Saturday, 31 March 2007

The sensitive pan Vacha

Alright, last post of the month if I'm quick enough for our five readers. I took the trouble of posting a link to PAM's wondrous shot of the old Vacha toilets at the Czech rating site for pubs and restaurants (see the link on the right hand side of this page), and to my surprise someone must have actually viewed it. Going by the stats from this blogsite's viewer recorder, it must have been someone from TUL, as it seems to act as its very own ISP. The comments from state the following:

"Za kulturu prostredi si muzou z velke casti hoste sami -- to je hlavni duvod, proc se Vacha bere jako duparna a nalejvarna. Kdyz behem tydne opilci znici trikrat zachodove prkenko, nedivte se, ze tam nikdo nove nenamontuje (napriklad)..."

So there we have it: the urinal was kept in such a state because drunks used to destroy it three times a week, so no wonder it was never rebuilt...Only we never commented on the fact that it may have been broken. Someone needs to chill out a bit, pack a case of pasticka and head off to the Dalmatian coast for a few days - preferably taking some time to sleep in a lay-by on the way down to avoid the usual Czech pile-up. Pity Our Man In Liberec doesn't stop by and check out what the latest is at the new Vacha. Does he know who Eric Cartman is by any chance? His name is on the above comment, but it's obviously not Czech. Is he possibly a German teacher or a new foreign teacher at TUL? Just curious, because as Eric says "vzhledem k osobnimu vztahu k restauraci nehodnotim, nemohu byt objektivni".

By the way, I was intrigued by the use of 'duparna' and 'nalejvarna'. Not sure about the first one (other than something like 'dance hall of ill repute'?), but I presume the second is like 'booze hall'. Don't all comment at once now...

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Beat the wife, tick, dog, tick, children, tick

I'm on the verge of writing something very unflattering about my employer, but I'm trying to ween myself off that well-worn and unproductive track, so I'll have to write about the first other thing that comes to mind...

...Fuck it, not much inspiration today. How about casting some unflattering light on New Zealand's dweedle-dee politics instead? What gets the masses out onto the streets in Prague, huh? Public disgust with the first post-communist generation of politicians, uproar over right-wing political interference at the state broadcaster and a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol between 3-3.10am, right? And what gets Kiwis steamed up, frothing at the corners of their mouths and out onto the streets at the start of the next revolution? A repealing of archaic legislation prohibiting the free exchange of body fluids between consenting adults of the same gender, a law permitting the civil union between a couple of the same sex, and now an outrageous law aimed at the curbing violence toward children, i.e. banning over-enthusiastic smacking and kicks up the jacksie. Just imagine the indignity of it all, not being able to give your kids a good healthy bludgeoning to teach them good manners! Okay, I'm simplifying the arguments a bit here, but it's a classic example of the rest of the Anglo-Saxon world's importation of America's numpty culture wars. And you guys wonder why I want to escape back to the land of ambivalent and brawl-free (except when I'm involved) beer-guzzling. Where else on this planet could you possibly enjoy a day out at a beer festival without security guards getting totally hammered, making dozens of mates and then shouting expletives and obscenities at each other in a fit of peak after the 15th pullitr and walk away with only a wounded sense of dignity as a result?

But like Rotten, I digress. Politics in this country is often excrutiatingly provincial and anodyne, but at least some of our media recognise it for what it is. Check out this article from Scoop on yesterday's protest against the anti-smacking legislation at parliament. I like the placard that ticks off beating the wife, dog and kids, hence the title of this blog.

And since I was doing more than my alloted amount of surfing this morning, I scanned the well-respected No Right Turn homegrown blog to see what trouble I could cause there. I came across a post on celebrating the birthday of the EU, which asked how to say Happy Birthday in 23 different languages. With nothing better to do with my time, I thought I would usefully tell the blogger how to say Happy Birthday in Czech. Instead I came across a comment from some twat asking if the blogger would support a WTO world free trade agreement as a means of preventing war, as the EU had clearly been so successful in doing...So I wrote this:

"Hmmm, somebody Anonymous asks: 'Now are you ready to post that when the world achieves free trade through the WTO negotiations, war will be ended globally? If not, why not?'

"Well, I'd assume that Idiot/Savant would hold back from endorsing a WTO-sponsored worldwide free trade agreement for one very salient reason: it would be mostly a cover for those huge state-like companies to rachet up the depletion of the world's fast dwindling natural resources and push the planet well beyond its carrying capacity, as is most probably already the case. Once the tipping point is inevitably reached and the earth's eco-system goes into a permanent nose-dive then Anonymous can't expect a sudden outbreak of peace and love around the world as peoples and nations struggle to grab the very last pieces of the planet's pie. The earth will regenerate, of course, but just not with us. Anybody seen Children of Men yet? Great scene when the main protagonist visits his cousin, a government minister surrounded by incredible wealth and luxury while the planet around him is in freefall. He's asked why he bothers to hoard such wealth when humanity will die out within a hundred years, and he answers: "I just don't think about it". Sums up mankind today.

"By the way, Happy Birthday in Czech is 'Vsechno narozeninam' ;)"

Erm, so the point is, has anyone seen the film Children of Men? I thought it was rather good. Didn't see you in it, Rotten. You'd weren't one of the dark-helmeted fascist henchmen, were you?

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Zut alors! Un Messmerising pissoar!

Yep, not my snappy pic this time, but a bloody good one nonetheless. A big merci beaucoup to PAM for this one (sorry for stealing your thunder on this one, mon ami, but it was just too good to hold back for one minute longer). And what wonderfully fetid memories we have (I have) of this ablutions room, where not a mop nor a scrubbing brush or even a modest run-of-the-mill deodoriser cube was seen in the lifetime of this establishment. I doubt whether even the ladies was any better, although PAM may have more knowledge on the conditions our female colleagues had to endure; he had a well-known predeliction (sounds better with a French accent) for keeping watch on the movements in and out of that room from the hallway leading out from the bar and making subtle moves on his marks from there. The malodourous ambience can't have been too much of a passion killer, but PAM's room may have seemed the lesser of the two evils at the time. (I'll never forget the best line in French that I ever picked up there: "Tu as jolie cu".) What I'm really looking forward to are snaps from his private collection - the camera was always poised strategically on its tripod at the end of a certain item of domestic furniture in his boudoir.

I wonder if pan Vacha had actually intended for the pissoar to be kept in this state as some sort of post-modernist joke, or if perhaps the 3 hellers profit he made on each beer prevented him from purchasing the requisite pesticides and fumigants. Then again, I guess he was saving all those hellers up for the eventual demolition of this historic site and the erection of the new Vacha and Zanzibar. On the other hand, I suppose one's patience would get sorely tested by the year-on-year barfing and liquid excrement sprayed over the urinal and cubicle walls by first year students and foreign teachers to the extent that all you could do is give a Gallic shrug.

Rugger, old chaps, Ostrava-style

Looks like we took a couple photon torpedoes to our bows and consequently lost a bit of warp speed on the blog after the last few days. Time to Scotty her up and launch back to Factor Seven. I notice La Francais is revving up to add some panache by joining the ranks of co-authors. Going by the broad hints he's been dropping he could soon surpass Bedrich as the third most prolific blogger on this site. All he has to do is send in three posts to be on second-equal terms. In the meantime, this little video clip on youtube has been doing the office rounds here in God's Own Country as an example of how 'The Code' is played in Central Europe and why we won't be seeing the Ostravan third XV in France later this year:

Friday, 23 March 2007

Snappy pictures here

We apologise to our readers for the lack of illustrations accompanying the previous post. I can't remember who sent me these and their companion pictures, but it's bound to have been one of you pervs, if not Rotten himself (sorry, I don't mean you Agnes as our solitary female audience). I'm guessing though that this sevirka is probably not the one Rotten's referring to below. I'm also guessing that if this sevirka were to say "Polib mi bradavky" then Rotten (with all due respect to missus Rotten) would be climbing over comb-over man in order to reserve his place in the queue. This adds some real meaning to 'nahore a dolu bez'. How often does this happen outside Butte, Montucky? Given the leery fixation on the beer in these pictures, it must happen with monotonous regularity in CZ. In my experience it was all a bit of a distraction from the real reason for being in the boozer in the first place. And of course this type of service can occur anywhere at anytime, and even on a purely altruistic gratis basis. Bedrich was sometimes jealous enough of the shows put on in the Radnicni sklipek to want to steal the girls' thunder by providing the local stamgasti (mainly us) with a little display of his own. Sure, it would result in our immediate expulsion from the premises, but we were always highly appreciative of his performance.

No snappy pictures here...

When I egged Kivak on to create this blog I think he was expecting me to contribute a little more than just encouraging e-mails…well, Kivak, welcome to life with Rotten. Just ask BA, he’ll tell you what it’s like…I’m all hat and no cattle…all 'bling' and no 'bitchiz'…

Then came that chastising e-mail and I reckoned I better represent soon or Kivak’s gonna send me a dog turd in the mail.

As my first post I’d wanted to put something up from the Rotten Archives, something I wrote back in the old Liberec days, but of late my access to the Boss’s files has been hampered for reasons the details of which need not detain us here...

So it’s time to cast the ol’ ass net and see what I can pull out of there…

Emmm…culturally edifying vignette, anyone? Here’s some junk I guess I’d file under, “You Won’t See that Back in the Homeland,” dedicated to all you re-pats in the audience. I remember several liquory conversations, usually with BA, but I think sometimes with His Royal Dirtyness, and even Road Warrior might have pitched in, where we documented things we’d seen during our Liberec sojourn that you’d probably never see back in the US. (Sorry to all you Brits, Frenchies, Kiwis and Andorrans out there; I have no clue what all you get up to in your countries). So, fuggit, I got some more of that shit and nothing else. And due to some strange syzygy the episodes that have sprung to mind all occurred recently while I was grabbing a meal prior to one of my thrice weekly sessions at the Taiji Academie of Vinohrady.

“Surely this must be full of meaning,” as Ahab would say.

(Tai Chi: the newly certified Rotten method of anger management. It may be hard to believe, but lately I have been seized by ever sharper fits of spleen. Luckily even the biggest, most painful and awkward mean-on seems to go all spongy after I get my Chi on for 90 mikes or so. But I digress…).

Anyway, a few weeks ago I was testing out a new Mexican joint down by Florenc when someone switched the TeeVee above the bar to the Intestinal Surgery Channel, or at least that’s what I figured it was because the show on offer was titled “My Life with a Colostomy.” (Zivot s kolosectomy, or some shit like that). None of the regular patrons voiced any objection to the choice of entertainment, so I figured it would be an interview-heavy bit of uplifting, ‘life goes on’ tripe…We were soon treated to a prime time performance, incision by incision, of a mid-bowel removal, the highlight coming when the docs produced a thing kinda like one of those old fashioned clappers they used to use on film sets before everything went digital except this one didn’t just innocuously slap shut (Colostomy, take one! Shmack!); instead, a nurse clamped it down on this guy’s guts so that a loop of his large intestine was left hanging out and then she ran a thing back and forth across the top of it like one of those old credit card machines that made an imprint of your card on carbon paper except this thing had a blade in it which clipped that stretch of clamped intestine clean off. One of the surgeons then held the strip of gut they’d just harvested up to the camera and began examining it and its string of dangling, jaundice yellow polyps like a vintner inspecting a bunch of just-picked grapes in an attempt to predict the quality of the year’s vintage.

The rest I didn’t catch because my bean and cheese burrito with sour crème was getting cold and my extra salsa had just arrived, so I settled in to my repast.

But back to my point: you’re not likely to get that kind of entertainment on the TeeVee at Applebees! Now are you happy you went back, short-timers?

What else we got in there…oh yeah, just yesterday: I was up at the local, which is next to and actually shares a kitchen with the tony new neighborhood pizzeria, so the pub grub is slung out by the same cooks who bake up the lovely linguini and tasty tortellini next door and is exceptionally good. It had been an especially long day at the typer and again I was transfixed by the TeeVee (we don’t have one at home so I am often hypnotized by these infernal machines when I encounter them in public). But no gut cuttin’ tonight; on offer this time was a roughly fifteen minute presentation documenting the greatest punch-ups in the history of Czech-Slovak hockey. I think back in the heimat they try to downplay the natural voyeuristic interest created by sports brawls by minimizing their television coverage, instead of making detailed documentaries about them that include interviews with the combatants…but I may be wrong…anyway, the martial style seemed fairly consistent through the years, a flurry of flying pads then twin rights thrown simultaneously, reaching out like the teardrops of a yin/yang circle, then twin lefts, then rights lefts rights in a spinning pinwheel of fists…there were no clear victors in any of the bouts that I could discern, but the chap who lost his helmet first was also usually the first to quit the melee…

Deeply engrossed as anyone would be by this series of horrible beatings I missed the start of tit night. I had been unaware it was tit night, but then there I was all of a sudden staring straight at two drooping fun bags (in my limited experience of tit nights I’ve noticed that ‘nahore bez’ is adhered to more in the letter rather than in the spirit, ie although the phrase conjures visions of zeppelin chested swimsuit models, the reality is usually ‘jinak’. To wit: one time I had a buddy visiting from the states and while we were looking for a place to kill a half hour before a movie I caught sight of ‘Dnes! Nahore bez!' chalked up outside a Smichov pub. I said to my buddy, ‘You might find this quaint,’ and in we went…to be served by a woman who was well past forty and, judging by the combination of beer gut, stretch marks, and the pronounced southerly vector her bubs were traveling in, probably the mother of two teenaged children…instead of ogling her I felt like offering her my jacket as the only heating in the place was being provided by the cigarette smokers…).

Ech…where the fuck was I? Oh yeah, tit night at the local. Anyway, I had just paid up (had to skin out for Tai Chi) when a late middle-aged ‘stamgast’ took a seat at the table next to mine. You all know this man: oil-stained pants fading from purple to gray, olive drab jacket, baggy red face, thick mutton chops between the first and second knuckle of each finger, bald save for a greasy black comb-over that seemed to originate from somewhere in the mossy tuft of fur that filled his outer ear…not particularly remarkable, except for when the nahore bez girl came by to serve him his fernet and beer he planted a sloppy smooch on each one of her silver dollar nipples.

Now in the US you’ll agree that this guy would have been rewarded for such a show of affection by being thrown in the street after having all ten of his furry fingers mashed into a pink paste. Not so in the Praha 8 local. “Ale ale,” said the waitress, and on she went with taking the orders at the ‘stamgast’ table.

And there went the dregs of the last tinny of Pilsner Urquell in the flat. End of post. This has been Wednesdays with Rotten. Take care all.


Thursday, 22 March 2007

The giddy feeling from that first published article

It's still early in the day and the turnkey has only just padlocked me to my workstation, but I've done all the work required of me today and the office is almost completely deserted, so let the blogging begin. My other motivation for goofing off today is that these zlate casy will soon be coming to an end. I didn't get the environment job, but another interview went really well at another department and they were desperate enough to call up the next day and ask me to undertake their standard psychometric testing regime to ascertain whether I am truly barking mad or is it just an act. If they're satisfied that it's only a mild case of frothing at the mouth then I'll be a shoo-in and it's goodbye Slackerdom. Not only that, but I won't be able to blog from that new employer's workplace because the role is related to (sotto voce) "security matters" and it probably wouldn't be good form to take the piss in an ostensibly public forum. Plus I'd have my security clearance and 00 license revoked.

But until then, party on. And what's the point of this post by the way? Well, since I was riffing on a couple posts ago about publications, I thought it would be amusing to dredge up the very first newspaper article I ever wrote that got published. I was acutely embarrassed about it at the time, but with the passage of 17 years (published in the Timaru Herald 11 April 1990) I can see the funny side to it; I think it's the first time I've actually read it in it's published form. 'SC' by the way, stands for South Canterbury, i.e. the place where the subject of the article comes from.

This was published while I was still doing my Diploma in Journalism, so I wasn't a "real" hack by that stage, and as a very callow and self-conscious 22-year-old I wanted to curl up into a ball and hide in a cave for the rest of my life after my name was splashed across what was the front page of the local rag. It was after this that I started using my middle name instead, which resulted in being labelled a schizophrenic and losing out on a number of promising newspaper jobs before I reverted back again to my first name. As it turned out, this was the first of only three stories that ever made the front page because I ended up stringing in a real bumfuck buranska vesnice called Alexandra with a population of about 5,000. The local pubs were affectionately known as The Bottom, The Middle and The Top. It was in the latter that I was accused of being a "professor" because I was wearing glasses. I asked my witty interlocutors whether Pol Pot was with them and could I buy him a beer, or were they perhaps in town for an Oscar Wilde Appreciation Society convention. I think I only just escaped receiving a broken nose for my troubles. This was my last port of call in NZ before eventually washing up on the coasts of Bohemia and that bustling cultural highwater of Jablonec nad Nisou.

Glaswegian patter

This is why I love my Caledonian heritage. The repartie is always bang on:

Lord Ferg: "F*****g b@stard."
Geoff Shreeves: "Don't talk to me like that."
Ferg: "F**k off to you."
Shreeves: "Don't talk to me like that. Don't even think about it."
Ferg: "Don't you think about it, you ****. F**k off. Right?"
Shreeves: "Listen, are you going to do the interview in a professional manner or not? Do you want to do it or not?"
Ferg: "You f*****g be professional. You be professional. You're the one."
Shreeves: "I'm entitled to ask. Cristiano [Ronaldo] gave the right answer."
Ferg: "F***ing hell with your answers."
Shreeves: "Don't talk to me like that. Go away. If you want to behave civilly, fine. Don't talk to me like that."
Ferg: "F**k off."

Lord Ferg indulges Sky's Geoff Shreeves in some light-hearted Glasgow patter after the MU Rowdies' FA Cup win over Middlesbrough. The BBC was later forced to can their interview with Gareth Southgate when their microphones picked up Ferg's volley of abuse.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Kivak becomes renown published photographer

I know I'm being very unfair to the wide and diverse fanbase of this blog by not allowing sufficient time for everybody to make comments on this week's other posts, but when you've got something to say, you've just gotta say it. And today I'd like to very proudly boast of my new status as a published photographer (or at least the first time I've been published since my newspaper days).

My portfolio of mammary and gynaecological landscapes was rebuffed by Mr Flint and his associates, and my regular contributions of jpeg and wmv files to receive very few hits. But luckily I had my other collection of architectural examinations to fall back on. And as you see, I've taken the trouble of making sure you all know what lovely high-end glossy magazine now bears the Kivak stamp of quality. If you click on the second picture here it'll become large enough to make out which one is mine.

This experience tells me that it must be an absolute doddle being a magazine editor these days. When looking for appropriate photographs to accompany your article on any given topic, you simply type the subject into Flickr's search engine, and hey presto! there you have a range of mostly amateur images to choose from. All you have to do is send the owner a quick email asking for permission to use their image and all the hard work's done for you. Admittedly I was offered payment for this picture, but being the generous sort of fellow I am I thought more of the greater public good that would come from the philanthropic donation of the image to humanity than the potential personal gain. Bedrich and Our Man In Liberec should now be agog with the many possibilities raised by their membership of Flickr, although I note that the uploading of images to the Anička&Pepa site has dramatically fallen away since Week 4 or 5.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Ingredients for 'Psičková'

We were reminded of the pleasure one derives from man’s best friend at the weekend when carrying out the usual Sunday afternoon chores on the back section. Having been pleasantly lulled into a sense of manifest equilibrium by the drone of the lawnmower and the narcotic effect of the two-stroke petrol fumes, I lazily opened up the catcher to clear out a persistent blockage only to be greeted with a heavy wet thwack square on the forehead by a clod of moist grass and pureed dog turd. Such fond memories are made of these when faced with the ownership of possibly the most cognitively-challenged of all canine breeds – the jezevčik. This subject and top picture in particular will bring back some intensely fond memories for Bedrich; it's the only one I could rummage up of everyone's favourite occasional canine resident at Budova 'A' for a few months back in 1995, and....whoa! hang on there Bedrich! I haven't finished this post and already you've bolted out of the commenter's gate. I've told you about those premature problems before. Wipe yourself down and come back a bit later when we're ready for guests.

As I was saying, this lovely picture above features the Kivaci circa 1995, although missus kivak comes in a slightly different form these days. But Bedrich is quite right, the adorable badger hunter is none other than Kiri; named after a certain opera singer of native Aotearoan origins, although better known in CZ as the brand for 'Joyful Cow' cheese. Purchased for a mere 600kc, which actually represented the entire extent of my weekly income in those days. Half a kilo of sausages would have been a lot more cost-effective and value-added, and would assuredly have been less troublesome. She certainly had a perchant for heavy and expensive leather jackets imported from Scotland, especially when left to her own devices on the fourth floor (or was that third floor?) of Budova 'A' - when she could be smuggled past the concierge without yapping her head off that is.

One memorable occasion I took her to Budova 'H' and left her in my office while we propped up the bar at Sklipek or Cerny kun or Fortuna or Neptune or wherever, only to return to wall-to-wall Dachshund turd. I thought I'd scraped up every last little excreted šišek and freshened up the room with a powerful dose of Glade lavender toilet air freshener, only to find a note the following morning from the very proper elderly teacher that I shared the office with asking if I could possibly remove the dog feces smeared across her class register on her desk. Ah, such a sweet-hearted creature. And of course I was a model dog owner...I think we eventually turned her over to a butcher (that's a true fact).

And this is why of course that I now own another Dachshund, because what re-created Czech home-away-from-home would be complete without one, huh? And here he is: Petr the New Zealand-born jezevcik who only answers to Czech commands. But don't worry: if you thought you'd never get to meet him, don't be disillusioned - the missus insists he and his mate, Lida, will be coming with us next year. Just as well we've got a Chocolate Labrador lined up as their best mate, and owners of said Lab who will be more than willing to dog-sit.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Landscaping from 'Capability' Kivak

And after an excrutiatingly dull 'business' trip to Whangarei and Manukau, the highlight of which was turning my ring inside-out after a really nasty hamburger from Wendy's, now I'm reduced to writing about my exploits in the backyard. Particularly riveting stuff if you're not into DIY landscaping, but I try to build upon the fine example set by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, who'll be a household name among all you reknown Anglophiles and weekend balcony potplant gardeners.

I'm only writing about this rather than actually practising it right now because after six weeks of perfect sunny weather it's been persisting down outside since the late morning. Luckily it's not like this in the West Indies where the Kiwis have just performed a royal GBH on the English in the Cricket World Cup - something which I'm sure Bedrich would have been staying up to watch via Internet streaming or why otherwise would his Skype connection have been online half the night? And while on the sporting theme, I don't suppose anyone else showed as much schadenfreude as I did in the English press hailing the return of Johnny Wilkinson in the recent predictable result at Murrayfield only to see their team get crushed by the Oirish the following weekend. Roll on the Rugby World Cup.

But what of these pictures? Well, for a starter, I'm typing this from behind the window in the second photograph. The first two were taken at the back of the house when we first moved in here in November 2005. They make the place look quite tidy, but in reality the area was a total fucking shambles, and that gravelly bit was soon evenly layered with dog shit, while that bit of grass you can see was just rolled turf and had died off within a couple weeks. You'll also notice shitloads of San Pedro cacti. These maybe good for chopping up and boiling down into a digestable hallucigenic (albeit most conveniently via an enema since I recall from my student days that cactus juice is not the most palatable beverage known to mankind), but I personally think they look like shite in a flower garden. Fortunately we found people on the Internet to not only pay money for them, but also come around with picks and shovels to dig them up for us (turned out they were the fuckers who started bidding against us for the house at the eleventh hour, forcing us to go another $8K above our budget, so I felt no compunction about charging them extra for the cacti and smirking with satisfaction when they impaled their thumbs on the rapier-like thorns).

The third photo is of the original concrete fishpond which was clearly built to withstand a direct hit from a tactical nuclear artillery shell, as its floor was about 8in thick and took more than a few blows of a sledge hammer to loosen up. The water that still filled it when we arrived was the consistency and colour of phlegm, but fantastically there were still half-a-dozen giant-sized goldfish still subsisting at the bottom of it when we drained it.

It's all gone now though, and you can see the results in the final two pictures. There's still a chicken wire fence around part of it, but that's to prevent our two adorable dogs from constantly digging for badgers in the fresh top soil that I laid down recently to sow a hardier type of grass seed. As I told the missus, the next time I find a hole in this patch of ground that's taking me fucking ages to prepare and sow we'll be dining out on 'psickova' for the next couple of weeks. Note also the lovingly constructed wooden deck. This was designed by none other than my own humble self, and as a result I have not taken any photographs too close-up. Yes sir, there are a fair number of total fuck-ups contained in this one small area, and I'm still having to undertake some remedial work on it. A je to. Certainly it would have been handy if I'd remembered that mathematical lesson that all 8-year-olds learn at school - the 3-4-5 rule - that helps one construct a perfect corner. But it's still standing and so far it's withstood the best our attention-deficient-syndrome seven-year-old Czech-Maori neighbours have been able to throw at it. Nice spot for barbeques when the sun's out, too. I'm taking orders for similar work in CZ in early 2008, so get in now while the going's good.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Opavak adds his tuppen'orth

You will remember me from frequent visits to Liberec during the mid to late nineties. These usually were three day affairs of debauchery followed by a five or six hour return trip to Opava on the "cold sweat" express. Our administrator here will remember that a similar trip in the opposite direction in 1996 led to a few days in hospital for him. Zlate casy.

These days I have joined the ranks of the office rat and have firmly joined the ranks of the B&Q, Ikea set. In fact in the words of the "James" song, Come Home, "I've become the kind of man I've always hated". Hey-ho.

There is of course time for the odd pivo here and there and I get over to CZ from time to time. Bedrich and I knocked the top off a couple of cold ones just before Christmas.

Anyhoo' I think that Kiwak should be applauded for having the patience to get this thing going and I should also apologise for the fact it has taken me so long to put anything up here. I resolve to try harder in future.

Monday, 12 March 2007

An emaciated Mancunian ox's erse

And from the archives, here's anothery for your pleasure and leisurely edification. Forgetting the twat in the middle who always manages to insinuate himself into others' pictures, let's examine the two likely lassies photographed here, and I don't mean from a medical practitioner's standpoint either (although perhaps Our Man In Liberec could enlighten us on those types of matters).

The one on the right is everyone's favourite little person communist chef from the city with so much to answer for. God only knows what she's up to these days, although the Adminstrator did receive a cryptic note recently alluding to her possible presence in Mitteleuropa, along with a broken promise of further correspondence. Last we heard, she was engaged in a liaison with a young person of the opposite gender from the capital, having been persuaded of the efficacy of changing teams by Our Man In Liberec. Whatever the current circumstances, we can only hope that she's ingurgitating more of her own product, as at the time this picture was taken she was described by her pal on the lefthand side of having an erse like an emaciated ox.

As for this latter personage, who may or may not have been called Liz, all we can say is that going by this particular picture she was perhaps suffering from an acute iron deficiency. If that was the case, you can take it from us (and she wouldn't) that she was highly unlikely to accept prescribed doses of iron in six-inch lengths.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Dreadlocks and hemp suits, or the lack thereof

Here we go: following Rotten's advice. As I recall, I mentioned the possibility of reporting back on last week's job interview at the Ministry for the .... This reportage comes at some risk, as I never know just how much monitoring of my Internet usage is going on in our IT unit at work, but given that the team is tiny and that it's actually that I'm logged onto for the entire day every working day at the moment while the cricket world cup is on, I guess the risk is minimal. I was only momentarily rattled the other day during an 'efficiency and productivity' meeting of all national managers when the IT general manager suggested that unproductive work time could be nipped in the bud by policing staff Internet usage. My loud guffaw at that proposal blew my cover a bit, but I've been camouflaging my trail since then with what could be interpreted as work-related Internet viewing.

Right, back to the story. You'd think, wouldn't you, that government employees working for an environment agency would be the deepest green dreadlock, hemp suit and biodegradeable loincloth-wearing types. But no, when I showed up for my chat with the Senior Manager, .... Reporting, I was met by three rather severe-looking middle-aged dames, who, while not exactly power dressers, were nonetheless notable for their boutique clothes-horse look that only a $150,000+ salary and merchant banking husband/'partner' could afford. Just as well then that I'd dusted off the only raggedy tie that I had buried at the back of one of my drawers.

At the very least, they didn't hit me with any of the usual half-wit HR questions, like 'Tell us what your strongest and weakest attributes are' or 'How would your colleagues describe you?' It's at moments like that that I wish I'd introduced myself along the lines of: 'I'm interested in chess, masturbation and strangling small furry animals, except I don't have so much time for chess these days.' So, the interview went quite well and I remembered not to look down each time I told an outright lie, which apparently is a dead giveaway. Fluttered my eyelashes a bit too much though, as I forgot that I'm now just about the same age as middle-aged people. Tried not to be too irreverent also, which can lead to the impression that I never take anything seriously, which is actually not far off the mark. Truth be told, I'd really like to get this job, as the environment is about the only thing that sparks any interest in me work-wise. This may not have been overly appreciated in that efficiency meeting the other day when my solitary contribution to the debate was the suggestion that each staff member be issued with a chamber pot for defecating into to ensure not only that people stay at their work stations longer and don't skiv off, but also so that we can compost that valuable human waste (albeit only if all employees are encouraged by the CEO to become vegetarian).

Anyhow, I'll find out how I got on sometime mid-week. Will be ostensibly working in Whangarei and Auckland on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday though, so I this could potentially be the last post for a few days.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Czech Republic 3, Andorra 1

It's said that football is the glue that keeps nations together, and we're not talking about the stuff in Rebecca Loos's hair either (boom-boom! ...sorry that's a cheap plagiarism taken from the Guardian's Fiver). But in fact I'm not referring to the beautiful game here at all, and nor am I alluding to football, although certainly you can expect much talk of rugby later in the year. I'm really talking here about the new razzmatazz widget I placed on the blog three days ago which provides lots of interesting statistics on the hits the blog is receiving. Combined, Andorra and China are almost up there with CZ. Good to see the good people of Estadi Comunal punching above their weight. Of our Czech fanbase, I note that one hit came curtesy of the Tiscali ISP, which would indicate that Our Man In Liberec is keeping a silent watch over us. G'day mate. Hope you're getting some sleep. No hits though from the UK, Canada or Idaho.

I was going to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n m-y r-a-t-e o-f p-o-s-t-i-n-g in order to give you the chance to make comments before each post got archived, but it looks like the Andorrans and the Chinese are too shy to write anything down. I did get an ah-style email from wee Stacey the other day, but in one foul swoop she used up her correspondence quota for the next five years...

And before I sign off, I just wanted to share this little pearl from today's Fiver:
"But like a tramp panhandling to raise money for a $ex change op, the Fiver begs to differ." Rather clever, I thought.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Man alone with the elements

It was a bit of a hard slog in places, but I pulled through okay and my gammy arthritic joints were none the worse for wear. I should really go on annual leave more often actually, as there were two potential job offers on my mobile phone when I came back into signal range. More on that later though.

Yup, it was nice communing with Mother Earth and the mountain gods for a few days there, although it's done nothing to ease the ongoing sense of malaise when planted on my arse at the office work station. Just about completely lost my rag the previous Friday when I was asked to write some organisational notification about the Strategic Plan (yawn) that would "rock people's socks off". What fucking planet did that person come from, I hear you ask? None in this particular constellation that I know of.

But getting back to the good bits. Here I am perched at the top of Mt Cedric as I scrambled my way over to Lake Angelus, which you can see at my normal Flickr site. This comes not long after a fillibrator was nearly required upon breaking through the treeline following a 1200m ascent straight up an 80 degree slope. No fanning around with zigzag or switchback tracks or any other nonsense like that. This made up for the previous day spent on a reasonably leisurely 10-hour jaunt along a river valley from a place called Blue Lake at 1800m where I'd just about left my testicles behind as a result of a rash 3sec dip in the waters there.

As is always the case on these tramps, there was plenty of evidence of Czechs preceding me, as recorded in the 'intentions book' in each Department of Conservation hut that you stay at along the way. At Angelus Hut I performed my usual party trick of addressing the crowd of trampers in Czech and got talking with a couple from Svitavy. After the initial greetings, the woman exclaimed "You must be A..... from Wellington!" My reputation precedes me. Turns out it was the sister of a friend of the missus.

Which reminds me that I came across some other likely lads from CZ during the bus journey from Picton to St Arnaud (the base for hiking the Travers-Sabine circuit). Stopping off in Blenheim for more passengers, I noticed three guys smoking unusually heavily on the footpath by the bus stop. One had a big beer belly and was wearing a threadbare denim shirt, jeans and cheap jandals, another had really long hair, a Metallica muscle t-shirt and was wearing white socks with his jandals, while the third was extremely well-tanned, had very, very short cut-off denim shorts and was wearing white socks with his trainers. I thought that third guy had to be either very gay or very Czech, and sure enough when they piled onto the bus it was instantaneously "Ty vole" this and "Ty vole" that. They were obviously in the region to do some fruit picking, which is the refuge of the poorest tourists in this country, but they weren't on the bus long enough to strike up a conversation.

And what about those two potential job offers? Well, one is with the Department of ... and would require the highest level security clearance, so obviously I wouldn't get that. But the other one is the sort of thing I've been hanging out for since I arrived back here in 2002 - a 'Senior Operator' for the Ministry for the .... I'm scoobied if I know what it entails, but the interview's tomorrow nonetheless. Hold your thumbs for me and I'll report back on the outcome later.