Monday, 16 January 2017

Community Winter Spirit

I apologize for the absence of posts over the last two months. Unfortunately I had a heart attack in mid-November and until now have not felt up to posting. In addition I was in England when it happened and was only given the all-clear by the doctor to fly back to the Czech Republic a fortnight ago. Anyway I am back now, accompanied by my husband who insists (rightly) on carrying all the firelogs into the house, as well as stopping me from trying to walk uphill.

One of the great things about living in a Czech village is the support I get from my neighbours. So when it became clear that I could not get back until January, I was able to email my neighbour and ask her to start the car and recharge the battery.  This is in part due to having such lovely neighbours and in part due to the fact that we need to help each other, especially in a winter like this.

As I have said before, the village is on the top of a hill in the foothills of the Sumava Mountains. In the winter we get some serious snow and temperatures to match. The road to the village has a long uphill drag, at the bottom of which is a blind 90-degree bend under a railway. Being a minor road to a minor village the only snow clearance is by a man on a tractor with a snow plough attachment who clears the top layer of recent snow but leaves the layer of compacted snow/ice beneath.

My friend Hannah used to claim that Czechs laugh at winter snow, indeed that they enjoy driving on it. Not if they live in our village, they don't! The secret to getting up the hill is to build up enough speed to get you to the village and pray that you don't meet someone coming in the other direction. If you stop on the hill, you probably won't be able to get going again and will have to roll back again until you can get traction (sometimes all the way to the bottom of the hill).

Once in the village you have the backup of your fellow villagers to help with your car. In the last week I have been both the recipient and giver of such aid. My car failed to start a few days ago and I was loaned a neighbour's battery charger. And then today the local postwoman knocked on my door. The wheels of her van, despite being equipped with snow chains, were spinning on the compacted snow. I came out with a snow shovel.

As I write it is snowing, as it has been for four days. We are snug in our house and have no plans to risk the hill. I had laid down a store of winter foodstuffs during the summer, which we are now using, and the logs are piled up against the outside wall ready for Phil to carry them upstairs. And of course if I run out of food or logs, I can rely on my neighbours to help out, as they can rely on me.

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