Sunday, 2 March 2008

My first winter in the house 4

On my first morning in the house I put my nose out from under the two duvets on my bed. The woodstove had long since gone out and I discovered my blanket had even frozen to the wall. I reminded myself that the next time I stayed in the house we would have central heating. I got up quickly, lit the stove and climbed back into bed for thirty minutes until things warmed up a bit. Then I put the kettle on and made some porridge (very British and very good for cold Czech mornings).

My next five days revolved around the needs of the stove and not allowing it to go out. This meant that I could only leave the house for a maximum of a couple of hours - enough to walk through the snow to the nearby town of Horice Na Sumave but not a lot further. It also meant regular trips to the stable to chop wood and bring it in. I now realised why Czech houses in the winter are surrounded by walls of chopped logs. I also realised how rubbish I was at chopping it and I hoped none of my neighbours saw me. My day was determined by the length of daylight, for although I had electricity the night sent the temperatures plummeting and after a while it made more sense to go to bed. In other words I no longer had control of my time - the pace of my day slowed and I found it, despite everything, relaxing. This is how it would have been in some previous age.

Occasionally my day would be disturbed by visitors. The local carpenter came over regularly to chop wood for me, to plane the door down so it fitted more snugly and to measure up the windows, which he was to repaint and repair for me (although not necessarily in that order). He would ski over from Horice, carrying his tools.

I also had visits from a Czech lady, whom my puppeteer friend had introduced me to, who was helping me with translation and negotiating with Czech lawyers and civil servants. She was shocked by the conditions I was living in: "I admire you - you are brave." She could have added "mad", and I could see it in her face as she looked around the room.

On one day she drove me into Cesky Krumlov to sort some house insurance and to return the landtax form. This latter was a good example of Czech disorder in matters bureaucratic. In all sorting the landtax must have taken several hours of speaking to different officers, only for us to go back to having to do what we were told to do in the first place. Ironically after all that, the landtax (the Czech equivalent of the community charge) amounted to less than £10 a year and probably cost more than that to collect. One Czech I know commented when asked what killed communism - "It strangled itself". Here was why. Afterwards the lady took me to a restaurant near the castle carpark, where she made sure I had a large hot meal. Then she drove me back to then house and my routine.

1 comment:

thud said...

I spend my winters in california...but i must admit this looks pretty attractive.


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