Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Finding the House 4 - The Old Man

After we left the barn we stood on the terrace and looked at the house. Through the orchard's high grass came an old man in a train guard's cap carrying a large crate of plums, which had been harvested from the hugely prolific trees. He was introduced to us as the father of the family. He enthusiastically greeted us. We asked if he had worked on the railways for long, "Oh no," we were told, "He just likes the hat!"

We were then invited up to his little cottage in the woods. I took one of the family - the daughter's husband - to go fishing on the lake at Lipno and then drove back along the main road and turned right up a barely tarmacked road and across the railway line. The old man's cottage was small and new - built, he said proudly, by his son. The son looked none too pleased by this, the old man appeared to be angling for me to employ the son to work on the house restoration and the son knew all too well just how big those repairs would be, although throughout the viewing he had assured me that there was very little to do and I believed him because I wanted to.

We sat outside next to the smoking oven and the slivovice began to flow. I was fortunate that I was driving and so had the perfect excuse for refusing the highly alcoholic home-made brew. The man in our party was not so lucky, the old man plied him with glass upon glass, and it rapidly became a matter of British masculine pride to accept and despite his partner's protestations he became happily mellow. The slivovice was accompanied by home-made Czech chocolate and courgette cakes, which sound weird but if you think about it are no weirder than carrot cake, and were very tasty.

The old man was missing a finger on one of his hands and emboldened by the alcohol our friend asked about its loss. The old man explained that he lost it in an accident when chopping firewood. We asked if he could have saved it - warming to his audience the old man explained that the finger had lain twitching on the floor and before he could grab it the cat had dashed out and disappeared off with it in his mouth. His daughter raised her eyes, clearly she had heard the story many times before and probably in a number of versions, and we all laughed.

An hour or so later we piled into the car and drove back to Cesky Krumlov. I had agreed to buy a Czech property, which was totally at variance with my wants list. The sun was shining, we were smiling after the family's hospitality, all seemed well with the world.

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