Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Murder in the bedroom.

One of the problems with leaving my Czech house empty for months at a time is there are sometimes some nasty surprises when I get back. Once it was a blooming of dryrot fungus in the kitchen. This time it was the signs of a murder in the large bedroom.

While I was away my neighbour with my agreement showed a friend around the house, as the friend was looking for somewhere to buy in our part of South Bohemia. What my neighbour did not know was that you needed to make very sure the cellar door is closed because the local farm cats like to jump through the cellar window and get in to a nice warm house. There was a definite cat smell about the house when I arrived and paw prints on my furniture, but that wasn't the worst of it.

In the large bedroom the floor was covered with tufts of fur, and flecks and smears of blood. When I swept up the fur it was apparent that the creature that came to a grisly end there was not exactly a mouse, the hair was longer, had an orange tinge and there was a large pile of it. I still do not know what the victim was, but I do have a good idea about the identity of the murderer. I suspect that the creature that did the deed was a beech marten. I have seen them around occasionally. They are capable of taking quite large mammals: such as rabbits and squirrels. They will also take kittens, something my cat-loving friend was always worried about. It may well have been an immature cat which was followed and cornered in my bedroom. I will never know for sure. Whatever it was, I had the unwelcome job of clearing up.

Beech Marten

Monday, 31 December 2018

Happy New Year

Another graphic from my collection of Czech exlibris and PFs (Christmas/New Year cards). This is of course Happy New Year card and was created by Ruda Svab. 

So to all of you a happy 2019, may it be a better year than 2018. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

A Major Decision - Leaving the Czech Republic.

I have finally decided that my Czech adventure must come to an end and that I will be selling my Czech home. It is a heart-breaking decision to have to make. I love this house, this country and its people and they have all enriched my life tremendously, but all good things must come to an end they say.

Over the last two years it has become difficult to sustain my home here.  There was/is of course Brexit which has thrown all expat lives into question. But in the end it is not Brexit that is the reason for my decision. It is something far more important than that: family. My father died in 2017 and my elderly mother is finding it increasingly difficult to manage by herself. She has heart failure and Alzheimers and over the last few months I have seen a decline in her. She needs my in England all the time.

But what tipped the scales against keeping the house going are two financial changes. The largest cost re the house is electricity, which is very expensive here. I have electric central heating for when I am away (when I am in the house I used the much cheaper wood stoves), obviously being in the UK all the time would necessitate having the central heating on more plus an email arrived the other day from EON warning of a price increase. Quite simply I cannot afford it, especially as my husband is about to retire and can no longer support my Czech adventure as he has in the past. Of course selling the house will liberate some money which will allow me to come back here regularly and see my Czech friends.

Will this be the end of this blog? Well of course there are going to be posts to come about my travails selling up and moving. And then there is the backlog of subjects that I never got around to blogging about, which I still want to cover. So no, not for some time.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

They are made of tough stuff here...


Yesterday I went for a walk in the Sumava Forest. It was a delightful day - pleasantly warm and the forest had that lovely smell of resin and mushrooms. 

My walk began with a visit to the ruins of Hus Castle. The castle like so many in the Czech Republic was built on a promontory above a river thereby maximising its defences. The path dropped steeply to the river, and I found myself watching my feet as I clambered down. In front of me was a family of four. The father was carrying a wheelchair. His wife held the hand of their teenage son,  who appeared to have something like cerebral palsy - he clearly was unable to straighten his legs. At one point the father abandoned the wheelchair in the bracken and went to help his wife support their son in his perilous descent. 

I passed the family as they recovered on the river bank. The next trial was a very high metal bridge over the river. Whilst the steps up were steep, it was the ones down that made me hold my breath - in two places steps were missing and in another the step rocked alarmingly. "I can't believe they will make it over that," I thought. 

The climb up to the castle ruins on the other side was another steep one. When I got to the top I turned to see the family had made it across the bridge. I pushed on along the path to discover that the way was not now flat, as I had expected, but rather a series of descents and climbs where parts of the castle had fallen down and where there may have been an inner defensive ditch. All the time on either side the ground dropped away to the river. I made it out of the castle walls and looking back I saw the father and his daughter (but no son or wife) working their way along.

There in front of me sat an old woman in her wheelchair looking out across the scene. I said hello and we had a chat. She told me her daughter was in the forest collecting mushrooms. The old lady beamed "It is so lovely here," she said and I agreed.

How did she get there? Ah, there was broad path. As I walked along it, I realised that even negotiating that route would not have been easy for someone pushing a wheelchair (and its occupant)  - they were plenty of holes, bumps,and tree roots to make life difficult. And the path was about 2 kms before we came to a tarmacked road.

Afterwards when I chatted to my husband on Facebook, we came to the conclusion that Czechs are made of tough stuff and that they must have a special specification for wheelchairs: able to negotiate forest paths and coming with dedicated mushrooming basket.   

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Update on St Agnes in the Garden

My talented neighbour has been chipping away at the statue of St Agnes of Bohemia at the bottom of the garden, and now she is revealed in all her glory.

See https://czechproperty.blogspot.com/2018/07/st-agnes-in-garden.html for the story of how she appeared in my garden.

Alas I can no longer look out of my window and gaze on the medieval Bohemian saint. Three strong men have taken her to her new home. 

Monday, 23 July 2018

St Agnes in the Garden

At the bottom of my garden an oak tree trunk is being transformed into a Bohemian saint and princess. The stillness of the evening is normally disturbed only by the call of my redstarts and the farmer's cows, but now there is the chip, chip, chip of a hammer on chisel.

My talented neighbour, Jitka, has been commissioned to carve a statue of St Agnes of Bohemia. Her house is built on a slope and there was no accessible level site where she could work. So she approached me and I of course said yes she could use my garden.

St Agnes was the daughter of King Ottakar I of Bohemia. As a medieval princess Agnes was a political pawn and at various times was betrothed to the son of the Holy Roman Emperor and King Henry III of England, but in the end as a nun Agnes was married to the King of Heaven, when she  became a member of the Poor Clares. Her life there was, as the order's name indicates, in total variance to her life as a princess.

Agnes built a religious complex in Prague, which included a monastery and a hospital, where she lived and died. The Convent of St Agnes is now part of the National Gallery and is home to a wonderful collection of medieval art from Bohemia and Central Europe, including some beautiful carvings of saints. Jitka is part of a long tradition.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018


Redstart on the fence next to the strimmer

I spent the afternoon strimming the jungle that has grown in the yard. As I did so, I was watched by the redstart that lives in a hole in the back wall of my neighbours' house. When I sat down exhausted to peruse my work, the redstart moved in to pick up insects the nice human had revealed for him. We don't seem to get robins here the way we do in England, but the black redstarts have taken their place. Like robins they are fearless, feisty little birds who happily live alongside humans. They even have a flash of reddish orange. The blackberry bush was covered with bees and butterflies enjoying the nectar. Overhead there came a small murmuration of starlings, the rush of their wings sounding like a wave on the shore.

Kuna domowa, kamionka (Martes foina)
(Not my photo - I wish...)

At dusk I walked down the garden to pick some berries for tea. The bees and redstarts had gone. The mown grass was covered with large slugs. As I picked the berries, the corrugated iron that covers some planks of wood creaked and I turned to see the lithe shape of a beech marten spring up on to the barn wall and away. Now it is dark and I stand at my window watching the the lights of fireflies blink and float over the garden. No matter how much I love my English garden, and I do very much love it, I never feel as close to nature as I do here. 


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