Saturday 29 September 2018

No more tears - just the science of coming home

There's a thing. Mljet is a relatively easy place to get to and long as you start or end in Dubrovnik, Split... or Šipan. There was a vague purpose for spending time on Mljet in the first place because all hearts must mend eventually. And it has been amazing to be here finally feeling happy and whole. In a reversal, I wondered whether it would be wise to pay a visit to my old home in Suđurađ.

When I left there in April 2017 it felt slightly bittersweet with an air of finality. Home was still home, but was no longer; I'd sadly moved on. The moment we landed in Šipanska Luka at a ridiculously early time, I had an air of melancholy unreality. Happily I must have made quite an impression during my time here, because familiar faces turned from polite disinterest to genuine recognition - in moments. This made me feel quite tearful, in a way I rarely feel.

This two faced place never fails to amaze me; despite the near end of the summer season the many pleasure boats continue to pour in, and the opportunity for people spotting is endless. On the other hand, the icy walk through the polje this morning demonstrated the beating agricultural heart of the island. Cows were being tended to; grape pomace lies in heady heaps; fattened cabbages await winter pulling; and the olives are well on the way to being ready.

Enjoying the coffee and soaking up the early morning sunshine in Teo's bar was very pleasant - watching the village come awake is a simple pleasure. Eventually hunger drove us to picnic snacks on my nearest favourite beach. There are so few people there; people from the pleasure boats either don't have the time, or the inclination to stray out of the village. Which means they miss the actual life going on but as the companioning one knows, I have very little to say about idiot tourists.*

<insert your own melancholic shit here>

Having made myself all melancholy (shit happens), my amazing friend Marija invited us to see her family and have a taste of the rakija and wine making process. Now as you all know, science and history thereof is my life and the very best outcome of science is the stuff you can eat and drink. What is cake making, if it in't science? Anyway, much of what I have enjoyed exploring is alchemy... So to see an actual still in action is pretty much renaissance science in motion.

Fascinated, I watched as the deep purple 'waste' grape material was put into a large lidded metal container and sealed with water around the top. The dried garden herbs had been carefully chopped and layered; mint and fennel were the secret ingredients here. The stove underneath was stoked to cook the mix, and we sat back to fuss the cat who was thoroughly enjoying the warmth. The smoke unfurled into the olives above and we sipped our wine and munched on home smoked bacon.

Next door's sheep popped by unexpectedly and there were shouts of ide, brzo, 'cha... and mint sauce, lamb chop! I'll leave you to sort out who said what.

The fumes from the fruit and herbs headed upwards in to a metal tube; then went through a coil to be
cooled and condensed. The tiny precious drops fell like tears into a hanky... to be collected in to a saucepan. As it filled, it was occasionally emptied into a large round flask and the odd finger managed to sneak in and test the strength. Each batch would start strong, and then mellow and dilute. The art is to mix them to ensure consistency...and presumably avoid blindness or brain damage.

Also it's getting dark and what the heck is happening in here?

It was like magic if you can imagine a life surrounded by grape fumes, goats, and pine wood smoke. It reminded me of all I had left on the island. And I have never felt so sad about returning to tech, East London and the world outside. 

And on that melancholic note, let me remind you we are currently being serenaded by Antonio and his friends. Karaoke Mljet style.That is to say all is well in the world, and there has been birthday cake.

*the water in the lakes is NOT brackish ffs.

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