Friday, 30 April 2010


I have been watching the fruit trees in the orchard as if watching them would somehow encourage them to blossom. Then yesterday or last night or this morning, anyway some time when I wasn't looking, the cherry trees went from bud to full flower in what can only have been hours.

I have a fellow blogger from Prague staying with me at the moment and so have been showing off the fecundity of my garden, with last year's cherries out of the freezer - an exquisite taste of summer! And will this year's harvest be as good? The loud humming sound coming from the cherry trees suggests the bees are busy already, so fingers crossed.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Hot Potatoes

The other day I was walking home when I was invited into a neighbour's garden for a cup of coffee. The grandmother of the family (translated by her granddaughter who was learning English at school) said that she couldn't speak English. To speak English, she said, you needed a hot potato. Her granddaughter and I looked at each other both of us non-plussed by this remark. The grandmother then did an impression of someone talking with a hot potato in their mouth. It was very funny. And we all laughed.

But it also made me wonder do we really sound like that? It looked and sounded like someone with a plum in their mouth, as we say in the UK (posh for any reader that doesn't know the phrase). Then I suppose there is also the English phrase when something is a hot potato (ie so controversial no one wants to handle it), but I gather that has another (American?) meaning. Ah well! Who says language is a form of communication?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Czech Moles

I have blogged in the past about the little mole cartoon character that is so beloved by the Czechs. Well this post is about the real three-dimensional version.

With the arrival of Spring trails of brown soil heaps have exploded in people's lawns like spots on a teenager's chin. Everywhere I go, people are moaning about them. Plastic bottles have been shoved upside down into the burrows to scare away the little gentlemen in velvet.

The other day I was walking down the lane when I found two dead velvet gentlemen. They lay in the middle of the tarmac on their backs with their large paddle-shaped front paws held up as if surrendering to the sky. I don't know what has caused this. Maybe the moles were making a dash for the field on the other side, unable to dig their way across, they decided to go over the top into no-man's land only to be mown down. Perhaps some animal - a fox perhaps - was collecting them. Then in my garden I found another, already far gone - the black and orange graveyard beetles were crawling over it. So what is catching them and not eating them, I wonder? And did the rest of the mole platoon make it to the field on the other side?

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

The Czech langauge

Over the past week I have been trying to finalise the details of the visit by the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society in June. I have been driving round and visiting the sites, booking tours, arranging translations and organising meals. And it looks like I may have managed it, with a few exceptions everything is booked.

In order to do this I have had to take a deep breath and walk in to offices of the various sites. I am not by nature an extrovert, even if I sometimes put on a good show. I have always found talking on the telephone to people I don't know agonizing. And since my last famous career went bung, I have become even less confident to the point of shyness. So there I was walking in to offices. I should I suppose be walking in thinking, "I am bringing 32 people and their money to your establishment, aren't you lucky?" But no, I am wondering whether I will be able to communicate, I hope to heaven that I can open my mouth.

You see there is another problem. When I started grammar school, due to a stay in hospital, I missed the first few weeks of French lessons. After that things got worse - the French teacher, for reasons I still don't understood, took a dislike to me. French lessons were agony, she would ask me questions or ask me to read a passage and then humiliate me, of course that made things worse and I became tongue-tied and stuttering. Before the lessons (which were every day but Friday - you see I remember it to this day) you would find me in the toilets trying not to be sick. Such is the power of malevolent teachers that I still find impossible to speak any foreign language, I turn into that stuttering 11 year old. I can sit in the Student Agency bus and understand maybe 30/40% of the Czech subtitles to the film they are showing, but open my mouth and answer the simplest question, forget it.

So how did I get on? Firstly I found that I knew most of the words I needed, and with a little help from a friend with what declension goes with "pro" was able to come up with a bit of a script. Secondly of course I didn't always need it when I went in to the office, I was talked to in English as soon as they heard my accent. And thirdly everyone was charming and keen to put me at ease, apologising for not speaking English or speaking English badly, which often they weren't. I suppose one could say it was because they were grateful for the business. I prefer to think that it was because the Czechs are lovely.

Friday, 9 April 2010


I am due my annual post about the wonders of Czech spring and so here it is. As always Spring has exploded here. One minute there is a pile of snow in my yard and the grass is brown and apparently dead, the next I am getting a suntan and watching the grass grow (nearly a centimetre in one day in fact) and contemplating when I will have to get the mower out.

The local birdlife is skittish with lovemaking - the male redstarts are busy chasing each other and the peregrine falcons that nest on the cliff of Cesky Krumlov Castle are mating in the trees under the walls. The spring flowers are appearing overnight - the primroses, the purple buttercup, violets, butterburr flowers on their stalks - and now I have just noticed even some blossom on a bush.

As I walk up the hill to the village I find the Czech Spring has put a spring in my foot ;-)

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Rip Off

I have been meaning to blog about this topic for some time, but a recent event has finally prompted me into writing. I am NOT talking about the Czechs ripping off me, tourists or indeed other Czechs, but rather the way that they are mistreated by the international companies that are now operating in this growing market.

It shocks me, and I know it shocks other ex-pats, to see how the Czechs are regularly sold substandard goods and services. The attitude appears to be – “Oh they won't notice the difference” or indeed "they should be grateful”. Once one might have justified it perhaps (I doubt it actually but I am trying to be British and fair) with the fact Czech prices tended to be lower but that is no more the case, far from it. So we have cooking foil that is so thin that it tears and is useless, fruit and vegetables that are bruised, from companies that would not dream of selling them to their British customers.

Here is what has triggered this post:

I do not have internet access here – it's a long story and one I won't go into, put it down to meanness on my part and technical limitations. While in Britain I bought a pay-as-you mobile phone, which has the ability to access the web, as so many do these days. Great, I thought, just what I need in Czecho. The sim card was from Vodaphone. And so I thought I would get a Czech one from as it is one of the two networks that works in this house. That way I can use the phone in both countries without paying for international calls. Not an unreasonable idea surely?

I arrive back in South Bohemia, I turn on the phone to check it works – yes it does, the internet access is fine, I even get a text from welcoming me and telling me the tariff for my English sim. The next day I buy my Czech Vodaphone simcard and it doesn't access the internet! I check a Vodaphone leaflet – no pay-as-you-go internet. Honestly!

So come on Vodaphone and all those other big companies (yes, you too Tesco) and play fair with the Czechs.


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