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.