Some descriptions of June in south Serbia.

Cows coming home at tea time or dusk with their cowherds, goatherds tending to goats by the side of the road or in fields, often with the cows. The cows are giant – much bigger (one third bigger I think) than I see in North West England. Unlike in May I haven’t yet seen the flocks of sheep grazing and moving around the fields, tended by their cheerful relaxed shepherds. Perhaps, having returned just a few days ago, I haven’t been on the roads where the sheep are – though often they are grazing even on the outskirts of the small and larger towns in south central Serbia and Kosovo. Perhaps they have moved to cooler spots than the valley floor. Small bright red field poppies by the sides of the roads and streams. The plastic pollution along and in all the streams now covered up by lush new green growth or washed away on its way to pollute elsewhere. Swallows darting around in the air or gliding gracefully, super fast outside my high balcony or near skimming my head on the walkway to our office, where they nest in the concrete roof space. Geraniums (as us unbotanical call them) giving colour on most balconies, window boxes, and lofts and front paths, carnations, primulas and other pretty bedding plants in municipal displays and planters, gardens, some adopted beds (by shopkeepers or residents) that looked shabby or abandoned in winter and autumn now providing extra colour. Still the strings of dried peppers hang on balconies, in loft space and eaves. There are roses and even water loving hydrangeas like in England. Earlier there were snow drops. In May there were plenty and daffodils in the gardens and wild primulas in the wooded hillsides. The oak trees were not out then but suddenly came alive. Colourful beehives are found on the hillsides, in family plots, and along the edge of fields. Road side signs in remote Medvedja, or even along the autoput to Belgrade advertise domestic rakija and med (honey). The heady scent from Lime trees drifts on the air.

Storks, large (tubby even) and tall, stalking around the fields dotted, one here, one or two there, or at dusk in their nests on telegraph poles, electricity pylons, or on chimneys and rooves. Two stalks in a nest, sitting or standing, their young they were tending in May no longer sitting with them. No, three storks in a nest, the third looks grown but slightly smaller, these are the young I saw newly born months ago. One on a roof nearby, majestic. The swallows and the sparrows compete. But little birds buzz around the storks without any complaint.

The vines growing (with roses at the row ends for pollination, very pretty), the plum trees growing (to make plum brandy – slivocic [shlivovits/z or shlivovitsa] or rakija, all incorrectly translated here as brandy but there are different types for each fruit and Serbian and Albanian people have their favourite), men forking up bales of hay in the tea time heat onto tractors laden with hay. Bales or heaps in the fields, sometimes in the Serbian villages traditional conical haystacks. Corn drying in open wire or wooden holders. New corn plants shooting up in the fields. Courgettes and cabbages. Vines are grown even in yards in the towns. Chickens run around and noisy but harmless stray dogs coexist without problem – as clueless as the chickens for wandering out into the roads, and competing with the cats to scavenge in bins. Looking at a bleak wall or run down frontage just peer through the doorway, gate or cracks and you usually see a beautiful yard, courtyard or garden. And if you like vintage Yugoslav era tractors this is the place to come. They look fine, classic working venerable machines. Every greengrocers, small shop and market or informal street seller’s pitch is piled with colourful fresh produce.

From my balcony looking across town I see the green low hills to the east (running north and south and inland to bigger hills towards North Macedonia and Bulgaria) and from the block stairwell on the other side there are the near low green lush hills to the west. Running south I can the highway that goes past the southernmost town of Presevo (sounds like Preshevo; or Presheve to Albanians) and on to Skopje, Thessalonica or Athens (or north to Belgrade). I wait to see if we will get the thunderstorms, as last year June and August were months for thunderstorms. Unexpectedly to me. Despite the heat there has been only one so far. Since writing that line a couple more but not the drama and deluges of last year yet. June was warn, last June and July hot. Such a change since the last thunderstorms in an unusually cold and wet mid May. In April there was sun and rain like in Britain, and snow, but 1 March and 1 November had been warm enough to sit on the balcony. Mid February there was heavy snow. People say the weather in Britain is changeable.

Now in the heat it is quiet but in the evening, with almost no Corona cases and most restrictions now officially lifted (previously largely ignored) many diaspora and those studying or working away have returned and the towns are crowded, outside and inside the bars and cafes. In the bigger town of Vranje, people stroll the old Corso in the evening, like the passeggiata or paseo, while the pedestrian ‘squares’ of Presevo and street in my town are thronging. Small kids race round in electric cars without fear of (your) life or limb. The daytime peace in Bujanovac (if not market day – or the shattering noise of Roma motorised agricultural equipment) broken by the tooting horns of processions of cars for the traditional wedding cavalcade. The lively exotic sounding skilled Roma musicians are a feature of all weddings – brass band music is a Roma speciality. But brass, and saxophone and clarinets and accordion seem to feature in traditional Balkan music whether it is described as Serbian, Albanian or Roma. Who would have thought that the traditional music of the ‘Western Balkans’ sounds so much like ‘eastern’ enthused trad jazz. And then, with Hollywood style glitz are the High School pupils showing off gorgeous fashionable modern dresses and brat pack / rat pack sharp suits and shirts for their High School prom night at the end of a very unusual school year. The Macedonian (Albanian) ice cream sellers doing a roaring trade at night, and people strolling in the smaller and bigger towns, often visiting the traditional Montenegrin dessert shops (or a hereditary business of people originally from Prizren in Kosovo or from North Macedonia also).

Since writing the above I saw just one flock of sheep in the cooler evening near the village of Turija. And three storks on a nest perhaps feeding younger ones. And a second flock of sheep in the evening on the higher land on the southern western edge of the bigger town of Vranje. And the diaspora have returned in huge numbers from Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Italy and France. It has become a busy Summer. As I drive, walk or cycle around the towns and villages of the region, noticeable as I’m speaking English and don’t speak any languages of the region, (probably the only British resident, and only one from Liverpool) most people talk to me in German and are disappointed when I can’t speak to them. They are almost invariably welcoming and friendly nonetheless. By coincidence one British family do live in Gjilan / Gnjilane 30 miles away. The coffee shops and kafanas (taverns), restaurants and café bars and bars (and even nightclubs in Presevo) are buzzing and packed in the morning, evening and night. The cars and excessive traffic I will write about another time. Bang on cue, a wedding cavalcade goes past, a Roma wedding. And a peel of thunder rolls in over the hills. And an Albanian wedding cavalcade. And the rain has come. The second rain in two days. The rain has really come. It won’t dampen the spirits but is a welcome relief perhaps after a baking hot July.

Kiron Reid came to Serbia in June 2020 to work in south Serbia, next to North Macedonia. He lives in the small town of Bujanovac (sounds like Booyanovats), which is populated by Albanian, Serbian and Roma residents.

Notes observing May to July 2021. 27 June, 2 July, 18 July 2021.

With thanks to my friend Liam, who asked me to write (in May last year and afterwards) on my experience in Serbia. This post first appeared on Liam’s ecclectic & personal blog (published from Manchester, UK), ‘Falling leaves – anthropological musings‘ on 28 July this year. Published as ‘Notes from South Serbia by K’ 28 July 2021.

Letter of thanks to people on my first year in Serbia.

A letter of thanks to people for the warm welcome during my first year in Serbia.

Dear friends,

One year ago, and 6 weeks, in June, I came to Serbia to take up the position as head of the OSCE office in Bujanovac. I am writing this note to thank people for their warm welcome. From the border guard when I arrived at Belgrade airport on 5 June 2020, and when I came to Bujanovac on 10 June, nearly everyone I’ve met has been friendly and welcoming. In Bujanovac, Preševo and Medvedja, and elsewhere.

Because I came from the UK, in between the first waves of Corona, I have been here for most of the time throughout this strange year. It has meant it was slow for me to meet people officially and though I have met very many people over my first year there are still others that I have not met yet.

As the only British person, the only person from England, maybe the only foreigner, in Bujanovac and the other municipalities I am pleased that many people stop me to chat. Serbian, Roma and Albanian residents. Including those who are surprised to see me when I am cycling or driving or walking round the towns and villages. I regret there is no train or bus between Bujanovac and Preševo as I prefer to use public transport at home.

As I speak only English (I have a few words of Serbian and less Albanian) I must apologise that I cannot to talk to you in your own language(s) – or German which nearly everyone seems to speak. Even my local tailor is multilingual in several languages. South Serbia is very different to my home of Liverpool – especially the food and weather – but it is a nice place and people are friendly. The Albanian coffee is especially strong, the tea is strange or terrible (except the Russian or Turkish tea), the beer is certainly not like traditional British beer (nor are the fish & chips), and it’s a crying shame there are plenty of Chinese businesses but no Chinese food south of Niš. And no traditional British food like curry 😊.There is a lot of politics here (like in my home city), people all know more about football than me, waitresses and barmen alike, the traffic is crazy, and I hate the dumping and plastic waste and refuse that people strew around the beautiful countryside. The street sweepers in Bujanovac do a great job in all weathers – I see them. I always remind people that the positives are much better than the negatives. I am privileged to work with a great team here in your region and country.

With best wishes,

Kiron (the British guy / Liverpool Irish guy).

PS Though our weather in Liverpool is rather mild, I am enjoying this nice rain 😉.

First published on my Facebook account, 18 July.

The British and the Second World War in Yugoslavia post.

Replying to @Nik_Ilic @ukinserbia and 2 others


Drove up to Niš to see this exhibition last week & delighted to get shown around by curator Boban Janković & see some of his military artefacts collection. Some real examples of derring do & even some SOE James Bond type gadgets. @almurray would like the exhibition [famous UK comedian and World War 2 history expert, Al Murray].

Curator Boban at Historical Archive Nis exhibition on British SOE officers in Yugoslavia in World War 2.

Curator Boban at Historical Archive Nis exhibition on British SOE officers in Yugoslavia in World War 2.


You can view much of the exhibition online here


The adventure of Captain Peter Wilkinson at the Three Kings hotel


and the ‘toys’ that Charles Hargreaves carried are especially amusing


I didn’t know that the Allies evacuated partisan wounded, or that Jugoslavia had Hurricanes & later given Spitfires.


With so many needless wars in the Balkans it still shocking that hundreds and hundreds of WW1 shells were dug up at Bitola in N Macedonia just months ago. *Actually from 23 November to 4 December over 1,000 74mm artillery grenades were found in excavations in the city park near the football stadium. The city Rescue and Protection Directorate had already removed 12,500 ordnance from the same location. The pretty little town of Bitola (Manastir in Turkish) was on the front line in Balkan wars and World War 1.



Replying to Defence Attache Colonel Nick Illic.



Definitely one for Dr. Jon Clarkson (a family doctor friend and WWII military history enthusiast). Curator Boban at the Историјски архив Ниш – Istorijski arhiv Niš Historical Archive Niš has I think he said over 800 military helmets from the early 2000s through both World Wars, Napoleonic, and even Medieval Serbian. He supplied some of the local items for this instalment of the travelling exhibition, and the Archive provided photographs of British officers in this third largest Serbian city after its liberation.


It is ironic that the only Ordnance Survey type map I have seen in Serbia, is a Ministry of War map in this display supplied to SOE officers, covering Niš down to Leskovac (a textile manufacturing centre known in Jugoslavia as little Manchester) which is a regional town in the area my office covers. Google Maps just is not comprehensive in Serbia and is totally not reliable in rural south Serbia. But there are no detailed paper maps – of course as everywhere in South Eastern Europe I’ve been local people don’t actually use maps.


Original tweet 11 February, my posts 6 March.


A Burns Night whisky opening in Serbia.

Sixteen years after Peter Facey and Alex Runswick, of Unlock Democracy campaign group got me invited to a British Embassy Sofia, Burns Night party sponsored by Chivas Regal, I’ve finally been grown up enough to buy my own bottle. I’ve Two in fact, one on offer before New Year in Sainsbury’s in Liverpool and one on offer (good but not as good) in IDEA supermarket in Bujanovac, Serbia (geographically not that far from Sofia, mind the mountains). In fact the other Maxi supermarket had a better offer, but having finally spent my Nectar points on buying the bottle at home (Frances and I had a glass together over Zoom) I just managed to earn some supermarket loyalty card points here as well buy buying whisky. Leek & potato soup, brown bread and butter. Here’s to Rabbie Burns. I still probably prefer the Famous Grouse as a Scotch blend (I don’t have any decent Irish here) but Chivas Regal was very generous that night, and the Croat lads with us on the political workshop took care of the spare bottles. So I should contribute something back to sales.

The Burns Night traditions being promoted by UK Embassies around the World is one of the nice things that they do 🙂. Plus I have a book with great pictures and eccentric text on the North Coast of Scotland 500 route to read by an Englishman and a Welshman, Court & Jones. (Josh Court & Vernon W Jones, married to Macedonian wifes in nearby Skopje).

Lightly edited Facebook post from Bujanovac, south Serbia. 25 January. Additional explanation –

The reason a group of British Liberal Democrat and other political activists, and young(ish) political activists from across SE Europe were in Sofia was for a series of workshops on political policy making organised by Unlock Democracy and partners. The lavish Burns Night party was simply a coincidental highlight, the discussions on inclusive policy making was a great antitode to stereotypes meeting brilliant activists who wanted to make their countries better – from Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia. The British South East Europe forum was sponsored by the British Council.

I liked Sofia and courtesy of my University returned the next year to do some academic research, and then using the Macedonian contact travelled on to Skopje, my first visit to a country where I later worked as an election observer, and now could almost see from my balcony as I am working only thirty kilometres north of the North Macedonia border.

New job working in Serbia.

On 6 June as travel restrictions were at that time eased I travelled to Belgrade to start a new job in Serbia, working for the international organisation the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This is what I am doing.

Municipal Co-ordinator at OSCE Mission to Serbia, covering the Municipalities of Presevo, Bujanovac and Medvedja in south Serbia, working with a team of local OSCE staff from a permanent office in Bujanovac. An international civil servant managing OSCE work in the field and liaising between local authorities, national bodies and the international community supportive of work in the south of Serbia. I am the seventh post holder building on a long track record of working with a wide range of local people and organisations to fulfil the shared values of stability, peace and democracy through practical work that aims to make a lasting difference.

(Wording of last sentence taken in part from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe website).

“The OSCE is a forum for political dialogue on a wide range of security issues and a platform for joint action to improve the lives of individuals and communities. The organization uses a comprehensive approach to security that encompasses the politico-military, economic and environmental, and human dimensions. Through this approach, and with its inclusive membership, the OSCE helps bridge differences and build trust between states by co-operating on conflict prevention, crisis management and post-conflict rehabilitation.”

The OSCE has 57 participating States in North America, Europe and Asia.

OSCE Mission to Serbia

“To help Serbia build strong, independent and effective democratic institutions, the Mission works with government institutions, civil society and the media.”
“The Mission to Serbia is an OSCE field operation based in the country’s capital Belgrade, with an office in Bujanovac in southern Serbia and a training centre in Novi Pazar in south-western Serbia. It is led by Ambassador Andrea Orizio of Italy and has a staff of 23 international and 104 local personnel.”

For completeness. Activity on social media, Facebook, Twitter, and my own website, is for personal or sometimes professional interest, including expressing my own personal political views, & does not imply a political statement on issues in Serbia or the Western Balkans on behalf of any organisation.

A Liverpool Irish Brit posted in the City of Consuls. Bitola. Observing elections.

It is a privilege to be posted in the ‘City of Consuls’, Bitola, where the first British consulate in this part of the Balkans, was established during the Ottoman Empire more than 160 years ago.
My new post is as a Long Term Observer for the OSCE/ODIHR international election observation mission, deployed in Bitola, near the Greek and Albanian borders. From 18 September. My team are covering Mayor and local elections in 6 municipalities (the city of Bitola, Demir Hisar, Krushevo, Mogila, Novaci, Resen) – half of Pelagonia region – in round one, 15 October; and covering second round Mayor run-off elections in Mogila, Novaci, and Dolneni municipality, near the city of Prilep for round two, 29 October. Deployed by SOLACE in Business Ltd. (via David Kidger Associates Ltd.) on behalf of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO). My post finished on 4 November and I stayed in the region for a few days to visit a Liverpool friend in Kosovo, a justice system reform expert, and to update my knowledge since my last visit to Prishtina. Election Observation Mission (EOM) page (Preliminary Statement)

Working as an international election observer.

Again I have not been updating my website as I have been working as an international election observer since 19 September 2017. The next post tells you more about my position here in Bitola. More details of the work and the role (such as I am allowed to share under our Code of Conduct) will follow after the end of the mission here.
My social media post, that I never managed to copy here was this (20/09/2017):
On Monday 18 September I have been deployed by SOLACE Enterprises, International Elections, on behalf of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) as a Long Term election observer.
I have joined the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) election observation mission (EOM) for the 15 October municipal elections in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
OSCE is the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
I will not be making any comments about politics in the region, or about any controversial matters, for some time. My post is as a Long Term Observer (LTO).
For more on the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia see

Three comic books with lessons for Britain today. Al Murray, M. H. Baylis & Marina Lewycka book reviews.

Next I review three comedy related books and find them all with serious lessons for Britain today. Liberator magazine issue 384 (a UK Liberal political magazine) including my reviews of Matt / Matthew / M. H. Baylis’ “Black Day at the Bosphorus Cafe” (aagh, I’ve just noticed the typo in the review heading) and Al Murray’s “Watching War Films with My Dad” is now available here online, scroll down
as the latest issue has been posted to subscribers. Both page 19. Here I post the original unedited (usually they’ve been made more readable) versions of the longer Murray and Baylis reviews. I add a review not published I wrote at the same time of Marina Lewycka’s “Two Caravans”, the sequel to “A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian”.

Answers to the anti-EU untruths on the YouTube post of Daniel Barenboim BBC Prom video.

The main anti-EU ‘myths’ or lies put forward in these threads.
1. Bendy or straight bananas. Nonsense.
2. Laws are made in Brussels. Greatly exaggerated.
3. Imperial martyrs or metric martyrs. As daft as the Duke of Essex.
4. Auditors have signed off the EU accounts for many years.
5. “Only the unelected commissioners can propose laws”. True. But Commissioners are civil servants proposed by the member countries and voted in by the democratically elected EU Parliament. Civil servants are not usually elected in any country. Improvement and reform are, as pro- and anti-EU critics agree, greatly needed.

4 untrue. 1 true. So 1 out of 5 to the anti-EU commentators.

Full post next.

An excess of flats planned for Liverpool river side Festival Gardens site.

Festival Gardens site Liverpool 2007 & 2017

How Liverpool City Council repeats the mistakes of ten years ago in its plans for the former Garden Festival site, a prime River Mersey side location three miles south of the iconic Pier Head. An excess of flats are planned for the Liverpool river side Festival Gardens site by the Labour Mayor & Council and its development partners, the same mistake that the Council was proposing in 2007 under Liberal Democrat control. The site is a brownfield former landfill site that was famous as the location of the Liverpool International Garden Festival in 1984, one of the initiatives supported by Conservative Minister, Michael Heseltine, that started to stop the decline in the Liverpool City Region. In fact Mayor Anderson and the Council are wanting to cram even more properties onto the site – 2500 as reported by Your Move magazine instead of the 1400 nearly all flats I object to in 2007. My objection in 2007 is set out in the attached submission to the City Council’s then ‘Executive Board’ (Cabinet) and article / report which detailed my reasons for objecting. The reasons are the same now as then – Liverpool needs a variety of housing stock to encourage a varied population, and that must include houses rather than just cramming in apartments in nearly every available space. Houses should be family sized houses as well, not just one or two bed town houses. This will help ensure there is space for growing families as well as a growing population.

My objection to flats is linked to the student housing bubble. In Liverpool, and every town and city with any University, no matter how new, the apartments complexes of purpose built student complexes have been thrown up over the last ten to fifteen years at an ever increasing rate. In Liverpool new apartment developments seem to be mostly student complexes. I also believe that the student numbers boom is a bubble that will burst at some point, and therefore many student apartments will be left empty. Re-purposing of those will be needed, as well as investment to help areas thrive and support families moving into vacated student houses. Though after more than ten years of making the prediction that the student numbers bubble in the UK (and everywhere else in the world) must burst it hasn’t looked at all like happening yet. Specifically as to Festival Gardens. More apartments will not necessarily help sustainability of the city’s housing but will help keep prices artificially high because of investors and speculators. Whatever happens with the site, I am sure that the former Garden Festival site, now Festival Gardens, will be a wonderful new city district in the future, and all those who have helped look after the site over the last thirty years will deserve some of the credit.

Liverpool City Council’s Festival Park masterplan can be found on the City Council website.
My background information for this post has included articles in Your Move magazine online, the City Region’s premier property and lifestyle magazine, and reports from the St. Michael’s ward Green Party councillors, who represent the effected area and have raised objections to the scale of the plans and implications.