I’m woken with Slobodan stomping around calling out. “It’s time to get up now! Come on we are going out!”
My god I have been in the deepest of sleeps. “I’m coming!” I call back. Grabbing togs and camera. Splash some water on my face. I’m sorry as I think they have been waiting for me and still a little disorientated get in the car with Gilbert close behind. Rina is happy. “The air in Nova Sello makes you sleep well” she tells Tanja proudly.
“We are going to see your Fathers cousin Johny” Tanja tells me. “His name is really Josip but he is known more as Johny.” We drive a short way to Polvje where he lives and are treated to a selection of delicious home grown tomatoes, sardines, salami type meat, bread and rolled pancakes…AND a rather full glass of red wine. He is a story teller. Gilbert and I are laughing along with the rest even though we can’t understand a single word he is saying! Tanja stops to translate occasionally but he is in full swing. He is expressive and with sparkling eyes glad of an audience.
The room is quite small and I look around. I can see he is religious with the Pope on one side of the clock and the Croatian flag on the other along with a number of religious pictures around the wall. His daughter fetches a special certificate from the Pope for his singing in Church for us to admire and it takes a bit of cajoling but finally he sings for us. He is eighty nine but the beauty in his voice can still be appreciated. He tells us Luka was a tease and much of his language was peppered with English words after returning from gum digging in NZ. Then he tells us Luka taught him the NZ National Anthem. “It’s a long way to Tipperary” and he sings the first few lines.
Thinking this is a joke, I say “this is Irish” They all turn to look at me as if I must be lying. “No”, Tanja says. “Are you sure?” Yes. I’m sure. Unbelievable and hilarious that he has probably sung this song many a time. A catchy tune no doubt. Naughty Luka alright! Now they are trying to get me to sing. No no I laugh! I don’t have a beautiful voice to sing I’m afraid. Oh yes you must sing they beg. “No no. I would have to drink that whole bottle of red wine” I say pointing at the bottle on the table. “Oh well”, they laugh. “We can wait!”
This little place is also very beautiful and Tanja shows me where her maternal Grandmother is born and raised and she marries Luka from just a few kilometres down the road in Novo Sello.
It’s now dark and people are still swimming and in boats and chatting on the sidewalks with children ducking and diving around legs at ten on this balmy night. Brrrrr. It’s cold Zarko complains. It’s perfect Gilbert says. Just the way we like it!