Saturday, 24 March 2012

Traffic Light Artist

On Saturday David Hons, better known as the artist Roman Tyc, was released from Prague's Pankrac prison in Prague. The artist spent 30 days in jail after refusing to pay a 60,000 crown fine for defacing public property.

In 2007 he "amended" 48 road crossing lights in the Czech capital city, to show the normal red and green figures in a number of unusual positions, including walking the dog, urinating, drinking etc. The above video shows the man in action.

In protest at Tyc's imprisonent Czechs started to behead figures on traffic lights by placing black stickers over the heads, while others baked cakes for him. Many people were shocked by the severity of his punishment, especially when President Klaus refused to grant a pardon to the artist, even though the President has over the years pardoned a number of people found guilty of serious corruption and fraud. But then what did they expect from a president that steals pens?

Friday, 23 March 2012

Why I'm here. Part 2

I had two reasons when I bought my lovely derelict Czech farmhouse. The first as I said in my post of the 9th March was my friend Hannah Kodicek, the second was to create somewhere I could write.

The two reasons were not unconnected. Hannah always encouraged me to write. I think we really became close friends when she read a long poem I had written. She had known me as a manager, something that she respected but didn't love. At the time of the house purchase I was managing an inner-city regeneration programme working with the most disadvantaged. It was worthwhile work and I would have argued then that it allowed me to be creative in other ways than producing poetry that no one read. But Hannah begged to differ, she saw better than I did how one side of my personality was dominating the other, driving the poet and mystic underground. But when I came to visit her in the Czech Republic I found that side of me welling up in response to the landscape and history of Bohemia.

So I bit the bullet and bought the house. I said I wanted a hut in the forest, something that didn't need too much work, but my subconscious saboutaged that and I bought a huge farmhouse needing lots of work. I spent the next few years working hard at my job and pouring the money I earned into restoring the house, but still I did not write.

Things came to a head when one day I found myself crying in Hannah's study. It was soon apparent that I could not continue working in my wonderful but high pressured job. I said goodbye to my old career and came over to the Czech Republic and started to write. Not poetry but a children's novel. I loved the process. Even if my first book is now in a drawer in my desk never to see the light of day. The second one's there too. I am now on my fifth book. All of my books have been written in my Czech house.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Czech Egg Tourism

Easter has a very special place in the Czech heart and part of Czech Easter is the traditional painting of eggs. But EU legislation has let a fox into the henhouse. Egg prices have risen as a result of EU legislation against factory farming. What are the Czechs to do?

According to Bavarian newspaper, the Suddeutsche Zeitung, the Czechs are crossing the border and buying up cheaper German eggs, creating a possible egg shortage there too!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Why I'm Here

"Why am I here?"

I don't mean in the philosophical sense, but why here in a half-restored old farmhouse on the edge of a small Czech village. I have talked about this in the past and regular readers of this blog will know the various answers I could proffer, but I suspect that there are new readers who might not know and also, more importantly, I have had reason to ask that question again over the last twelve months.

One reason has gone. The only reason I am in the Czech Republic is/was the fact that a dear friend, Hannah Kodicek, moved back here and then more importantly moved to Cesky Krumlov. If she had stayed in Prague I have no doubt that I would not have bought a house here. As you may know we are approaching the anniversary of her all-too-early death and sitting here in my living room I am surrounded by memories of her. A photo of her is above my desk, it's of her looking back at me as we walked on the hills above Cesky Krumlov. She's saying something to me. I remember the walk because we had been delighted to see carpets of purple buttercups in the woods presaging the arrival of spring. But I do not remember what she was saying.

I checked the date when I chose the picture for this blog: it says 30th March 2005. In September 2005 I found the farmhouse and two months later I was legally a temporary resident of the Czech Republic. On the 2nd April 2011 I was walking in the woods on Petrin Hill, Prague and enjoying the flowers. Hannah had taken me there too. I rang her in the hospice and told her about them. At the end of the call we said goodbye.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Ma Vlast

Bedrich Smetana's Ma Vlast (My Country) is a powerful musical evocation of the landscape and history of the Czech Republic. A cycle of six symphonic poems the music was composed by Smetana over a period of five years and first performed as a complete piece in 1882. The music expresses the Czech nationalism which has always been bound up with a love of the landscape and myths of nationhood. It is a heady, beautiful piece of music even to this non-Czech.

There are several wonderful CDs of Ma Vlast available but for me the most powerful is of a performance conducted by Vaclav Talich on 5th June 1939 in the National Theatre. The sound quality is limited by the equipment of the time, but this is a recording like no other. There is a fierce urgency in the music verging on violence, but then this is no ordinary performance. This is a performance in a country which has just been sold down the river to the Nazis. It is a brave statement of national pride and the audience knows it. At the end of the different movements there is applause and at the end the audience spontaneously begins to sing the national anthem, itself a brave act. When I heard it I was moved to tears.

The performance was broadcast by Czech Radio and would have been lost had not Norwegian Radio picked it up and recorded it.

You can sample this extraordinary recording on It is available to buy for £13.99


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