Tag Archives: village people

Czech mums are Supermums: another weekend with The Village People

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Meet Babovka, a traditional Czech sponge cake

In Czechland, doctors often send their patients to a spa to recuperate. I opted to go to stay with the Village People (aka Czechman’s parents) instead. Why? Because I knew I would get plenty of sympathy after my recent adventures in hospital, especially from Czechman’s mum.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Czech mothers all seem to possess a surplus of caring genes. Either that or they all attend some special training camp where they learn all the skills necessary to be supermums.

Highlights of the weekend included:

–  learning how to make babovka (a traditional Czech sponge cake) with Czechman’s mum. The results were excellent but the real test is whether I can manage to make it as well without expert supervision

–  an 80’s fashion show starring Czechman and his collection of ancient tepláky (jogging bottoms) as he decided what from his teenage wardrobe should finally be thrown away

– hunting through Czechman mum’s collection of vintage knitting and crochet patterns: fascinating stuff for a craftaholic like me

– admiring Czechman’s dad at work in his království (kingdom) – the workshop at the bottom of grandma’s garden – where he has transformed the bits of wooden worktop into leaf-shaped chopping boards, including a minature one for Czechman’s niece – šikovny!

– daily trips to the grandmas to discuss important topics like the latest episode of Prostřeno! and how well the hens are laying: very well indeed as we now have thirty organic eggs in our fridge. Better get started on that babovka…

I may be wrong, but my impression is family is more important here in the Czech Republic than in England. In my early days in Czechland I’d grumble a bit about how often we are expected to put in an appearance at Czechman’s parents (once a month minimum) and the fact that my presence is required too (but they’re your parents) but now that I finally understand most of what’s going on, I really look forward to it.

You see, Czechland is home now and it’s starting to feel like his family are my family too.

“You seem really comfy here,” Czechman observed this weekend. And I am.

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A weekend with the (Bohemian) Village People

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I have just spent a weekend with the Village People.

Not the 70’s pop group responsible for wave-your-hands-in-the-air disco classics like YMCA you understand. The Village People is my nickname for Czechman’s family.

It’s one of those jokes that’s only really funny when you tell it to other native speakers. Like when I christened my previous employer ‘Bell-End School of Languages’ and received only a mystified look from Czechman when I couldn’t stop giggling at my own comic brilliance.

It’s sad when you have to resort to laughing at your own jokes. And don’t ask me to explain ‘bell-end’ – one of my subscribers is a man of the cloth. He might be offended.

Going to the village means being spoilt. Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s a list of items we brought home with us:

two jars of homemade marmelade
one large jar of cooked pumpkin chunks
organic goat’s cheese from the nearby goat farm
two giant homemade kolaches
two portions of chicken in red pepper sauce complete with homemade dumplings
two portions of potato and mushroom soup (homemade obviously)
a brand new cake tin (I mentioned that I wanted to make a cake for Czechman’s birthday)
twenty eggs laid by Babička Jedná’s hens – and therefore organic of course
four rohliky (white bread rolls) “because we already have bread and otherwise what will you eat this evening?”

What would we eat indeed.

The Village People ask for little in return for all this five star treatment except our presence. They are patient with my rubbish (but improving) Czech. When I bring a little ringbinder with copies of the articles I’ve recently had published, they ask lots of questions and try to understand the headlines and say I am ‘šikovna’.

This is becoming one of my favourite Czech words. It roughly translates as ‘skilful’ or perhaps ‘talented’ but you don’t have to do a great deal to gain this accolade. Czechman’s infant niece is described as ‘šikovná’ because she can roll onto her belly despite the fact she can’t manage to get back up again and starts bawling. Czechman has failed to bake the pernik (a sort of gingerbread) his Mum showed him how to make but according to her he is still ‘šikovný’ because he managed to buy some from the shop instead. I am also ‘šikovná’ because I can speak Czech (badly), French (well, I could at least) ‘and you also speak English!’

Czechman claims I am an arsekisser. He even taught me the word in Czech for this but now I’ve forgotten it.

It’s true of course. I bring a scarf I am knitting for his Lord Czechness – it’s very long – and receive crochet lessons. Czechman’s mum and I discuss the merits of knitting baby clothes versus adult garments (quicker to finish, more economical) and she is amused (or bemused) that I used to knit on the Tube in London, much to Czechman’s chagrin and dismay. I say how pleased I was that Czechman’s little niece wore the cardigan I made her to her citizenship ceremony. Apparently, they didn’t have anything else equally ‘nobl’. In contrast, I think the things I knit for my English nephew get shoved in a drawer somewhere.

It was a lovely weekend. Ordinary but lovely. My favourite memory is sitting on a bench next to Babička Jedná in her garden in the sunshine while Czechman was sprawled out on the lawn having fed the chickens freshly cut grass. I made Babička laugh by saying what a pale Angličanka I was. I don’t think that’s likely to change soon, given the fact it’s done nothing but rain ever since we got back to Prague. At least if the floods make their way here from Moravia and we’re trapped at home, we’ll have plenty to eat.

The village zámek (castle or stately home)

Feeding goats at the goat farm. 'Kozí' (goat) has a cheeky double meaning in Czech...


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