Tuesday 21 June 2016

Speed bonnie boat!

Naughty car
If you're mildly stressed, take a ride on a speed boat across a blue sparkly stretch of water, wind in your hair, and bottom bumping thuds. This needs to be a rule for life generally, in my humble opinion. You may recall a minor drama regarding my status here and it seems I've had more to do with the law over the past few weeks than I have in my entire life. And this includes the time I was allowed to pretend to be a police officer and sit in the front seat of dad's car pressing the neee naaaaw button. Definitely no flashing lights here though thankfully. Not even on the boat.

I'd spent the previous day panicking and having imaginary conversations, before deciding that there was nothing I could do, aside from admiring the storm, reading books, and having an early night. An over active imagination is never a good thing when it involves long term plans in a foreign country. I was warned to be up and ready at 7am for my first non public ferry trip to Dubrovnik. I had no idea what to expect and was feeling mildly guilty for dragging my landlord and his father, to the big city. The elderly gentleman was required to sign stuff to say that I was living in one of his apartments. I was comforted by the fact that three large plastic canisters were also placed in the boat. Clearly other errands were going to be run.
The day was beautiful after Sunday's wild wind and rain; the sea was flat, the sun golden peach, and islands vividly green; just perfect!
The man at the engine is clearly a speed freak - also confirmed by the later car driving and wonderful display of earthy Croatian. We zipped into the little harbour on the mainland and swished to a sudden halt as the wall seemed to get very close, very quickly. They fastened the boat up with the same speed and grace, and I would give anything to have that natural ease on and about the water, it's amazing to watch. We walked towards the little buildings on the harbour, and it was a hive of early morning Monday activity. A number of guys dressed for a day's decorating, and clutching sandwich bags had congregated, clearly waiting for a boat; a sprightly looking elderly gentleman was heading to the turquoise sea for an early morning dip; and cars and vans were coming and going along the dirt track. My landlord apologised for his 'shit' car and was muttering about needing to replace it.
Yup. As if the heavens knew that I was coming to Dubrovnik, his car refused to start. In fact, even the doors refused to open with the electronic key. Oh. I agreed, his car was shit. Not that I said that, I remembered the axe.
After a calm chat with one of the decorators nearby, one of them went off for his elderly VW polo, and jump leads were retrieved from the boot of the dead car, which thankfully opened with the ordinary key. This is what I love about the people here, an absolute practical certainty that nothing that can happen which can't be fixed by their own hands. And the fact that everyone helps one another, no hesitation, no worries. Most of the people I know, the contrary one excepted, would have immediately rang for the car rescue people and sat with their head in their incapable hands until a van with a stranger arrived. And I include myself in this observation.
The three guys chatted as the battery was charging. In the meantime, the other decorators hopped into a little boat and headed to Lopud for their work, but this one seemed unconcerned. I was later told that it would return for him, and apparently the next job they had was on Sipan - there would be beers to say thank you for the help. With a hiccup and alarming grind, the car started and seemed compliant. So we climbed in and headed up the steep road to the main drag into town. The traffic was normal - maniacs on bikes, suicidal overtaking on corners, and slow buses and trucks clogging up the steep hills. We pulled into a car park and the car was left running.
Yes, running. Windows open. Key in the ignition. I was sniggering as I imagined this in East London!
The first law office was no good because the man behind the big desk wasn't there. The ladies kept us waiting for what seemed like hours, after pulling faces at the paperwork before telling us they couldn't help. We meandered across to another hidden little office, again full of serious looking ladies on computers. After a conversation and explanation of circumstances, one pleasant lady took the papers, and essentially 'decorated' them. Multi-coloured string threaded through the holes, a large golden seal, a stamp, signature - basically everything to impress. She very kindly did some copies of my health card and passport, took payment, and feeling thus armed, we wandered back to the car. To my unsurprise, it was still there and ticking over. We drove back across town to the police station and I was feeling sick.
Especially when I saw the blond bitch from before who immediately stopped her photocopying to glare at me.  How pleasant. Luckily we got her colleague who by comparison was merely arctic and unfriendly. She hated every single document and questioned everything, but there is just no arguing with coloured string with a specific date on. She told me to come back 'next week' when my certificate may be ready. I queried this, because it's quite an investment of effort - 3 hour round trip - if a piece of paper hasn't been printed. She looked at me as if I was mad for questioning her. Mind you if there are no ribbons and fancy stamps involved, I'll be cross.
So job jobbed. After that we took a trip to the local hospital and had a coffee in the sun whilst waiting for landlord senior. In my relief, I was happy just to tag along with essential tasks such supermarket shopping, random stops in out of the way places, and other man business. Again...every time the car was left happily burbling along, awaiting our return. It was only when we were on our way back to the village harbour, did we to stop the engine to fill up the tanks in the boot. The car battery by this time was happier and there were no further mishaps. Looking at all the shopping and heavy tanks, I hoped that the little boat would be ok and take us all on board!
The weather was still incredible and I had to pinch myself to feel sure that this wasn't a dream. I turned to look at the driver with a broad grin and a squeak as the wind made the waves more lively, and I can't believe that this is a normal part of everyday life and ordinary commute for local people. I'm under no illusion that life is generally physically hard here, but there must be moments when the beauty of everything makes it all work worth it. Later on, whilst eating, drinking and being merry - with locals, Norwegians, Brazilian Swiss, Finish Croats, conviviality is absolutely central. What a place! Thank goodness I'm allowed to stay for a bit longer!

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