Life in a Dol house
2015 - Week 49

No cats allowed!

Work on the bathroom has come to a halt. The plumber finished the pipework on Monday. Now I am waiting for the central heating engineer to come, and for Cvjetko, my friend the builder, to fill and render the walls. I know my limitations, and silk smooth plastering is not one of the skills I have mastered. So this week my attention has turned to other jobs. 

I spent much of Tuesday cutting fire wood. The building work this year has resulted in a substantial pile of wood. Timber baulks that were used as floor beams, ancient floor boards, old wooden doors and the offcuts from the new timber roof. Small pieces I cut by hand with my bushman saw. Tree trunks required the use of my chain saw. One good thing about wood is that it warms you twice - once when you cut it, then when you burn it.

But the result is a large pile of cut timber, ready for burning, and the remainder tidied up ready for when the cut pile has been reduced.

Having tried to use my circular saw at the weekend, when it failed to start, I dismantled it this week to see what the problem was. 

I bought it when I was in Spain, some 12 years ago, and used it extensively when building my new kitchen last year. But in pieces, it all seemed OK however the motor would not turn. I need it to cut wood to protect exposed pipes - last winter they froze - so with a list of things to buy, I went across to the mainland on Wednesday and did a two month shop at Bauhaus.

The Christmas section was fully stocked, but what is very noticeable is that everything is low key.

Shops and supermarkets have small sections for Christmas goods, but there is not the garish razzmatazz that is common now in many countries, where Christmas has become just a shopping frenzy. I also finished my Christmas shopping, all done except fresh vegetables, with dried fruit and nuts for the Christmas cake from Split market, small gifts from the Christmas Fayre on the Riva and seasonal food from Lidl.

Split did look quite festive, and the warm sun on golden leaves made the waterfront and market look nice.

What I also found was Christmas Wheat seeds - Božicna pšenica. There is a Croatian tradition, also shared in small areas of southern Italy and Portugal, that a bowl of wheat seeds are planted either on St. Barbara's Day, the 4th December, or Santa Lucia's day, the 13th December. In days gone by, it was a symbol of fertility, new life and its renewal. By their mere green appearance, it gave hope in the midst of winter and snow, and it served as a portent of prosperous year ahead, while decorating homes. 

At Christmas it decorates the table and then is placed under the tree or in a corner of the living room. Often it is decorated with ribbon in the Croatian colours, the red - white - blue tricolour, sometimes within it is placed an apple or a red candle. After Christmas, the wheat is given to the birds since nothing from Christmas times should be thrown away. So, on Friday I planted mine and put it in the greenhouse. Last year I tried with wheat germ from my orchard and it was a dismal failure, so perhaps the commercial seeds have been treated. Time will tell. The seeds are now resident in the greenhouse.

While in split, I also visited the new pet supermarket

Called Pet Centar and with the door guarded by a large Dalmatian dog and a huge inflatable Dalmatian on the roof - entirely appropriate for the County of Dalmatia - there perhaps should have been a sign saying "no cats allowed". ​ But inside there was a whole aisle dedicated to felines. 

I bought what I was looking for, a new cat flap for the dining room door. Risha has made the dining room his home, probably in eager anticipation of the wood stove being operational (like me), so first job on Thursday was to install it.

A few sniffs and a purr later and it was in use. So now there is no more crying to either be let in or out.

I also came back with the clear polycarbonate sheets that I need for the storm porch. I had built some of the framework and I finished it off on Thursday. ​ 

On Friday I did the final construction and cut, then mounted the polycarbonate to the frame. 

The last bit of work was completed on Saturday morning.

Now I have a warm storm porch, somewhere to dry washing and to grow my winter tomatoes.

My winter Hyacinth has burst into bloom this week - a little early for Christmas, but it is filling the greenhouse with its alluring scent.

We have had more sunny days this week and a few cool nights, down to +2 C. Venturing into the top orchard I was surprised and disappointed to see that my large yellow plum tree has split into two. ​ There was at some time a fourth large branch from the main trunk, that someone has cut. 

This has gone rotten and the rot has spread down the main trunk to the soil level. We had some very strong gusts of wind one morning last week and I am guessing that this has caused the split. The smaller of the two arms will have to come down, although I will wait until all the leaves are off the tree. But it does in one sense help with my decision to reduce the size of the tree, although radical tree surgery is not quite the pruning that I had in mind.

There are still a lot of jobs to do, but most are short duration, if a little fiddly, for example using two tins of expandable foam to fill cracks between stone walls and wooden doors,and to seal the garden equipment sheds in the top orchard.

Property ownership in Croatia is a complicated affair, so complicated that as part of the deal for joining the European Union, Croatia had to agree to reform the property ownership nightmare. In the Spring, when I was going through the process of applying for permission to build and join my main buildings together, I discovered my own little bit of the problem. 

Despite completing "due diligence" back in 2013, a small part of my courtyard, some 18 square metres, did not belong to me and was still owned by the person I bought the property from. After 6 months of tooing and froing, this week I signed at the Notary in Stari Grad, and paid the previous owner €700, so now I own everything and at long last I can restart the process of applying for planning permission. The Notary has her office in an old building in the town, complete with ancient Latin inscription above the gated door.

 The Notary, a nice lady, who represents the Government in property transactions here, duly signed and sealed the deed of transfer. ​ 

I then handed the €700 to my lawyer, who passed it to the seller. Next stop was the post office to pay the transfer fee, and with my receipt in hand, I walked round the corner to the land registry. Housed below the town hall, the land registry lies behind the small door with the white lace curtain.

Inside, it was like walking into the office of Mr. Perker, the Solicitor in Charles Dickens "The Pickwick Papers" . The front office was small, with barely room for two people. Somewhere a radiator was pumping out warmth on a cool late autumn morning. There were piles of papers and bundles of documents, some bound with red legal ribbon, on every available surface. On the desk (also covered in documents) was a bell, which you pushed to summon the clerk, a mature bespectacled lady. It rang with a melodious 'ding'. 

Behind the desk, from floor to ceiling were shelves, every inch of which held leather bound books that appeared to be the old Double Pott paper size.

A corridor ran back, and on either side, as far as the eye could see, were more and more shelves, all sagging under the weight of the leather bound tomes they held. My business was concluded in a very few minutes, and as I closed the door, I left the mid nineteenth century Austro Hungarian Empire behind and returned to 21st Century Stari Grad.

Why did I pay? Well it was pure pragmatism. I didn't want to and having paid a fair price for what I was shown, which included this small area, I thought I had already bought it. I could have gone to the property court to get title to the 18 square metres I didn't own, but which were within my cutilage

However that would take perhaps two years and cost a lot more. My solicitor had given me a couple of other options, but after both she and the estate agent had spoken to the owner and he had refused to be reasonable I was left with expediency. So it was after the intervention of a mediator, who got him to reduce the price (he had been asking more than double) that I agreed to pay him off, basically to get rid of him. Now I can move forward and start to plan the building programme for next year.

I hope your week has been as successful as mine.