Mindful wandering

Part of the reason I wrote a song called “I’ll Never Work in Retail Anymore” to the tune of “You Cannae Push Yer Granny Off the Bus” (sounds like the tune to “Coming Round the Mountain” for those unaware) is because of the minor irritations. Among these are stock taking, where you need to count and verify everything for security purposes. Though it was a hassle, it is also a very good life skill to sit back every now and then and do an analysis of what is happening, how you got there, and where next. So, a stock take of my current situation.

I am writing this in the Art Hole Hostel (may be hard to say when drinking, must be aware of that and carry a leaflet for taxi drivers) just off one of the major squares which comprise Prague. I have come from my friend’s house, who generously provided a bed. Before that I stayed at Arcapay Hostel, good and affordable during the week but with a slightly higher tourist rate at weekends, and the shops around it are on the upper end of Czech prices – fine, but no good for a prolonged stay. Prior, I stayed in the Czech Inn, good transport links, friendly and knowledgeable staff, let down by the number of beds per room, 36! Not as bad as it sounds, but nevertheless a pain having such high numbers with different sleeping schedules in one place. Harder to meet people also when you are dealing with such a number. Good starting point for building hostel endurance though.

So, my intention, having fallen in love with the city, is to stay and teach English. This is a career which has three major appealing factors: it would be a chance to meet new people; it would be a chance to be more valuable; it would be a chance to experience the world. I have three major selling points also: my effervescent enthusiasm; my education and TEFL certificate; and the current travelling arrangements between the EU and UK. Hopefully they make the right choice in the upcoming referendum. I have seen the difficulties Americans face. I do not want that to befall us due to the generally poor reasons of the out campaign. The world should get more open, not closed.

With this detail of where I am, I can imagine what do do next. Develop lesson plan for interviews, seek feedback on it. There are a couple schools of interest, one that invited me for interview, and an organisation that I will need to search for the email address. Also important to send in that application that backfired due to Word not syncing brilliantly on an iPad.

Right now I’m giving life a very respectful score. The past four days have been especially incredible. It was incredibly fortuitous that an error with an online calendar can lead to such excellence. Now onwards, to make more happen.


It seems a good idea in Prague to not exhaust myself and see it all at once. Firstly, it would be impossible to adequately take it all in, stopping frequently for beer and picture-taking. Secondly, if there is one luxury I have in abundance right now it is time.

Luxuries I do not have but which have required solutions are worth dealing with here.

My phone does not appear to want to behave. It is not receiving, sending out, there is no data. My solution to this is the tried and tested work around of finding a place with Wifi and nursing a pint or coffee or cake for the half an hour it takes to adequately plan. It’s oddly liberating to not be connected to devices all the time for, though it requires stopping to find out where to go, it also means there are no distracting noises (though I did misplace my tablet for a while and was only able to figure out where it went when I asked my American friend to message me, thanks Chris!, proving some minor irritations have good reason.)

The other thing I lack is a washing machine with non-bio powder. This is in part from lack of looking but it could still prove troublesome where I to use a machine which has used bio as some of it transfers. Since I’m pretty certain no one wants me groping and itching myself on the subway, it became important to find a solution. Then I remembered what I saw hikers doing on the West Highland Way on the week the washing machine was struggling: hand washing! Since all soap is essentially just soap, what would prevent me from a sparkling finish using shower gel? Problem solved, right? Almost, after I had washed a bundle for 15 minutes or so it did occur that I have limited hanging space. Still, enough to get me by.

Other than these two things missing, I don’t want for much here. Way I understand it, I have primary drives: food, sleep, drink, dancing, distraction, fun, and purpose. Nearly every act can come under those classifications with a little imagination. This city has opportunity for them all.

I got my fill of purpose on Wednesday when I resolved I needed to acquire a French maid’s costume. This is because my intention to avoid punitive tourist rates at weekend requires I couch surf. If I am to couch surf, I feel it best to offer something in thanks. The best thing I have right now which wouldn’t take too long out of my day is my cleaning skills. And if I will clean, I will dress up for it. If there is one piece of useful advice I can give anyone reading this, it is to always leave a memorable impression.

Getting to the costume shop would take a tram ride to Holosovice. Not bad, there is a stop right near me. So I get on one that says Holosovice and off we go through an interesting bit of town that seems pretty local. As I’m takin it in though, I realise there were two stops with Holosovice written down, and I figure the second will be fine: Nadrazi┬áHolosovice. Turns out this is a bit of town that looks like an industrial shelter. Okay, no problem. I have gone off map, but this is fixable. Metro a couple hundred metres away, saw it on the way in, grab that, get back on track. Fortunately the rest of the transport is a doddle.

So I arrive at the costume shop, I have no Czech so potential issue as the shop staff did not have much English. Good news is that I can navigate pretty much anywhere and so I find myself to a corner of the shop to where they would logically keep French maid outfits.

I knew from the second I walked in this shop was a bad idea. I saw the brand name for a particular naff generic costume maker that sells in the UK too. They all looked like that. The ones that don’t fit, are made of flimsy material that hardly lasts an hour, the most wasteful things on the planet. Because I was determined I persisted and took a look at their selection. The price was about 4 times that advertised online. If there’s one thing that Prague is teaching me, it is always to be aware when you are paying too much for goulash. I left the shop.

And then I walked into a couple of Holosovice’s famous thrift stores and came out with my own creation: a Scottish maid’s outfit.

Purpose: Satisfied beyond expectations.

Back at my hostel I have a bit of a dilemma. How can I satisfy the other drives? Food I acquired from a restaurant in the form of goulash as this area appears to be expensive in the local mini-markets; I am near the castle so tourists must be their intended quarry. Sleep would come later. Most importantly, where would I find the evenings fun?

I tried a couple people in the city I have on Facebook, but they were busy, and so I wondered. Where could I find a place with acceptable prices, tolerant and interesting people, and with a bit of a Broadway stage kick to it? Obviously, I would need to find the gay end of town.

It turns out Prague has a decent scene and quite a few places, 55 I saw advertised online. Unlike Edinburh where there is a distinct gay end of town, in Prague it is decentralised. Largely in the centre but not so rigidly fixed in one district. Check out a couple of reviews for places and decide I will check out Saints Bar. Found it as I expected, a bit flat because it was a weekday but populated enough that it did not feel like drinking alone. Got talking with a bunch of different people, a guy who is working for a tech startup, a couple of Germans, the barman too.

Now, something that had been said about me is that I am a bit of a flirt. As to whether I will confirm or deny this right now is besides the point, but it seems an appropriate lead in to what happened on Wednesday evening. Got taking very briefly with a Czech guy, must have been early 20s, who may have had just the perfect face. The jaw, cheekbones, proportions that would have please a sculptor: czechbones. So at one point he leans in to hear me and I did what I could only have ever done at that point.

I peck him.

He responds well, tells me he loves Scottish guys. But then he leaves on a night out having given me his number. Not sure if I will call yet, I would need a Czech phone.

Other than that, not much to report. Paid a prostitute 50 CZK by accident then she started following me until I told her in no uncertain terms that I do not pay for sex. She told me it was a shame as I had “beautiful eyes”. Not the first time I’ve heard but I trusted it less this time.

Czech, please!

Woo! New adventures and stumbling around in the dark screaming inane and profane things; otherwise known as making a new blog or, in other words, hello!

So, I decided to visit Prague one night in January as I sat at my parents house in Edinburgh drinking wine, a fact that will become of increasing importance later. The last time I went abroad was on a visit to Venice 2 years ago and, other than a 6 month sojourn in the West Highlands working on a wigwam campsite, another story for another time, I was feeling a bit like Edinburgh was my life, and I needed more. It’s not bad, a fine city, full of history and culture with a bit of vibrancy to it, but 23 years in one place was grating. So it began with talking to a friend I met at a punk gig several years ago who was teaching English in Prague. I had an idea: why not visit her? So I booked a flight without delay.

February. 5 days. A nice short trip of seeing things, drinking copiously, working on my poetry, getting a bit of a feel for the place so I can understand teaching English abroad a bit better. I have a TEFL so teaching is an intention.

I mentioned the wine earlier, right? Well. This must have been a couple glasses in, a good red, probably Malbec, I cannot recall that detail. Online calendars are tricky things.

2 months. I booked a 2 month return trip. February through to April.

In other times, I may have panicked, cursed, paid the idiot tax, and rebooked. This time I did not. This time, the nerves switched from stress to excitement, and so I meditated for two days. Could I manage that length of time? What would I gain from it? How would I live? The answer to all three was maybe. So a fourth came to mind:

Would I regret not doing it?

The answer was an emphatic yes. Of course I would have thought about what could have been; I would have wondered why I withdrew when every part of me told me to go forward.

And so Prague became a thing. Now that I’m here, I realise I could not have made any other decision.

This city is thoroughly mad. The traffic lights tick with a clockwork mechanism that tells you when you can cross, and the tick has become a beat, a rhythm, that reminds me I’m dancing to a merry tune of my own stupid devising. This city is thoroughly mad. The buildings are an eclectic mix of the courtly 18th century, the imperial 19th, the modernity of the early 20th, and the Soviet styles of the latter – the colours are pastels, white, grey. This city is thoroughly mad. It’s an entrep├┤t of Czech, French, Scottish – they even have a shop that sells tartan – then also Americans, Australians, and an incredibly significant population of Vietnamese. This city is thoroughly mad. Every second building seems to be a museum, even if it’s actually just a shop, and every first seems to be a bar, where 30 CZK gets you a pint of local or further afield, and the nights seem like a swirling chaos of wine which is cheaper than water, the clinking of glass and yelling out the Czech word for train station. This city is thoroughly mad. And I love it.