8: Prague Diary
Tuesday 17th Day six.
We slept in the following morning and almost missed breakfast because Russ was too pissed to set his alarm. Jesus, it was just a breakfast, no big deal if we had but I was in a bitch of a bad mood and wanted to make him suffer.
He was still wearing the uniform of sinner from the previous evening, he’d fallen into bed without getting undressed. Although he had the hangover from hell, he told me that he’d had a great night. That one cost him another glare followed by stony silence. I was almost getting myself raped while he was out having a great night. He hadn’t had any great nights out there with me. I clearly cramped his style.
Russ is only short but he has rock star good looks and a disarming smile. Oddly, he’s never really done it for me in the looks department; I go for big hairy gorillas. I like masculine men whereas Russ is more of a Paddington Bear. I’ve always just seen him as cute. He’s also eight years younger than me and he’s never been short of female admirers when we’ve been out. I have no idea what he sees in me and I have issues with jealousy. Wasn’t it funny how he managed to find a good time the minute he dumped the missus? Up to that point we’d both found the night-life shite.
As he recounted his night of fun he didn’t realise that he really wasn’t doing himself any favours. That’s what I mean about him not being aware of situations around him. Any other man would have gauged the mood, seen the bulldog expression and shut the hell up, not him. It turned out he’d found a stag do and had somehow managed to tag himself along with them. I found this a bit stalker-like and put him down by telling him so. I wondered if they minded having a complete stranger invade their night. It turned out that he’d been drinking absinth, and not only drinking it, either, he’d lit and snorted it, the fucking idiot. That explained the burn under his nose, then. Russ has never done drugs in his life, not even weed. I’m the unpredictable one, so what possessed him to snort absinth is beyond me. It has been banned from most pubs in England because if it’s toxicity. Go on Russ, dig some more, let’s see just how much of my inner bitch you can unleash in one go—he did. After consuming dangerous levels of alcohol he’d gone lap dancing. Oh boy, was that the wrong thing to tell me.
Here’s me, feeling like the fattest fat bastard on the planet, and he’s letting three stone tramps writhe all over him. To be fair, he did say that he was too tight to actually pay for a lap dance, but then why should he when the other lads were paying and he still got to watch. Now I was really pissed off with him. I thought he was a selfish son of a bitch and—I was jealous.
I don’t want my boyfriend gawping at other women. I especially don’t want him doing it when I feel like a bloody monster and the women he was gawping at are all tiny little goddesses with no clothes on. I know how easily Russ gets turned on, you only have to look at him and he gets a hard-on. I’d had a shite night and he’d had fun, fun, fun that was bordering on disloyalty. I was blazing.
We’d planned to do the new castle that day and had been told to set aside a full day for it. Apparently, unlike the old castle, this attraction did actually have one. Despite going to bed early I was still feeling sluggish. I wasn’t bothered about going but I didn’t let Russ know that. When he said that he wasn’t well and couldn’t go trogging up a mountain, I let him think that he’d spoiled the day. I was a woman scorned and that gives me certain passes to deviousness.
Instead of doing the castle we went back to Kafka Town to buy presents. I wasn’t kind to him. All day I punished him with jibes and taunts and little needles of spite. I wished him ill and was disappointed when his hangover lifted.
I’d woken that morning with a burning need to write. I had an idea for a little bit of Czech inspired creativity, probably in the form of either free flow poetry or song lyrics and couldn’t wait to find something to jot on. I bought a Kafka notebook and some pencils and we retired to a beautiful terraced cafe for lattes. I sat for half an hour jotting down this and that and I felt inspired to be writing long hand in a book with Kafka’s picture on it. My inspiration didn’t last long when I realized that my few scratty bits of spiral bound notepaper had cost me over four quid …four quid for something that would have cost fifty pence if it hadn’t carried the Kafka brand.
The cost of Czech living is cheap: the price for a small piece of tourist tat would keep a Czech family for a week. There was very little choice in the way of souvenirs and they were extortionate.
We walked back into the Old Town in search of the famous, astronomical clock; we’d been looking for it all week. It turned out to be on the back of a wall that we’d passed half a dozen times. It was very pretty and well worth a look and a marvel at the history of it but it wasn’t all that. For one thing it was on the wrong side of the building, if you didn’t know it was there, like us, you’d just pass it by.
Three things upset me that day, apart from Russ who upset me, full stop.
The first happened as we came out of the tourist market. A young mother of about twenty with very blonde hair and blue eyes, emerged in the street pushing a trolley and trailing a toddler behind her. She was marching aggressively and was moving far too quickly for the little boy to keep up with her.
At first, when she started to rant, she was quite a bit away from us and I thought she was just a harassed young mother having a bad day. She was dragging that little boy along far too quickly, but hey, which of us hasn’t had a bad day and let our kids bear the brunt? It was only when she parked herself beside the tram stop that I got the gist of what she was doing. She faced into the crowds of people, stuck her fingers in her mouth and let out a piercing whistle to get everybody’s attention, I thought it was cute at first when her son put his stubby little fingers in his mouth and tried to copy her.
What she did next shocked me. First, she yelled her head of in Czech but later changed it to broken English for our benefit. ‘Fucking, cock sucking Arabs. You fucking dirty Arabs, get out of our country. This used to be a white country until the fucking Arabs came. Get out of our clean country you dirty fucking Arabs.’ It was pure, ignorant racism. I’ve seen it before, many people have an intolerant hatred of another race. I was having trouble liking the people here. Although I understood why they carried their views, I found the Czechs difficult people to get on with. However, I’m sure not all Czechs demonstrate the level of hostility towards us that we’d found. I can differentiate between some people and an entire nation.
What upset me was that this lady had brought her son out with her to spew her evil hated into the streets. The woman ranted for five minutes. Her little boy shook his tiny fist and yelled in a high, piping voice, “Fucking Arabs.” He was doing what mummy does. If he’s being indoctrinated with that kind of venom at the age of three, just imagine how angry and volatile he’ll be as a young man. Russ thought that she was on drugs but I don’t think she was. I didn’t get the impression that this was an isolated incident. I think that she probably often walks the streets yelling her injustice to the world. I couldn’t forget that little boy’s face all screwed up in an angry parody of his mother.
The next thing to upset me was the beggars. They’ve found a money obtaining gimmick that I’ve never seen before. In Turkey, way back in seventy nine, I saw beggars so desperate to be ahead of their game that they’d amputated their own legs. As a fifteen year-old girl this had a profound affect on me. How desperate to exist must somebody be to do that to themselves? Turkey had no welfare state at that time, I don’t know if they do now, but in those days people had to get money to live or they died. The streets were lined with beggars, hundreds of them, and Joe Beggarman had to ensure that he had something better to pull on the tourist’s heartstrings than Billy Lesserbeggar sitting next to him. I didn’t just feel pity for the men that had used blunt saws to cut off their own legs, I felt disgust and horror. My pity went more to the hundreds of stray and starving dogs who roamed the streets getting kicked and then being left to die where they fell. They were competition for the human beggars who would reach out and kill them as they passed. Those men did what they had to for survival and to feed their families but they were cruel and brutal and I found it difficult to feel pity for them.
I don’t know if there’s any national aid for the poor of Prague but I found the beggars disturbing. Their act is to offer hours of supplication. They don’t beg money so much as seem to be praying for it. Mister tourist is God. They worship him, fawn to him, and grovel at his feet in the ultimate posture of submissive subservience. It’disgusting.
They kneel on the very edge of the pavement then They bend forward and extend their arms into the street. They put their head between their arms and sit like that for literally hours. Ironically, in yoga we call this child’s pose. It was the epitome of humble and I hated it. It seemed insincere and almost blasphemous. I don’t know the circumstances of those people. I have no right to judge. God Forgive me, but I wanted to kick these human beings as I passed and to tell them to stop grovelling. Seeing those people stripped of every ounce of dignity or self respect didn’t make me pity them, it made me angry. I wanted to yell in the street like the blonde haired, blue eyed woman. I wanted to say to them. ‘Beg for my money if you have to but for fuck’s sake be honest about it. Do it with some dignity, you’re still a human being, act like one.’ If any one of those beggars is still a man in his heart, it doesn’t show. Maybe they stoop to that level to feed their families because it’s literally the only way to keep them alive. On the other side of the coin, perhaps it’s just for beer money and drugs before they go home to a cooked meal, I don’t know. I might be looking at it wrong, perhaps they are greater men than any person I’ve ever met in England, because they are prepared to degrade themselves in this manner but I just felt as though they’d died inside. I didn’t feel that they were begging honestly. The ‘ever so humble’ posturing was just a gimmick. It seemed so fake and it upset me. I wanted to feel sorry for them, and I would have done if they’d been standing with a hat at their feet, but instead of pity, I felt disgust. It made me look at myself and I saw a horrible human being.
The third thing that happened that day was that we crossed paths a second time with the man from the castle. Again he was lurching from one side of the street to the other bumping into things and knocking against people. He was swinging his arms left to right as he had the last time we saw him and I realised that he wasn’t drunk at all. Watching him properly this time I saw that there was precision and pattern to the way that he moved. The poor man had some awful malady or affliction that badly affected his balance. His motor neurone system was completely shot. Russ and I had laughed at him.
What a horrible thing to have. Not only does he have his condition to deal with on a daily basis, but he also has to cope with judgment and misconception by anybody that doesn’t know him. At first glance anybody would think that he was drunk. I should imagine that he’s open to ridicule and perhaps even aggression and violence from people in the street. Surely something could be done for him. Next time I make derogatory assumptions about a complete stranger, no matter how valid they may seem at the time, I hope that I remember that man in Prague who had to negotiate descending a steep hill without falling over with the added humiliation of our laughter ringing in his ears. In retrospect it was our humiliation, not his. I felt ashamed.
So far the day hadn’t been a good one and it only got worse. We passed a designer clothes shop and my eyes were drawn to the bright display of burned orange garments in the window. One dummy was wearing an olive green hippie type skirt with a burned orange and olive denim wasitcoat. The outfit was stunning. There was a beautiful dress in the same hues and completely forgetting that I was a freak of nature in this country we went in to have a look. The clothes didn’t look to be teeny tiny sizes from the window display. The price tags were alarming but the clothes had an ethnic feel and were absolutely beautiful, well some of them were, others were hideous. I pointed to the clothing in the window and showed the lady what I’d like to have a look at. We were directed down a corridor to a room at the back of the shop predominantly for fat bastards like me. I picked up the gorgeous dresses while the proprietor pulled faces and demonstrated with her hands that these were designed for stick insects and would not go about somebody of my immense proportions. Nothing that I liked came in a ‘large’.
She pointed to the wall and showed me the photographs of famous catwalk models wearing these very designs. Then she pointed back at me and pulled a face. Charming! Clearly this was not marketed at people like me. Size fourteen in this county is morbidly obese. I was getting embarrassed and wanted to just leave but she was determined to sell us something. After making more my God, you are abnormally large, aren’t you, hand gestures at me she proceeded to pull the most God awful tents and sacks from a different rail. The stick insect assistant had taken me to the traditional Checz costumes reserved for the old granies. They were hideous and I wouldn’t have been seen dead in them but I dutifully tried on the biggest of the elasticated monstrosities. It had a drop waist and looked awful. It was dull, saggy and shapeless. The bloody thing had a price tag in excess of a hundred pounds, traditional Checz costumes—for the tourist market. We’d already been in there for half an hour. I felt like a monster, was humiliated and my temper was on the point of going ping.
I tried on a pair of purple trousers. They were exactly the same size as the pants I’d bought the previous day. They were tight and didn’t feel comfortable. The material was elasticated and clung at the top of my legs. I felt about as attractive in them as the fat girl at the school prom. I hated them more than any garment I’d ever worn in my life. For an exclusive designer shop they weren’t priced too badly at about thirty five quid and were the cheapest thing in there. I told the woman that we’d take them. I had no intention of ever wearing the horrible things and wanted to burn them the minute we got home. I felt pressured into buying them by both the woman in the shop and by Russ. I didn’t like them. I didn’t want them and I just wanted to get out of there. Of course, what I really hated wasn’t the pants at all; they were actually very nice hippie style with a beautiful cut and a very long leg. What I hated was me and the way that I look. Russ paid with his credit card. With the Hard Rock t-shirt, the black pants and the pair of purple trousers that I never ever intended to wear. I paid him from my spending money for the following day. That cleared my debt but I so begrudged paying for a pair of trousers that I hated. I’d externalised all my negative feelings about myself and blamed it all on that pair of trousers… and Russ!
Woo hoo was I in a hissy fit.