The final minutes of my recent stay in Bosnia Herzegovina were spent panicking over how I would get rid of my final twenty Konvertible Marka (about eight English quids) before crossing the border into Croatia where, due to international currency exchange regulations, this solitary note would be deemed neither spendable nor exchangeable.
We had stopped for lunch at a sort of motorway service station with a rooftop terrace restaurant overlooking a small fishing village on the shore of the beautiful azure blue Adriatic. Here we dined on sumptuous freshly caught seafood in the warm September sunshine without having to endure a hint or a whiff of a McDonald’s or a Burger King, without having to look at Pelé staring down on us from the lavvy wall and pushing his preparation for erektilna disfunkcijama while we weed away our final glass of Sarajevsko pivo, and without having to worry about how to get past the bloke by the front door trying to get us to transfer our energy provision to Npower on the way back to the car park.
By cafés by the sides busy roads standards, the scene was perfect. The only fly in Pelé’s ointment (though if the advertisement had been there at all I’m sure it would have instead featured the sympathetic smile of Mario Stanić) was my remaining Bosnian dosh. To get rid of it I had tried to buy as many of my travelling companions an ice cream as possible but they all seemed to suss quite quickly that my hundreds and thousands topped generosity was part of a cunning money laundering scheme. I considered putting my rapidly bcecoming worthless capital into a charity tin but I didn’t know the Bosnian for NSPCC (I think it may be NSPCJC). I considered investing it in South American zinc mining but my broker was busy queuing up for an ice cream. I considered buying beer but I wouldn’t really have known what to do with it.
So in the end I just calmly walked into the service station shop and took the first CD that I saw from the display rack. It was a two disc job called Best of the Platinum Collection. Our bus was about to depart so I hadn’t time to ask the customary spotty check out girl to play (or sing) me a couple of tracks to see if I liked it. I wasn’t able to listen to it until I got back to Britain. This was such a massive risk.
Back at home it took me a week to get to grips with my purchase. I was a little disappointed before I even took the first disc out of the sleeve as I discovered in the cover notes that it was produced and manufactured in Croatia. Now there’s nothing wrong with Croatia and it’s a lovely place but I spent most of my trip in Bosnia Herzegovina and I bought the CD in Bosnia so I expected Bosnian music.
The album contains forty eight tracks and at least forty of them would make ideal Eurovision Song Contest entries for most Balkan countries. The big shame about it being Croatian is that I would have loved to have given it my own little alternative title of Now That’s What I Call Bosnia Herzegovina. It contains all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff. Tracks that sound a bit like Madonna, tracks that could be James Bond film themes, a track that I’m convinced is a cover of an old Steps number but I can’t be bothered to find out which one, tracks influenced by the likes of the Pretenders, Tony Christie, George Michael, Annie Lennox and Coldplay and even a few tracks that are quite good. The strangest thing about all this though is that, although I never heard any of these tracks while I was away and although they’re from a country I spent very little time in and although they’re a bit naff, I can’t stop listening to them because they are a link with a wonderful journey.
The likes of Doris Dragovič, Ljupka Dimitrovska and Krunoslav Kico Slabinac are suddenly legends in the House of Terry Mullan. I’ve even ordered a couple of purchases from that old favourite discount shop Konvertible Markaland and can’t wait for the arrival of my Zlatko Pejakovic wall mirror and my life size Tereza Kesovija ornamental statue garden fountain.
Whilst we’re on the subject of beats from the Balkans I was going to give Saint Bono and his Miss Sarajevo song another little mention but our Rose threatened to buy me the entire U2 back catalogue as punishment if I did, so I hastily beat a retreat.
However, I would like to raise one small point. Do you think that in the last line of the verse of the song that goes:
Is there a time to walk for cover?
A time for kiss and tell?
Is there a time for different colours?
Different names you find it hard to spell?
Bono is referring to Doris Dragovič, Ljupka Dimitrovska and Krunoslav Kico Slabinac?
And do you remember the days when a U2 was a battery?