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.)


  • Czech (noun; language)


  • Czech (noun; Czech person)

Čech / Češka

  • Cheque (noun)


  • Check (noun; situation in chess)


  • Check (noun; inspection)


  • Check (noun; control)


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


  • 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)


  • Check (verb; to mark with a checkmark)


  • Check (verb; to control or limit)


  • Check (verb; to compare)



Isn’t learning fun?

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

Cursed Objects

Do you ever wonder what kind of a person would be spiteful enough to make those cursed objects you see in films? To litter their tomb with mean tricks designed to catch out any future adventurers/grave robbers/curious teenagers stupid enough to disturb their final resting place, just on the off chance one of them happens to pick up the tantalising diamond necklace you left draped over the door handle? Who that you know would derive any kind of joy from the thought that they’re messing up the lives of generations of meddling kids to come?

Me; I’m that kind of person.

Who’s got great taste in shades and a wrathful nature? This guy.

When I die, should my family, as I expect, baulk at the idea of cremating me in a sack of potatoes, I’d like to be interred in a fancy-ass tomb. I’m talking statues and frescos – that’s the level of luxury I want my corpse to experience. I’ll instruct my second-youngest niece to go into my grave just before it’s sealed and strategically place cursed objects there; I’ll make sure to give her these objects, along with a cryptic warning about handling them with gloves, just before I die.

The rest of my niblings will be charged with the task of creating a mythology around my resting place – eg pretending they saw my ghost there, boasting about my fabulous collection of diamond saucepans I insisted on being buried with, drawing enigmatically unfinished maps. That kind of thing. I want the whole local community to be abuzz with rumours about what my grave might contain.

Assuming my descendents do a good enough job, the local people’s interest will be piqued and their imagination’ll be running away with them. Within a couple of generations, the masses’ trepidation will have evaporated and a rag-tag group of friends, possibly needing the money for child support or gambling debts, will be cracking open my tomb with crowbars.

grey skulls piled on ground
semi-related spooky imagery

Obviously, this takes a lot of planning, so let me tell you what I’ve got in mind so far.

When our heroes, such as they are, break into my tomb, they’ll be met with a message etched into the wall. I haven’t got the wording down quite yet, but it’ll be something along the lines of

Hey, thanks for breaking into my tomb, you tosser. Very rude.

There’s a special prize on my coffin but don’t touch anything else or I’ll curse you forever.

Best of luck,

Ro Daniels.


You know, something like that. Anyway, just as the intruders finish reading the message, the doors’ll rumble shut behind them and they’ll realise they’re trapped. Torches along the walls will burst into flames as they take a tentative step forwards, and, in the very distance, they’ll be able to make out the shape of my sarcophagus.

Between them and their prize, however, will be the following tempting objets:

  • my dog-eared copy of “Death and the Penguin”;

(I’ll leave it bookmarked at one of the bits where the penguin is splish splashin’ about in the tub. People who take it will be cursed with the not insignificant fate of no one ever taking your book recommendations seriously (possibly because they have stupid names like ‘Death and the Penguin’).)

  • a bent fork;

(If you touch this, you’ll never be able to eat gracefully again. Goes double if you’re on an important dinner date (eg with the love of your life, with a local radio DJ toying with the idea of interviewing you etc).)

  • a glass duck;

(The glass duck, as a clearly inferior imitation of its rubber counterpart, will bestow its new owner with the unenviable quality of always being outshone by brighter, plastickier equivalents.)

  • a model of St Isaac’s Cathedral in Petersburg;

(St Isaac’s Cathedral is the fourth largest cathedral in the world, when size of cathedral is measured as volume under the cupola. The architect, having calculated volume including the cupola, therefore considered the building robbed of the title of world’s largest cathedral. With mathematical simplicity, then, all exploits undertaken by anyone who steals this model will be one quarter as successful as they’d hoped.)

  • an empty beer glass;

(This curse is inspired by my incredible ability to spill every drink I’m handed. Now you can see how it feels, thief.)

  • £19.90 in loose change;

(If you’re anything like me, you put your silver coins in a jar in the corner of your room and save them for a special treat. When the day to spend your booty finally comes, you carefully count out exactly twenty quid – in other words, the price of a pie and four pints at my local – and head off into town. After stealing this pile of coins, though, you’ll be cursed with the inability to count properly, leaving you floundering, a pie and three pints in.)

  • dusty tin containing two (2) plasters and a 10p piece;

(You think you hoard shit now? Just wait until I hit you with this curse. Every time you go to throw away a normal household item (eg plastic fork, used floss stick, empty tub of butter etc) a weird emotional attachment will strike you and you’ll ask yourself how you could even think of chucking away something that’s been with you through so much. Tenderly you’ll place the rescued item on a shelf and you’ll cast it loving glances every hour or so for the next few days.)

  • and about forty intriguing pebbles.

(Every time you’re in a serious situation (eg job interview, close friend’s pet’s funeral etc) you’ll remember that story about the labrador that ate loads of pebbles on the beach and when he walked his owners could hear the pebbles clacking about in his stomach. Even if you manage not to beam, those close to you will be sure to pick up on the joyful glint in your eye. Plus, this one will be particularly hard to sidestep because there are some pebbles, we can all agree, which are just crying out to be grabbed.)

If those pesky grave robbers manage to get through all of that without giving in to the temptation of nicking something, they’ll find a humble envelope propped against my coffin. In it they’ll find

  • a congratulatory note;

(It’s important to recognise achievement.)

  • three spiders;

(This is in case, as I suspect, spiders will have been wiped out by the time of my death. Absolute travesty, I must say. If, by some miracle, these spiders manage to survive until they’re freed, they’ll run out into the world and repopulate the Earth with their disgusting eight-legged babies.)

  • a £5 WHSmith gift card.

(My successes at school were always rewarded in this manner; hopefully those who have proved themselves worthy will be able to buy themselves a treat from Smiths (eg some nice highlighters, this month’s National Geographic, a calendar to give to their aunt etc).)

Bland Stuff

Essential Czech: The Alphabet

Tuesdays are Czech days!

Last week, we learnt how to ask for a beer, a big beer, and a bunch of beers.

This week, we’ll focus on the alphabet. It’s almost as important.

[One day (but not today) I’ll stop mining Czechs’ alcohol consumption for comedic content.]

Unlike some other Slavic languages, like Russian and half of Serbian, Czech uses the Latin alphabet. This means that English speakers have a headstart on figuring out what the heck that sign says – although there are still some tricky characters, just to stop things from ever being too easy.


like the ‘a’ in father


long ‘a’ (hold the sound for two beats)


like any of the ‘b’s in bumblebee (pick your favourite)


like the ‘zz’ in pizza; a ‘ts’ sound


like the ‘ch’s in chili chicken or cheesey chips


like the first ‘d’ in deciduous


like the second ‘d’ in deciduous

[Incidentally, deciduous was the first word beginning with ‘d’ that popped into my head. I’m absolutely thrilled that it happened to contain an example of both d and ď!]


like the ‘e’ in exotic


long ‘e’ (hold for two beats)


‘ye’ as in yellow or yesterday or Yeltsin


like the ‘f’s in forensic fossilisation


like the ‘g’ in goat


like the ‘h’ in horrendous, except more dramatic, as if you’re trying to sigh in a passive aggressive way


like the ‘ch’ in loch


like the ‘i’ in igloo

[The Czech word for igloo is iglú]


long ‘i’


like the ‘y’ in you


like the ‘k’ in kismatic


like the ‘l’s in lobster lasagne


like the ‘m’ in mundial


like the ‘n’s in nocturnal


like the ‘ni’s in onion and bunion


like the ‘o’ in optical


like any of the ‘p’s in Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers


this is trilled, like in Spanish


augh, I hate this sound. It’s like a mixture of ‘r’ and ‘ž’, and, basically, I can’t do it.


like the ‘s’ and ‘c’ in severance


like the ‘sh’s in shanty shamrock


like the ‘t’ in tonsil


like the ‘t’ in tumor


like the ‘u’ in but

ú, ů

long ‘u’


like any of the ‘v’s in V’s monologue in V for Vendetta (click here)


like the ‘y’ in synopsis


long ‘y’


like the ‘z’ in zombie


like the ‘s’ noise in measure

Bland Stuff

Ro Daniels: Who Are You?

I’ve been writing this blog regularly for a few months now, and an attentive reader has probably built up some kind of picture of the girl behind the keyboard.

For those who don’t take careful notes every time I post anything, I thought I’d try and sum myself up. Give you a bit of context and that. However, as anyone who’s ever tried to write a CV knows, describing yourself in a couple of paragraphs is a pretty colossal task.

Where do you even begin?

Then, in bed last night, I remembered something – an event which, I think, tells you absolutely everything you need to know about Ro Daniels (ie yours truly).

Artist’s depiction of me.

It was March. I was living with a Russian host family in St Petersburg, and the weather was testing my physical endurance: it was -25 out with wind chill. The streets were slathered in sheet ice; walking to the bus was treacherous; standing outside was suicidal.


I let myself into the flat, frozen stiff from the two minute walk from the bus stop, draped in piles of clothes, eyeballs feeling more solid than normal. I felt like my legs, covered in a mere two pairs of trousers, had been skinned with a blunt knife.

The flat was mercifully warm and there was a delicious smell coming from the kitchen. My host mum, an angel constantly concerned that I didn’t eat enough, offered me a bowl of soup.

We sat at the kitchen table together, she drinking a cup of coffee, me hunched over my soup so the steam melted my frozen eyebrows. We chatted about the weather, about politics (a delicate topic that I always tried to avoid), about Russian books she thought I should read. I felt perfectly at home, and the soup and conversation warmed my heart and tummy.

Then, I saw it. In the soup. A spider. Quite a big spider, meaty. Legs curled up like a fist. And, dear reader, here comes the part of the story that tells you about me.


Reader, I ate the spider.

Not only did I eat the spider, I didn’t even think for a second about what I could do to avoid it. Like, I could have politely said, “Zoya, there’s a spider in my soup.” Or I could have just, I don’t know, not eaten the fucking spider. I could’ve left it in the bowl, or delicately picked it out when Zoya, my host mum, was looking at her phone.

No, it never occured to me for a second that there was another option; as soon as I saw the spider I accepted my fate, and my fate was to dine on insects rather than experience a, at the very worst, slightly embarrassing situation.

I hope you feel like you know me better now. I am Ro, eater of spiders.

Bland Stuff

Mildly Unsettling Things

– This list will make you uncomfortable


  • Stains on library books


  • Sitting down on a warm tram seat


  • Crusty matter stuck between the tines of a fork


  • A tissue that’s gone through the washing machine


  • Other people’s feet


  • Bird poo


  • When people put speech marks instead of apostrophes


  • When the landline rings


  • Gunk in the plughole


Bland Stuff


To celebrate this, my 100th post on the Bland Blog, I’d like to share a video with you.

This is genuine footage of me going down an escalator.



Bland Stuff

Other Ways To End Emails

Use with caution.


  • Unkind regards,


  • [Sent from my Nintendo 3DS]


  • Good luck with that,


  • Forever yours,


  • Humbly,


  • Yours frankly, (after a brutal message)


  • Don’t feel pressured to stay in touch,


  • Not yours,


  • All’s well that ends well,


  • Stay distant,


Bland Stuff

Introducing an Exciting New Button in the Menu Bar!

If you read my blogs on the WordPress reader or subscribe to my endless emails, you won’t be aware how much effort I put into making my website (click here) look as swanky as possible. Sure, I’m not saying that the hours I spend clicking on slightly different shades of orange ever convert into user enjoyment, but at least it keeps me busy.

If you’re one of the few people who visits the real site, you’ll know that the menu bar is a veritable litany of titillating headings: About, Little Tragedies, The Year 2079… A well-placed click up there will take you deep into the archives of the bland blog, articles organised by theme for your convenience.

Well, today a new addition has made its way onto that lofty list: Prague Pubs.

Whilst this category probably needs no more explanation than I’m in Prague and I like a good pub, stay tuned for a long, emotional spiel about why I think pubs are so important and, indeed, integral to the foundation of a happy life.

I’m British and I live in Czechia; appreciation of a good pub is in my bones.

Bland Stuff

Prospective Titles for my Autobiography

Through my blogging and my daring interpretive dance set, I’ve reached a certain level of notoriety recently.

The public have begun asking questions, most commonly, “Who the fuck are you?”

I take this as an invitation to share my life story, such as it is, with the people. I’ve entered into talks with a leading publishing house (for legal reasons, I can’t reveal which – but if I drop the hint that it was founded by a prominent quantity surveyor, I think you’ll probably guess) and I’m hopeful we’ll have ironed out a book deal by the new year.

Whilst I’m waiting for the go-ahead to actually start writing my memoirs, I’ve been weighing up a few prospective titles. Here’s a sample.

  • Writing self-deprecating notes to yourself doesn’t make you modest & other closetothebone home truths.


  • Having never had a boyfriend AND having cold sores is really just adding insult to injury & other tales from my adolescence.


  • Maybe you should try NOT thinking that way & other pieces of useless mental health advice I’ve received.


  • Esoteric & other $5 words I pretend to know.


  • Camus? I love him. He’s so esoteric. & other lies I’ve told to sound smart.


  • Bedheads and Hockeysticks: PE at 8am – a Survivor’s Story


  • Oh wow it turns out getting a tattoo actually hurts quite a lot & other things I’ve said after making a snap decision.
Bland Stuff

On the Dangers of Taking Smiths Songs too Literally

Sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking…

About a month ago, Steven Morrissey did another thing that made us all realise what an arsehole he is.


This time, his comments had to do with Halal meat and London mayor Sadiq Khan, and, as the tweet above so rightly puts it, none of us should have been surprised. Morrissey’s questionable-at-best-downright-toxic-at-worst opinions have been bothering his fans for a while now, and many people are asking themselves whether art can be separated from problematic artist.

The problem is, as far as I see it, all of us went through that Smiths phase. The band wrote the gold standard of anthems for misfit teenagers, and who amongst us didn’t have at least a few months of Doc Martens, t-shirts printed with that Verve album, and vinyls of the Smiths?

The music of the Smiths is an important part of our cultural landscape – even now, thirty-something years after the release of Hatful of Hollow, people still stick This Charming Man on when the party is drying up and listen to Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now to remind themselves that, no matter how low they feel, they’ll never be as blue as Steven Morrissey.

We all lost a bit of faith in him after he wrote that dire book, but, nonetheless, Morrissey’s lyrics are part of our consciousness. How else do you explain the upward trend of vegetarianism?

Sure, some of the things he wrote are just true – belligerent ghouls do run Manchester schools – but I’m hopeful that as Morrissey the man reveals his true colours, I’ll be able to reassess some of the weirder poetry I’ve been subconsciously living by.

What does “hand in glove” even mean, anyway…?