Monday, June 15, 2009

Visit to London

We just got back from London. Unexpected trip it was. I don’t really want to get sympathy from anyone, but my old Gran died. She was 86. Most people think that Grans are nicer than Mums. Not in my case, Gran always thought I was undisciplined and spoilt, every visit as a child was always a lecture about modern living and of course the usual favourite for old Londoners, Yes, you’ve guessed it …. THE BLITZ!!!!!!!!!!

I think everyone in Great Britain knows about how London fared during the Blitz. Same old clichés. Plucky firemen, Winston Churchill visiting ruined houses and fighting with Germans on the beaches, the Queen Mother singing songs to locals in her big fur coat, my gran making pots of tea for old ladies in the Tube stations, kids wearing big labels waiting to be evacuated and going to live with mysterious writers in big rambling country houses with ghosts. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I don’t want to be cycnical or anything , but there’s a kind of romance about it all now.

This side of London is all but gone now, but things have always moved on.

For example , Gran was a bit too young too remember highwaymen getting a public hanging outside Newgate Prison or the hunt for Jack the Ripper, but what will be remembered about us?

I think it’s strange that no-one has ever disguised the fact that London has always been a tough place to live, for example Charles Dickiens wrote books about the poverty and inequality of living in London. And what do we do, we romanticise it, don’t we. All those nice costume drama’s and interesting characters.

So when future generation learn about a tough and unfair life in London during the early part of the 21st century, all the characters will be cute and funny and there’ll be lots of romantic snow lying all around.

Makes me glad to be in Brno again, and the snow’s along way off.

One last comment, about Nutter of the Week. One of Grans friends brought Grans budgie to the funeral, the cage even had a black ribbon round it. It chirped through the Vicar’s sermon and now we don’t know where it is.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day at home and other ramblings

I cancelled all my lessons today, just felt like it and stayed at home. Watched a few DVD’s. Some film and then Catweazle. Yeah, I know I was too young for Catweazle, but he was here in Czechoslovakia and readily approved by the Communists. Exactly why, defeats all reason, possibly because he opposed William the Conqueror. Maybe because he kept a frog called Touchwood and did magic.

It’s sometimes strange to live in country that was until quite recently a communist dictatorship. When you look around, you’ll see much more advertising than in UK. In Britain it’s banned on motorways for example, here it’s everywhere on the roads. At least 30% of all cars have some kind of blatant advert it seems.

Dagmar, my girlfriend came home to make lunch, she’s fattening me up for Christmas I reckon. Down here in Brno, most people have a big lunch and then a light dinner. But for me it’s difficult to feel anything but sleepy after, so it’s loads of strong coffee and force myself out.

Czechs have strange ideas about England. They think English food is the most boring in the world, but they don’t what we eat, apart from Fish & Chips. They think all English beer is warm and flat, mm.. ok some is. They even ask if I have a bowler hat! They are also fascinated with the USA and especially with the Wild West. They watch an old western TV show called Vinnetou and his friend Old Shatterhand. I watched an episode, amazing Stewart Granger was in it!! But, the original language was German and it was shot on location in Yugoslavia. How did Stewart Granger manage to pull it off?

Their country music is just as interesting, I didn’t know that Kenny Rodgers made Czech versions of all his hits. My mum would be horrified!! She’s actually an Eagles fan.

When I was a kid, she made me take guitar lessons so I could try and play all her favourite numbers, well I didn’t have much choice.

Now she usually listens to the Eagles after a few in the pub. She sings along out of tune, much to her boyfriend Johnnie’s delight. Then she gets a word or two completely wrong, which has Johnnie bursting out in a fit of giggles.

Mum texted me that she’d call tonight with a bit of news.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

No Internet for a week and weekend in Prague

Well, life without connecting to the internet is strange these days. But, our router decided not to work. I think it died of overuse actually. The girls and Honza were fighting over the computer, my laptop is usually with me.

But he was popular, he can download free music and films from Russian sites which the girls liked immensely. Blank CD’s were piled everywhere. My wish-list came true a long time ago now, I’ve got a music collection to die for. God bless the Russian Federation!

The atmosphere is completely different to Brno. Prague is like a huge West End of London. It just goes on and on. It seemed that only bar staff were Czechs. Dagmar, my girlfriend, was knackered from speaking English all weekend. Am I the only foreigner ordering drinks in Czech?

Dagmar slept in the car all the way home. Everything seemed back to normal when my Mum called; Mags, my ex-girlfriend still wants the car back, she’s been calling.

But, no chance. No-one in their right mind gives up an almost new Audi A4. Mums boyfriend, who’s a lawyer, says it’s mine legally now, although I didn’t pay for it. But he’ll look into it further. I’ll just keep polishing it and hope for the best.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wild Weekend. What is Kofola?

Well, the weekend went quite quietly actually. My daughter Kate and her friend admitted they liked Honza, Dagmars son. Apart from 7 things.

1-He's too young

2-He doesn't speak English

3-He doesn't actually speak

4-Too much aftershave

5-Spends too long in the bathroom (if they only knew why!)

6-He dances like a git

7-He doesn't drink ("we did since 14!" they boasted)

But, he's good looking and doesn't have spots (HA HA HA!)

"And what is this Kofola?" they asked "It's a bit flat and it's crap with Bacardi"
(Gawd, I thought, they're only 17. Even I like Kofola)

Luckily they spoke too quickly for Honza to understand, poor boy.

But it's not all been going their way, Jessica peed behind a taxi on a rank, Saturday night, and it drove away before she finished!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday, the girls arrive from London

Well it’s Friday evening and I picked up the girls from the airport this afternoon. What was all the fuss about I wonder.

The ex has been on the phone more times than I can remember.

“Are you sure the flat is big enough, it’s not a hostel?” ( A hostel, I ask you)

“ Has it got hot water? “ (no, we wash in the river)

“ How old is this boy?” (he’s 23 and has 37 previous convictions)

“ You won’t let them go to Prague, will you?” (yes, I’ll take them myself & sell them into the sex-slave trade)

She also phoned Mum loads of times, but Mum re-assured her. I was then warned of an incoming calls. Sod the re-assurance.

So, the ex drove them to Stansted and I picked them up today.

It’s not just the ex who’s been acting up. Honza, Dagmars boy has been up in the air about this too. He spent ages in the bathroom, he’s shaved all the fluff off his chin, spent another 20 minutes in front of the mirror removing and hiding 2 spots from his forehead. He came out smelling a bit fragrant, he’d used the best part of a bottle of aftershave.

Teenagers will always be strange, they only speak to other teenagers, to anyone else it’s just Yeh or No or Dunno. When I picked up Katie and her friend it just like this.

Kate wanted to sit in the back of the car with her friend, who I now know is Jessica. Dinner was quiet and a bit pungent with Honza’s aftershave. Now they’re out, Honza’s showing them round town. He got a grunt of approval, when they saw him, and Honza spoke his first ever word in English today.

We couldn’t believe it, he said “Hello” amazingly followed by “How are you?”

The answer was “Yeh, ok”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Interesting Cars & Strange Bikes

Today started off nicely, sunny and promising, but now it's raining. I was just thinking back to the weekend, when we went to Telč. There was a kind of display of old and interesting cars and motorbikes.

Also some kind of cycling club, where they all dress up in pre-war clothes and cycle round on old bicyles. They went twice round the square and then to the pub!! My kind of cycling trip!

And not one them locked up!

Can someone tell me what this is? (not the picnic basket)

Is it a Jag? A Morgan? Help me out folks.

Weird & Weirder still!

A prop from Where Eagles Dare? Complete with machine gun.

Mobile park bench! & a Nice old Royal Enfield

Another mystery. & Meet the locals!

So, a great day and a great place, visit sometime.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Four Letter words, Renault Badge

I’ve been meaning to come back to you all about this, and it’s a tricky subject. Why did Dagmar take the Renault badge off her car?

Well… Czechs don’t swear or use bad language like we do in English, they use pictures and there’s a funny shape that looks something like a Renault badge or something lozenge shaped that refers to a part of your anatomy. And if you’re a boy, don’t waste your time looking, it ain’t there! With me so far?

You know, oh come on, surely I don’t have to spell it out do I? Ok, it lives near the little starfish, are you getting close?

Personally, I’ve always been a bit strange about lozenges, even when I had a bad throat. I’m quite fussy what I put in my mouth. I’m talking about Strepsils, of course.

And there’s a rock group here in Czech Republic called Tři Sestry (3 Sisters) and according to Czechs, they are pushing their luck, because they have a symbol like this:

What a bunch of lozenges!!!

The point is that Dagmar doesn’t want something on the front of her car that says

“I am a Lozenge!”

I've just looked at my flag counter I've got 29 online, from round the world. Yahoooo!!

So, you like my blog?? Please leave a comment if you do.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Early Start !!

Early start today, 7.00 a.m. Czechs are nutters, they want classes in the middle of the night!

We went to bed early last night and I fell asleep before 10. Now I’m up dead early with a bit of time.

They have a habit here of starting early and finishing early, some start at 6!! It goes back to the Austrian Empire and the Emperor who couldn’t sleep, so everyone else felt obliged to get up at dark o’ clock.

When they finish at about 2 or 3 in the afternoon, they all seem to do the same things.

  • Go to their 2nd job
  • Work in the gardens
  • Get sloshed

I have to keep working, because a few of them want to do English after work. Dagmar works similar to me, she’s a manageress in a cleaning company, so her job is before and after normal working hours. But she can go home, she’s on call a lot though.

Teaching was good today, last lesson was 4 men who are production managers in a manufacturing company. We practiced doing guided tours of the firm in English.

So, today, it’s home for lunch. What will we eat, I wonder?

So home now, Yes, we’ll have Rabbit!!.

Dagmars folks are from out of town in a small village and they are living the Good Life, just like on the old telly programme!! Except it’s quite normal here, not in Brno maybe, but outside town, most people grow and breed their own produce for the table.

Mum and Johnny were out last year and we all visited them, and she saw the rabbits in their cages “Oooh lovely” she said “you keep rabbits” “For a while” said Dagmar with a little smirk.

In fact we’ve never bought any veg, potatoes, pork and of course, rabbit, it all comes from her parents.

Lunch was great, it’s half an hours rest then back to work. I’ve had a cancellation for the first lesson tomorrow, so I might gown the pub tonight.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dagmars driving experiences and her little car. She’s driving I’m drinking today (I’ll need one !!)

Dagmars got a little Renault Twingo, you can’t buy them in England, they’re too easily confused with a Twingo biscuit , which is chocolaty and a bit less powerful then the Renault version.

She loves this little car, always cleaning and polishing it. She has even special music that she’s recorded for playing in it. But!! She never plays music in the car, it would be too distracting in big, nasty, busy Brno, with it’s terrifying junctions and also other scary cars (that’s all of them) that come too close.

She has a mental list of junctions that she’s petrified of, and it’s quite a long list, very long in fact. They come in 3 categories;

1. Very scary
2. Even more scary, enough to give you bad dreams
3. So terrifying that you have to drive an extra 5km to avoid them

But she drives everyday somehow as part of her job, usually quite slowly with her nice pointy nose almost touching the windscreen. Her knuckles are usually white with pressure, reminds me of an overboard sailor clutching a piece of driftwood.

She zips along at 25 – 35 kph, with a long queue of admirers behind. Oh yes, the Renault badge, she took it off, just a blank space now. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

Today we’re going to Telc, a small historical town. There’s going to be some historical cars parked on the square.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Teaching (Friday day off again)

Teaching, well it’s been over a week and I haven’t talked about this yet. Let’s start with the English Teaching course first. It was tough for me, I’d never really learnt anything about English grammar, just used it but didn’t understand it. Now I can recognise loads of grammar forms, tenses, you name it, I’ve now taught it. The course was very intensive and more stressful than I could imagine. It was also quite weird being taught by a Czech about your own language.

My first lesson was the worst. On the teaching course, you spend hours preparing a lesson. My first lesson I had 2 minutes to find the page and then I was off in front of students looking at me and hoping to learn something.

When Czechs ask for a teacher from an English Speaking country, they are usually at a higher level. Beginners lessons are normally 75% in Czech, because of explanations.
Anything from Intermediate level upwards can be completely in English, but you have to slow down and keep it simple. I’ve taught Elementary students, but it’s tough explaining grammar. Quite often these students will tire of a native speaker and ask for a change. Don’t despair, it’s nothing personal, it’s tough for them at this level to speak nothing but English at this stage.

Teaching can be very rewarding, a real ego boost when they laugh at your jokes, or better still when you can see they’ve picked something up.

I gotta tell you now. Czech women are gorgeous, they’re taller, slimmer, dress better and prettier than anything you could dream about. Temptations are everywhere. Some are like filmstars, but beware, if you’ve got a class of both male and female, don’t fall into the trap of neglecting the guys. They’re the ones who’ll help you out, telling you the best places to get your car fixed, where the best pubs are etc. They’ll be your mates, the girls will go back home to their husbands and boyfriends. If you’re not professional about this, you’ll lose students, it’s as simple as that. But, the girls are nice to look at and tell jokes

Monday, May 4, 2009

Monday, another week

Start of another week. It’s a bit blowy and I’ll take the tram because it’s a nightmare parking right in the centre. I like trams, they have nice faces, sort of happy. They have newer ones that don’t look so happy with their downturned mouths.

It took me a while to get used to travelling this way and I thought the trams were really cheap, until someone told me that you have put your ticket into a little yellow mouth to get it time & date-stamped. I’d had the same ticket for 4 weeks.

I also like the lady’s voice who announces the next stop, it’s easy to understand and a good way to learn Czech , in a limited sort of way. It’s the same voice in Prague and Brno (she get’s about you know!) Here in Brno they call their trams “Shalina” or “Elektrika”, which is nuts but nice.

Mum’s Grandad was a tram driver in London, he was a big fat guy with a short temper, she said. In those days drivers sat outside in all weathers, so he always wore a huge greatcoat buttoned up to the neck, even at home, they said. Back then, trams didn’t have faces, just Great granddads beefy grumpy face aproaching at the front. No wonder they pulled up the tracks.

Another Great Grandad was a London Bobby and when I visited my Gran, she used to always talk about him. “He had to shoot someone you know” she reminded me quite a few times. I always used to wonder why. Was it a compelling urge that he couldn’t control and just did it one day? Or did he get instructions; “Constable, go out and shoot someone today.” They never gave any other details.

Sunday Evening

We went out for a nice lunch today, up in the Vysocina area. They call it Highlands, but it doesn’t look much like Scotland. Driving out in the countryside is ok here. They don’t believe in cats-eyes and there’s loads of potholes, but the traffic is very light and you can do your own speed most of the time.

Honza’s gone to visit his mate and compare computer games, so we’re alone in the car, just listening to the radio.

I like the radio here, it’s better than the UK. There’s far more channels and a much bigger range, in England it’s either the BBC or Rap, here you can get normal rock and pop. Most radio stations play 50- 50 Czech and British/American music. I was listening to something as we drove home and commented to Dagmar that I liked Czech music, “It’s Slovak” she said.

We do get the BBC world service here, if you’re interested in the latest news from Africa, which is all it seems to pump out these days.

It’s not very popular here now and according to most Czechs, pretty pointless unless you’re from Africa.

Sunday evening’s a sleepy inactive time. Honza’s actually away from the computer and watching a dubbed American detective thingy on TV. Dagmar’s ironing some shirts and watching a pohadka (fairy tale) on the little telly in the kitchen.

I’ve just been sitting on the balcony having a fag and a beer and watching the world go by. I wonder about Mum and Johnny, and if they spoke today, they’re a long way away, but they seem to have taken over my life the whole weekend.

Sunday Morning

Johnny is panicking. I’ll tell you about Johnny first. He’s about the same age as Mum, he’s fancied her for ages, years and years. Johnny’s tall, bald and a bit portly these days. He talks posh and is always jovial and positive, even when Mum wears him out. He’s the senior partner in his firm of solicitors and he always wears a silk handkerchief in the breast pocket of his jacket He’s really devoted to Mum and really tolerant, considering she’s sometimes made a fool of herself when they’ve been out together. But, Mum still looks good for her age, her hairs dyed red at the moment and she pays a fortune for it to look good. They were in Mums local once, and when she was at the bar, some young geezer smacked her bottom, when she turned round and he saw this 59 year old face, he nearly died. Johnny saw it all and laughed and got a bollocking from Mum, but her friends told her to shut up and it was all quickly forgotten.

I know that he wants her to live with him and get married even, but she won’t give up her house and definitely not her name. Johnnies surname is Godfellow and she’s not so sure about this. She was once out with him at some posh reception at the Law Society and after drinking a healthy amount of champagne, introduced him to someone as “John Bedfellow, my er…bedfellow,”

I spoke to Johnny all the way from the pub, on to the tram, off the tram, up the stairs and at home for another 10 minutes before he seemed a bit reassured. He wants to marry Mum, but she’s laying down the law. She won’t move to Westminster, she needs her neighbours and likes her little garden., blah blah, we’ve heard it all before. So he’s thinking about selling or renting out his flat and then he’ll live with her (which he’s almost doing now anyway). As for marriage, just do the engagement bit, I advised, she’ll go along with that. I said I’d ring Mum the next day.

Sunday morning seemed a bit brighter when I got up. I still have some frozen bacon from Sainsbury’s and little Nuremberger sausages from the shop down the road. Czechs have something called Anglictina Slanina, which they think is English Bacon, it’s not.

Czech sausages aren’t really for frying for breakfast either. I showed Dagmar how to fry an egg sunny-side-up once and she was fascinated. So I made breakfast for us all, Honza staggered through, guided semi-consciously by the smell, sat down, had breakfast and went back to bed again. Dagmar was up early as usual, scrubbing and cleaning away at some imaginary cleanliness problem in the kitchen. The cooker always looks like it’s never ever been used.

When it was about 9.30 UK time, I called Mum. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that her and Johnny are almost 60. More like 16 going on 17.

Any way, she loves Johnny and she worries that she’ll do anything he wants and then be unhappy after. So she basically won’t agree to anything. She’s not even angry that he called me, she doesn’t want him to get rid of his flat or even rent it, she likes going there sometimes after a night in the West End. The straight laced concierge on the front door makes her giggle and getting a taxi all the way up through Camden and Kentish town is depressing, she says.

Money’s not too much of a problem for Johnny, but she’ll sack his cleaner and keep it tidy herself. I just know that she’ll enjoy staggering through the main entrance all dolled up after a Saturday night out and then re-appearing on a Monday morning, wearing an apron and carrying a mop and bucket.

She hasn’t a clue how much Johnny is worth and she’s not really interested. She doesn’t want to get married again, not 3 times, it’s unseemly you know!! But it’s ok to have a live-in boyfriend she chuckles. I mention about getting engaged and that it could be fun choosing a whopping great diamond ring. That went down well.

I sometimes wonder what they talk about all the time, but when I think about it, they never talk at work, they don’t even have lunch together, he goes out and she’s always brought sandwiches. Mums completely different at work, always professional and low profile, she says that Johnny wants to chat sometimes, but has to wait until after. To any visitor to his firm, you’d never know they were together, but I’m sure all the others who work there must gossip about them.

When they’re in the pub after work, they don’t talk together so much, but to the other locals. At home I’m not so sure, I’ve never lived with them both.

“Why couldn’t you come over with that nice girl you live with, sometime soon again,” she asks. She can’t ever remember Dagmar’s name, she thinks it’s Doug-something on a good day.

My parting words were that she should speak to Johnny about what we’ve just talked about and then I sent an email to him with the same ideas. I’m such a nice boy sometimes!

Time for a cup of tea and then we’re going out for lunch today. I’ll update you all later.