A month ago I tried to organise the removal of several piles of rusty metal, including old bedsteads, guttering, weird pressed metal kitchen units from the communist times (probably the 1960s), broken cast iron stoves and so forth. They were taking up a lot of space in the yard and making it look awful. The Horice Na Sumave Town Council has a waste metal collection, but by the time the lorry gets to our part of the district it is already full and frankly our delightful assortment of Czech iron would make up at least half a load.
Eventually my friend found a friend who had a friend who would take it. This being the way things tend to work in the Czech Republic. The man arrived and we went round the yard and into the old barn and as I pointed out the rusting piles, he nodded and smiled. Friday, he would come on Friday morning, he said; we shook hands on it and off he went in his car. Friday came, nothing happened. No lorry turned up and I wasted a day waiting for him. On Saturday my friend telephoned me - a major international incident had been triggered by my iron.
Somewhere in the Chinese whispers that had led to the process, the any-old-iron man had been led to believe that there were five tonnes of metal in my yard. He was insulted to be asked to take my paltry piles away, it would cost him more money to hire a lorry than he would make. There had been a major bust up with his friend who had told him about the iron in the first place and now twenty years of friendship between the two was under threat. His friend had then rung mine in distress about what has happened and after she had spent half an hour calming him down, she had had to ring the iron man and done the same to him. After that she rang me.
We both expressed our frustration at the process. Why, oh why, had the man said yes he would take it when he inspected the iron in the yard, when he should have said no? The answer is that they do it all the time. The Czechs have a problem saying no. They will tell you what they think you want to hear, and that means saying yes when they have no intention of doing anything. As a Brit, I hate it, and find it incredibly hard to get used to. I do not mind being told bad news - in fact it is almost a national characteristic to quite like it - but I hate being lied to and regard it as downright rude. I suspect the Czechs see it totally differently. But at least the ironman didn't get halfway and then leave everything partially done - unlike some Czech carpenters I have known!