Monday, 30 November 2009

Better under Tito?


When it comes to remembering golden ages we tend to forget that even then the grass probably looked greener somewhere else. Nevertheless there’s nothing like a good bit of nostalgia to take the edge off today’s hardships and disappointment. Perhaps it should come as no surprise to you to learn that on more than one occasion we’ve heard people make comments to the effect that life was better under Tito. Sure, he still has his critics but in our experience they are few and far between. A great many people, regardless of their background, have very fond memories of Yugoslavia.

And so when we had the opportunity to visit Jajce, where the decision to create a Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was agreed, on the anniversary of the big event we couldn’t pass it up. The video gives a glimpse inside the Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia Museum, the picture shows that there are still Partisans out there.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Strike a light!


The eagle-eyed will have noticed that this picture is shot in almost exactly the same location as my post of a week ago today. It appears because yet again it is the location of a surprising sight. I draw your attention to the festive lights strung across the street. These are, in themselves, not much of a marvel. There are plenty of reasons – well at least two! – why there should be lights up at this time of year. It’s just that I heard Mostar was going to pass on having a New Year celebration in Spanish Square this year as a city without a budget finds it hard to finance such things. I had wondered if non-essential illuminations would find themselves plunged into darkness. It’s nice to see things are a little brighter than I imagined.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

A different part of Europe

Tuesday afternoon and I climb into the kombi. Our gear is loaded: guitars, amps, effects and Rowan’s bass. We need to get Budo and his drums and head for the old town. I turn the key and as the kombi coughs to life the radio begins cranking out a classic. The Final Countdown! I smile. It’s my view that everyone should be able to appreciate the excesses of the eighties. They don’t have to live off a diet of big hair and tight leather but they should at least be able to see the funny side of it. And the keyboards; let’s hear it for ‘hard rock’ band serving up cheesy-synth-solos. The funny side, see!

We park the kombi where we probably shouldn’t – a helpful local warns us we’ll likely have our tyres slashed! – but it’s as close to the venue as we can get. Valve amps get heavy when they’re carried over cobbles for any great distance. We grab a couple of armfuls of gear each and head for the bar. Through the heavy wooden door we are greeted by two things: the denim and leather clad owner sporting a vintage Iron Maiden T-shirt and a song blasting from the stereo. It’s The Final Countdown...da, da, dah, dah, da, da, dum, dum, dum!

We don’t play that kind of rock music, I never had a mullet and I’m not allowed leather trousers but I appreciate living in a country where such things are not beyond the pale.

(This video has a few other thoughts, and a few photos, from the gig.)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

BiH v Portugal - a fan's view.

I should probably be writing more here but getting and at 4am and still getting up at the normal time this morning have got the better of me. We were there last night. It was a good game, obviously the wrong result from our point of view, but as English people we've hasd some experience of losing to Portugal after having a player sent off! I'll leave the video to show the ups and downs of the day.

WARNING: The fans behind us swore throughout the match. I won't claim to have understood the half of what they said. To those of you who will understand, I apologise that some of their comments will undoubtedly have ended up being audible in this video.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

17...again?!

My next post was to be about the football but I saw this today I had a feeling this was important news not to be overlooked. Sure enough I got home and Rowan was reading about the civil servant strike in Mostar. The reason for this action is “the city council failed for the seventeenth time to elect a city mayor or to adopt a budget.”

It’d be nice to say this was unbelievable but even St Thomas – patron saint of doubters – would have to concede that when you’ve been there, seen it and snapped the photo you know they’re not making this stuff up. The ‘they’ in this instance is Balkan Insight, and if you’re interested in the political challenges facing this part of the world their article is well worth a read.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Gigging in Mostar

We just back in from our final gilgal rehearsal for tomorrow night's gig. We have seventeen songs on the set list, half-a-dozen of which will be getting their first public performance. While I don't often do excitement, much to my wife's annoyance at birthdays and Christmas, I have a feeling that the band is starting to hit its stride musically and I think tomorrow could be a lot of fun. It will also be cramped, smokey and very loud. If that doesn't put you off - and why should it?! - then this video will explain how to find the bar we're playing.

Pictures and video of the evening will doubtless follow, although the not-insignificant second leg of Bosnia and Herzegovina's World Cup playoff will undoubtedly be the next thing mentioned here!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

How high up?

Britain has high-rises. We used to see some of south London's when we took the train into Victoria;, but our town had nothing above about six floors. Mostar has plenty of big buildings; we have a friend who lives at the top of one of them, on the tenth floor. We live much closer to the ground. Sarajevo has bigger buildings, or apartment blocks. Last week we stayed a few days in one of them; at the top, almost. Nineteen floors ups. The apartment itself was great. It had heating, a very welcome change from Mostar's buildings. Inside you'd never really realise how high up you are until you walk onto the balcony, or need to go out somewhere. This video gives you glimpse into both of those scenarios.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Remembering in Sarajevo

I put this video together today. It’s represents some of the more meaningful thoughts that came out of our trip to the British Ambassador’s Residence in Sarajevo for fireworks on Saturday night. I did leave with other thoughts, like whether it would be wise to public school ones children so as to better prepare them for this kind of occasion. Over the years people have commented of my diplomatic skills in managing people and projects but one thing is clear: I am not part of the diplomatic in-crowd.

I might not have been hob-nobbing with the great and the good but I managed a good deed for the evening: offering a torch to a mother whose shoulder-mounted child had dislodged the back of her ear-ring. My mini-LED marvel managed to locate the all-important item amongst the damp grass. I could regale you with amusing snatches of conversation overheard over mulled wine but that would doubtless constitute some breach of state security, so my lips are sealed. However, I pulled out my camera long enough to capture the fireworks you can enjoy below.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Would you trust this tour guide?!

I've just got back in after a week away. The water park post came on the one day we had any internet access. Now I have many stories to tell, enough to keep me busy here for the next couple of days. There'll be 'new' video too - it will, of course, be slightly less of-the-moment after it's waited in line to be edited. So until then let me leave you with this short, unedited video.

Meet Budo, one of the Novi Most team, explaining the delights of Vrelo Bosne* and what we were getting up to on our team retreat...



*Vrelo Bosne is the source of the River Bosna.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Fun...

Fun: it's one of the Novi Most values. That's one reason why our team found itself at the Terme in Ilidža this afternoon. It's a great recreational swimming facility, that was almost empty but for our noisy bunch enjoying themselves and me making this video. I think you'll agree, it had to be done!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Uni-Hockey or Floorball?

When I say 'uni-hockey' to people I am often met by blank looks. That's not surprising. Up until relatively recently I'd never heard of it either. Then it turns out it often, perhaps more often, goes by the name floorball.

Neverthless, it is still fair to say it's a small, if growing, sport thats main sphere of influence is Scandanavia. As with anything unknow, people find it easier to comprehand when they've actually seen it. And so we've started filming a promotional fim about the team uni-hockey Novi Most has started in Mostar.

It was during filming at a training session on Saturday that I shot this quick vlog...