelled to tell me about his marital difficulties. In Italian. It's not my strongest language to be honest. I was torn between annoyance at having my musings interrupted, and compassion at his loneliness, after all, making time for people has been my biggest lesson of this year.

After an uneventful ticket purchase, a quick trip to a supermarket for sundries, and clambering on the right train, I was smoothly making my way to Lecce. It's a sign of how immured I've become to travelling under difficult circumstances. As much as I love Croatia, train travel in other parts of Europe is something I've missed - efficient, cheap, clean, convenient, comfortable. Balkan buses are certainly cheap and relatively efficient, but I'm a bit fed up of them and the roads. So I just sat back and admired the Italian scenery; dramatic clouds, blue seas, green olives and vines, and towns with romantic names. Brindisi, I am determined to return to you....not to mention Monopolis!

I arrived in Lecce just under two hours later, calm and unruffled, with back symptoms under control. I can definitely recommend the loos at the station and after a quick tidy up, I was strolling into the quiet town. The weather was stunning and there was a photograph around every corner. Unexpectedly for an ordinary southern Italian city, it felt cosmopolitan and the population there is very diverse; I haven't seen ethic clothing like that since leaving east London. The supermarkets reflected the foods of the people and it made a change from the predominant Mediterranean flavours I've been used to. It helped that I was sharing a house with a young Argentinian and we compared travelling notes over a brew of yerba mate. I later shared my mushroom risotto!

Italy is very expensive after Albania etc, but despite this I quite enjoyed making myself at home there. I went to the hairdressers, indulged in a bit of clothes shopping, and wandered around many of the churches, parks, museum grounds and the incredible cemetery. The latter should be on everyone's list. It's like a mini-city of tiny desirable properties; it makes London's Bishop's Avenue look a bit cheap. I particularly loved the Egyptian temple with the sphinxes. I probably should have gone further afield but I was happy just to relax in the town and catch up with my rest. Such a party animal! Sadly, the contacts that I had in Lecce didn't materialise so there was no socialising.

I was happy to experience yet more interesting weather conditions but it was polite in comparison to Albania. The sky threatened to really throw a tantrum but just ended with a some rain and a dramatic double rainbow. The following days were generally settled and I was happy to compare yet another Roman theatre. I wasn't planning a Roman architectural trip but it had been a delight to find these classical gems in each town - what a wonderful part of the world this is!

My break now thoroughly wound down, with nothing unexpected on the horizon, I was gladly thinking about heading back to paradise. The journey was a dream. It was almost too easy getting back; train was on time, pizza and beer demolished and a slow stroll along the sea to the port. Although the Jadrolinjia office in Bari port decided to give me last minor panic by remaining determinedly closed come check in time. I had clearly missed the memo about needing to take a bus a few kilometres down the road to another terminal. A kind lady there took my money for a private cabin and I have never been so relieved about having guaranteed access to a private space the size of a wardrobe, in the bowels of a ferry. I was waved through passport control quickly.

As soon I was on the ferry, I couldn't believe the contrast with the Durres-Bari experience. That same ship happened to be moored nearby, and I looked at it and the same harbour-side in disbelief, remembering the chaotic scenes of immigration. The Dubrovnik was an ordinary car ferry but somehow it felt civilised - probably something to do with groups of ladies sipping wine in the bar, and signs pointing to a 'children's snug', and the excellent looking restaurant. Oh, and the fact I was clutching a key to my own private bunk. I ignored all of these social gatherings, and I was undressed, in bed and asleep before we even disembarked at 10pm.

I've already said that I was in tears on reaching my favourite port of Dubrovik café but it honestly felt like I'd returned home. The friendly welcome from passport control, the flirty Croatian exchange with a local taxi driver, and the sight of the little Postira - not to mention the fact that I was looking respectable, showered, refreshed and no longer tired and in pain. It was an epic trip and it had turned out to be a lot more arduous than I expected, but as usual difficult trips leave more of a mark and it was definitely one to remember.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Would you open a door for me?

Chivalry - courteous behaviour, especially that of a man towards women
Synonym - Gallantry - gentlemanliness, thoughtfulness, attentiveness, consideration
Antonym - Rudeness, boorishness

Why is Chivalry only thought of when a man does something nice!?
Why is chivalry being lost amongst the youth?
Why do the Older generation not believe in patience anymore?
Why do the older generation not tolerate the youth any more?
Were they not young once? Will we not reach an old age?

I sit here befuddled!

A topic was brought up today, do we ladies like chivalry, or is it dead? I sat and thought, then I questioned. I am always the person holding the door for others, I am always the person giving up my seat, I am always the person moving out of the way so that somebody else can get a better view.

Yes, I would say I am a courteous person but what of others?

When Reuben was a baby, I sat in a cafe to get out of the house. For those that know me that was a huge achievement. But oh dear... yes, oh dear... he started to cry. Frustrated tears, unhappy tears, tears that wish teeth to go away! There wasn't many of us in there, just an elderly lady and gent and another couple.  As I tried to quieten him, a voice came out "can't you put IT outside?"

IT, IT. I spun so quick I nearly knocked a glass flying!?

Now stereotypically you think it is going to be the couple, young and in love, and not a care in the world but for each other. A noisy baby interrupting their lunch is just not ok! But it wasn't. The elderly lady again muttered "IT should go outside". Now usually I would never of said anything and continue on, but coming into that cafe, I could see her struggling, so I had helped her in, I had helped her to that table, I had pulled out her chair and tucked her in.

Yet, all that was very easily forgotten, when the same patience and courteousness that I needed from her had quite literally, sank with the Titanic! I didn't let it go. I told her quite frankly, "it is not a dog, it is a baby, it has a name. If you are uncomfortable with the noise, then feel free to take yourself outside, and of course I will gladly help!"

Her face had utter bewilderment on it!

I only look back at this incident as I see it more and more. My elderly neighbour of 85 years is the most kind, caring individual I know, yet upon getting off her very frequent bus journey, she appeared saddened. I asked if she was ok, and she retold a story of youths; school children messing around on the bus. She is unable to sit, and not one of them cared about how old she was or how in need she was of a seat, no one offered her theirs, and no one offered to help her get off with her shopping.

Are we now alone?
Have we become such an independent society, that if nobody asks for help, we just simply won't offer?
Why is it, that in a disaster, the women and children are rescued first?
Why should a man give up his seat to a woman if he is elderly?
Why should we open doors for people?
Why should we say please and thank you?
Why should we do anything for anyone?

Because the world is round....

Do keep being courteous, whether or not you are male or female, old or young, and let's not stop teaching; not just children but the elderly too!

As we are taught to respect our elders...teach patience to the older generation.

For the world keeps turning, and as the days grow darker we need chivalry from everyone, not just specific gender.

I'd open that door for you...would you for me?

Down and out in Bari

It seemed apt the the sun was behind us; don't get me wrong Bari glistened in the golden light and the port looked truly beautiful. But I just didn't feel ready for Italy. It turns out that Italy didn't really feel the love either as the queue for passport control didn't move. For 2 hours. When it finally got going an hour later, people were trickling through one-by-one. Some of the guys around me yelled out to the officious numpty that I was an EU citizen. I was eventually squeezed through the crowd. I asked simply 'perché?' of an official guy, shrugging, he suggested that I should have shown my passport earlier in the process. 

Just how, precisely? You're at the back of such a thick mass of humanity which couldn't even get a sick child through, let alone a privileged EU passport holder. Bags went through the x-ray, keeping in mind that as I left Bari, bags weren't checked! By this point, if it hasn't again for a wonderful gentleman, I don't think I'd have been queuing upright. Once outside the port, basically I wasn't. I lay collapsed on a bench watching some black-clad elderly women moving bags - they were still the other wrong side of the barrier, I wondered about their stories. 

I lay there chatting to Petrit; he was off to Germany, and I admired his strength - I was dreading the 20 minutes just getting into Bari town centre. Still, things were looking up, I remembered my Albanian cake from the previous day. It was squished, sweet, sticky and utterly delectable. Finally as the ibruprofen was kicking in again, it was time to leave the port and head our separate ways; me to my overnight stop, and he to his bus north. I ambled over to a promising looking local bus stop and I was soon heading the wrong direction into town. Excellent. 

Airbnb decided to further test my endurance and ingenuity by sending me to Via Carduzzi, rather than a Corte of the same name. I looked up at the modern office block and sighed. This wasn't it. Thank goodness for technology and having the right address. So more accidentally rather than any map reading skill, I headed in to the right part of the old town. I asked a cheery gentleman where this place was, and it caused a conversation which can only be described as heated. One way was directed, then an entirely opposite one was shouted; a priest was consulted, and soon several shopkeepers and a waiter was involved. 
Oh. My. God. 

'Go back, down the way I'd came, and it was third on the left'. This was the short answer and I said hvala and was on my way again. Wrong country. Wrong language. Tears and hysteria welling, I arrived in a pretty little court yard - only 5 hours after the ferry docked. The place was still being cleaned but the lady on seeing my condition brought out a chair, and I sat there vacantly examining my boots. They, like everything else, were filthy. What was I thinking coming to Italy dressed like a hobo!? 

Finally I was in! I stripped, scaldingly showered and thoroughly soaped, and lay clean and fragrant on the gloriously comfortable bed. The place was beautiful and the curved vaulted ceiling like a wine cellar. Wine! Food! Of course, I fell asleep and missed the Italian lunchtime window. By the time I was smartly and appropriately dressed for an Italian dinner, it was raining. And by the looks of it, it was Durrës all over again, settling in for a second bout of Thunder v Lightning. If I didn't know better, I could be forgiven for thinking that this trip was really doomed! 

Thankfully by 8pm the storm had passed over and Sunday was obviously late opening for every restaurant there. I was told to come back in 30 mins, an hour,  so meandered around the city quite happily, if hungrily. I kept meeting a colourful and noisy band which was rather random; they seemed to be playing to every Virgin Mary shrine in the place. I hope she appreciated it, I certainly did. Heading back to the first place I had tried, there was a warm welcome. Cheese, wine, meaty ears - there was a calorie explosion of the best type. And for the first time since Macedonia I ate heartily. 

I quite like Bari and, as I shall continue, the small city of Lecce. Bari has a relaxed, civilised charm, with glorious designer shopping for those that way inclined. I'd definitely go back. But Italy has really lost its charm for me - I've never really thought about Italian warmth because when you're going round Florence, Rome, Venice, centuries of tourism has taken its toll. You're just another visitor, no matter how friendly you are. Croatia easily beats Italy in terms of friendly acceptance. Croatia, your people are gems. 

Addendum. I've just arrived back in Dubrovnik told the passport man I loved him and burst into tears! Now the cafe is playing klapa - Daaaalmacija!! 

Thursday, 22 September 2016

To Durrës and beyond

Some travel posts are harder to write than others. Words flow when you relive incredible experiences because they have enriched your view of the world. But sometimes when you've been challenged it takes longer to process what has happened and perhaps you just want to forget some stuff! I started this from the comfort of Trenitalia's regionale service Bari to Lecce - without back pain - a comfortable train which departed at a time convenient to me. And I'm finishing it lying in bed after a restful time in Puglia. 

So Durrës. Despite being unable to hobble more than a few kilometres, thankfully I managed to see some of the town. My first afternoon I got as far as the port to check out where I'd be going the following day, and more importantly obtained some money. Again - same in Macedonia - I failed to check the exchange rate so stood at the machine looking blankly at the numbers. 3000 seemed low-mid range. Pizza and a coke turned out to be 200 lek, so I felt quite rich. I shuffled back to the apartment to eat on my balcony and enjoy the warmth. Sadly, that afternoon and evening I did nothing more interesting than read, have a very hot shower, and retreat into sleep. What can I say, I had been invited out by my hostess but my back had defeated me. 

The next day I tentatively tried again. There was a little improvement but I remained cautious as I was already anxious about the 10 hour ferry journey later that evening. It was a glorious day and remembering the bakery I saw the previous day, I was suddenly famished. Once again, I ventured out of the apartment block, which was having serious amounts of noisy building work done, and slowly went down the hill towards the main street. This time I was happy to admire the impressive remains of the Roman forum, and then get distracted by a coffee shop with a beautiful sunny garden. 

I joined the locals enjoying their leisurely Saturday morning, and ordered a coffee, it was a perfect hour or so. Finally hunger drove me across the road and I got drinking yogurt, cheese burek, a small cake and some focaccia for later on. With my picnic I meandered down to the sea front so I could take in the air. 


Another distraction before consuming breakfast with the discovery a huge amphitheatre. Although bigger than the one in Ohrid, it wasn't in quite the same state of repair. As it happens, and purely by accident, this trip could have been billed as a Roman entertainment odyssey, as there was another incredible theatre in Lecce. Like Ohrid's, Lecce's was also set up for events. These elegant buildings are extraordinary and I really hope that Durrës gets around to making use of the space there. 

Finally reaching the large expanse of concrete which constitutes the parade, I perched on a wall. Not because there were no seats, just I didn't want to aggravate my already complaining nerve. I munched my salty pastry and pulled faces at the yogurt. Fruit or plain are the only acceptable options, and this one was salty. My breakfast was like a bucket of sea water. Still, at least the architecture was something to behold. The ugly rawness of this place has to be seen to be believed and I'm actually keen to go back there and relive it. The beach was covered in evil smelling brown residue, and the abandoned dismantled summer attractions provided a suitably macabre colour. 

Frankly it suited exactly how I felt. 

I watched the men hauling in their fishing nets, thigh deep in the murky water. The comparison to my other Adriatic fishermen was profound. How can this even be the same sea? What the hell are they thinking, why is this place in such a state? The islanders spend so much time protecting and worrying about their environment, and yet a few hundred miles south, they are dragging nets through filth, catching plastic and unidentifiable detritus. 

I turned sadly away from these workers, via a surreal square containing bronze statues of Tina Turner, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. What!? There was also a real man in too much denim sat there but I don't think he was a rock great. I continued on and went in search of non-salt based snacks for later.  Peaches and bananas were perfect antidotes, and I spent an afternoon resting and dozing on the sofa with the radio. Pain is such a helpless feeling, and there wasn't a thing I could do about it. 

Four hours or so before ferry check in - yes, my confirmation said I had to be there - my lovely hostess came to consult me about a lift to the port. She was so disbelieving of this timing, she called and spoke with her friend who also scoffed at it. We decided to wait another couple of hours. Excellent, I had time to go sample food at the nearest restaurant. After all I'd not eaten properly since Macedonia - the pain from my back had kindly referred itself to my stomach. 

The weather had other ideas. By the time I had got myself ready to set out, the storm had arrived. And the rain was lashing down; for the next two hours I had prime amphitheatre style seats for a gladiatorial tussle between thunder and lightning. It was terrifying and awesome in equal parts, terrifying mainly because 1. I had to go out in it later and 2. Was it going to be a repeat of the Šipan no-electricity-for-12-hours drama? Would the port shut? When my hostess turned up she looked concerned. The traffic was spectacular, she said, and the main roads had turned into rivers. 

Why me?

Heroically she got me to the port, the town square was now essentially a water feature. Security on the port gate weren't interested in us, and we drove straight in and immediately we joined the hellish queue of traffic. Everyone was trying to get to the terminal building to avoid the rain and it was chaotic. She abandoned the car with all the others and came into the building with me. The check in had been affected by a power cut and we were on emergency generators. If I'd thought to panic, I might have started... 

With a hug from my last friend on the planet, I went through security and passport control. I didn't think to get a stamp for my passport, sadly. So there I was, painfully stood with a mass of people, some just clutching small bags, others with what looked like entire households. Actually including their carpets...this is surely what Armageddon feels like. I had no idea what was next, as people were heading in random dribs and drabs through the rain to the ferry. I wasn't even sure I had a ticket at this point, let alone which of the two ships it was. 

After about an hour, no one around me had moved. Drastic action was needed. I weaved through the crowd, out of the shelter, avoided the articulated lorries, and braved the ferry ramp. When I was finally noticed, I was told I was on the wrong metal tub. Biting back tears, I went back out into the rain and over to the other one. I was waved up the steps and up into the dry safety of the passenger decks. 

It turns out that people had already boarded and there were no banks of seats on which to lie down. No, I hadn't booked a cabin because I'm stupid. To my horror, more people continued to pour on, and every available piece of floor space was filing. Not giving a damn now, I collapsed between some chairs, and claimed my 5 foot spot. I lay there and drifted in and out of sleep until about 4am, exhausting my comforting stash of podcasts. The bright lights, wooden floor and hubbub made for an interesting night. 

I gave up, staggered upright  and went to get a drink. I forgot the word for coffee in every language. A kind gentleman at the bar who was clearly a more seasoned traveller than I ordered a caffe latte for me, which baffled the barman. I think he was only used to doing espressos for Albanians. I headed out on deck with my perfect coffee to join the chain smokers, to watch the sun come up. 

The beauty of which made the entire exhausting trip worthwhile. It was a new day