Curricula Vitae

Yeah, I did just use the incredibly pretentious, “technically correct” plural form of Curriculum. Fight me.

So, as I might have mentioned once, twice, or a whole pile of times, I recently moved to Prague to give myself a taste of adult life. As a sheltered student never having had to earn my own way before, this has been a terrifying and emotionally scarring experience. I’ve only got through it with the help of beer, chocolate, and long international calls to my family.

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At the time of writing, I’m in the process of applying to every job I’m qualified for, and quite a few that I’m not. As such, my CV has undergone a lot of strain recently – before this summer, I hadn’t updated it since Sixth Form, at which point my greatest achievement was playing Mary in my Year Two school play.

The first step in my journey to making myself look employable was deleting every reference to the flash poetry mob I’d tried to start in school. After that, the document was a lot smaller.

Partly motivated by a desire to build a life for myself in Czechia, and partly just because it felt easier than actually applying to any jobs, I dedicated myself to perfecting the art of CVistry. Through a combination of research, instinct and graft, I’ve compiled this list of tips to make your Curriculum Vitae sparkle.

Thank me when you’ve got more interviews than you can shake a stick at.

Do your research

Companies like it when it’s clear you’ve looked into their organisation a bit. Achieve this by, for example, changing your font colour to match their logo, or stealing answers from their FAQ page. Employers will appreciate your attention to detail and readiness to plagiarise.

Become an accredited organisation

That way, you can provide yourself with extra-curricular seminars and classes. If you get a printer, you can even do yourself some charming certificates to show off at interview.

Here’s an excerpt from the “Further Qualifications” section of my own CV (notice my daring experimentation with font & intriguing slogan):

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[For those wondering, First Aid is ambulances; Second Aid is the doctor at the hospital; Third Aid is the cup of tea your mum makes when you get home; Fourth Aid is sympathy from your friends; and Fifth Aid occurs at the moment your friends judge it appropriate to start taking the piss out of you. I’ve heard rumours of a so-called Sixth Aid, but I don’t know what it entails. I reckon it might be made up.]

Include a picture

This helps let employers know that you’re presentable and outgoing. Stick a little thumbnail of you doing your best “please hire me” smile on every printout.

In fact, include two pictures.

Hell, why stop there? Delete all the words. If you can’t tell the story of your employment history pictorially, what’s the point? Your future boss will love your brevity and creativity.

Here’s an example:

This CV shows that Rosie Daniels is assiduous, creative, at home in a hard hat, studious, all round good egg, etc. etc. etc.

I don’t have a great deal of work experience so I’ve included some other people and stock photos in mine. I don’t think you can tell, though.

The one problem is providing contact details in pictorial form. You have to commit to the format though. Here’s an example of how you can spell out your phone number:

Honestly, if a potential employer can’t figure that out, do you really want to work for them?

Lie

Because no one’s gonna check if you’re actually the first person from your village to have been conceived through IVF, but it sure as shortbread sounds impressive.

Include hidden messages

Like this:

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Go paperless

Every good employer is as concerned about the environment as you are, and they’ll appreciate your thriftiness and commitment to frugality. Instead of printing off your CV, buy forty or fifty memory sticks and hand them to potential bosses. Not only does it take some of the pressure off the rainforest, it makes you look like highballer with millions of pen drives to spare.

 


 

Now, go forth into the workplace, my children! Stand by for my equally down-to-earth and level-headed interview tips (coming soon).

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Gibs Café Bar

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I wandered into Gibs after a disappointing trip to the Wombat Café. From the outside, it looked like a pretty standard Czech pub: Pilsner Urquell sign, low lighting, couple of older gentleman smoking outside. I headed in on a whim, figuring that another beer would help me sleep and get the memory of Wombat Café’s gross decor out of my mind.

As I passed the threshold, I noticed with mild surprise that they’d made the strange decision to have a fan on the step facing inwards, blowing a draft through the bar. Ducking inside and heading to the bar, I smelled something unexpected and familiar.

Did you know that it’s legal to smoke funky cigarettes in certain bars in Prague?

That’s something I recently found out.

Maybe it was because of the mentality that goes with smoking that much, but the atmosphere in Gibs was great: I sat at the bar with a beer and chatted to everyone who came in, working my way through a massive bag of pretzels. The only moment I felt anything less-than-euphoric was when I tripped over someone’s dog on the way to the loo – I actually don’t know how I managed to overlook it, since it was the size of a small horse.

The clientele was almost exclusively made up of expats, so I didn’t get a chance to exercise my extremely terrible Czech; maybe that’s for the best. The owner, a guy called Roman, welcomed everyone personally, making an effort to remember names and backstories – partly to create a friendly, chatty atmosphere, and partly, I think, to check that everyone coming in was cool with being passively hotboxed.

The beer itself was nothing special: just Pilsner on draught and some cans of Kingswood in the fridge. That said, I think anyone who claims to go to that bar for the drinks is lying.

I rate Gibs a solid two joints and one unexpectedly massive dog. The only reason I’m not calling off my search for a local is that for me, weed is like trifle. Nice on your birthday, but I couldn’t deal with it every day.

Jára Cimrman: The Master

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One of the nicest things about studying for a degree as niche as ‘Russian and Slavonic Studies with Czech and Polish’ is you acquire a lot of very esoteric information, and I’m more than happy to spread this unusual info around. I consider it a responsibility, as well as a privilege, to disseminate some of the weirder stuff I’ve learned in the course of my degree.

(I finally bothered to look up what esoteric means. It’s a bangin’ piece of vocab and, ironically, quite widely applicable.)
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Some top-shelf domes in Suzdal.

To the delight (or chagrin) of my friends, I’ve been known to hold court for hours on such varied subjects as “The Made-Up Animals of Jaroslav Hašek,” “Doctors-turned-authors in Russian Literature,” and “My Struggles with the Letter Ř.”

My peers are dazzled by my description of what different coloured onion domes mean in Eastern Orthodoxy; disgusted by my recounting the shortage of toilet paper in communist Czechoslovakia; disturbed by my passionate run-down of the grisliest deaths of Slavic literary heroes.

I wanted to use this platform to introduce you to a Czech national hero, a man whose impact on Central Europe and, indeed, on the world generally, is literally unbelievable, but who is largely unknown outside of Czechia’s borders.

(I’m not misusing ‘literally’; I genuinely don’t think you’ll believe what he got done in his lifetime.)

I’m talking, of course, about the inimitable Jára Cimrman: the greatest man you’ve never heard of.

Who is Cimrman? It’d take all day to list his accomplishments, but luckily for you, I’ve got fuck all to better to do than clumsily translate his cs.wikipedia page.

Cimrman, like many Czech historical heroes, has dubious claim to Czech nationality by today’s standards; he was born in Vienna at some point between 1853 and 1859 to a Czech tailor and Austrian actress. Cimrman considered himself culturally and nationally Czech, although he lived during a period when Czech national identity was repressed by law – the Czech lands formed part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

It’s somewhat shocking that Cimrman never received meaningful recognition during his own lifetime, given the extent and scope of his various successes. He is now considered one of the eminent playwrights, poets, musicians, teachers, travelers, philosophers, inventors, sportsmen and criminals of his age.

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I nicked that last sentence word for word from this website

I don’t have the time or the typing skills to provide you with a comprehensive biography of this man, but here’s an abridged list of his greatest achievements.

Jára Cimrman

  • proposed the Panama Canal to the US government;
  • composed a libretto for an opera (also named the Panama Canal);
  • reformed the school system in Galicia;
  • constructed the first rigid airship (in cooperation with Count Zeplin);
  • investigated the lives of cannibalistic tribes in the Arctic;
  • once, when fleeing said tribes, missed the North Pole by a mere seven metres, making him the first human to nearly reach the top of the world;
  • created the world’s first puppet show in Paraguay;
  • and established the Viennese School of Criminology, Music and Ballet.

And that’s not all! Cimrman is also credited with

  • serving as assistant to Pierre and Marie Curie;
  • inventing yoghurt;
  • corresponding with George Bernard Shaw over a number of years;
  • creating the philosophy of Externism;
  • advising Mendeleev, the father of the periodic table;
  • and developing a primitive version of the internet – since the computer had not been invented yet, he was forced to use a network of telephones.
(I told you you literally wouldn’t believe this man’s achievements.)

It’s said that when Graham Bell invented the telephone, he found three missed calls from J. Cimrman.

No surprise then, that when Česká televize launched a public poll in 2004 to determine the nation’s favourite Czech, Cimrman received by far the most votes.

Yet, in a scandal similar to that surrounding the infamous ‘Boaty McBoatface’ poll, ČT refused to award Cimrman the prize. And why? Because, they claimed, the poll was intended to seriously honour Czech national heroes, and, they added, Cimrman didn’t qualify anyway, for the simple reason that he was made-up.

That’s right, as you might have begun to suspect at some point during that litany of achievement, Jára Cimrman never actually existed. He was invented by a theatre group in the 20th Century, but since then he’s captured the nation’s heart. Real he may not be; but hero he certainly is.

 

Essential Czech: Hello etc

Picture the scene: you’re in the Czech Republic.

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I’m including pictures to help your imagination

You’re on holiday, visiting your sister/daughter/niece/friend/partner-in-crime, the esteemed blogger Ro Daniels. Blogging isn’t paying the bills so she’s gone down the mines. You’re all on your own.

You want a pint/coffee/postcard/doughnut. You head to the appropriate establishment, and on entering you’re met with the cheery smile and (you assume) friendly greeting of the staff. This stops you in your tracks – you want to reply, but you’re tongue-tied and you don’t know how!

Never fear. The subject of this Tuesday’s class is G R E E T I N G S. After reading this blog, you’ll be able to appropriately salute people from all walks of life. Hold tight!

Hello

Here are some phrases to deploy on meeting someone.

Dobrý den

This is what I’d describe as the standard greeting. It literally means, “Good day.”

As a bonus, it’s a cognate with a bunch of other Slavic greetings, like Dzień dobry in Polish and Добрый день (dobry dyien’) in Russian.

Dobré ráno

Good morning.

I usually use this sarcastically, because I so rarely consider mornings at all good. (Not an ideal situation, given I’m meant to be bushy-tailed and ready to start pouring coffee at 6am.)

Incidentally, to my ear, all spoken Czech sounds passive-aggressive, so my early-morning sarcasm just helps me fit in.

Dobrý večer

Good evening.

Hello and Goodbye

Czech is nothing if not efficient: here are some words that can mean both hello and goodbye.

Ahoj

Yeah, like what pirates say!!! Which is especially brilliant since the Czech Republic is landlocked. I don’t think river pirates exist.

Čau

This is pronounced exactly like the Italian “Ciao.” Pretty sure that can’t be a coincidence, but I’m not an etymologist and my Googling fingers are tired.

Nazdar

“Hallo!” or, “Cheerio!” People give me slightly weird looks when I say this, but I don’t care because it’s just such a cool word.

Ta-ra

I’m off.

Na shledanou

Tricky for foreigners to pronounce. I tend to stick to the rather informal Čau, even when it’s not strictly appropriate, but I’m so scruffy and disarming that I reckon I pull it off.

Dobrou noc

Nighty night!

For brevity, you can just throw out an offhand “Dobrou!”

 


 

Now get out there and start greeting people.

More Assorted Advice!

I posted a short compilation of some of the advice I’ve been given over the years, but if you’re anything like me, you need as much help as you can get. With that in mind, here’s a couple more tips for your assessment.

Go gluten free.

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I actually don’t really know what gluten is. This is a picture of wheat I found on the Internet.

A bunch of people, probably tired of hearing me complain about various gastrointestinal discomforts, have suggested I’d get tummy aches less often if I changed my diet. My generally haunted appearance does, I think, make people wonder what’s up with my nutrition – although, if I do say so, I reckon I eat pretty well.

As such, I’ve followed exactly none of the following guidelines, and, honestly, I think I’d die if I did.

As well as cutting out gluten, people have recommended that I

  • eat sixteen almonds every day;
  • increase my calcium intake;
  • stop eating meat;
  • only eat things of one colour at any one time;
  • liquidise all my food;
  • start eating meat (after I stopped);
  • only eat foods people are allergic to (jury is out on whether cat hair and pollen count as food – dust definitely doesn’t);
  • take every vitamin supplement under the sun;
  • only eat vegetables that are grown underground;
  • lay off the mashed potatoes;
  • drink a glass of lemon juice every day;
  • and, probably most weirdly, only eat naked. (Surely this just increases my risk of soup burns, though…?)

Never have sex on carpet.

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My friend, with a wide-eyed sincerity I’d never seen before, said this to me during a mostly unrelated conversation.

Never,” she said, “have sex on carpet.”

I looked up from my mug of Horlicks. “Yeah?” I said, a bit taken aback by her intensity.

She pulled up her shirt and showed me a shiny patch of skin on her back.

“Oof,” I said. It was a nasty burn.

“That’s from two years ago,” she said.

“Oof!”

The opportunity to take her advice hasn’t arisen yet, but I do remember it whenever I have sex or see a Carpet Right – that burn was pretty massive. Save a life; spread the word.

Wombat Café

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I spent my allotted 64kč beer money in the Wombat Café this week. Once again, despite the hours of research I did before coming to Prague, I found this bar entirely by chance: terrified of missing my step target and facing the wrath of my fitness app, I’d decided to take an evening stroll around my neighbourhood.

[By the way, “hours of research” is a high-and-mighty way of saying I Googled “craft beer Prague” and then marked the results on a map.]

More terrifying than my phone’s hardwired passive aggressiveness, though, was the prospect of doing anything relating to exercise. As soon as I heard the ping in my headphones that indicated I’d reached 10,000 steps, I clocked out. I practically fell down the steps into the nearest bar – Wombat Café.

The first thing I noticed was, unsurprisingly, the overriding theme of the caf – comics. The walls were covered in prints from different graphic novels, including a particularly massive section taken from Sin City. The owners had also set up a series of well-lit shelves groaning under the weight of cartoony action figures; I ignored the fact that all the women depicted had massive chests and not a lot of clothes, as well as the lack of any real women in the bar, and headed to the counter.

Since, as you can see from the name, Wombat is more café than bar, I was unsurprised that they only had the obligatory Pilsner on offer as far as beer went. There were also a couple of slices of cakes on offer and I spotted a coffee machine under a pile of dusty Star Wars merch. Unusually for the Czech Republic, there were far more bottles of whiskey than beer; however, given my refusal to drink anything that tastes that much like your throat is actually on fire, I stuck to the ležák.

The atmosphere in the bar was really strange. The guys in there were all clearly good friends, and I enjoyed listening to them chat to the bartender, who I reckon was also the owner. If you were into comics and were good mates with any of the regulars, this would be an incredible way to spend your weekday nights.

The downside of any bar where you mostly serve your mates, though, is it can be pretty uninviting to anyone else – I felt this very strongly. About halfway through my mediocre beer I happened to glance up and noticed that five of the guys were unabashedly staring at me with a what-are-you-doing-here kind of expression. I couldn’t help but share their feeling: it was a little bit like I’d noticed the door to a flat was open, wandered in, and sat drinking a beer in someone’s living room whilst they hung out with their mates.

I’ll award the Wombat Café a doughy slice of fruitcake and half-arsed pint, with the important asterisk that if you happen to love nerd culture and have an in with one of the crowd, it could be the place for you.

Small Injustices

Here’s some stuff that’s wrong with the world.

It’s spelt phoenix and not pheonix

This leads me to protest English spelling by pronouncing it /ˈfəːnɪks/. I think I cause more harm than good with this particular eccentricity, though.

Data costs pennies for phone companies to provide and yet they charge $$$

Literally, why do I have to start rationing my megabytes halfway through the month so I’m not left with nothing to do on the toilet.

Parmesan is not vegetarian

A surprising amount of different cheeses contains some gunk taken from cows’ stomachs. This is one of those things that I wish I didn’t know, both because it’s kind of gross, and because I don’t eat meat anymore and I can’t claim ignorance about pesto.

Putting raisins in biscuits doesn’t make them healthy

😦

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.


a

like the ‘a’ in father

á

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

b

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

c

like the ‘zz’ in pizza; a ‘ts’ sound

č

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

d

like the first ‘d’ in deciduous

ď

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!]

e

like the ‘e’ in exotic

é

long ‘e’ (hold for two beats)

ě

‘ye’ as in yellow or yesterday or Yeltsin

f

like the ‘f’s in forensic fossilisation

g

like the ‘g’ in goat

h

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

ch

like the ‘ch’ in loch

i

like the ‘i’ in igloo

[The Czech word for igloo is iglú]

í

long ‘i’

j

like the ‘y’ in you

k

like the ‘k’ in kismatic

l

like the ‘l’s in lobster lasagne

m

like the ‘m’ in mundial

n

like the ‘n’s in nocturnal

ň

like the ‘ni’s in onion and bunion

o

like the ‘o’ in optical

p

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

r

this is trilled, like in Spanish

ř

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

s

like the ‘s’ and ‘c’ in severance

š

like the ‘sh’s in shanty shamrock

t

like the ‘t’ in tonsil

ť

like the ‘t’ in tumor

u

like the ‘u’ in but

ú, ů

long ‘u’

v

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

y

like the ‘y’ in synopsis

ý

long ‘y’

z

like the ‘z’ in zombie

ž

like the ‘s’ noise in measure

Miscellaneous Advice From the Well-Intentioned: Part One

I’m the kind of person that attracts unsolicited advice. Friends, acquaintances, sometimes even strangers on the bus – people of all walks of life take it upon themselves to bestow onto me all manner of pearls of wisdom, ranging from advice on how to find the best pub to stylistic writing conventions. It’s not uncommon for, when I’m sitting on a bench or low wall, a well-meaning passerby to approach me with thoughts on how I should lead my life.

[Sometimes they just want to tell me to get off their wall, though.]

I think it has something to do with my general air of incompetence. People don’t see me and think, “There’s a level-headed lass who’s got her shit together;” rather, they see a vitamin-deficient bed-headed waste who needs all the help she can get.

They’re not altogether wrong.

Anyway, I think it’s pretty selfish of me to hoard these nuggets, so, please, enjoy the following lil slices of wisdom.

[Don’t write me letters complaining about mixed metaphors. This blog is not a democracy.]

Gravitate towards pubs where they serve mash.

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Pre-mashed potatoes

Admittedly, this doesn’t really qualify as a piece of advice given directly to me. Rather, this is something I’ve picked up from my favourite podcast, the supposedly football-themed Athletico Mince.

Bob Mortimer, when touring with Vic Reeves at some point in the last century, would search the area around his venues for pubs which served mashed potatoes. Supposedly, only pubs with decent kitchens can offer mash, because (for some reason) it can’t be whipped up in a microwave by a teenager on their work experience.

For this reason, Mortimer reckons that the best pubs going are marked by a mash-heavy menu. Sure, it’s not a system without exceptions, but mash does give an indication of a certain level of culinary prowess.

Personally, I live for mashed potatoes. A tummy full of cheesy mash feels identical to happiness, and I’ll fight anyone who picks new potates over the clearly superior mashed variety.

That said, so-called gastropubs make me uneasy to my very core, so this is a piece of advice I’m still eyeing with suspicion.


Read ‘The Master and Margarita’.

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This happened to me in Year 11, when I was sixteen years old.

[If you want to know what I was like as a teenager, imagine me now but less well-adjusted and with longer hair.]

Back in the day, I had even fewer hobbies than I have now, and my favourite pastimes included Sitting, Looking At Walls, and Contemplating Death. Sometimes, when I was feeling particularly creative, I’d write existential poems and blu-tack them to shelves in the library when the woman behind the counter was busy helping someone check out a book on Macclesfield’s silk industry.

This was an unusually exciting day, because a friend and I had taken a break from the crushing ennui of GCSE revision to go to Waterstones. We were floating around the literary fiction section, considering buying yet another book by George Orwell, when a man came up to us.

He handed me a copy of ‘The Master and Margarita’, said, “If you want to read something really good, get this,” and left.

What a way to recommend a book!

I showed my friend. I honestly think the moment I realised I’d actually already read it is still the proudest I’ve ever felt about anything. “It is really good,” I said to my friend. “It’s esoteric.” (I didn’t, and still don’t, know what that means.)

As it happened, neither of us ended up buying the book; we were both absolutely skint and my friend’s mum had told him that if he brought another book into her house, she’d sell him to the circus. (This might sound like a disproportionate response, but he was buying books at the rate of one every two days and reading them at the rate of one every two and a half years.) Plus, as I did not fail to mention, I had already read it.

My life goal since that moment has to be recommend the very same book to someone in exactly the same way, but, unfortunately, I seem to have assimilated the book’s message more thoroughly than that gentleman in Waterstones:

Never talk to strangers.

After all, you never know, they could turn out to be literally the devil incarnate.

Malý/Velký

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I stumbled across this week’s bar of choice, the excellently websited Malý/Velký, completely by chance. I’d run out of change for the bus and, already familiar with Czechia’s punitive public transport authorities, was trying to make it from Náměstí Míru, in the east of the city, back to the centre on foot.

build builder construction equipment
Honest worker or committed trickster?

Unfortunately for me, my path was obstructed by squadrons of men in high-viz jackets tearing up the road with diggers. They seemed to be building a new tram line – but, thinking back on it now, they could have just been taking a practical joke well too far.

Stymied, I ducked down a side street and, using my very poor internal compass, headed in what I reckoned was the right direction. It’ll probably surprise no one that, when I checked my map later, I’d chosen the wrong turning at every crossroads.

Anyway, I was lost, grumpy, and not at all drunk. I wanted to be found, cheerful, and tipsy – this was not an ideal situation.

As I wandered down a nondescript Prague alleyway, I happened to glance up and notice this sign:

I'm not a talented photographer.

“Falcon Independent Brewery,” I read aloud. “Decent.”

I went through the door: a long corridor that made me think of hotels led through to a courtyard. It was partly covered, and in place of regular bar furniture it had low, bright-coloured armchairs in a style I consider typically Czech. The beer garden was empty except for two women.

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“Are you open?” I asked in my bad Czech.

“Yes,” replied one of the women. There was an awkward pause. “The bar is downstairs,” she prompted.

I went downstairs; after the eclectic ambience of the beer garden, I was surprised by how minimalist everything was here. The woman I’d spoken to had followed me down. “What’ll you have?” she asked.

The selection of beer on draught was great: they had eight taps and had chosen a range of unusual brews – at the bartender’s recommendation, I went for an 11% ABV wheat beer.

I drank the beer in a comfortable armchair upstairs in the garden, covertly trying to eavesdrop on the women’s conversation – my poor grasp of Czech protected their privacy.

Overall, I was chuffed by the whole experience: although it was pretty dead (in fairness, this was a Tuesday afternoon), the atmosphere was decent, and it was the best beer I’ve had in Prague so far.

I will award Malý/Velký six pint glasses and a crisp coaster. A very respectable score – I’ll be back.