Wednesday, 27 January 2010

In Praise of Skipoles

All this talk about the wonder and beauty of snow is all very well (see my previous post) but there are downsides.

The first of these is the peril of snow turning to ice. As regular readers of this blog will know, I live in a small village near the top of a hill and I usually use public transport, which means a thirty minute walk downhill. However in this weather the walk can take at least fifteen minutes more. The reason for this is the local council sends a snowplough up the road to clear the snow - great if you have a car, not so good if you are on shanks's pony. The snow is piled up on the roadsides, too deep to walk on and disguising the ditch! So you end up walking on a road where the snow has been compacted by passing cars and turned to ice. The council is probably right, no one in their right mind walks along that road in the snow, just that mad Brit. I have noticed that sometimes only my footprints can be seen in the snow for days. Gone are the days when I would have found sliding on ice fun, so my thanks to fellow blogger Salamander for lending me her skipoles and making my journey to and from the house feasible and safe. They have transformed my experience and increased my confidence tremendously.

The second peril is when the snow begins to thaw. You will notice Czechs looking up as they walk along the street and then walking in the centre of the road. After a while you will see why, as blocks of compacted snow and even blocks of ice fall from roofs. At times it can be quite funny, but it can have very serious consequences - this year a baby was seriously injured by ice falling on its pram in Prague.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

More on Snow & Frost

Czech winter means snow and frost. And one of the most wonderful of its shows is when a freezing fog settles on our little valley and turns everything white. And so it has this week. The water droplets freeze on everything even cobwebs in the woodshed. Then if you are lucky there are few more nights of fog and slowly the ice grows. The trees on our walk to Horice Na Sumave stand like white ghosts in the fog, covered with long needles of white - now an inch long. Crystals get crystals on them. The seedheads of Autumn flower again, but this time with intricate petals of frozen water.

Then a miracle can happen. The sun comes out and suddenly all those ice crystals start to sparkle. In the low shafts of winter sunlight, the water vapour turns to tiny silver specks, dancing in mid-air like the spirits of winter. At such a time and in such a place it is hard not to believe in magic.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

New Year's Resolution

On the basis that a resolution shared is one more likely to be kept, I am hereby declaring my resolution for the year 2010. That is that when I am in England I will spend 30 minutes a day learning Czech.

I have come to the conclusion that hard slog and systematic work is the only way to come anywhere learning this infernal language. So 30 minutes a day it is.

I know that certain Czech friends will read this (you know who are!) and so I will feel obliged to keep this particular resolution, unlike all those others that fail even before January is out.

I hope I don't live to regret this!

Monday, 18 January 2010

A Small Furry Housemate

As you may have read in a previous post I do have problems with mice (mys) in the house at this time of year. With fields and orchards behind the house it is to be expected. However this year there has been no sign of them, so the traps have been left unset.

You can imagine my frustration therefore when I woke to hear rustling in the corner of the bedroom. I turned on the light, nothing. In the morning I checked everywhere - the worksurfaces showed no tell-tale signs of mouse droppings, the bread and potatoes remained ungnawed. I decided I must have been mistaken. The following night - rustling. Again I searched - no sign of mice activity.

Then the other evening I was sat writing at my computer when a small mouse-shaped creature ran across the floor. I set the traps and waited. I watched as the wee animal, as bold as brass, investigated the living room floor. It approached the trap, I braced myself for the sound of another mouse meeting its doom, but nothing happened. I got up and looked. The animal was near the trap and was totally ignoring its contents. Then it pounced on something on the floor. Puzzled I looked more closely, this was not a mouse, but a shrew. I am used to the small variety of shrew we get in England, but this was definitely its larger Czech cousin.

I am fond of shrews. I like the little feisty critters, who will take on all comers, even animals their own size. They need to, they have to eat their body weight in food everyday to survive. I unset the traps and read up about them. This one is I think one of the white-toothed variety. I read that it is solitary, does not climb, does on occasion live in houses and most importantly is carnivorous. What does it eat? Why! Spiders, flies, beetles, cockroaches and mice. My little brown friend can definitely stay!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Snow at Both Ends

Over New Year my son and his girlfriend joined us in the Czech Republic for a week. It was a delight to have them in the house and nice to see them so relaxed. It is my hope that they will feel that they can come any time, whether or not we are there. We stood together on the terrace of Cesky Krumlov castle as the clock chimed the New Year in and the sky exploded with fireworks. We took them to Cesky Krumlov, Ceske Budejovice and Lake Lipno and were tourists again. We ate out a fair bit, including a meal at the Old Gaol where my son renewed his acquaintance with their steak roasted on an open fire.

My son had talked up the possibility of snow to his girlfriend and the weather duly obliged. Unfortunately it was also depositing snow in England. I took them and my husband to Prague Airport and left them to catch the Easyjet flight home to Bristol. On the underground train to the coach station I overheard an English couple talking about a flight cancellation. I lent across and asked them about it - it was the Easyjet Flight to Bristol. They thought it was canceled but they weren't sure. I sat on the coach back to Krumlov worrying, my husband had left his Czech phone at home and so I had no way of contacting him.

Later that night my mother rang from England. Had I heard what had happened? The weather was terrible, airports closed all over the place, roads impassable. My husband rang her from the hotel in Prague, where Easyjet had lodged them, and so I was able to ring him. They had booked themselves at great cost on to a British Airways flight only to hear from someone in the hotel restaurant that that too had been cancelled. Now they were not able to get away for another three days. I stood at the window watching the snow falling on my Czech village.

On the Saturday my mother rang again. Had I heard? What was happening? If they did make it to England ,the roads to Gloucesterhire were awful. She was under the impression, that my husband was keeping me up to date, wrongly as he had better things to do. I contacted my Czech friend and got her to check the internet for flights to Heathrow. Two flights had managed to get away that evening, but were they on it? I did not know. I did not know until Sunday evening, when my husband rang me from our English home. As he wrote in an email to "Phew!"

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Statues at the Monastery

After my last post about Czech religious art, I though I might share with you some lovely statues we found the other day.

In the gardens of the Dominican Monastery next to the Church of on the Sacrifice of the Virgin in Piarist Square (Ceske Budejovice) is a series of wonderful statues of religious figures. Sometimes the gate to the Garden is closed, but my husband and I found them open yesterday and wandered in. Here are some photos of what we found.

Including this rather severe St Anne!


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