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Barbara Unković was born in New Zealand, the daughter of a Croatian father and an English mother. She is D !

awren"e#s "ousin. She is the author of four $ublished books, in"luding two volumes of short fi"tion, Adriatic Blue and Moon Walking, whi"h was longlisted for the %rank &'Connor Short Stor( )ward *+,*. Barbara has had signifi"ant su""ess in writing awards in the United -ingdom. er a"hievements in"lude the longlist and the shortlist for %ish .ublishing. She is also a "onsistent winner of /riters Bill Board. er books Moon Walking and Weeds in the Garden of Eden are award winning finalists in the 0nternational Book )wards *+,*.

Dedi"ated to m( father, 1ohn 0van Unkovi"h.

Barbara Unković





Co$(right 2 Barbara Unković 3he right of Barbara Unkovi" to be identified as author of this work has been asserted b( her in a""ordan"e with se"tion 44 and 45 of the Co$(right, Designs and .atents )"t ,655. )ll rights reserved. No $art of this $ubli"ation ma( be re$rodu"ed, stored in a retrieval s(stem, or transmitted in an( form or b( an( means, ele"troni", me"hani"al, $hoto"o$(ing, re"ording, or otherwise, without the $rior $ermission of the $ublishers. )n( $erson who "ommits an( unauthori7ed a"t in relation to this $ubli"ation ma( be liable to "riminal $rose"ution and "ivil "laims for damages. ) C0. "atalogue re"ord for this title is available from the British !ibrar(. 0SBN 645 ,5869: 56+ 9 www.austinma"aule(."om %irst .ublished ;*+,8< )ustin =a"aule( .ublishers !td. *> Canada S?uare Canar( /harf !ondon E,8 >!B

.rinted and bound in @reat Britain

)"knowledgments /ith s$e"ial thanks to =artin and Danka Unković and famil( for their friendshi$ and su$$ort.

0 remember it was during the summer when she burnt them. 3he fire she had built must have been fier"e as b( the time 0 found the ashes there was nothing mu"h left of an(thing. 3he famil( $hotos were all gone. &nl( the hard "over of m( stam$ album had survived and as 0 dug around in the $utridAsmelling bla"k ashes, neBt to the fen"e in the $addo"k behind the house, 0 found the "harred remains of our Cugoslavian famil( bible. 0t was altogether too thi"k to burn "om$letel( and some of the on"eAbeautiful, gilded $ages were still inta"t. 0 took one as a kee$Asake and $ut it awa( in m( dressing table drawerD 0 ke$t it for ages, but relu"tantl( threw it awa( when the $ungent "har"oal smell began to taint m( "lothes, with relu"tan"e 0#d thrown it awa(. 0#d be"ome a stam$ "olle"tor before m( tenth birthda(. 3he big attra"tion had been the stam$s on the letters re"eived b( m( Dalmatian grandmother. She "orres$onded on a regular basis with her famil( ba"k home in @rada", Cugoslavia, and she was alwa(s ha$$( to give me her stam$s. /ithin a short s$a"e of time, 0 had $ages of them as ever( envelo$e she re"eived alwa(s "ame bearing at least three. 0t didn#t take long for me to lose interest in m( "olle"tion as man( of the stam$s were the same and 0 had far more stam$s from Cugoslavia than from an( other "ountr( in the world. 0 was sad to see the end of m( stam$ album, but not as sad as 0 was that m( mother had destro(ed our famil( bible. =( father was the eldest son in his famil(, and as su"h, his grandfather had entrusted the s$e"ial bible to him. )t night, after dinner, m( father would take the bible out of its boB and unwra$ the tissue surrounding it, before $la"ing it $roudl( in front of him. =( brothers and 0 "lustered around as he turned the fan"( $ages with great "are. 0n the front, there were $ages to re"ord births, deaths and marriages, and even though m( father#s handwriting was not the tidiest, he insisted on filling in

entries here from time to time. 0 have no re"olle"tion of m( mother being $resent at the bible evenings, but ma(be 0 was too engrossed in the s$e"ial gilded book with the ornate religious $i"tures to noti"e her. )s a s$e"ial treat m( father would often read us stories, but we were never allowed to tou"h the $ages in "ase our hands were dirt(. 3o this da(, 0 "an still see the look on m( father#s fa"e when 0 told him about the demise of the beautiful bible. e was stri"ken, as needless to sa( it was irre$la"eable. =( stam$ album did not have the same sense of worth and the famil( $hotos we "ould re$la"e with "o$ies held b( other members of m( father#s large famil(. /ell, at least that was what 0 thought, until 0 realised that there had been man( sna$s taken b( me with m( first "amera, of whi"h no one else in the famil( had "o$ies. 0t wasn#t until ,65>, when m( grandmother died and we found her old $hoto album, that we were able to re$la"e the older $hotos, su"h as the one of m( grandfather taken in the ,6:+s, wearing his "owbo( hat as he slou"hed against his new, $ink Chevrolet, and the ?uaint one of m( father and his siB siblings standing beside the outside ;long dro$< toilet looking like a grou$ of ragged, illAassorted waifs. )t the time of the in"ident, 0#d asked m( father wh( m( mother had burnt all our $re"ious things, but he didn#t answer me. 0nstead, he#d Eust shrugged in that "lassi" Dalmatian wa( and gone about his dail( "hores with an attitude of de$ression. 0t was man( (ears before 0 learnt that m( mother had been envious of m( father#s $assionate relationshi$ with his mother and his large famil(, and that she had burnt ever(thing of meaningful signifi"an"e to him in an attem$t to break down the relationshi$ between him and his famil(. =( mother was English, her famil( were not at all "lose, and she "ould not a""e$t the intimate bonds whi"h were the normal wa( of being in a Dalmatian famil(. .erha$s what m( father said had some truth to it, but as the (ears went b( and 0 re"alled the unfortunate in"ident, 0 "ame to the "on"lusion that m( mother had been tr(ing to destro( all tra"es of our father#s famil( tree in the ho$e that m( brothers and 0 would forget an(thing and ever(thing about our roots. )s

it turned out, her a"tions had the o$$osite effe"t on me and onl( in"reased m( interest in the Dalmatian side of m( famil(. Shortl( after the bible burning in"ident, m( (earning to know more about m( roots heightened on"e more when m( brother and 0 "ame u$on what a$$eared to be the remains of a se"ond fire, in a $addo"k near the "ow shed. Some distan"e from our house, there were broken red bri"ks, the "rumbling remains of a "himne( and the rotting, wooden footings of a small house. ) $rett( $ink rambling rose was now s$reading over the site and had begun to obs"ure the "harred ruin. 3his was not a to$i" m( father wanted to dis"uss at all and when 0 asked him about the ruin his answer was short and dismissive. e told me that this was the site where his Un"le 1a"k#s house had been and that it had burnt down some (ears ago, before 0 was born. =ore than that, he would not sa(. 3he anguished look in his bright, blue e(es told me that this was a subEe"t whi"h was $ainful to him and his rea"tion made me wonder if members of his famil( had lost their lives in the fire. 0 tried asking him more ?uestions, but the( were greeted with ston( silen"e and the usual Dalmatian shrug. =( mother did not seem to know an(thing about the other house, or if she did then she wasn#t about to let on, and for some unknown reason it didn#t o""ur to me to ask m( grandmother ;m( grandfather had died before 0 was born< and when 0 did think about it, it was too late, as b( then she had $assed awa(. 3he m(ster( dee$ened when, in the (ear *+++, Eust before m( father#s death, 0 was sorting through his $ersonal $a$ers and 0 "ame u$on a handAwritten "o$( of a death "ertifi"ate, or ma(be it was the ins"ri$tion from a headstone. 0t gave details of the death, in ,6:+, of =ilka Unković, aged twent(Aeight. /ho was she and how did she dieF &n"e again, this was a subEe"t m( father did not want to talk about and he even went so far as to sa( her death was nothing to do with us as she was not a member of our famil(. Dee$ down, 0 was "ertain there was more to tell. 3here had to be a $ertinent reason wh( the details of her death were with his $ersonal $a$ers. )gain, his e(es were full of $ain, but no matter what 0 said, 0 "ould not

draw him out and the se"ret would more than likel( go with him to his grave. )s the (ears went b( 0 began to wonder wh( there were "ertain ha$$enings in the Croatian side of m( famil( whi"h no one was $re$ared to talk about. 0n what 0 believed was a "losel( knit famil(, it seemed strange. )s 0 had not found an( answers in New Zealand, $erha$s Croatia was where the( were hidden, waiting for me to unearth them. 3herefore, 0 must return to Croatia if 0 am to have an( ho$e of finding answers to these $u77ling ?uestions.

A%ri& '())
Sin"e leaving New Zealand, more than twent(Afour hours ago, we#ve been through a series of dela(s in air$orts and now for this last unbelievable in"ident to ha$$en u$on our return to the village, it is too mu"h. Croatia has been m( home for the last seven (ears and 0 am sho"ked b( this rude wel"ome. GGGG Earlier, our flight from eathrow to Hienna had been dela(ed, but the( assured us at the "he"kAin "ounter that the( would hold the "onne"tion to Zagreb for us. owever, the( did not. /e missed the $lane b( a mere five minutes and were left stranded in Hienna air$ort, as there were no flights de$arting for Zagreb until mu"h later that night. 3he airline attendant insisted we would be fine on the one and onl( flight available and we were left with no "hoi"e but to take it. )s it turned out, as soon as the $lane landed in Zagreb, we had to run, fighting and dodging our wa( through "rowds of dawdling $eo$le in the "ongested air$ort, and even then we onl( Eust made the flight to Dubrovnik. Des$erate to get ba"k to our home in IaJiKće as soon as $ossible, we de"ided to take a taBi, even though we are both eBhausted. 0n the taBi 0 feel druggedL m( Eet lag is eBtreme. /e#ve been awa( from Croatia for siB months and while it has $rovided a good break, it has been too long. %or the last two months 0#ve been anBious to return home and 0#ve s$ent mu"h of m( time wondering about the state of m( gardenL how mu"h rain has fallen in our absen"e and whether the "at will be there when we returnF Hisualising the old stone houses, the an"ient stone walls and the lush olive and fig trees has taken u$ more than m( s$are time. Struggling to kee$ m( e(es o$en in the taBi, 0 lean ba"k against the headrest as 0 wat"h the lights in the villages s$eed

$ast. /ill we get to &rebić in time to "at"h the midnight ferr(, 0 wonderF &ur driver seems in no hurr( and the minutes are ti"king b(. 3he wharf at &rebić is ominousl( em$t( as we $ull in, but things "ould be worse. 3he driver has made a mistake with the timetableL the ferr( isn#t due to leave until half $ast midnight. 3he village is "om$letel( dead u$on our arrival, but as it is now after one o#"lo"k in the morning this is hardl( sur$rising. 3he taBi dro$s us outside the sho$ and s$eeds awa(. 0t#s bla"ker than bla"k, there is no moon, the street lights are turned off and 0 "annot see m( hand in front of m( fa"e. 0t is onl( a short walk to our house, but as we are worried about negotiating so man( ste$s in the dark, we de"ide to leave our heaviest suit"ase adEa"ent to the wall, tu"ked awa( and hidden in shadow at the side of the store. 3his $arti"ular suit"ase is ver( heav( and m( husband, Denis, will "ome ba"k and "olle"t it in five minutes. /e have Eust begun to walk u$ the $ath in the dire"tion of our house, when noise suddenl( be"omes a$$arent. =uffled, drunken voi"es, followed b( a s$eeding "ar, but we are not "on"erned. Certain it has nothing to do with us, we ignore the kerfuffle and "ontinue on our wa(. )s soon as he has unlo"ked the house and de$osited the first three suit"ases inside, Denis goes ba"k to $i"k u$ the last remaining one. M@osh, that was ?ui"k. 3hat suit"ase "an#t be as heav( as we thought it was,N 0 sa(, sur$rised to see him ba"k so soon. M0t#s gone. 3he suit"ase has vanished without a tra"e,N Denis re$lies in an anBious voi"e. is "omment leaves me s$ee"hless. 0#m not sure 0 heard him "orre"tl(. Both of us are stunned, 0 more so than Denis as the suit"ase "ontains all of m( belongings. Not onl( m( shoes, "lothes and toiletries, but also all our im$ortant do"uments, m( "om$uters and writing material. Still reeling from what has ha$$ened, Denis rea"ts ?ui"kl( and tries to turn on the tor"h as we dis"uss going for a walk to sear"h for m( suit"ase, but the tor"h batteries have gone flat. 0n the end, he sets off with onl( the dim light "ast b( his mobile $hone to guide him. 0t is too

mu"h for me and 0 slum$ into the nearest "hair and dissolve into tears. 0n the bla"k of night, not knowing how to o""u$( m(self while Denis is gone, 0 stumble around the garden in a da7e, but not even the vibrant s$ring growth, the flowering olive trees or the budding roses "an "heer me u$. )ll the dreams 0 have had in the last "ou$le of months about how ha$$( 0#d feel being ba"k in the village have eva$orated into the dark, night air. )n hour later, Denis returns, on"e again em$t(Ahanded. 3here is no tra"e of m( suit"ase an(where. 0t#s time for bed and a fitful attem$t at slee$ between "old, "lamm( sheets. )t seven the neBt morning, Denis is u$ and sear"hing again. 3he village is "oming to life and he makes a $oint of talking to ever(one he en"ounters. ave the( seen m( suit"ase, he asksF But nobod( a$$ears to know an(thing at all about it. 0t#s after lun"h and 0#ve set about "hanging the bed linen, Eust to give m(self something to do, when the tele$hone rings. 3he owner of the hotel has found m( suit"ase. 0t is u$stairs in room one and he sa(s he has no idea how it got thereO =( relief is enormousL 0 break out in an atta"k of the shakes and on"e again begin to "r(. B( midAafternoon, with m( suit"ase finall( un$a"ked, 0 "rash out. 1et lag and m( dreadful, slee$less night have "aught u$ with me. GGGG ours later, 0 hear voi"es downstairs. /ondering who it "ould be, 0 stagger out of bed like a drunk with a hangover. &ur good friend .avo and Denis are drinking wine in the kit"hen. .avo has "ome over to let us know that the village gra$evine has told him that PShortA$ants# stole m( suit"ase. Not that he has owned u$ to it, and when 0 bum$ into him a few da(s later and greet him, he looks awa( and s"urries off. /h( would he do su"h a nast( thing, 0 wonderF Surel(, it wasn#t Eust his idea of a Eoke, was itF .avo is also here to "hat about the olive harvest and his wine making whi"h took $la"e while we were awa( and he shares his delight at having made eight hundred litres of red

wine, one hundred of whi"h is for us. &live harvest went well too, although the rain arrived at $re"isel( the wrong time and $revented our grove at @lava from being $i"ked. owever, all is not lost as we still have eighteen litres of eBtra virgin olive oil. GGGG 3he following da(, now that things are beginning to return to normal, it#s time for an assessment of what needs attention around the house and garden. Considering how long we#ve been awa(, inside and outside are relativel( tid(, whi"h is Eust as well as 0 am working at a slow $a"e, on a""ount of m( Eet lag, whi"h is "linging to me like a dam$ "loud. &utside, not onl( are m( attem$ts at swee$ing u$ the dead leaves on %lower Street and the area adEa"ent to our main entran"e being ham$ered b( m( la"k of $h(si"al "oordination, but also b( huge swarms of small, $esk(, bla"k flies. 3his is the first time we have en"ountered these anno(ing $ests, but their life "("le is short and the( die ver( ?ui"kl(. /ithin a da( or two the( disa$$ear Q gone as ?ui"kl( as the( arrived. GGGG 3onight, we#ve been invited for dinner at .avo#s house Q a wel"ome res$ite as in m( $resent unsettled state, "ooking is about the last thing 0 feel like indulging in at the end of the da(. 3he smell of meat roasting is mouthAwatering and it in"reases m( hunger $angs as we arrive in .avo#s kit"hen. .ast eB$erien"e should have told me that there was no $oint in getting eB"ited about this meal. .avo#s wife, who, tonight, is looking $arti"ularl( sullen and rum$ledL as if she has Eust got out of bed, is roasting "hi"ken, lamb, $ork and vegetables in the oven but, as usual, she has smothered them with fat. Ever(thing is too greas( and sits un"omfortabl( in m( stoma"h as soon as 0 begin to eat it. But never mind, the balan"e of the evening turns out to be $leasant enough. .aulina, .avo#s daughter, is eager to hear details about our

daughter Iebe""a#s wedding, whi"h took $la"e during summer in New Zealand, and she is $leased that 0 have brought along $hotos to show her. 3he months while we were awa( seem to have had an effe"t on her brother. e has matured and be"ome ?uieter. )t last, he seems to have given u$ treating his mother and sister like slaves, ordering them to get his meal and wait on him as if he is a king. !ong ma( it last, but 0 doubt that it will. .avo#s father, who is now almost ninet(, is still bedridden. .avo shrugs in that familiar Croatian wa( and sa(s he is no better, but neither is he an( worse. During the "ourse of the evening, there is neither sight nor sound of the old man. GGGG 3he neBt morning it#s "ool but sunn(, as, still suffering from Eet lag whi"h 0 "annot seem to shake off, 0 dig a "ou$le of eB$lorator( holes in the garden as it seems to me that the $lants in m( flower garden are wilting. /e#ve been told that the winter was dr(, and sure enough, the soil is unseasonabl( dr( and definitel( needs water. %or too long, 0 waste a "onsiderable amount of m( morning sear"hing for the garden hose. 0t should be where we left it, in its usual $la"e, hanging on the trunk of our lemon tree, but it is not there and it is some time before we find it in a most uneB$e"ted $la"e. &ne of our neighbours has Pborrowed# it. )nd it is tra$$ed in his well, whi"h he has lo"ked with a $adlo"k. Denis wanders neBt door to see him and asks $olitel( if we "an have it ba"k, but his re?uest falls on deaf ears and the neighbour shrugs and "loses the door in Denis# fa"e. /hat is u$ with these $eo$leF as something ha$$ened while we#ve been awa( to set them against usF 0n the end, out of des$eration, we "ut the hose and waste a $ortion of it, Eust to get it out of the well. GGGG )lthough slowl( but surel( we are getting things into sha$e, somehow 0 don#t feel settled. Sitting ga7ing at the sea

from our terra"e, while 0 drink a "u$ of herbal tea, 0 have a "onstant feeling of unease. )m 0 still suffering from having had m( suit"ase stolen or is it more than thatF Somehow 0 feel different. /hat will it take to make me feel m( old self again, 0 wonderF =( tea is finished and having s$ent time thinking about it, 0 "ome to the "on"lusion that 0#ll feel better with time, as the suit"ase in"ident fades from m( memor( and also on"e 0 get ba"k to m( usual routine and start writing again. B( the end of the morning, Denis has slain the giant weeds in the vegetable garden and 0 have almost "om$leted "leaning inside the house, but there is one thing we "annot fiBD the es$resso ma"hine. 3his morning when Denis turned it on, thinking we#d have a wellAearned "u$ of "offee, smoke $oured out of the ba"k and no matter what he tried, it would not fun"tion. 0t is "om$letel( dead. /e must find someone who knows what the( are doing to re$air it. But whoF 0t will "ertainl( not be an(one on -orJula. 3his is a Eob for a s$e"ialist. GGGG Noosa, our "at, who has a fa"e whi"h resembles an or"a whale, is on our doorste$ the morning after our arrival and she bree7es in for morning tea as if we haven#t even been gone, let alone for siB months. She#s fat and shin( and still has her thi"k, winter "oat. 0 am $leased to see her and delighted she looks so well, even though she still $ersists in biting me when 0 either $et her too mu"h or not enoughO 0 had this terrible feeling something unfortunate might have ha$$ened to her in our absen"e and 0 ke$t thinking that even though 0 give her worm tablets regularl( she would be"ome infe"ted and die, like man( of the "ats here. 0 still shudder when 0 re"all Clare and 3om#s giant tabb( "at, =auri"e. &ne da( we en"ountered him staggering, in what we ?ui"kl( realised were his death throes, underneath the tables at -onoba Hala. U$on hearing further details about his illness, we "on"luded he most likel( had a ta$eworm growing inside him, (et no one had done

an(thing to treat him, let alone taken him to the vet in -orJula. e looked as if he was suffering badl( and after a brief dis"ussion we de"ided that Denis should dis$at"h him to "at heaven. But the neBt da(, when Denis went to find him, the $oor "reature was alread( dead. 0 "ount m( blessings that Noosa is the most selfAsuffi"ient "at 0 have ever known. She "ontinues to ama7e me, and when our neighbour "alls in briefl( to sa( hello, we learn that Noosa is lu"k( to be alive. Both of her "ats were $oisoned while we were awa( and the( are dead. She sus$e"ts the neighbour who lives on the other side of her house to be the "ul$rit, as it is well known in the village that she hates "ats. But, she is not $re$ared to "onfront her. Sometime during the $ast these two families argued, and nowada(s the( don#t s$eak to ea"h other, not even to sa( hello, let alone to make an a""usator( remark. GGGG Shortl( after we dis"over the $roblem with the es$resso ma"hine, .aulina "alls in. She#s ho$ing for a "a$$u""ino, but all 0 "an offer her is fruit tea. M0 forgot to tell (ou all of m( news last night,N she begins not long after we sit down. 3ears fill her e(es when she looks fondl( at Noosa, and then she dro$s her head and lets her long brown hair "over her fa"e. 0t#s "lear that something has u$set her and after she blows her nose and wi$es her e(es, she "ontinues. M!ast week 0 res"ued four kittens. 3he( were hanging in a bag, in the tree neBt to our house. 3he(#d been left there to die and 0 know who did it.N M/ho on earth would do su"h a nast( thingF 3hat#s sho"king,N 0 sa(. M0#m ?uite sure it was the man who lives in the house in front of us. e hates "ats. e#s alwa(s talking about how to kill them,N she re$lies. M)re (ou going to sa( an(thing to himFN MNo, 0 "an#t. 0t would onl( "ause bad feeling and who knows what he might do to us if he gets angr(. )n(wa(,

there#s something else 0 forgot to tell (ou about last night,N she adds, "hanging the subEe"t ?ui"kl(. MDo (ou remember 1osif, the war veteran who "ame to work in the village last (earFN MCes, of "ourse. e was a ver( friendl( man. /e liked him a lot. /e didn#t see mu"h of him, but he was alwa(s $olite and "hatt(. 0s he ba"kF No, don#t tell me. e#s asked (ou out, hasn#t heFN M&h noO 0t#s nothing ni"e like that. 0t#s something ver( sad,N she sa(s as on"e more her e(es fill with tears. M1osif and three other war veterans from his village, in the interior of Croatia, hanged themselves,N she blurts out all in a rush. M&h, gosh. 3hat reall( is terrible. Does an(bod( know wh( the( did itFN MNo,N .aulina re$lies ?uietl(. GGGG 3here have been several notable ha$$enings in the village while we#ve been awa( and one of the most amusing "on"erns Clare, the mightAasAwellAbe )ustralian woman, who lives on the waterfront. Clare and her husband 3om se$arated last (ear and 3om returned to )ustralia. Clare now has a new liveAin lover Q a twent(Aseven (ear old who "omes from a village in the northAeast of Croatia. ) short time later, Clare brings her new man to visit. 1ure, who is not the most handsome of men, s$eaks eB"ellent English and has a ver( amusing sense of humour. is Eokes are some of the funniest 0 have heard and it feels good to laugh as he delights in telling them. .erha$s, this is the "ure 0 need to drive awa( the sad feeling 0#ve been unable to shake off sin"e m( arrival home. Clare and 1ure seem well suited, but will it lastF 3he age ga$ between them is big Q thirt(AsiB (earsO )nd if it does endure, will he be a""e$ted hereF 0 ver( mu"h doubt it and when 0 mention this to him, he sa(s that not long after his arrival in the village last (ear, while we were awa(, "ertain

lo"al men tried to or"hestrate his de$arture b( "onta"ting the $oli"e and telling them he was a drug dealer. During the "ivil war here, when 1ure was a "hild, he witnessed several atro"ities, and now, more than twent( (ears later, he still "annot slee$ at night. e goes on to tell us that not long after he arrived here, the $oli"e sear"hed his belongings at Clare#s $la"e, and when the( found his slee$ing $ills, arrested him and a""used him of selling drugs to (oung $eo$le in the village. e was detained for four hours at the $oli"e station before the( released him without "harge. 3he( did make a $ointL however, of suggesting he return home to Slavonski Brod as soon as $ossible. 0t was then that 0 re"alled what the village men had done to the $ainter from S$lit who had been working here last (ear. !avi"h, a handsome man with masses of seB(, unrul( bla"k "urls, got off to a bad start when the village women, (oung and old, took a fan"( to him. e had, at some $oint in time, been a standAu$ "omedian in Zagreb and as su"h he had the gift of the gab. /e found him funn(, if a little "rude, when he "ame and "om$leted, with $arti"ular eB$ertise, a small $lastering Eob for us. /ithin weeks of his arrival, the village men, who a$$arentl( felt threatened b( him, went to the $oli"e in -orJula with $re$osterous, untrue stories about him. 0n no time at all, he was arrested, a""used of being a $aedo$hile and lo"ked u$. )lthough we felt sorr( for him, we did find it mildl( amusing, es$e"iall( when it be"ame a$$arent that most $eo$le here don#t even know what a $aedo$hile isO )t one $oint, we did wonder if the( were "onfusing !avi"h with our neighbour who sometimes inhabits the house immediatel( in front of us. /hen this middleAaged s$orts tea"her was arrested for a se"ond time on "harges of $aedo$hilia, he was "onvi"ted and although he was senten"ed to a $rison term, after a few months he returned home. 0 was astounded to learn that ever( month he is given three da(s home leave when he returns to the village. )lthough $eo$le whis$er about him behind his ba"k, man( don#t seem to "are about his offen"es and the( "ontinue to so"ialise with him. is wife a"ts as if nothing outA ofAtheAordinar( has ha$$ened and gives nobod(, not even her

immediate famil(, an eB$lanation about his $rolonged absen"es. But the most $u77ling ?uestion of all remains. /hat is the $oint in having senten"ed him to a $rison term when he is released and sent home ever( monthF &n"e 1ure had been released from $oli"e "ustod(, he returned to his hometown for the duration of last winter, taking Clare with him, but he is ba"k now and intends to s$end the summer working in our village. )s of now, he has onl( been ba"k for a week and alread( the lo"als are beginning to voi"e their disa$$roval at his return. 0t seems that last night, when he was in one of the lo"al bars on the waterfront, he made the mistake of having a $iss in the sea. 0mmediatel(, one of the lo"als "ame over and told him off. )stounded that someone should "om$lain about what he was doing, he dared to ask wh(, and was told in no un"ertain terms that onl( lo"als are allowed to $iss in the seaO GGGG 3wo weeks ago, Eust before our return, the village $riest, who had been suffering from "an"er for some time, died. /e now have a visiting $riest who "omes on"e a week from the neighbouring village of .u$nat. No doubt time will tell whether he is a good addition to the village or not, but alread( $eo$le are sa(ing the( don#t like him. So far, he has "hanged the times for "hur"h servi"es and begun to renovate the house beside the "hur"h where he intends to live. 3he da( 0 see him throwing $erfe"tl( good furniture out of the window, 0 have to admit 0, too, begin to wonder about him. 0 ho$e he intends to remove the furniture, otherwise it will be (et another unsightl( $ile of rubbish des$oiling this $i"tures?ue village. GGGG 3he da(s are $assing ?ui"kl(, and although we have not even been ba"k in the village for a month, alread( our struggles with the written returns to the =inistr( of %inan"e for our "offee beans, have re"ommen"ed. )s we dis"overed last

(ear, there are far too man( laborious forms to fill inL the $a$erwork is absurd. Not onl( must we a""ount for green and roasted beans, but also for the husks or waste, and even then the authorities still "om$lain. No matter how we fill them in, the forms are never "om$leted to their satisfa"tion. Not onl( have we had enough, but so too has our law(er. e is now suggesting we destro( the green beans and sell our "offee roaster. owever, it is not as sim$le as that. 0f we want to destro( the green beans, albeit there is nothing wrong with them, first we must have them offi"iall( ins$e"ted and de"lared unfit for human "onsum$tionO 3he entire "offee bean saga leaves a ver( bitter taste in m( mouth. GGGG 0t seems to have taken forever, but at last m( Eet lag has gone. 0 woke u$ this morning feeling full of energ( and eB"itement about the $ros$e"t of working outdoors in m( garden. 3he sun is shining, there is no wind, and as 0 wander down %lower Street with m( "u$ of herbal tea and enEo( the sunshine, 0 know 0 am ha$$( to be home. But alas, m( first morning in the garden gets off to a bad start when 0 am startled b( a small, "oloured snake slithering its wa( towards me. Unsure if it is $oisonous, we de"ide not to take an( "han"es and Denis dis$at"hes it ?ui"kl( to snake heaven in seven small $ie"es. 0t would seem that toda( is not m( da( and 0 have not been weeding m( beloved herbs in %lower Street for ver( long when m( hand begins to smart with $ain. 0#ve been bitten b( a stinging nettle $lant. 0t#s agon( and nothing 0 $ut on it will take awa( the $ain. 0t#s now when 0 remember Iade#s mother working in her vegetable garden u$Arooting stinging nettle $lants with her bare hands. She reall( must have hands made of leather, or ma(be 0#m Eust a softie. But 0 am fortunate and the $ain doesn#t last too long. &n"e it finall( subsides 0 resort to wearing the old, battered gloves whi"h are hiding in the bottom of m( gardening bu"ket and whi"h 0#d forgotten about. 3he( have several holes in them, but the( afford good enough

$rote"tion from the nettles and enable me to finish m( da( without being stung again. 3wo da(s later, m( gardens are looking tid(, if a little bare. .leased with m( effort, 0 stand ba"k to admire them. %rom the to$ of %lower Street, it is elevated enough to look a"ross to the mainland where snow is still visible on the Biokovo Iange above =akarska. 0 think briefl( about friends and famil( in New Zealand about to go into winter while 0 am about to begin enEo(ing s$ring on this lush, green, fertile island. Now, with the weeds gone, the s$ring growth is ver( a$$arent in m( flower gardens. )s earl( in the season as it is, m( white irises, sage and rosemar( bushes have begun to flower and bees, drunk and heav( with $ollen, are bu77ing from flower to flower. 3he lime tree has a $lentiful "ro$ and the both the orange and olive trees are smothered with blossom. 3he time is almost here for a tri$ to the garden "entre in !umbarda to bu( vegetable and flower seedlings, but first we need "om$ost. Iade, who lives a"ross on the other side of the village, sells goat manure and as Denis will be working with .avo in his vine(ard toda(, the( will "all in to Iade#s farm on the wa( home, in the ho$e that he has some for sale. Iade, the gentle giant, is bus( "leaning out the goat en"losure when Denis and .avo arrive. 3he goat house is an o$enAended shi$$ing "ontainer and ?uite different to the usual ones whi"h are found here. 3here are several goats in the village, but unless (ou know where to look, (ou will not find them. 3he( are housed in the old stone huts where donke(s were originall( ke$t. 3he wooden doors on the huts are ke$t $ermanentl( "losedL the goats are never let out for eBer"ise, and the( never see the light of da(. Nor will (ou ever see the old $eo$le who own them, tending them. 3his is a Eob reserved for ver( earl( in the morning, before the rest of the village wakes u$. 0 wonder if this is be"ause the( have alwa(s tended their goats at this hour, or if it#s be"ause the( don#t want it to be"ome known that the( are being eB"eedingl( "ruel "onfining their animals in this wa(F

3hese da(s Denis# Croatian has im$roved dramati"all(, and toda(, as Iade doesn#t s$eak English, Denis de"ides to s$eak Croatian. e begins b( attem$ting to sa( to .avo, M!et#s go and $i"k u$ the goat shit now.N But he makes a humorous fauB $as when what he a"tuall( sa(s is, M!et#s go and have a shit now.N .avo and Iade "an#t sto$ laughing. 0t#s late b( the time 0 finall( finish working in the garden. aving been to the $lant nurser( in !umbarda, where there was a good sele"tion of $lants, 0#ve $lanted im$atiens in the small garden in front of the konoba, new geraniums in m( window boBes and Denis has $lanted bean seeds, tomato, "a$si"um and aubergine $lants in the vegetable garden. )fter a rewarding evening in the garden 0#m $leased with how things are looking. Now, it#s time to wander with a glass of wine and ins$e"t m( handiwork. 0t#s a $leasing sight looking u$ at the four window boBes with brightl(A"oloured geraniums in the front windows of the house. Iestored to its former glor(, this evening the house reall( is standing tall and $roud. GGGG 3he following da(, 0 have at last begun writing again in the se"lusion of m( stud( when a "ommotion outside, near the kit"hen, disturbs me. 3he unfriendl(, sourAfa"ed lo"al who lives on the waterfront has "ome to $i"k lemons from the tree adEa"ent to our terra"e, whi"h he "laims he owns, and in the $ro"ess of "limbing the tree he has sli$$ed and s$iked himself on one or more of the shar$ s$ikes growing out of the trunk. 0t seems he was alread( grum$( to begin with, but this finishes him off. e grabs his bag of lemons and storms off, but not before letting fl( a string of abuse dire"ted at Denis. %or the last few (ears, we have weeded, watered and tended this lemon tree, as well as weeding the adEa"ent "ourt(ard, but as of toda(, the ungrateful individual no longer wants us to tou"h it. /ell, so be it. 0f that#s what he wants, then that#s what he#ll get and if Phis# lemon tree dies, so be it.

)fter lun"h, still feeling sho"ked b( (et another un$leasant en"ounter with a lo"al, we de"ide it is a good time for a walk to HaEa, es$e"iall( as the weather is fine. 3here is seldom an( traffi" on the sealed road whi"h leads to HaEa and toda( is no eB"e$tion. 3he sides of the road are lush and green with s$ring growth. /ild $ur$le and white irises are flowering in abundan"eL tin(, $ink "("lamen make bright s$lashes of "olour in the shad( $at"hes underneath the olive treesL the hillsides are abla7e with bright, (ellow broom and alread( the green, furr( almond fruit are well formed. &n"e again, 0 "an#t resist $i"king one to taste it, but it seems to be even more bitter than the last one 0 tried. =an( of the lo"als "laim to love eating these green atro"ities, but 0 doubt 0 will ever a"?uire a taste for them. &n im$ulse, we de"ide to "he"k out the sea tem$erature at HaEa and it#s a $re"arious walk down the stee$ tra"k whi"h leads to the bea"h, as winter storms have "aused sli$s on the tra"k. B( the time we rea"h the end of the tra"k, the wind has risen, and as it is blowing straight in from the sea, the bea"h is not a $leasant $la"e to linger. )fter a ?ui"k di$ of m( foot in the free7ing water we head towards home. &ur walk has done the tri"k and the brisk sea air has "leared m( head. B( the time we get ba"k, this morning#s in"ident is forgotten as 0 look for a vase large enough to hold m( big bun"h of $ur$le irises. GGGG 0 "ouldn#t be more disa$$ointed this morning when rain and wind arrive and the tem$erature dro$s ra$idl(. Unseasonabl( "old, it is a fresh ten degrees as we wait for the arrival of a "ustoms offi"ial to ins$e"t our green beans. e is late, whi"h is normal here. 3he village almost alwa(s runs on island time. 0 am beginning to wonder if he will not turn u$ be"ause of the weather. But, half an hour later, not one, but two offi"ials arrive. 3he older one is nonAtalkative and remains so for the duration of their visit. is eB$ressionless fa"e gives awa( nothing and it is im$ossible to tell what he might be thinking. 0t does o""ur to me though, that he ma( think we are

smugglers. %or a number of (ears, during the ,69+s and ,64+s green "offee beans and !evi Eeans were smuggled illegall( from 0tal( into Cugoslavia and sold on the bla"k market. 3he other offi"ial, who is ver( ha$$( to s$eak English, is mu"h (ounger and friendlier. e does his best to be $olite and hel$ful and as he takes $hotos for his file, he $romises to do ever(thing he "an to hel$ us sort out the $roblems we are having with the "ustoms de$artment. is attitude $rovides a refreshing "hange from so man( of the bureau"rats we have dealt with here and we are $arti"ularl( sur$rised when he sa(s that Croatia#s rules for green "offee bean im$ortation are ludi"rous, es$e"iall( as the( do not $rovide eBem$tions for $eo$le su"h as us, who are im$orting green beans for their own use. 0 don#t think 0 will ever forget m( meeting with the "ustoms de$artment in Dubrovnik when 0 was told that 0 would not be allowed to drink m( own "offeeO GGGG P&ld =an /ood Stealer#, the oldest man in the village, has died. Cesterda(, he had a heart atta"k in his garden and was found b( one of the neighbours. 3he funeral is toda( at four o#"lo"k. Should we goF 0#ll leave it u$ to Denis to de"ide. GGGG 3oda(, ,> )$ril *+,,, is a da( in histor(. )nte @otovina and =laden =arkić have been found guilt( b( the ague 3ribunal on "harges relating to &$eration Storm in -nin during the "ivil war here in ,66>. 3heir "rimes in"lude $erse"ution, de$ortation, murder and "rimes against humanit(. @otovina is senten"ed to twent(Afour (ears in $rison and =laden =arkić to eighteen (ears. 3he news s$reads through the village ?ui"kl( with most $eo$le "ommenting that the senten"es are unfair and unEust. &n television, one thousand $eo$le turn u$ at a rall( in Zagreb to $rotest against the "onvi"tions and senten"ing. 0t#s not a subEe"t we feel "omfortable dis"ussing with an( of the lo"als here, as there is

no doubt that our views would not be shared b( them and an( ensuing dis"ussion "ould result in a heated argument. GGGG /hen the tele$hone rings earl( this morning, it#s too earl( to bring good news. 0t#s Clare, in a somewhat distressed state as overnight someone has ri$$ed out and tram$led her entire, newl(A$lanted vegetable garden. 3o begin with, she has no idea who it "ould be, but on"e the village gra$evine begins working she soon finds out. 3he garden area is owned b( members of her husband#s famil( and as she and 3om are now se$arated, his famil( have de"ided she "an no longer use it. /h( didn#t the( Eust tell her that the( had res"inded their offer, rather than destro(ing the garden in the dead of nightF GGGG &n @ood %rida(, at eightAthirt( in the morning, 0#m baking hot "ross buns when there is an uneB$e"ted kno"k on the kit"hen door. 0t#s the man from ElektroEug and he is demanding that we $a( our $ower bill toda(O 0t#s a ver( small bill, whi"h we were intending to $a( neBt week, but he isn#t satisfied with this and reiterates his demand that it must be $aid now. 3his minute, in fa"t, otherwise he will "ut off our $ower su$$l(O )$$arentl(, the $ost offi"e is o$en toda(L he es"orts Denis there and stands neBt to him, Eust to make sure he a"tuall( $a(s the a""ount. /e "annot believe it. %irstl(, the bill is so small it#s insignifi"ant, and se"ondl(, wh( is the $ost offi"e o$en on @ood %rida(F 0t seems that toda( is not a holida( here and it#s business as usual. No doubt it#s (et another hangover from the da(s of "ommunism. GGGG 0t#s almost a month now sin"e we returned home. )ll the $leasurable Eobs are finished and the onl( maEor one left on our immediate hori7on is a nast( one. 1ust before we left here last

(ear, we dis"overed a maEor $roblem with the waste $i$e underneath the kit"hen sink. 0t had s$lit and gre( water was leaking into our "isterna. /e drained the "isterna, then dis"onne"ted the $i$e and, as a tem$orar( measure, $ut a bu"ket under the sink to "at"h the waste water. 3his morning Denis has $ut himself into $lumbing mode and begun the Eob of re$la"ing the "ra"ked $i$e. Using a highA $owered drill he intends to dig a "hannel in the "on"rete, where he will la( a new $i$e leading from the sink to the waste $i$es in the konoba ;wine "ellar<. 3he entire area surrounding the $i$es is "on"rete and it will take him several da(s to "om$lete the Eob. 3he noise from the drill is un$leasant, but after onl( one da( he has alread( made signifi"ant $rogress. 0t will be a good Eob, well done, and 0 will be ver( glad to see the end of the bu"ket underneath m( kit"hen sink. GGGG 3onight, Clare and 1ure have invited us for dinner as 1ure has been sent some hot, s$i"( salami "alled kulen, from his home town, Slavonski Brod, whi"h he would like to share with us. 0t#s a warm, "alm evening at siB o#"lo"k as we wander down to Clare#s $la"e on the waterfront. &utside the houses adEa"ent to the sea, the usual lo"als are sitting outside wat"hing us and the world go b(. 3here#s the strange old man, who, rumour has it, was hit on the head b( a ro"k and has never been the same sin"e. /e greet him, not eB$e"ting a re$l(. .erha$s he#s sh( or ma(be he#s lost his voi"e. 3he lo"al $oli"eman#s mother is there too. She#s almost alwa(s in front of her house when she has nothing better to do. /e sto$ and $ass the time of da( with her. She#s a lovel( woman, one of m( favourite $eo$le here. M/here are (ou goingFN she asks in her usual dire"t wa(. M3o dinner at Clare#s $la"e,N 0 re$l(, "ausing her to frown and shake her head. MIather (ou than meON she laughs, as we walk on.

3he kulen is tast(, but so ri"h and s$i"( 0 "annot eat more than a "ou$le of sli"es. During the meal, both Clare and 1ure are full of the Eo(s of life and not onl( are the( "hain smoking, but their al"ohol "onsum$tion is large. 0 am neither a smoker nor a heav( drinker and all too soon, when the room is full of smoke and their loud voi"es begin to Eangle m( nerves, 0 know it#s time to leave. GGGG 3he last da( of the month has arrived, and although it rained heavil( during the night, this morning the sk( is "lear and the tem$erature is on the rise. Summer is on its wa(. &ur return to the village in the dead of night did not go well. Even now that $arti"ular in"ident and other smaller ones remain stu"k in m( mind. 0s it a taste of what is to "ome in the neBt few monthsF 0s our life here in $aradise turning sour like the green fruit around us on the almond trees, or am 0 overrea"tingF