Thursday, 29 October 2009


I'm in the mood for a walk through a cemetery, and it's not the time of year. It's the easy quiet and solitude I'm after or at least what I imagine I'll find here. The outside still creeps in over the crumbling walls. There are children here too with their little scooter bikes and some people appear to use it as a short-cut from the tram stop.

Why I'm in this mood I cant' say exactly. I've just felt a sudden need for the sort of sobriety found here. Those that know me can make a pun on that as they wish. Maybe, all I needed was somewhere to let the well-spring of random thoughts surge and flow out. Lately, whatever I've written has been purpose driven. Being in an old cemetery is a pleasure for its aimlessness - and there are fewer people here than in a park.

Czech graveyards bear the marks of the country's changed history. Angels weighed down with cement wings and forlorn Christs with moss coloured robes populate the front section. Further in I find a gravestone in Russian and another in German. Unfortunately, I can't get to visit the Jewish section. A road blocks my access as it when I was in Želivského.

The newer stones are as austere as the older ones are extravagant. Slabs of black marble with only names and dates. A few of them have photos or engravings of the deceased. These engravings are eerie. Grey and translucent, it was as if the family wanted to be haunted. And the images immortalize more than the memory. Double chins, eighties perms, caterpillar mustaches commemorate the dead. But to be loved is to be imperfect. Only idols are flawless.

The blank slabs are an invitation to my imagination. What would I want as my epitaph? To be honest, I'm too distracted by the names to think of anything remotely witty or appropriate. Czech surnames are far more descriptive and imaginative than English ones. Among the gravestones I find a Mr Blackbird (Kos), a Mr Hedgehog (Ježek) a family of hooks (Hák), someone who is black (Černý)and another who is quiet (Tichý). The most interesting was the man whose name means "was having breakfast" (Snídal).

The use of the masculine past tense as a surname is not uncommon. Bohumil Hrabal's surname means "raked" or "was raking" depending on context. Perhaps, his ancestor was a gardener, though I'm not sure why eating breakfast warrants a family name.

As I leave, I notice someone taking photos. On the exterior of the cemetery wall was some stencil art, which I'd like to share with you:

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Náměstí Republiky

I need Lt. Hůrka's help with this one. I can't do it alone. So, I'm slipping into my Hůrka suit. Flaky skinned, droopy eyed Bolík Hůrka is on the case, though I'm not sure what the case is. Maybe he'll be able to work it out from the clues he's gathered:

* Photos of tea collectors happily toiling. Pictures by Liptons. Tea leaves are waxier than expected.
* 'Blesk' on the side of a van. Blesk, which means both flash and lightning is the name of his friend's dog. It is one of the few Czech dog names he knows. It's also the name of a tabloid.
* A stray feather. No idea which bird. He once had a feather in his favourite hat but he lost it on the way home.
* Ties in the window look as though they're waiting to be examined by doctors (Ahhhh)
* A leaflet asks "Why are ginger-haired people disappearing?"
* The German for Italian shoes is "Itaienische Schuhe".
* This picture reminds him of his daughter's boyfriend. That's if he existed and actually had a daughter.

* He hears someone whistle. This is the first time in a while.
* A mother calls her child "Little Bug". He called his daughter this too. Still does from time to time.
* He sees the statue of Žižka. He's never been down this block before.
* He's never noticed the tops of those building before either.
* Another man is whistling.
* There's a stain on the wall of the escalator tunnel exactly the same shape and same position as in Narodní třída, except this one is black.
* This statue again.
He doesn't know what it means.
* The leaves still look waxy.
* He lied about the stain.

Friday, 9 October 2009


I met G. on the platform. We were going to walk her Grandmother's dog together. This is not a typical weekly ritual. Not for me anyway. I'm here because I've got some time to kill and Babi's place is near the metro station, so it seemed a fitting moment to reboot the blog.

The dog himself is the reason this won't become a habit. Of the various annoying traits a dog can possess: disobedience, a grating incessant bark, nauseating body odour, food thievery, invasive muzzle and over friendly tongue - this dog possesses all of them to their utmost. His name is Čert, which means devil. Needless to say, I've never met a more aptly named pet. He's also one of the few dogs here with a Czech name. Most seem to have English names. And he's only a dog in as much as anything vocal, hairy and four-legged is a dog. He looks, and certainly smells, like a used sheepskin car-seat cover.

G. told me that she walked Čert only in as much as she walked WITH Čert. He was very much in charge and dragged her and later me around a few blocks. This is when I discovered Čert's other annoying habit. He marks his territory constantly. On one occasion, he did it with as close to wryness as a dog can manage. A guy called Lerry left his tag on a gate. The tail of the 'y' was topped with an arrow. Čert left his mark exactly where Lerry directed him.

Later, Čert seemed merely senile. When G. finally coaxed Čert to turn around and head home, he sniffed a mark he just made the very instant before and sprayed a bush he'd marked not a minute earlier. I think the poor guy can no longer remember his signature.

If Čert is deserving of any credit it is that he's not aggressive. When other dogs rush to the fence and bark is one of the few times Čert doesn't make a sound. His lack of confrontationalism means you are saved the effort of dragging him away. But, it has come at the expense of his bravery. When he hears another dog, he drags whoever's attached to him along the path until he's at a safe distance.

Incidentally, Čert took us in a counter-clockwise direction. If he had hands, his right would be the dominant one.