Czech Us Out

Czech us out.PNG

Alternative Title – Bombs Away!

So before we start, I think it’s very important you know that this week’s post was brought to you by my homemade early 80s rock playlist (inspired by Steve Harrington from Stranger Things – my new life guru), which consists of possibly more Toto and Journey than is ever strictly necessary. However, it’s helped me through some real hard times (mainly the overwhelming holiday blues and god awful early mornings on the bus to work) so I won’t hear a word against it.

The rest of the blog is brought to you by MY HOLIDAY which was most excellent and will now be gifted to you in great detail. You’re welcome.

For those of you that don’t know the background, TMM and I basically invited ourselves along on a trip to Prague that was predominantly for a gathering of various singers from all over the place (a sort of super group of the choir world) that Mother was going on. There was minor dillydallying from both sides, but it was eventually agreed that we would go along to provide Mother moral support (seeing as she’d never been on a plane before) and get a well deserved break at the same time.

Now, as I’m sure is quite clear if you are an avid follower of my work, both myself and TMM are what could be loosely described as “anxious” and it’s not a stretch to say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. On the build up to the trip, I received increasingly hysterical messages from Mother in various stages of capslocked panic regarding packing, passport and other preparation. I obviously responded to these in a very soothing and calming fashion, before proceeding to have very similar panics at TMM and Woo. Still, the day of reckoning rolled around swiftly and it found us suitably suit-cased and ready for our adventures.

We managed to successfully navigate a taxi, two trains and airport security (both TMM and I had to be patted down because we obviously just looked massively suspicious – TMM’s dungarees have been retrospectively voted as the worst flying outfit choice) before we even met up with any other members of our party, but before long we were safely ensconced on the plane.

Side note – it is important here to point out that Mother, a fan of the Film4 channel, has recently been finding particular joy in the Action Month advert. It apparently consists of clips from various adrenalin fuelled men shouting “bomb” set to the Ride of the Valkyries. Now, I wonder if you can see where this might be going…if you thought it might be somewhere along the lines of both her and TMM, whilst simultaneously being the nerviest of beans, finding every opportunity to mumble “bomb de bomb bomb, bomb de bomb bomb, boMB ON THIS (insert any of the countless modes of public transport we experienced here)” hysterically, you would be dead right.

Unfortunately we were all spread about on the flight itself (I was a bit gutted to miss Mother’s first ever trip in a plane but it probably limited her excuse to sing the bomb song which can only be a good thing), but I had a pretty good journey. I was sat just in front of a very cute little girl who had a great attitude to flying and her parents but the arse of the devil and apparently uncontrollable gastric upset. I was nearly forced to kill her when I realised I had no money for snacks either and she proceeded to happily munch on her Pringles with infuriating enjoyment. (Guess what, I did not learn my lesson on the way home and was nearly resorted to sucking olive juice out of my jacket to sate my hunger after there was an incident with the guy next to me and the air hostess both reaching for the packet at the same time and proceeding on getting that stuff everywhere). I do really enjoy flying though, especially at night, and it was rather stunning to be able to watch the sunset and the lights of Prague start to twinkle on our arrival. I always find looking over a scene like puts me in mind of a flickering map of golden neural pathways; a living city.

We lucked out pretty well whilst exiting the plane as well; due to a bit of faff with our carry ons, we ended up being the last passengers and Mother stopped to say thank you to the cabin crew. After they found out that it was her first ever flight, there was much kerfuffle and we got invited into the cock pit for a photo.

Let me tell you, I have never had to fight the urge to touch buttons like that before; the urge to try my hand at plane theft was pretty strong (it was like the hot air balloon festival all over again).

cockpit

Apparently my innate desire is to be some kind of aero-pirate; like Fast and Furious but with hot air balloons and airplanes. (Woo rightly pointed out here that I have the best ideas but am so entirely unequipped to carry them out)

Once it became clear that I wasn’t allowed to hijack the plane (TMM gave me some serious “don’t touch it” eyebrows), we regrouped with our party and were shepherded onto the coach and to the hotel by our lovely (and longsuffering) guide Helena.

The first morning found us all up bright and early (half 7 – good god) for breakfast before the choir disappeared off for their first rehearsal as a group. TMM and I took the opportunity to have a little nap (because we might be young but by god we’re not energetic) before braving out to tackle the public transport system – which I have to say is excellent. We could definitely learn a thing or two, just sayin’. We made it on and off the underground with minimal stress (the hardest thing was 100% the escalators, which all appeared to move at warp speed) and then bumbled around the centre for a while. We inexplicably managed to entirely miss Old Town though, and spent most of the morning skirting round the New Town section looking for Charles Bridge – spoiler: it’s freaking massive and should really not have been that hard to find.

Giving it up as a lost cause for the moment, we returned to the hotel to merge with the rest of the party and spent a good hour or so watching with thinly veiled hilarity at the ensuing stress caused by the underground ticket machines. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing, generational thing or just the fact a lot of people really have no idea how to navigate ticket machines after having had their own car for so long, but TMM and I have never felt so accomplished at being able to just hustle my mum to the front of the queue and be ready to go within a few minutes. After eventually making it into town, we split into smaller groups for lunch. We were treated to the wonderful scene of Mother accidentally chatting up one of the waiters – she insisted she was just trying to ask how large the plates of food where, but mainly she got as far as saying “how big” and gesturing somewhat crudely in front of his crotch. Either way, we all had a great laugh and I’m pretty sure we made his day. The afternoon was frittered away with casual wanderings and we finally made it to Charles Bridge (only to have to survive a completely unexpected deluge) before we met up with a couple more of the group for a guided coach tour and a absolutely bloody lovely river cruise.  Between eating a buffet tea and chattering, we were treated to views of beautiful apartments with chocolate box facades and open windows that spoke of romantically struggling artists with jazz soundtracks and cigarette addictions.

Prague 2

It’s been decided that we are very much about night time river cruises

Day two started in very much a similar kind of vein, and once we’d picked up Mother we took a little trip up to the Castle. Let me tell you, that place is stunning (also super hot). We enjoyed lunch (I had goulash in a giant bread bowl and literally don’t think I will ever use crockery again) in a cute little village café (no waiter mishaps this time, but I do think he found us somewhat bizarre) and then wandered round in amazed bliss, staring at towering spires and sparkling stained glass windows. Heading back to the city centre, we treated ourselves to some of the famous tunnel cakes (so so good), but we did manage to make a complete mess of ourselves. Mother had pistachio filling which succeeded in making her look like she was covered in baby sick, and my strawberries and cream seemed to attract a swarm of wasps that kept trying to dive bomb straight into our mouths. Still, we enjoyed them immensely and they kept us going all the way back to the hotel for Mother to get changed into her concert gear.

The concert itself was in a lovely little church (very different from the Palace) and I was proud of myself for only tearing up three times. I’m pretty sure I have some kind of switch that just flicks and turns me into a blubbering mess whenever Mother sings, but I managed to not embarrass myself too much, and take some nice photos/recordings for everyone. After they finished, we went back to the hotel for a late night picnic and all stumbled into bed.

Day three was yet another early start (we holidayed hard) before the entire group were shepherded into the centre for a team photo in front of the bridge (school trips never change). After finally managing to get a couple of fairly decent shots, we slid off to wander and visited the Mucha Museum. Now I’ve always loved Mucha’s art, ever since being a little girl and being obsessed with a Mucha mirror my Neens had in her hall, but seeing some of his work up close just really drove it home how amazingly talented he truly was. The level of detail and forethought that must have gone into every piece is mind-boggling and we might have all gone a little mad in the gift shop. Finally managing to drag ourselves away, we took a break (we must have walked approx. seven thousand miles over the whole holiday. No exaggeration.) and spent a good 45 minutes absolutely wetting ourselves at a couple of folks trying their hand at a bit of zorbing. We thoroughly appreciated the efforts of a dad who was obviously trying to be very serious and active about it whilst his little girl just threw herself about in the background, and a gorgeous girl who’s hijab kept getting tangled and nearly garrotting her and her boyfriend whilst they proceeded to make it about 2 foot away from the starting point. It was unanimously agreed that we all need to have a go next time.

After lunch, we did another quick change round at the hotel and left Mother at the new concert hall (the Czech Museum of Music) for the final rehearsal and went for a quick drink and an apple strudel (when in Czech…). The second concert was just as good as the first, and once again the venue was stunning.

Prague 1.jpgTMM ponders the classics

After they’d finished, we snuck off (we did a lot of that) for a pizza and a late night wander across the Charles Bridge and a peak into some of the tourist shops – Mother was very taken with the little wooden dollies and Christmas decorations (before you ask, yes we do all have nice new Christmas decorations. And what).

The last day was a tad more reserved, and after a leisurely breakfast/lunch, we said goodbye to our slightly harried guide (she was definitely happy to see the back of our party I think) and were dropped off at the airport. Once again we somehow managed to lose everyone but we made it through with minimal fuss (there were a couple of sneaky older folks who were trying to sneak over the limit liquids back through – v troublesome) and before long were back in the home country. Off the plane, we made a quick departure and made our way back to Manchester (whilst traipsing somewhat sluggishly through a Mancunian train station that was crawling with men with unnecessarily large guns, TMM and Mother both took up another chorus of the bomb song and I had to fight the overwhelming urge just to give them up as terrorists and strike out homeward alone). After various train journeys (only got on the wrong one once), taxi rides and snack stops we made it home in mostly one piece.

Overall though I think it can be classed as a success and I’m terribly proud of Mother. We’ve already started to surreptitiously mention other holidays, but I’m laying down the law on the musical accompaniment….bomb de bomb bomb, bomb in this blog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wedding Bells and Wintery Hells

Considering Autumn doesn’t technically start until the end of September, I am feeling the strong urge to go into hibernation at the moment. It seems as though someone has flicked a switch and the long evenings I was so enjoying have been turned off. Now it’s dark before bedtime and every day is gloomy and grey. I’ve already had to break out some of the emergency blankets and I’m currently trying to pool the funds to buy a new pair of winter boots – the pumps just aren’t going to cut it in this rain. Somewhat petulantly (you may have noticed) I don’t do well in the cold. Very much like how people get “hangry” (hungry -> angry), my mood is affected by the weather; I’m “Cangry”. It’s like hangry only based on temperature.

All that being said, The Man Muffin has taken me out on a lovely walk this weekend which was only partly inspired by the bribe of fruit picking. Whilst I might complain about most things from September onwards, I am a big fan of blackberries and I can happily spend hours fighting of brambles and staining my fingers for a fruit bounty. This time round I managed to fill a tub (which previous held spicy lentils apparently) with some rather juicy blackberries and a few elderberries (bit of variety) and got just enough to make a smashing little crumble for Sunday night. TMM has his handy dandy camera bag too and we spent a good three hours adventuring through the undergrowth and having fights with cleavers (I excel at the “surprise cluster bomb cleaver attack”) before heading home and watching approximately 6 hours of Parks and Recreation whilst sewing, which in my opinion was a day well spent.

Winnie the pooh

Here I am doing my best Winnie the Pooh impression

The highlight of last week though was clearly TMM’s sister’s wedding. It was absolutely stunning and I cried at every possible opportunity (including but not limited to; the bride walking in, the vows, the couple walking out, the speeches and the dances). It did raise some minor concerns on how I’m ever actually going to make it through my own ceremony, but TMM promised he’d still take me ever if I was a snotty mess by the time I make it to the vicar, which is rather swell of him.

TMM was also given the rather daunting task of controlling the music during the ceremony, though it’s alright because he smashed it and even got a little round of applause. He makes me terribly proud sometimes. He was also on Chief Child Herder watch for a majority of the day and regardless of what he says, he’s actually pretty good at kiddie wrangling. Unlike me, he draws them in with his giggle causing abilities and comfortable arms. I mainly panic when faced with anyone under the age of 10, which both children and babies can sense, and then everybody gets a bit fraught and tearful. (Admittedly, I also panic with anyone over the age of 10 but we’re all a bit better at hiding our tears by that age.) That being said, they were all completely adorable, resplendent in their little dresses and tiny bow ties, and TMM definitely earner his “Best Uncle” badge.

The little ones were not the only well dressed party goers though – everyone pulled it out of the bag. I do always love a good dress up (note – not the shopping for the dressing up; that I passionately hate) and I felt rather fancy in my new dress and heels (with matching nail polish as carefully selected by TMM). Sadly I wasn’t able to find the giant Grace Kelly I desperately wanted (it is my dream to wear an obnoxiously large yet classy hat to a wedding) but TMM’s mum wore an excellent hat and carried that fancy headgear baton with pride. The day itself was absolutely beautiful as well, both in content and style. Jen had done most of the decorations herself and they were completely stunning (hopefully she’s kept most of them so we can steal them when it gets to our turn), and the food was fabulous – lots of tasty shredded meats in various shapes and an excellent crème brulee. Considering there was a drama with the venue (the initial venue called Jen on her birthday to reveal the great news that they were shutting down and wouldn’t be able to host the day) the new setting was absolutely gorgeous. We even managed to book a room for the pair of us (the shower was freaking amazing) which mean we could stay late into the night. Poor TMM developed a bit of a stinking headache (a combination of pre-hangover, new glasses and over-excitement) but he made it to midnight and I’m immensely proud of him.

Stupidly, at no point did we actually take a single photo of the pair of us (together or separately) throughout the whole day, so we’re waiting for TMM’s brother (who was photographer) to release the pictures to see if we actually looked presentable or not. Fingers crossed we scrubbed up well.

Baby Wrangler

Baby Wrangler Extraordinaire.

In honour of the day, I thought I’d do a bit of research and tried to find some of the weirdest wedding facts I could (as you do):

  • Seemingly, weddings are a bit of a breeding ground for evil spirits and a huge number of the traditions we know today stem from attempts to protect the bride from nefarious plots. For example, having bridesmaids in matching dresses dates back from the Roman tradition of “matching maids” where the bridesmaids were all required to dress identically to the bride to tray and confuse any demons attempting to curse the couple (no doubt confusing pretty much everyone else in the process). Similarly, carrying the bride over the threshold, wearing a veil and strewing the aisle with confetti and petals all originated as ways of combating any evil spirits with dastardly designs on the day.
  • The Danish took this one step further (like the daring bastards they are) and there is apparently a custom there of cross dressing during wedding – the bride and groom swap outfits. I’m assuming any naughty demon intent on causing havoc takes one look a groom in a meringue and decides things are already strange enough. I also think it makes a pretty great theme overall – if all your guests come dresses as each other, I cam imagine the drunken pictures are rather fabulous.
  • Positioning plays a crucial part in ritual as well – possibly one of my favourite facts is how the bride is always supposed to stand on the left of the groom. This means the groom’s right hand is free throughout the ceremony to fight off any other suitors who might be laying claim without impediment. I can’t help but imagine the scene in Muppet Treasure Island where Kermit is fighting Long John Silver. (I was hoping to find a clip of this, but apparently nobody on Youtube finds it as hilarious as me).
  • The term “best man” has a delightfully improper background as well. Supposedly, this term comes from a time when grooms were encouraged to kidnap their future brides and run off with them. Marauding bands of men would arrange and conduct these abductions and the friend of the groom who has particularly excelled at the snatching would be awarded the status of best man. It all sounds a bit Seven Brides for Seven Brothers to me – which whilst be a great musical is NOT a life lesson to be emulated. However, whilst I am glad this practice is no longer acceptable, I do have to admit to thoroughly enjoying a rousing chorus of “Sobbin’ Women”.
  • A much more romantic customer is to do with the positioning of the rings. It would appear that engagement and wedding rings are worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because it was once though that finger contained the “vena amori” or vein of love; a vein that lead directly to the heart. Awwwwww.

A final bonus point (just for TMM) is that Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” is the most requested piece of music to be played during the ceremony. He’ll be pleased with this because it’s one of his go-to tunes, but if this is what I’m going to be walking down the aisle to he’ll definitely have to stand by his word of marrying me no matter how much of a crying mess I am…