Bland Stuff · living abroad

ways in which I have refused to integrate into Czech society

Sure, I live here. Alright, I earn Czech money and pay Czech taxes. Yes, I’ve been known to speak the odd word of Czech. Fine, I’ll admit it, I’m sitting in a Czech cafe right now, drinking a Czech coffee and eavesdropping on the Czech conversations of my (presumably) Czech cafemates. But, despite this, I am not Czech, and there are elements of Czech society which I have roundly rejected.

I…

will not enjoy Pilsner;

Lads, I love beer. At any moment in time, I’m either drinking a pint or wishing I were. My fridge is full of rainbow cans of various craft beers I’ve collected from expensive bottle shops in distant corners of Prague. I have a beer-based tattoo.

You might think that Prague would be the perfect city for me, then. After all, Czechs famously consume more beer/capita then any nation in the world.

Unfortunately for me and for everyone who spends time with me, I’m bored of Pilsner. Pilsner is the Czech beer: it’s in every pub, cafe, workplace and school. It’s essentially a really nice lager that goes well with most food. The problem is that I’m sick of it: it’s the most generic beer I can imagine. It just tastes like the word beer. It’s so nondescript that I can’t think of any way to describe it except by writing beer and underlining it a few times.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about it. It’s just that I’m by nature a stout drinker and I’m living in the land of the ležák. It’s something I struggle with every day.

I’m vegetarian;

And I’m getting more militant with each passing day.

This is specifically tricky in the Czech Republic, land of pork. The classic Czech vegetarian option is breaded cheese deep-fried and served with potato salad. I love deep frying things as much as the next gourmand, but you can only have so many mozzarella sticks.

will not take ová;

Czech surnames change depending on whether the holder is male or female; women’s names usually take the suffix ová. I thought this was a fairly inoffensive, cute eccentricity until I learnt about possessive nouns – it turns out that the ová ending essentially denotes belonging to

I realise the irony of rejecting this; my name is Daniels which, although I’m no etymologist, surely means belonging to Daniel, essentially Daniel’s.

Still, though, I’ve stopped giving my surname as Danielsová on principle. It means that I get some weird looks (although, admittedly, people being confused about my gender is a by-product of my whole androgynous thing), but I’m just not a fan.

and don’t own slippers.

Slippers are a cornerstone of Czech culture. I will not expand on this, because I don’t want to.

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Bland Stuff · living abroad

ways in which I have integrated into Czech society

As I’ve already mentioned a million times on this blog, I recently moved to Prague to pursue my dream of gentrifying East-Central Europe. I’ve been in the Czech Republic for about six months now, and whilst I’d hesitate to identify myself as convincingly European, despite what my passport insists, I am conscious that certain aspects of my behaviour have changed in my jaunt on the continent. Although hindered by my shocking Czech and general standoffishness, I am slowly integrating into Czech society in certain specific ways.

I…

don’t buy public transport tickets;

The Prague public transport system is a mixture of underground, buses, and adorable trams that look like they’ve not been updated since 1968 (pictured). Since I started working largely from home, the frequency of my rides on the rails has diminished massively. I no longer rely on the tram for my income, but rather consider a trip on the metro a sort of weekly treat.

The network is relatively reliable, at least compared to its Sheffield counterpart; and, like its Yorkshire equivalent, it’s incredibly open to abuse. Unlike the larger public transport systems I’m familiar with, both Sheffield and Prague rely on a largely self-policed ticketing service. You buy a ticket from an exciting yellow machine with pleasingly old-fashioned buttons, validate it onboard using another exciting yellow machine, and present your validated ticket to representatives of the law on request.

It sounds like a reasonable and decent system, except for one thing: I’ve never seen a representative of the law checking tickets. I’ve lived here, as I say, for half a year now, and at my peak I travelled by public transport a few times a day – and my ticket has never been checked. What does a person do in the face of such a lax system? Stop using the exciting yellow machines.

I’m sure my comeuppance is up-and-coming, and, frankly, I’d not feel at all upset if I were fined at this point. I deserve it. Sometimes I use the first exciting yellow machine just to enjoy the pleasingly tactile buttons, but, largely I’m a criminal.

Anyway, I think this counts as cultural integration because I was encouraged to flout the law by my Czech pals who openly laughed when they saw me buying a ticket from the exciting machine. Peer pressure strikes again.

don’t consume any Czech media;

“Friends,” I ask in my charmingly broken Czech, “can you recommend me a Czech newspaper?”

“Pals,” I inquire in my accented Czech, “what TV show should I watch to strengthen my already mighty knowledge of your language?”

“Chums,” I wonder aloud, “do you know any Czech music?”

The answer to these earnest questions has always been, in this order,

“No.”

“None.”

“No.”

It’s 2019 and, as any language learner knows, a great way to improve your skills is to immerse yourself in the media of your target language. Imagine my horror and disappointment in hearing that my Czech friends get their news from the BBC, watch HBO and listen to Blur. I’ve spoken to the occasional Czech who reads German news, but I’ve been roundly discouraged from opening Lidové Noviny or listening to any Czech tunes – with the notable exception of Plastici.

have a job and a flat and that; 

What could be more Czech than living in the Czech Republic and earning Czech crowns??

Although, if you ask someone from Moravia, Prague isn’t Czechia; just like, to northerners, London isn’t England.

have strong opinions about the whole Czech Republic/Czechia debate.

Those opinions change regularly, but I have them, and I’m fully invested in the polemic.

Bland Stuff

Making a House a Home

Before I moved to Prague about six months ago, I lived in an alternating sequence of student halls, my childhood bedroom, and shared flats. Student accommodation, as even a cursory understanding of the documentary series Fresh Meat will tell you, is a hellscape of ununpacked stuff and unwelcome mould. My childhood bedroom, when I was occupying it fulltime, wasn’t that different.

But I’m a grown-up adult human now. I rent my own flat and I live next door to my landlord. I have to clean my own sink. (In my childhood home, the sink is cleaned by my mother; in student accommodation, it’s cleaned by ??elves??)

Me, smirking

When I first dragged my suitcase across the threshold, I was so overjoyed to have got out of the hostel I’d been staying in that I barely took in the flat itself. All that mattered was that I wasn’t going to wake up to a Mysterious Man going through my stuff.

I spent the first few weeks sleeping in a sleeping bag; it took me over three months to work up the Czech/crowns/courage to buy a duvet – although I did get sheets admirably quickly. I’d never lived in a proper flat before, and I didn’t know what expect. I was shocked that flats don’t come with cutlery as standard.

It took me a good couple of months to collect together the basic necessities (eg knives, glasses, pillow etc); I still don’t have a chopping board. That doesn’t bother me, though: what I’ve been concerned with is making my flat feel homely. And, by God, I’ve managed it. Here are some handy tips for those of you moving out for the first time.

hang pictures

And if, like me, you’re too cheap to buy full size prints, postcards will do.

Pictured: Jerry the cat really digging my Kafka/Havel aesthetic.

There are also companies these days that you can send digital files to and they’ll post you pleasingly tactile, shiny photographs. This system has allowed me to garland my flat with nostalgic and wholesome pictures of my favourite people.

invest in lamps

I’m no interior designer (I’m an English teacher-cum-timewaster) but I’m a big fan of well-lit spaces.

This lamp cost me 30czk (~£1) from the junk shop across the street. Also, look how incredibly cosy my bed is. That’s where I get to sleep! Every night!

paper sculptures

This one might not be completely universal, but that’s what you get when you take advice from someone incapable of empathy.

Pictured: Jerry the cat ignoring the strings of cranes I spent literally a million years making.

constant grime

Because, otherwise how do you know you aren’t just visiting?

The grime might not be visible in this shot, but it’s there. Believe me.

Bland Stuff

Gleb Pesoc’s Best Tattoos (ranked)

Gleb Pesoc is my favourite name in the world. Gleb’s been getting more and more popular outside of Russia and he’s started regularly ‘touring’ Europe – although I met him in SPb, he gave me my tattoo in Berlin. I’m praying he’ll come to Prague whilst I’m living here. Check his instagram for regular beautiful tattoos and details about his availability.

5. Paperclip

One of the cool things about tattooing is that your canvas is people, and people aren’t all smooth and blank. I really like the way Gleb’s tattoos sometimes include people’s features, especially scars.

4. Dancing girl

This one is just so graceful!

3. Why not?

The croc looks slightly uncomfortable, like he’s embarrassed he’s been immortalised eating this girl.

2. Fire extinguisher


I love the way Gleb uses colour!

1.Birds on a wire

Blue on skin is so striking, and looking at the individual birds blows my mind. They’re all slightly different and each one seems to have its own unique character.

Bonus: Rosie’s chocolate mammoth.

It’s red ‘cos it’s fresh and (bonus info) it fucking hurt.

Gleb stopped about halfway through and asked how I was doing. In my mind, I was thinking about how a half-finished chocolate mammoth would be so much more stupid than a full one. Out loud, I said, “Yep yep good good.”

Bland Stuff

Fantastic Inventions

Lately I’ve caught myself replacing smart comments with cynicism in an effort to seem cool. As everyone who’s actually cool knows, that is annoying and toxic – not to mention transparent – so I’ve decided to cut that out by consciously making an effort to appreciate stuff that’s fantastic.

And, credit where credit is due, humans have thought up some cool stuff. Today, let’s think about words like ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit as we go through my TOP FIVE THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN INVENTED.

Those white pens you can use instead of chalk on chalkboards

I don’t know if they have a specific name; when I was looking for the accompanying image, I googled chalk pens and was pleased with the results. Google did suggest I might also mean liquid chalk, but surely that refers to the stuff that fills the pen, not the actual pen itself. And, if I’m honest, I’m uninspired by the chalk ink on its own – surely that’s just tipex? The invention that knocks my socks off is the pen as a whole.

Friends, I have a dream. One day, in the far, far future, surrounded by animatronic great-grandchildren, I will settle down with a nostalgic coming-of-age classic set in a primary school of my youth. The protagonist, a scrawny, nerdy girl that resonates with me for reasons we don’t need to go into, will be summoned to the board to complete an impossible sum. 

Blushing and flicking an unfortunate fringe out of her face, our heroine will be frozen by the blackboard, chalk being ground into dust by her nervous fingers. When, under pressure from the watching pupils and authoritarian educator, she finally scrawls a hasty 19 in the empty part of the equation, the chalk will give way, snapping halfway through the tail of the 9 and scattering the board with an uneasy constellation of white spots. 

My grandchildren will turn to me, nonplussed. “What the shit was that?” they will ask.

I will smile, settle back into my automated rocking chair. Despite my grandchildren’s liberal use of four letter words, I am content. My life’s dream is complete: my descendants live in a world where chalk, that notorious bastard, has been rendered obsolete and blasted from the face of history. Truely, a happy day.

Zips

Because, and I mean this sincerely, I can’t think of a better way to close my jacket.

Also, zips are the forerunners of ziplocks, without which none of us would be able to take miniature bottles of shampoo on holiday.

This isn’t related, but I don’t understand why mini toothpastes are a thing. Like, normal sized toothpastes are well within the 100ml limit. The mini ones just increase your stress levels when you realise you’ve packed two brushes worth of toothpaste for an eighteen brush trip. But I digress.

Table hooks

like this, but permanently affixed to the table eg with a screw

really don’t know what these guys are actually called: table hooks is my best guess. The reason I’ve got no clue how to name them is because I’ve only ever encountered these little heroes On The Continent – that is, not on my native island of Britain.

Say what you like about Europe, but they do have bag storage down.

Table hooks are, and this might shock you, hooks attached to tables. From these hooks a sodden traveller can dangle, for example, a handbag or anorak to prevent the item from acting as a mop on a wet pub or cafe floor. Truly, an invention for the ages.

The system whereby the post office texts you to tell you about your parcel’s delivery status

Perhaps it’s overkill to call this an invention, but I’m a fan of it nonetheless. Instead of waiting for a physical leaflet that is vulnerable to all kinds of foul play (rain, jealous neighbour, angry dog), just wait for a cheeky text from your postie letting you know your boxset of NCIS is ready to be picked up. Every time this happens, I sit phone in hand, revelling in the majesty of the automated text message.

Reusable sunglasses

Honestly, those disposable ones were just wasteful.

advice · Bland Stuff

How many people can fit in stuff?

A post for your entertainment and education.

Sometimes, you really need to know exactly how many people will fit in a washing machine. This blog is for those times.

How many people can fit in the Sun (centre of our solar system)?
33,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 people
Source: https://www.quora.com/How-many-humans-could-fit-inside-a-sphere-the-size-of-our-sun
How many people can fit in the gap between the train and the platform edge?Untold thousands of people.
How many people can fit in the largest stadium in Wales?74,500 people
Source: Principality Stadium promotional material
How many people can fit in the entire Harry Potter canon?772 people
Source: reddit
How many people can fit in the mouth of a blue whale?100 people
Source: I asked Siri
How many people can fit in an Uber XL?6 people
Source: Google search
How many people can fit in a washing machine?1 small person
Source: personal experience
How many people can fit in the Sun (tabloid newspaper)?<1 person
Source: estimation by Ro
How many people can fit in this picture of me outside St Basil’s?

The more you know.

🙂

Bland Stuff

Ocean

I generally try and avoid infecting my blog with my pretentious and derivative taste in poetry – I prefer to keep bland-blog.com pure satire-cum-thoughtsaboutpigeons – but I’ve had this in my head for a few days now, and I think it’s lovely.

Ocean. Ocean, 
get up. The most beautiful part of your body 
is where it’s headed. & remember, 
loneliness is still time spent 
with the world. Here’s 
the room with everyone in it. 
Your dead friends passing 
through you like wind 
through a wind chime. 

Ocean Vuong

Bland Stuff

A Debate

Reasons to knitReasons to knot
– Creative hobbies are good for the soul
– Being in touch with wool (& synthetic substitutes) is character building
– Fluff
– Repetitive action is calming
– The capacity to make socks
will make you an invaluable member of any tribe should the apocalypse come  
– The courage to take pointy things on aeroplanes is enviable
– Good excuse to watch TV a lot
– Finally a hobby that doesn’t involve letters*
– You probably come from a long line of knitters
– You are bad at it
– Family and friends do not always appreciate being given itchy accessories
– Fluff
– Wool (& synthetic substitutes) are surprisingly spenny
– Outcome can be terrifying**
– Effectively a waste of time and sheep resources
– Bamboo or metal needles????
– Not a big fan of silent ‘k’s

*My other hobbies are blogging, learning languages, and competitive Scrabble.

**This idea is based on the true story of when I knitted my niece a teddy and was forbidden from giving it to her because it was so nightmarish

Bland Stuff

TOP THINGS I’VE SEEN PIGEONS DOING

Although they’ve been called rats of the sky and dusty disaster doves, pigeons have a special place in my heart. I love the way that they, like the humble canal, represent a marriage of urban and natural elements – they’re creatures and they poo outside (which, despite my friends’ protests, is certainly natural), but they also live in concrete and eat KFC – decidedly urban pursuits.

In my long career of Looking at Pigeons, I’ve spotted them doing some pretty funky shit. Here are my favourites:

  • Washing their bottoms in Chap Fountain
  • Fighting on the windowsill
  • Browsing at a farmers’ market
  • Sitting in the elephant enclosure at Chester Zoo
  • Hopping on one leg
  • Sitting next to the elephant enclosure at Chester Zoo, seemingly watching the elephants
  • Standing next to other birds eg ducks, flamingoes etc
  • Scaring me (on purpose?)

Never change, pigeons.

Bland Stuff

In Defence of Being a Terrible Cook

I’m a bad cook, and that’s an understatement. Everything I cook turns out monstrous. Not like, my soup is bland, but more like – my soup has three eyes and it’s out to get you. I can barely boil an egg without birthing a godforsaken creature hell-bent on destroying civilisation – and one of the greatest things about no longer cooking meat is that my recent Frankensteins have had a little less punch than the ones made out of actual flesh.

I have a beautiful flat equipped a mighty fridge, a kitchen island so big it’s practically a peninsula, and a gas oven – but I carefully schedule my visitors to arrive between mealtimes.

“Sure,” I say, “Let’s hang out. I’m free from 2pm until 6.30.” Like a humanist vampire, I go to great lengths to save innocent people from myself.

That said, being almost unable to nourish yourself isn’t all bad. Take, for example, the following significant benefits.

  • It’s healthier.

Because if everything I eat is going to taste shit, it might as well be rich in iron.

  • You save money.

“But Rosie,” I hear you protest, “surely being unable to eat at home means you spend  more money on food out!”

Ah, my naive friend, you are forgetting one important point: I am incredibly cheap. Eating out often, whilst delightful and nutritious, goes against the very fabric of my being. Each forkful of restaurant food, no matter how delicious, would taste of the same thing: money I could’ve spent on beer.

As it is, my terrible, awful, no-good food helps me save money for two reasons. Firstly, I only ever have to provide food for one person, because no one who’s seen the slop on my dinner plate would ever willingly sit at my table. No matter how much a person loves me, they will stop at poisoning themselves to make me happy. Moreover, people who love me, whilst stopping short of ingesting my food, occasionally take pity on me and bring me real sustenance: breads, hearty soups, fishless sushi. That kind of thing.

  • It’s character building.

Because nothing strengthens the resolve like staring down six litres of just edible tofu casserole.