Friday, 27 August 2010


It's humid. The clouds are under my shirt. I'm dressed for two months from now on account of giving a talk at a conference. Usually, I deride the ubiquity of supermarkets but today I go inside to get an ice cream. I opt for one of those high end brands with the embarrassing soft porn advertising.

While queuing a young kid of eight or nine, goes to grab my ice cream. His brother apologizes and explains that his brother is 'pitomý' stupid. I tell him 'v pohodě' - which roughly means 'It's cool', though it isn't. V pohodě has become my stock reply to a number of situations like people stepping on my feet, knocking me with elbows or being late with my order.

It has just occurred to me that, at least symbolically, nine is something of a nothing age. When assuming the age of someone, I would base it on not only physical development but beahviour. I can't think of anything which is typically nine. Eight year olds (at least when I was eight) were just that more socially aware than younger kids. Ten ears old are starting to show signs of teenager hood. Nines are in a DMZ of maturity, but I digress.

Outside, I eat the ice cream far less glamourously than in the commercials, hunched over to stop the chocolate falling onto my shirt. I think there is a Ben Elton routine about this. Anyway, slightly hunched and munching on my ice cream I start to look around the block. There's a library here but no obvious entrance. A security guard who has become curious about my toing and froing and is studying me from the window. I'm all prepared to tell him about what I'm doing. I'm even considering producing my journalist card for an added layer of teflon legitimacy. Perhaps, it's too humid for him to bother because he disappears.

Coming to Skalka is something of a full circle for the blog. I first conceived of the idea when I used to teach here. Train stations are often inspiring. I've written a lot of poems and stories while sitting waiting for trains. Occasionally, missing them as a result. It was after one lesson I thought that visiting the stations would be a novel way to see Prague, and now that I've visited all but one of the stations I realize how much more of this city is left.

In the last year, my freelancing for one website has let me see more of the city, and though it was time consuming, the opportunity to have a good look beyond the obvious places was one of the rewards. As much as there is to still explore, the blog and my writing assignments have shown me much more of Prague than I thought I knew when I first arrived. In fact, when I first arrived I was a little disappointed. The reality didn't live up to the romance. My affection for Prague has grown as I've seen more of her grubby side. I prefer her as this confusing, at times dilapidated, at times meretricious, tightly wound burg rather than just a fairy tale backdrop. I love her for her musty second hand book stores with volumes I'll never read, her smoky old men pubs, her forgotten alleys, remnants of communism and for the fact that I don't live here and will always have her for a visit.

The blog hasn't made me an expert on the city. If anything it has made me see how transitory place is. You can stay, but the city keeps moving. It is the elephant and we're the blind.

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