New Year’s Irresolution or Playing with Fireworks

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Don’t laugh too hard but one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to update this blog on a weekly basis.  Yes, I know.  But I really will try harder in future.  Honestly.  And to reply to some of the very nice emails I’ve received too.  Sorry, grovel, sorry. 

I intended my first post of the year to recount my first New Year’s Eve here in Czechland.  I know the celebrations will be a distant memory for most of you by now but I’m going ahead with Plan A anyway.  Why?  Because it seems the Czechs like to see out the old year with a bang.  Literally.

In English, there’s going out – the simple act of leaving the house – and then there’s going out- out – a super-duper-slangy faux phrasal verb which means that you intend to head to the bar, then to a nightclub and party the night away until the small hours. 

I don’t like going out out on New Year’s Eve.  It’s crowded, expensive and therefore no fun at all in my view.  Fortunately, in 2010, I was invited to mark the passing of the previous twelve months at the home of a fellow member of the Czech Wives’ Club: the unofficial title for the group of English coffee-buddies I have assembled who also have moved here because they fell for a Czech Man (aww).

The  friend in question offered to make curry and stock up on alcohol: we promised to bring more booze and plenty of posh nibbles from Marks and Spencers.

The first challenge was getting to my friend’s home.  She is a panelak resident so this meant taking the metro for twenty minutes, then a bus, then a bit of a walk.  Fine: I’ve lived in London, I’m used to having to trek to people’s houses on public transport.  However, what I wasn’t prepared for was the aerial assault of incendary devices which awaited us. 

It seems that one New Year’s tradition we’ve skipped in the UK is throwing lit fireworks from balconies onto the heads of unsuspecting passers-by.  We save such behaviour for Guy Fawkes’ Night.  Or, depending on where you live, the ASBO kids throw missiles at residents all year round.

What was the most interesting of all in my view was the reaction of the Czech menfolk to all this.  They thought we were silly English girls over-reacting yet again.  They didn’t seem surprised or concerned that when we stepped out onto the balcony, the entire sidliste (estate) looked like a scene from Basra with flares being set off in every possible direction.  What the Czechmen found more amusing still, was our terrified reaction when they decided to light up sparklers – indoors! And without gloves! This prompted even more squealing and hysteria.

It seems that in Czechland, children at school do not experience the annual visit from the Fire Department where they are shown photos of the mutilated hands of youngsters who lost several fingers becaus they were foolish enough to play with fireworks. The Czechmen thought that our hysterical behaviour was just further evidence of a health and safely culture gone mad.  They aren’t so hot on Health and Safety here in Czechland.  You’ll have noticed this if you’ve ever spotted burly men walking around a building site wearing only flipflops.

The Health and Safety Gang, rather like their cousins, the Politicially Correct Brigade, do have too much control over British society.  To go through life without any risk at all is to miss out on a good deal of exciting experiences.  I learned this first hand last weekend when I went skiiing for the first time in real mountains.  However, surely somebody needs to warn the Czech Republic’s youngsters that throwing fireworks around might not only make their New Year kick off with a bang, but with a prolonged stay in hospital?

Phew.  That’s enough moralising.  Now I’m off to pack my suitcase ready for my visit to the homeland.  Stay tuned –  I’ll try not to leave it quite so long next time.

20 Comments

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20 Responses to New Year’s Irresolution or Playing with Fireworks

  1. I miss the Czech wives club – even if technically speaking I wasn’t one 🙁

    • girlinczechland

      Well you will be a wife in the not too distant future, so I guess you’re halfway to qualifying 😉
      And we in Czechland are looking forward to your next online blog-related incarnation…
      GIC

  2. Richardinprague

    Is there a Czech husbands’ club???

  3. martin

    i really like your style : ” looked like a scene from Basra with flares being set off in every possible direction”. It could be dangerous but you are really careful about everything – few months ago ‘ killer icicles’ now ‘fireworks’ 🙂
    Enjoy our wild country.
    Good Luck

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Martin,
      It’s true that living in Czechland has made me realise just what a big scaredy-cat I am. If there’s even the least bit of snow on the pavement I shuffle along at a snail’s pace for fear of slipping over (which, touch wood, I never actually have). This behaviour drives Czechman crazy who always races off ahead, declaring that I’m ‘walking like a bloody pensioner’ or worse still, like I have ‘shitted myself’. Still, I guess he has a point: what will I do if I’m eighty and still living in snowy Prague?
      GIC

  4. I took up the post-a-day challenge for my blog, and I’m afraid to say I have to may you sick by saying so far I’ve kept it up. My quality has gone down the tubes, my viewer figures are falling, and people are begging me to stop, but I have kept it up!

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Viktor,
      Well done on keeping up the post-a-day challenge but I’m not sure what conclusion to draw from your determined efforts if the main result has been a fall in viewer figures… Still, if I post any less frequently, it will be just Czechman and myself reading my words of wisdom and wouldn’t that be rather sad. Perhaps I should go out and try to buy five bread rolls again: my failure in that department drew a lot of interest!
      GIC

  5. Petr

    Regarding Health & Safety.

    They are really mad about this in UK. I’m going there every week for bussiness working for a major UK utilities company. I knew, that they are obsessed with H&S, but when I received an email saying “beware, there is cold outside, so the roads might be slippery and don’t forget to dress properly so that you don’t catch a cold” I thought that they must think, that their employees are more or less stupid children.

    Another thing are these yellow signs saying “Caution, wet floor”. I never ever slipped there on a wet floor, however I knocked over a few times over this stupid sign hidden just behind the corner. I mean – I know it makes sense to put it on a really slippery floor, but they put it everywhere “just in case”.

  6. Hi GIC,
    Yes – there is a great contrast between the UK, where concern about Health & Safety has gone to ridiculous extremes, and the Czech Republic where H & S is not even part of the vocabulary, particularly on New Year’s Eve. My wife & I went to Wenceslas Square with two American friends on New Year’s Eve, only for one of them to be hit in the mouth by a rocket that went off sideways. As a result we spent from 23.45 when it happened, firstly in a first aid tent & then in Vinorady Hospital, & didn’t get home until after 03.30. We’ve already decided that we’ll see 2012 in from the safety of the balcony of our flat!

  7. Cheryl

    I came to your blog by way of Czeching In and love it! Thank you so much for writing. 🙂 I am married to a Czechman, but we live in the US. I literally laughed out loud because my Czechman also laughs at me for being a big ‘ole scaredy cat and calls me Miss Safety. Harump! I have to admit that perhaps it is his 20 years of living in the US, but even he was a bit taken aback by the glass blowers in the hot house at Moser in Karlovy Vary wearing sandals. Yes…sandals! I couldn’t believe it! Safety first… 🙂

    Your blogs tickle me silly and I thank you for expressing it in word because I, too, have dealt with a similar Houskygate incident and unpleasant shopkeepers first-hand!. Keep up the most excellent blogging!

    Cheryl

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Cheryl,
      Thanks a lot for your kind words. I think the blog would die altogether if I didn’t get some encouraging feedback.
      And as for Houskygate, I had a similar experience today at the fish counter in Tesco today but I think I’ll spare the world Salmongate – or should that be Lososgate? I guess I’ll just have to grow myself a thicker (fish) skin.
      GIC

  8. 3boys

    The last new years eve I spent in Prague was 1996. At that time NOBODY ever lite anything off until the stroke of midnight. Maybe with the rise in living standards comes larger caches of fireworks, allowing people to use more fireworks earlier in the evening instead of saving them all until midnight. I always liked the way the city looked with all the rockets shooting up above the skyline. We had a high floor in Holesovice that made for a nice view. Now we spend it in Florida and the fireworks start just at sundown with a surge at midnight.

    Any comment on why it’s called Sylvester?

    Put me down for the Czech husbands club… but only during Summer when I’m there.

    I think the safety thing comes from the states with all the liability and lawsuits. My kids spend the first week every Summer in Prague tripping over everything until they get used to the fact that every 1cm bump has not been ground down prevent accidents. I’ve found that Americans have become less aware of safety and take it for granted rather than your response of being obsessed with personal safety. The American will be thinking that if something happens they can simply call a toll-free number to “lawyer-up” and collect their lottery winnings.

    Thanks for keeping up the blog, I really enjoy it.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello 3boys,
      Thanks for your kind words re the blog and consider yourself an honorary member of the Czech husbands clubs who will no doubt meet for beers rather than overpriced spoilt and Western coffees 😉
      GIC

  9. Hi GIC,
    If you will excuse me answering 3boys on your blog & promoting mine, the answer to his question about ‘Silvestr’ can be found here http://rickyyates.com/silvestr-%E2%80%93-new-year%E2%80%99s-eve/

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Ricky,
      Of course I don’t mind you answering the Silvestr related query. The word always makes me think of the Looney Tunes cartoon character, Sylvester. Here’s a link for those of you who didn’t come across him while growing up:

      http://www.sylvester-cat.com/

      And I always remember how to say ‘Excuse me’ in Czech – ‘s dovolením’ – because it sounds to me a bit like ‘sdovo-Lenin’, to me at least. Move over Lenin! Hilarious – in my own little world anyway.
      GIC

  10. Hi GIC – sorry, I’ve only just read this but wanted to agree wholeheartedly – I was completely unprepared for the sheer volume and incredibly haphazard nature of the NYE fireworks that I encountered on the Old Town Square this year. I wandered down with some sparklers (stupid English health and safety idiot, clearly) and was confronted with groups of people (and children) hurling rockets about and throwing catherine wheels at people!
    One of the most bizarre evenings I had here last year…very pretty though!
    x

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Ms Czeching In,
      No need to apologise for being slow to comment – it took me over a month to get the post up in the first place!
      I have to chastise you for walking around with sparklers ungloved – are you sure you were actually brought up in England? Didn’t the firemen come to your primary school and show you the massive pictures of the mutilated hands of infants foolish enough to play with fireworks? 😉
      GIC

  11. misunka

    hahaha being Czech and living in Prague – you made me smile. we have been doing sparkles (prskavky) in my home since i was a baby and i would never ever thought of wearing some gloves and other safety requirements. i was always careful though. have you seen the movie Pelisky? look where they put prskavky (into one ladies hair)… thats how we are… :)) as of fireworks…. people get drunk and go wild. however, most of the ppl in Vaclavske namesti are not czech and enjoy being wild and drunk….. doing things they cant do back home….

  12. katherina

    an old czech friend used to say all those fireworks were really expensive. And once they exploded, you couls see: jak všechny ty peníze vybuchly ve vzduchu 🙂

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