Bland Stuff · Gripes

Pros and Cons of Morning Shifts: a Discussion

I’m not a morning person. Like, not at all. It takes me four alarms and two coffees to get going, and even then I’m bleary-eyed and croaky-voiced. I had to turn down a ludicrously well-paid job as a breakfast waitress because I knew I wouldn’t be able to hack the early starts – there was no way I’d be turning up to that job appropriately bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Honestly, I also reject any kind of job which requires me to wear black and white, especially since the shoes I’d panic bought for the interview were a little too small and shredded my feet like a cheese grater.

Illustrative picture of breakfast

I just don’t flourish in those kinds of conditions.

Then again, I’m not too sore about it: there’s something I mistrust about people who can function normally at 5am, and if they start claiming it’s the best time of the day, I actively avoid them and their seditious lies. Let’s be honest: no one likes that one person who rocks up to a 9am lecture looking like bluebirds made their bed. Have some decency and look how we feel – like you left most of your brain on your pillow.

That said, I’m not really a night owl either. Come 9 o’clock, I’ll either be settling in to my knitting (on a particularly active day) or snuggling into my pillows (if I missed my traditional 2 o’clock nap). 

Maybe it comes from my constant compulsion to complain about everything, or maybe there really is something wrong with my circadian cycles, but I do seem to spend 80% of the hours I’m awake wishing I weren’t. I’m beginning to realise that I’m neither a night person nor a morning person; in fact, sometimes I doubt that I’m a person at all.

Illustrative workplace photo

The day before yesterday was a special day for me: it was my last shift at what I consider my first “proper” job – I was working as a receptionist in one of Prague’s largest hostels. The job was largely composed of telling people where the lift was, explaining that we use crowns not euros, and directing people to the nearest, largest seller of cheap Pilsner. (Hint: in Prague, the nearest, largest, cheapest pub is always very near, large, and cheap.)

After a childhood and adolescence full of carefree frolicking and pointless study, the realities of having to “get up” and “do things” hit me pretty hard. That said, despite what I consider a congenital allergy to productivity, I like to think I overcame my natural barriers and came to be a valued and useful receptionist. I don’t normally toot my own trumpet, preferring others to toot it for me, but I think that towards the end of my tenure I became a decent receptionist, particularly if the alternative was No Receptionist.

My last shift was also one of the first morning shifts I’d ever done, and it was quite a departure from my typical afternoon shift. My normal working day at Plus Prague Hotel & Hostel ran from three in the afternoon until eleven at night, although my general idiocy usually meant I was still trying to balance my till at midnight. You can imagine, then, the sheer pain I went through to get myself to work eight hours earlier than usual. It was an upsetting and deeply disorientating experience.

On the other hand, I will say this for morning shifts: you finish early. I was shocked and delighted to ride the tram home in the light. It was a revelation to get back to my neighbourhood before all the shops closed. Imagine – I could buy bread! I could get food that wasn’t from the 24 hour Mexican with its nightmarish mixture of coriander and gloopy salsa.

In order to collect my thoughts about the whole experience, I’ve decided to compile a +/- list.

Plus Prague Hotel and Hostel morning shift – plusesPlus Prague Hotel and Hostel morning shift – minuses
– Looking at the people on the tram at 6am
– Frost on the window of the tram
– Breakfast (free)
– Finished work at 3pm
– Relaxed shift, so managed to read a chapter of my book
– No need to call the police
– Got to speak Russian 
– Got to speak French
-Being reminded that mornings exist
– Tram was cold
-Breakfast (not that nice)
-Tired, so went to bed at 8pm
-Favourite character died
– Did have to reset the fire alarm
– Got addressed as ‘girl’, as in, “Tell me, girl, how do I get to the centre?”
– Spoke French very badly (namely, with regards to the subjunctive)

Overall, then, a mixed bag. Farewell Plus Prague Hotel and Hostel, I hardly knew ye – that’s why I always sent people to the wrong rooms.

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advice · Bland Stuff

Teaching Pronunciation

As those of you who obsessively note down details about me will know, I’m living in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, at the moment. In order to make money and fill my days, I’m splitting my time between teaching English, working on a reception, translating, and (this is what eats up the most hours but brings in the least $) Sitting and Looking at Walls.

(Sometimes I wonder whether I publish too many personal details about myself on the Internet, but then I remember that a) most of my readers are related to me and b) no one cares.) 

(this is where I live)
Possibly not Prague’s most famous sight, but my favourite.

Whilst all of my different occupations are challenging in their own way, teaching English is certainly the hardest. For one thing, I never realised how much I rely on idiom and cultural reference to get my point across; for another, although I consider myself relatively fluent in English, being considered an expert on it is a bit of a stretch. Here’s an example: I just spent a few minutes saying 

“Expert on English? Expert in English?”

out loud, trying to decide which one sounded more natural. 

(Eventually, frustrated and exhausted, I googled it. According to a site called Learner’s Dictionary, they’re interchangeable, so all that vacillation was time well spent.)

To give you an example of my dubious English expertise, let me tell you about an advanced class I taught last week: we were talking about spelling, and we did a spelling test with some of those bastardish English words. The words were played on an audio track, so I decided to throw my hat into the ring and try my hand at spelling alongside the students. The results were… not ideal.

delicious and nutritious, but hard to spell

OK, I did do better than anyone in the class, but I didn’t get them all right. And, like, I’m a teacher. An English teacher.

But I digress.

Even though I do think I’m not the sharpest tutor in the mixed metaphor about tutors, I will say this for myself: I try really hard. As I would say to my mother, “I’m really trying.” And as she would hilariously reply, “Yes, you are very trying.”

One of the things I find most rewarding is when I bring something to classes that I think most other teachers wouldn’t have thought of – when I spice up the classroom with a little of my signature blandness, as it were. 

Here’s an example: last week my advanced classes were looking at San Junipero, the episode of Black Mirror. The episode (spoilers ahead) deals heavily with the topic of euthanasia, a term I assumed my students wouldn’t know because I myself didn’t learn it until I was in Sixth Form, and it’s not usually included in language syllabuses. 

To my surprise, however, the meaning of the word didn’t bother anyone: it turns out that the Czech translation is a cognate, both words having come from the same root.

What did flummox my students, though, was the pronunciation. After all, it doesn’t really sound a lot like it looks.

Then I remembered: youth in Asia.

but… mainly young people in Asia?

Thanks, Ali G. Just another victory for Sacha Baron Cohen.

Bland Stuff

Reasons I’ve Got Coffee in My Shoes

There are a lot of unexplained mysteries in the world: the Bermuda Triangle, crop circles, tofu, and the Mary Celeste, to name but a few. Sure, everyone’s got their own pet theories – and some confident souls clutching scientific equations, previously undiscovered historical documents, or curds made from coagulated soy milk might insist they’ve stumbled across the answer – but we’re still all basically in the dark about these intriguing enigmas.

Not that anyone minds too much: there’s something delightful about an enigma. It’s just human nature to be drawn in by riddles – how else can you explain the popularity of murder mystery parties, or those shit jokes in Christmas crackers?

silhouette of a man during sunset
This is a stock photo I found by searching for “mystery”

To add to the expected head-scratchers, something both mysterious and inexplicable happened to me when I got home from work yesterday.

Let me set the scene: it was half past eleven, GMT+1. It was a crisp night, and I’d just navigated my way across a Prague heaving with the usual Saturday night crowd (ie mostly stag and hen does intoxicated by a mixture of a excitement, b cheap beer, c cheap absinthe, and d a little bit more beer). I was exhausted from a dramatic and challenging shift at the hostel.

20180911_175528
This is the only picture of myself at work I have. Note the impressive 8.3 rating.

(The boiler had broken down and, as the closest thing to a Czech speaker on shift at the time, I’d been dispatched to the heating room to be remotely guided through the resetting process by the maintenance guy. (Phone conversations are so stressful that it took me a good five minutes to understand he was telling me to push the giant red button.) Also, a group of lads had been caught smoking out the window, and I’d accidentally given someone $50 worth of change rather than 50€ (ie grossly shortchanging them). But I digress.)

I got home, so exhausted from boiler/currency exchange drama that I could barely find the strength to put the kettle on. Little did I know that I was wearing this generation’s Loch Ness Monster on my feet (in terms of mysteriousness, not smell and/or plausible imaginariness); and yet – when I took my shoes off, there it was: a whole bunch of ground coffee.

How can I be sure it was coffee grounds and not, say, dirt or generic brown dust? Because, thanks, I think, to my extreme tiredness, I didn’t hesitate to smell the mysterious stuff, and recognised the aroma of everyone’s favourite socially acceptable addictive substance.

What the actual (sorry, Mum) fuck? Sure, I drink a lot of coffee and I’m pretty clumsy, but I’ve never spilt a drink so badly that it’s ended up in powder form in my shoe. This was something else.

Invigorated by the mystery (and, maybe, by the delayed effect of caffeine entering my bloodstream via the ankle), I fixed myself a steaming mug of Horlicks, installed myself at the kitchen table and, equipped with pencil and extra large receipt, made the following list of theories.

Perhaps I

  • jostled someone transporting stolen coffee on the metro;
  • fell victim to a good-natured prank at work;
  • developed the ability to secrete coffee powder through the heel;
  • unknowingly walked through a coffee spillage somewhere between the tram stop and my home;
  • was on the receiving end of the mild revenge of the customer I short-changed;
  • unknowingly had my shoe stolen by some looters to use as a receptacle for their liberated coffee – on completing the job, they returned the shoe, plus some spare grounds, to my flat via the cat flap;
  • fell victim to a mean-spirited prank at work;
  • or, and this is a long shot, spilt coffee grounds when I was making a coffee this morning.

We’ll never know what really happened, of course. Surely heads will be scratched over this particular mystery for years to come.

Bland Stuff

Wasteful Spending

My policy is simple: you can waste time, or you can waste money – but you cannot waste both at once. This policy is basically an excuse I’ve come up with to stop myself ever doing anything to rein in my spending and time-wasting – I can’t feel bad for spending eighteen hours making a quilt from my old jeans, because I didn’t spend a kopeck on the materials. Why would I guilt myself for spending half my paycheck on Twin Peaks DVDs? Sure, I could’ve torrented them for free, but buying them from kosmos.cz took half a second.

In an attempt to bring myself to justice, I’ve compiled the following list of things I’ve spent stupid amounts of money on in the last few weeks:

  • a cassette player;
  • another pair of shoes (and they weren’t even good shoes);
  • many, many coffees;
  • various cassettes from various second-hand shops;
  • a chocolate mammoth (don’t ask);
  • many, many pints of beer;
  • and yet another pair of shoes (but they were good shoes).

And, perhaps more heinous, here’s some stuff I’ve spent my time doing:

  • knitting a scarf that’s more holes than wool;
  • cooking three hundred litres of soup;
  • watching every episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus;
  • reading a reddit thread associated with every single episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus;
  • trying to respool cassette tape into my broken cassettes;
  • and Sitting and Looking at My Walls.

Forgive me, I have wasted both time and money. (Although, and I think we can all agree this is admirable, I have not done it at the same time.)

Bless you, stay tuned for more bland content.

Bland Stuff

Vegan Sandwich Ideas

Lads, not eating meat is really hard. Like, really hard. Not a day goes by when I don’t have to ask myself whether I really consider chickens animals, or whether they’re not, technically speaking, some kind of mushroom. Unfortunately, my dietary choices are non-negotiable: without them, I’d not be able to get on my high horse nearly as much.

I spend hours in the supermarket, pocket dictionary in hand, translating every ingredient on the back of packets of biscuits, just to make sure no one’s sneaked a cheeky flank steak into these custard creams. And I wouldn’t be surprised: as well as consuming an ungodly amount of beer, Czechs are serious meat eaters. Prague street corners aren’t complete without a whole roast pig in a weird glass tank/barbecue mashup.

It might be hyperbole when, desperate for bacon, I complain that “vegetarianism has ruined my entire goddamn life why do I even bother”, but it has definitely ruined my lunch. Because lunch, somehow, definitely is the hardest meal to render meatless.

By now, reader, you’re familiar with my charitable, giving nature. I live to enrich your experiences. With that in mind, I’ve compiled this short list of vegan sandwich fillings. May your picnics be cruelty free!


food healthy dry pattern

Peanut butter and banana

Everyone (except my friend Jim who would die if she ate peanuts) loves peanut butter. It combines everyone’s two favourite things: paste and tree nuts. Until scientists prove beyond any doubt that peanuts are sentient, I’ll keep eating an actual tonne of them every day. Add a banana to the equation, and you’ve got a sarnie fit for a king.


bird meal animal squirrel

Peanut butter and apple

Everyone (except my friend Jim who comes out in hives if she sees a Snickers advert) loves peanut butter. It combines everyone’s two favourite things: misnomers (it’s not actually butter) and a high sodium content. Slap a sliced apple in there, and you’ve got a butty fit for an emperor.

[Note: the squirrel is pictured for illustration only. Don’t start thinking squirrels are a legitimate vegan alternative, because (I checked) they aren’t.]

brown peanuts

Peanut butter and pear

Everyone (except my friend Jim whose throat closes up if people talk about nuts too loudly around her) loves peanut butter. It combines everyone’s two favourite things: the perfect golden brown colour and the choice between smooth and crunchy. Stick some pear in there, and you’ve got a roll you’d be proud to present to a non-gender specific ruler.


food healthy red sweet

Strawberries and black pepper

Unless you’re five years old, you probably agree that berries, broadly speaking, are an inappropriate sandwich filling. However, if you sprinkle strawberries with crushed black pepper, you can convince yourself they’re basically savoury and chow down on some vitamin C rich delights come midday.

Genuinely, this isn’t actually as bad as it sounds.


Hummus and rust

Ah, the humble chickpea. Such a staple of my diet these days. Of course, you’d be crazy if you thought that a hummus sandwich, with no garnish, was an acceptable lunchtime snack. For one thing, hummus and bread are too close in colour to make a satisfactory meal.

Adding finely crushed rust will give your sandwich the pop it needs! Plus, if you’ve not eaten meat for a while, you’ll really need the iron – and what better source than actual oxidised metal? Bon appetit. If it’s not grinding your teeth down, you’ve not added enough rust.


vegetables market basket carrots

One carrot (grated)

Pro tip: squeeze the carrot shavings in your fist before you stick them between slices. This will remove any excess water from the carrot, and it’s also extremely cathartic. Taking out your anger on vegetables is, I think, a wise and sensible course of action generally.


Coriander and sliced limes

For a zingy and refreshing lunchtime roll, why not put citrus fruit and herbs between bread? At the very least, it should help keep the scurvy at bay.

[I know the plant pictured isn’t coriander. Don’t tweet me.]

addiction chemistry close up colors

Saccharine tablets

Say what you will about artificial sweeteners, but they are (presumably) vegan. Crushing them up and putting them inside bread will give your lunch a delightfully chemical flavour. In the future, when everyone’s a vegan and no one cares about cancer or taste, this will be the sandwich filling of choice, trust me. My pro tip? Spread marg on your bread first so the crushed pills stick to the slices. You’re welcome.


appetizing beef black background breakfast

Imaginary Ham©

It’s the bane of my life that ham, and, indeed, most pork products, contain high levels of pig flesh. I know, who’d have thought it?

Luckily, there’s Imaginary Ham©, a brand new product from the Nestle group. When lack of ham is getting you down, Imaginary Ham© is there for you. Simply slip a slice of it between bread and you’ll hardly know the difference. Available from all major supermarkets; RRP £7.59 for a 200g pack.

Imaginary Ham©: It’s like ham, but it’s imaginary.

advice · Bland Stuff

New Laws

I’m not sure exactly why (I sense Brexit has something to do with it) but the British government has just finishing codifying some interesting new laws. The police officer in the featured image may be smiling, but she’s ready to bop you on the head with her truncheon should you infringe any of them in front of her.

Not sure if “to codify laws” is a phrase, but it sounds about right.

You might be scratching your head, wondering what on earth I could be talking about. “But, Ro,” you might be saying, “I am a British citizen. I think I’d know if we had a spate of new laws coming in. I think I’d have seen it on Twitter.”

Yeah, you’d think. The sneaky, sneaky government has purposefully made sure no one knows about this new legislation by posting it exclusively to Google+. And why don’t they want anyone to know about these laws? Because their infringement incurs a hefty fine – money which goes straight into Johnny Westminster’s pockets.

Luckily for you, Google+ is the only social medium I use. I prefer it because I can post sarcastic comments about my loved ones without them ever finding out. Also I can slag off Love Island without anyone thinking I’m just doing it for the attention.

For that reason, I’m abreast of the upcoming laws, and I’m more than happy to share them with you. Be careful: you don’t want to get caught out!


person pouring seasonings on raw meatsNo fish on Tuesdays.

This one’s as simple as it sounds: from October 2018, absolutely no fish are allowed in the United Kingdom on Tuesdays. Persons found to be infringing this law will be subject to immediate arrest and a fine of up to £200. Fish found to be infringing this law will be eaten by the local constable.

That picture is actually a little misleading, so let me clarify: it’s not that you’re not allowed to eat fish on Tuesdays, but rather that fish generally are not allowed. It’s expected that police officers will be SCUBA trained as standard in order to enforce this. If you have a pet fish, make sure to hide both it and any paraphanalia (eg fish tank, model castle etc) related to it on Tuesdays.


person holding drafting paper

All drivers must wear high-viz.

If you’re getting behind the wheel after the 1st of March 2019, please, please make sure you’re wearing a high-visibility jacket that conforms to government standards. If you don’t, you’re liable to pay an on-the-spot fine of up to £70, and, if what you’re wearing is particularly subdued, your licence may be revoked.


black and white business chart computer

No more saying, “I rate it.”

I know what you’re thinking: “It’s the bloody thought police!” No, it’s not. It’s the speech police, so reign in your disapproval, George Orwell. Jesus.

Anyway, the police are cracking down on increasing numbers of people saying, “I rate it,” to express approval. After December this year, those heard saying this will be put under house arrest.


light golden retriever puppy close up photography

Pick up after your dog.

You might say, “But, Rodge! Leaving dog poos around is already a crime.” Yes, true. But this law goes one step further: in an effort to combat declining standards of tidiness in the canine community, dog owners will have to pick up any and all toys the dog carries around the house and place them in a designated dog box.

If a homeowner is seen to be remiss in this duty, whether because toys are outside of the dog box, or because the dog box is incorrectly labelled, they will be sent to prison for a maximum of 35 days, during which the dog will be cared for either by the police constable (if it’s a cute one) or a nominated relative (if it’s gross).


document id uk driving license driving licence

All citizens must carry ID cards.

I don’t know if you remember, but there was actually a move to introduce a similar law not so long ago.

However, under this legislation, set to come into effect from November 2019, citizens must carry the ID card belonging to the last person they shared a pizza with. Those carrying their own ID cards will be subject to serious scrutiny, since they’ve either never shared a pizza with anyone, or shared pizza with a chain of people until their own ID card ended up back in their pocket.

Those with missing or irregular documents will be forced to either pay a £17 fine or present the local police constable with £15 worth of pizza. It’s not clear whether this act will constitute giving or sharing a pizza, so no one yet knows whether the buyer of the pizza will have to swap ID cards with the police constable. I’ll let you know more when I do.


Mrs Brown’s Boys is outlawed.

I can’t argue with this. It’s for the good of the nation.

I can’t even bring myself to find a relevant picture.


The more you know.

Bland Stuff

Insultial Czech

This title combines the words “essential” and “insulting.”

You don’t have to tell me; I know I’m a wordsmith.

Amongst pedagogues, there’s a school of thought that suggests students learn languages better when they’re not constantly forced to repeat boring phrases. You know the kind of thing:

Teacher: Hello.

Student: Hello.

Teacher: How are you?

Student: I’m well, thank you. How are you?

Teacher: I’m fine.

That’s the kind of shit that rots your brain after a few repetitions, and students quickly lose interest – especially children and teenagers whose concentration span is low at the best of times, and non-existent when they’re being forced to say the same boring stuff again and again and again and aga-

animal bear big blur
bored

Anyway, some thinkers believe that students are kept motivated and interested by being exposed to more colourful language – in effect, by being allowed to repeat crazy stuff like this:

Teacher: Howdy.

Student: Y’a’right.

Teacher: How’s it going?

Student: I’m sick of the sight of you. What’s going on with you?

Teacher: Teaching cretins like you makes my blood fizz.

For some reason, this approach isn’t favoured at the language school I work at, so I’m forced to stick to the conventional “Hello, how are you” greetings.

That might sound ridiculous, but the idea behind it is that students will remember grammatical structures and vocab much better if there’s something interesting about them. Sure, students taught in this way might not be able to speak to anyone without insulting them, but they’ll turn up to each class with joy in their hearts and dazzling language engraved in their brains.

acrylic acrylic paint art artistic
Colourful language!

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a nice sample dialogue for you to enjoy. It takes place between two friends; friend B wants to go for a coffee and friend A is a bit of a vůl. It’s short; it’s snappy; it gets right to the point. Never say I don’t put enough effort into lesson planning.

Kamarádka: Ježišmarjá, ty jsi tady.

Kamarád: Kečáš. Chceš na kávičku?

Kamarádka: Kéž bych mohla, ale vlastně nechci.

Here’s the translation.

Friend A: Jesus, it’s you.

Friend B: Stop chatting shit. Do you wanna grab a coffee?

Friend A: I wish I could, but I really don’t want to.

Anyway, the theory is that you’re way more likely to remember the na + acc. structure for events if you’ve been exposed to this kind of example. Of course, this doesn’t work if no one’s bothered to explain what that structure is and I absolutely will, right this minute!

So the thing you have to know about Czech is –

Oh, shit, that’s my bus! Sorry, gotta run.

Love,

Rodge

(I’m not good at swearing in Czech so here are my sources:)
https://news.expats.cz/czech-language/czech-swear-words-and-put-downs/
https://www.czech-stuff.com/czech-swear-words/

 

Bland Stuff · Gripes

A Solemn Oath

I like to think, in the realm of blogging as in the rest of my life, I’ve got good integrity. For example, I always let passengers disembark before alighting and I leave the bathroom door slightly ajar as I leave it so it’s obvious it’s unoccupied. That’s just the kind of stand up guy I am.

Everyone has a moral code, whether they’ve consciously developed one or not.

Unfortunately, the world of blogging is quite different from normal life. My alighting/disembarking rule just isn’t relevant on the Internet, for one thing.

As such, when I started this blog, I sat myself down in a quiet room with a mug of horlicks, and developed the following set of rules. More than anything, I wanted to make sure the power associated with writing a blog didn’t go to my head. My priority, from the start, has been keeping you, my readers, safe from my own excesses.

Rodge and the Blog:

keeping yourself reined in.

  • I will never ask my readers to “like and follow”.

This one’s easy to keep because, and, believe me, I’ve looked at the data, no one reads this blog unless they follow it anyway.

  • I will never ask my readers to “share this”.

I’ll just strongly imply they should by saying things like, hey, don’t you have any friends who might appreciate exactly this brand of off-beat, sometimes funny humour?

  • I will never ask my readers to “comment with your thoughts”.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I just consider that the sort of thing a prick might do.

  • I will not sell my readers’ data for personal gain, be it financial or spiritual etc.

Again, this one has been super easy to keep because 1. I don’t have access to any of your data and 2. no one would want it anyway (no offense).

  • I will regularly post links to my blog on Twitter.

This is so my thirteen Twitter followers can also have the chance to enjoy my updates. They’re people too, I think.

  • I will rarely use my blog as a forum to moan about stuff no one cares about.

Yeah, alright, I’ve broken this one a bunch.

  • I will never post anything unless I think it is, as a minimum, slightly more than not funny at all.

It’s called standards.

  • I will not use my significant power as blogger to sell my readers inferior products.

There’s just something fishy about the kind of person that’d use their platform to sell ad space to the highest bidder. But not as fishy as Wilson’s New Fish Sauce© (RRP £5.99). Wilson’s New Fish Sauce©, now with actual fish! The fish sauce that’ll make you say, “Wow, that sure is fishy!” For sale in all good supermarkets. Not suitable for vegetarians, those with heart conditions, pregnant or nursing women, or the elderly.


It might seem trivial to you, reader, but rules like these are what ensure the high-quality blogs you’ve come to expect here at blandhyphenblogdotcom.

Bland Stuff

Things you didn’t know contained meat

I stopped eating meat recently, and it’s been harder than I thought. Not because I’ve been craving steak (although, I’ll be honest, I have been thinking about pork belly since day one); but simply because loads of stuff I’d assumed was vegetarian just isn’t.

(Also, I’m living in Prague and sometimes I’ve ordered meat dishes because my Czech is awful. Eg I was pretty sure šunka meant something like artichoke, but it turned out it was ham. I was left feeling doubly bad because 1. I ate pork and 2. I was faced with the reality of how badly I speak Czech.)

In an act of charity and friendship, I’ve compiled the following short list of things you might not know contain meat:

food ingredients recipe cook

  • many hard cheeses (such as parmesan);

Hard cheeses quite often contain, and this is a technical term so I hope I spell it right, gunk from cows’ tummies. I don’t really know what this adds to the cheese – I read that it’s sought after because it’s an enzyme, but the only thing I remember from secondary school biology lessons is how to put a condom on a banana (although, crucially, I have forgotten why).woman putting lipstick

  • chapstick;

May contain crushed up bugs. If they’re not included in production, they will be after you’ve ridden your bike really fast down a big hill.

clear glass beer mug filled with beer

  • Guinness;

This time two months ago, my greatest joys in life were pies and pints. Now both have been cruelly ripped away from me.

I don’t wanna talk about it, OK?

appetizer bowl bread breakfast

  • many soups;

OK, obviously chicken soup contains chicken, but some tinned vegetable soups are made with meat stock. And why? Because animals are so much tastier than fucking carrots.

God, I miss meat.

So yeah, be careful in restaurants and when buying premade soup, and, remember, if you’re surprised by how much you enjoyed that leek and potato, it’s probably because someone slipped some chicken in there.

food salad healthy dinner

  • scallops;

This is possibly the most shocking of the entire bunch. OK, now I think about it, I guess it makes sense that scallops are creatures, but it never occurred to me. If someone had asked me how we get scallops, I would’ve said they were a kind of fungus or, possibly, a substance no one knows the providence of, like unicorn tears or tofu.

(By the way, I found that picture by Googling scallops, but for all I know they could be cat eggs. I’m still not 100% on what they look like.)

So yeah, it turns out scallops are seafood. Avoid.

orange red yellow green gummie bears

  • gummy bears;

I’m not sure about this but I reckon they contain actual bears. How else could they look so realistic?

spinach chicken pomegranate salad

  • and salad dressing.

In an admirable attempt to make salads less miserable, some food producers will enhance their sauces with bacon. Caesar dressing, specifically, is often made with those miniature fish that manage to contain the flavour of an entire aquarium in their tiny bodies.

Bland Stuff · living abroad

Essential Check

I study Czech, Russian and Polish at university, and most people’s response to that is, “Why, though?”

The honest answer, that I don’t know – it just seemed interesting, never seems to satisfy anyone. And, reader, if you know anything about me, you know that I live to please: an unsatisfactory conversation is a weight on my very soul. I’ve started brainstorming better answers:

  • “I love beer.”
  • “I really like chess and I thought it’d be related.”
  • “My grandfather/uncle/childhood friend/goldfish was a Slav.”
  • “I love vodka.”
  • “I want to work as a spy. Wait, I shouldn’t have said that. I mean, I want to work in banking.”
  • “War and Peace changed my life. No, I’ve not read it. I mean the TV show.”
  • “I’m just super into pickles.”
  • “I’m an aspiring nesting doll.”
  • “Solidarity, innit.”
  • “Why do you think?”

This last one is particularly interesting – the ideas people come up with are always way better than anything I can dream up. One suggestion sticks out – someone asked if I’d chosen Czech, Russian and Polish because of the potential for puns.

It’s true: of all the ~6,500 languages spoken on Earth, the three I’ve devoted my education to are amongst the most pun-rich. Puns, of course, rarely translate into foreign languages, which is one of the hardest facts I’ve ever had to come to terms with.

For our own education and enjoyment, though, I’ve decided to translate all the homophones of “Czech” I could think of into Czech. Enjoy this meaningless list of vocab.

  • Czech (adj.)

český

  • Czech (noun; language)

čeština

  • Czech (noun; Czech person)

Čech / Češka

  • Cheque (noun)

šek

  • Check (noun; situation in chess)

šach

  • Check (noun; inspection)

zkouška

  • Check (noun; control)

kontrola

  • Check (noun; a mark, usually a tick)

křížek

  • Check (noun; a lengthwise separation of the rings in wood)
I didn’t manage to find a translation for this; that might be for the best.
  • Check (verb; to inspect)

prověřit

  • Check (verb; to mark with a checkmark)

zaškrtnout

  • Check (verb; to control or limit)

kontrolovat

  • Check (verb; to compare)

kontrolovat

 

Isn’t learning fun?

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This is an unrelated picture of a bear I saw in the zoo in Brno last year.