January / February 2010

We succumb to a serious bout of throat and sinus infection on our return which puts us out of action for about 2 weeks. The weather doesn’t help. Indeed both months are almost continuous rain. The locals tell us that it is the wettest winter on record. We remember last year and keep our own counsel – both years seem to have been appalling!
A main activity in January is organising a
Burns Supper. Traditionally this should of course take place on or near 25 January, the birth date of Scotland’s National Poet Robert Burns. For a variety of reasons, chiefly the schedule of the new UK Ambassador to Montenegro, we hold it on 13 February. Over 100 guests, up on last year’s inaugural event when we had 80. A side activity is holding Scottish Country Dance practices beforehand so that as many people as possible have some idea of what to do.
We take advantage of a rare dry day the week after the Burns Supper to prune our vines, in the hope that the crop will be equally good if not better than last year’s. Jam making is also a great way to use up the mandarins, oranges, lemons and kiwis which grow in the garden of the stone house. As noted earlier, an inhibitor is the lack of ‘jam-fix’ locally – we had to bring packets back from UK and Germany.
About once a week in February, we drive up to Podgorica for meetings with various contacts and agencies. On a couple of these trips there are significant delays on our normal route from Budva via Cetinje. Once there is an accident which holds us up for about 1½ hours, with the road being completely closed while the emergency services deal with it. On another occasion, climbing the hill from Budva up to Brajici, we come to a long queue and after several minutes decide to drop back down onto the coast and take the Sozina tunnel which links Bar to Podgorica. Just as well, as we find out later that there had been a massive rock fall which blocked the whole road and took several hours to clear. After these experiences, we follow the locals’ advice and use the tunnel when there is bad weather.
GTZ we meet Elisabeth Nöst-Kahlen, an Austrian architect, who tells us that the design the local Montenegrin architect did for us 2 years ago will never make a Passive-House! Major flaws, such as the basic ground plan and insufficient allowance for insulation, inhibit the ability to maximise energy conservation. Back to the beginning – rather like one of those children’s games such as snakes and ladders