More people find this blog by searching for “Village People” than more obvious search terms like “Prague” or “Czech”. I suspect they may be trying to track down info on the 70s pop group who created disco classic ‘YMCA’ but hey, who cares?
The Village People (aka Czechman’s parents) are essential characters in the exciting story that is The Adventures of Ms Girl in Czechland. I’ve recently returned from another restorative weekend in the Bohemian countryside and would now like to regale you all with the comic highlights of the trip. I make no apologies for the fact this post appears in the form of a list whatever a certain silent blog lurker – yes Czechman, I mean you – may have to say.
1. Girl in Czechland Wins Name that Tune
While in hospital I spent a fair amount of time listening to Czech composers. Honest. Anyway, Czechman thought it would be a good idea for me to impress his parents with my newly gained cultural knowledge.
“Anglicanka is going to sing you something,” Czechman announced while we were sitting on the brown sofa in the living room one evening under the cross-stitched picture of Prague Castle. Perhaps now you see where Czechman’s aversion to kitsch comes from.
I hum them a couple of bars of Smetana’s Má Vlast. The tune is distincly recognisable but The Village People looked nonplussed.
Czechman tells them the answer.
“Oh, Smetana! Of course I recognise it now!” Czechman’s mum tells me. “I just didn’t think you would know that!”
If you’d like to find out more about why Má Vlast is such a big deal in Czechland, then you can listen to this programme in the Radio 4 archive where Jan Kaplan explain how significant it became to him while living in exile.
2. Ms Girl dines out on old Shepherds Pie
Everyone likes receiving praise. On the rare occasions when it is handed out by a Czech person, you can usually rely on it being genuine.
Later that same evening while sitting on the brown sofa, the conversation turns to food.
“That thing you cooked for us,” began Czechman’s dad, ”I don’t remember what it was called, you know, it had meat, then potatoes then meat…”
A dish I’d prepared where meat and potatoes were the main ingredients? This could only mean one thing.
“Shepherds pie!” I replied excitedly. “But it has meat, potatoes and then cheese.”
“Yes, that the one! I told the boys at work the next day, ‘I had some English food, I don’t know what it was but it was really tasty.”
I’ll be dining out on that particular compliment for some time to come. If you also want to win over your Czech in-laws, here’s a recipe.
3. Točena zmrzlina comes to The Village
Točena zmrzlina is that special kind of ice cream that you usually only get at the seaside or from an ice cream van back home. In Prague, however, every other bakery seems to have a hatch where they sell these whippy ice creams to passers by.
Why must they test my very weak willpower like this?
Anyway, a točena zmrzlina stand has appeared in The Village. There seems to be no shortage of customers judging from the mini-crowd which had gathered there when we cycled past on Saturday.
Czechman’s mum, however, was unimpressed.
“20kc for an ice cream – and you have to buy a large one! Iwas so disgused that I went and got one from the Co-op around the corner instead.”
Did I mention that beer is also točene which means that the literal translation for točena zmrzlina is draft ice-cream. Hilarious! Or perhaps not…
4. Therapeutic Work: Watering the Plants in Babička’s Garden
Now that the weather is improving, a visit to The Village means spending plenty of time in Grandma’s garden. We feed the chickens. We drink tea and eat cream cakes. My favorite task this time was watering the plants. I doubt I’ll ever become particularly green fingered – although I should at least try to keep the violets Czechman’s mum gave us alive for a while – but there’s something therapeutic about pottering around in the sunshine with a watering can
5. Hunting for Communist Kitsch in the Cottage
I’m a pretty clumsy person. Despite my best efforts, I’ve recently managed to smash a grand total of five of our glasses. Instead of going to Ikea to buy some more, we spent Sunday hunting around in the loft of the Czechmanovi’s cottage looking to see if any replacements could be found.
Czechman was delighted to stumble upon the drinking vessel below. Does that mean that even Czechman has a weakness for nostalgic bits and bobs after all?