Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Ours is not to reason why, but to fit in nicely and keep a low profile, as we are the Johnny Foreigners here, so driving like a local will bring you lots of praise from your families, friends and of course other road users.
Before you set off:
Make sure that your exhaust pipe is trailing the ground.
Essential also; check that one of your headlights doesn’t work and the other is constantly on full beam.
Make sure your windows are nice and dirty (steamed up is ok too). Never ever scrape ice of your windows in the winter.
Take a quick look to ensure that you have at least 4 weeks of mud on your number plates. If they’re clean, just take them off and leave them at home.
No really, just take a look around if you don’t believe me.
So we’re almost ready to set off, but before we do, hitch up that rusty old trailer, without electrics.
Speed: well I should tell you now that speed limits are of no consequence whatsoever, just don’t look at them, they’re irrelevant. There are 2 types of driving speeds that are favoured here; breakneck and snails pace (with a very smoky exhaust).
Traffic lights; they do the same colours here as anywhere, but never ever jump the lights, our friendly Police wait at junctions throughout town, watching for that old trick.
When approaching a green light, stop, it’ll probably turn red very soon and people behind will thank you for your caution and foresight When waiting for the lights to turn green, take your time and when they do change, wait until they are just about to turn to amber again, then you can go, you don’t want to be followed, do you..
Road direction signs: there aren’t any.
If it looks like a direction sign, it’s probably something similar, but in the wrong place.
Just take it for granted that all foreigners here get completely lost, Czechs never ever lose their way. When they’re travelling through unknown and signpostless towns, they use telepathy and mindlink with locals to navigate them through unhindered. It’s quite a hard skill to learn, but I’m attending a course next week, and it’s a darn sight cheaper than Satnav.
Indicators; you may think you’re an expert with these, but here in Czech Republic, they have an entirely different purpose, of which I’m completely unsure.
However, I’ve been observing closely and can give you a few pointers.
When turning left or right, give no more than 10 centimetres warning before you start turning, better still, wait until you’ve turned and then indicate. A good tip is, ensure that your indicator bulbs are of very low wattage and blink very quickly (standard on older Skoda’s)
Don’t forget that when you are driving round a gentle curve on the road, let the drivers behind know, by indicating which way the curve is going, they will copy this sign and pass it back. This is best practiced on a busy day with long queues, everyone will start indicating without actually knowing why.
4 way flashers. These are used for double parking on a busy street, it’s amazing, they will render your vehicle completely invisible to the Police, you can park just about anywhere. Try it sometime!
Overtaking; admittedly a strange one this. Here in Czech republic, when you overtake you must indicate left to pass a vehicle and then indicate right, this is to let other road users know that you do not intend to continue the remainder of your journey on the wrong side of the road.
But forget about all that nonsense, just do as the locals do here and indicate right and then move out to the left and pass the pesky vehicle in front.
But beware about overtaking, it’s an unpopular activity. Don’t be surprised if you overtake a Czech travelling very slowly, he then follows you at breakneck speed all the way home.
Being overtaken. If you want to be part of the local scene, just don’t allow it (see above). When you see a car behind wishing to overtake, wait until he’s alongside, drop a gear and put the foot down until you are at a blind curve, better still, until cars are approaching on the other side.
Don’t worry, it’s perfectly legal and everyone does it.
Driving up and down hills. Czechs are caring people and they know that cars get tired driving up hills. Best advice is to be kind to your car and slow down going up that nasty steep hill. A good indication of kindness is when you have a queue of about 9 cars behind, don’t worry, they’re all taking your lead. When you get to the top, it’s pedal to metal, to stop those wicked evil perverted overtakers.
Trams: I’ve just discovered the secret of tram traffic lights, with those funny dots and little lines, They’re in BRAILLE! Yes, you’ve guessed it, all Tram drivers are completely blind. Luckily they are on tracks.
The D1. That wonderfully safe road, with a minimum speed of 300kph. More interesting is the rustic crazy paving laid all the way to just 3km short of Prague.
When on the D1, you’ve probably noticed that the in-crowd never use the Service Stations, they advise us to just stop on the hard shoulder, you can pee and expose yourself to all the passers-by, much more fun.
Lastly however, if you do really need to fill up, make sure that you leave your car at the pump when paying for petrol, buying all those little necessities in the shop, having a nice long lunch and picking a few mushrooms in the adjoining forest. Czechs just love queuing and we have to keep the natives happy, don’t we.
Friday, September 3, 2010
“Why you in the pub again, you little Tommy Tucker?”
Poor old Mum, she’s a bit lonely these days, she’s mostly living with her boyfriend in Mayfair but she misses Kentish Town and the gossip and Gran died a while back. Now she’s waiting in a pub for Johnny to finish work, then they’re off to visit Johnny’s sister. Mum still works for Johnny, he’s a lawyer, senior partner in fact and Mum’s been a secretary there for ages. She was due to retire, but only managed 2 weeks at home.
Johnny’s family are a hoot, sort of like mine but with posh voices. This sister is a widow and lives in a really old, and I mean really old mansion in Hertfordshire. I like the place as much as Mum hates it, some of the bedrooms still have electrical sockets with round holes! All the floors creak like crazy and the whole place smells of Labrador (there’s 3), outside the only sound you hear is crows in the evening. We all went last year, Dagmar jumped at every creak and thud all night. The cooker wasn’t working so Johnny and I went out and bought fish and chips.
As for the village pub, “everybody stares” Mum reckons.
Johnny’s other sister, the oldest, is completely bonkers, she’s never been married and played violin in an orchestra for a long time. She lives in a huge flat, all dusty, in Brighton. She spends her life playing Bridge and of course still playing violin.
“Why can’t she play something we can all sing along to?” my Mum always asks “All that scratchy nonsense drives me barmy”
Don’t you just love the in-laws? I always seem to have had a bad experience with them, first it was the wife’s parents, They were ok when I was married to the ex, terrible when I got divorced, and miraculously ok when the ex got married again, like I was responsible for the ex petting hitched or something. Well it did take the heat off a bit, they had someone new to find faults with.
I reckon I must be a coward, I never did get married again, but if you think you get it easier with a girlfriends parents, think again.
The last girlfriend in London, Mags, had terrible parents, terrible because they looked down on me from a very, almost Himalayan height and their pedestals never wobbled once! It’s not that I’m particularly common, they just had huge aspirations for their daughter and I didn’t quite cut it. The good advantage of having Mags parents so high up the scale of humanity was, they couldn’t see what us low lives were doing crawling about underneath our stones.
Now it’s completely different, Dagmar ( yeah, we’re still together!), is down to earth and her folks are ok, or so I think anyway. Yep, it’s the language problem. My Czech is coming along fine, but I have to admit, I pick and choose what to understand, especially if it’s something I don’t like the sound of. They don’t understand how I can live here and get by without being fluent, it’s even more complicated for them now that younger members of the family can speak English and they feel left out of it.
I always try to speak Czech, even if it’s laughable. My bad Czech has got me off with a few driving misdemeanours with the police.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Not too much about Brno this week.
Nothing pleases me more than discovering the truth and not feeling even a little bit guilty any more. And I have to say that Johnny, Mums boyfriend, is nice to have on your side. He looks like a Mr. Pickwick type, a bit plumpish, good natured, but very very sharp. Always full of friendly and clever advice.
Let's go back to about 3 – 4 years ago. My girlfriend then was Margaret, she was an HR Manager and I was the facilities manager, both working for a bank in the city. She usually came down to bollock the guys in the postroom for something or another, we had a drink after work once and that was it, before I knew, we were living together and then after 6 months we moved to new flat she had found. It was in a nice part of town near Farringdon station and it was big and expensive. I could hardly keep up with my part of the rent, yet she had no problems with money, thanks to her parents.
After a while, I noticed that if we went out , she had to foot the bill, and I even had to ask for money, just to go to the pub. Anyway, I got fed up and had a few wild nights out with the traders, which didn't go down well, as it was before I handed over my hard earned cash. I could never figure it out, I actually earned more than her. So, Mags got the hump, kicked me out and I kept this nice new car.
Mags and her family went nuts, chasing and calling me, I left the company, then left the country. Fast forward to 3 months ago in London. This is when Johnny did a property search on Mags' flat and the owner turns out to be.... Mags. The cow was charging me rent and she paid nothing, her Dad had bought the flat for her.
It gets better, Mags somehow heard I was in London, turned up in our local with her parents and confronted Mum and Johnny. Johnny's a strange guy, he looks like a big bald teddy bear, but can turn into a grizzly when required. I got a text, saying to come round to the pub sharpish and saw this affable character turn into a deadly serious top class lawyer and the drop of a hat. Mags' Dad, a civil servant turned a colour that was a light greyish white, almost translucent. And when Johnny mentioned about the flat and me paying rent, they left quietly and quickly. We really thought that was it, but Mags called me later to speak to me and wanted to meet up.
The next day, she came to Kentish Town, so I met her in a cafe, she wanted me to go think about me and her getting back together. Just long enough for her to get the car back I thought and I was right, she asked me where it was. Just then my Mum and Dagmar walked in, on cue, I should add. So, that was that, outclassed in looks by Dagmar and outstared by Mum, she left. The cars not even new anymore, but her family didn't want some hoi polloi getting the better of them.
Anyway, back to the present and we're back in Brno and happy, it might be -17 outside at night and it might go on for at least another week, but I like it here.
Dagmar's looking for a new car and a new job and I¨m back teaching, but I'm still not too busy. The last language school I worked for has gone bust, more through laziness than anything else. The owner was a big dreamer and also liked spending money.
Monday, January 18, 2010
Sorry folks, I've been away, back in Kentish Town, London actually. Well it didn't seem right to be writing about my experiences in Brno if I had scuttled back home. Well not alone actually, Dagmar came with with me and we lived at my Mums place. Honza, her son went to stay with his grandparents in village out of town, he hated it, no freedom, no girls, no internet and long bus journeys to school. We tried him in London over Christmas, but no, he wouldn't speak English, everyone just assumed we had a not very clever son, to the point that I got fed up disowning him. (He's actually just my stepson you know, I would say over and over again)
Needless to say, Dagmar got pissed off with me and completely angry at Honza. Pity, we both managed to get get decent jobs, I found a job as a facilities manager again and Dagmar found work as a receptionist in the City, where she was far too popular with all the males in the building.
So, here we are, knee deep in snow, back in our flat. I dug the car out of her parents garage and it still goes vroom vroom. Apart from a half eaten sandwich that was a bit smelly after 6 months, the car is ok. We didn't dare take it to London. Just to recap, I love my car it's an Audi A4 estate, left hand drive. My ex girlfriends parents bought it, they're wealthy and bought a house in France just before my ex threw me out. They were too busy to buy the car, so they arranged for me to buy it for them. But the car went in my name, the next day the ex threw me out and I used the car to move my things and sort of kept it. More about that later, there's been a development and in my favour.