Those of you who follow my Facebook page will be aware that there’s been a big purchase recently at Girl in Czechland Towers. After four years of living in Prague, we finally have wheels!
And the brand of the car in question? A Rolls Royce? An Aston Martin? An equally iconic British retro brand of motor car with a more modest price tag — a Mini, say?
Of course not. If you live in Czechland, there’s only one brand of automobile for you — a Škoda.
I can still remember telling Škoda jokes in the primary school playground. Sorry Czechland. Anyway, here’s one that comes to mind:
‘What do you call a Škoda with twin exhausts?’
It turns out that being chauffered around in a Škoda is actually rather fabulous. It even has a name: modrý blesk, aka blue flash. I must buy some fluffy dice to hang up above the dashboard just to make sure it has enough personality.
Owning a car has meant more weekend trips to The Village People: I won’t miss struggling back to Prague on public transport lugging sacks of home grown potatoes, plastic tupperware containers full of buchta, leftover dumplings, and of course boxes of three dozen organic eggs. Having our own wheels means that we can load up with even more of these home produced goodies.
This September Czechman and I have spent some of this year’s last remaining sunny days sitting in the Village People’s zahrádka – a sort of allotment or smallholding where they grow their own vegetables. There’s a chata there — a word that’s tricky to translate into English, because the words ‘cottage’ or ‘summer house’ conjure up images in the spoilt and Western imagination that are far grander than the humble reality of the Czech second home which often has two rooms and no running water.
Anyway, a picture is worth a thousand words:
‘Ahoj Mamko,’ I hear Czechman intone into his mobile as I wander around with my camera. I am supposed to be watering the plants. ‘Yes we’re here at the zahrádka. Ms Girlova is taking pictures of apples.’
Here they are:
Being in the zahrádka made me think of Jamie Oliver.
In case you’re not familiar with the global brand that is Jamie, he’s a British chef who, amongst his many media projects, had a TV series called ‘Jamie at Home’ in which you saw Mr Oliver larking about in a smallholding rather like the Village People’s zahrádka.
The point of the series was to encourage lazy British supermarket frequenting city dwellers to get up off their sofas and out into the great outdoors where they could grow their own courgettes and then deep fry the flowers to serve up at a first course to their mates at their next dinner party.
What makes me laugh is the fact that what Jamie Oliver is presenting as an aspirational lifestyle for the well-off British middle classes, ordinary Czechs have been doing for decades or even centuries.
Of course growing your own is a good thing. In a sense it doesn’t really matter whether people decide to cultivate a few tomatoes because it’s what their family have done for generations or because they’ve seen Jamie doing it on the telly. That Mothership Tomato Salad with Balsamic dressing I whipped up thanks to Mr Oliver’s recipe was damn tasty.
However, I’ve noticed that Jamie Oliver’s cookery books are available in Czech – which is fine, of course. Why not give the Czech nation a chance to learn how to serve up something other than goulash and dumplings? Having said that, I think it would be more than a little ironic if you let Jamie Oliver sell your own lifestyle back to you.
Češi, don’t let a silly British chef tell you how to live! Be proud (and perhaps even a little smug) that you are already a nation of cottagers, cultivators and gardeners!