In Search of A Barber

I must confess that I have never much liked having my hair cut. I just think that firstly, its a real waste of valuable time and secondly, I hate people fiddling with my ears. Really, fiddle with my ears and I get quite ratty. However, today I had to go and try to have fixed the mess the last cutter made two weeks ago.

You see, here in Brno, getting a decent haircut is like asking for a miracle. In fact, why beat around the bush (!), it is a miracle. Prague was different. There you could find a decent haircut no problem and come out looking very dapper. I even found a barbers shop that did a wet shave, provided a glass of whiskey and allowed you to smoke all while watching soccer on a huge TV. Man heaven that was…. found by my lovely partner Gabriela who bought me a voucher for the works…. haircut, old fashioned wet shave, whiskey, cigar, massage…. incredible experience. However, I digress…

Here in Brno, a good haircut is probably having your head shaved. They can’t mess that up! Part of the problem, is that many Czech men in the provinces still think its the 1970’s and that a Mullet is still alarmingly popular here… Actually, most ‘hairdressers’ here don’t use scissors at all instead resorting to the electric shaving device with interchangable heads for different lengths of cut like messy, very messy and totally screwed up.

I recall getting some bad haircuts as a kid from my Mum using a bowl and and an electric shaver and an even worse one from my Dad who tried to give me a ‘feathered’ look and instead cut huge chunks out of my hair so that I actually looked like I had lego hair. But, in comparison to a hair cut in Brno, that was almost professional.

Anyway, today, I got my haircut again. She didn’t even touch the top. She just addressed the sides and back. I didn’t really know what to say except a resigned – thanks its fine – before sloping out of the shop 200CZK lighter and thinking that’s another shop to avoid from now on. At this rate, Prague may be my only option.

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Eight Crowns to Brno – Review

Yet another book about an English language teacher in Brno I thought (yes there are others). I started the book and by about Chapter 3, had decided this one, though well written, probably wasn’t really my cup of tea – not really my sense of humor. I live in Brno and what might be deemed funny about the Czechs to someone who doesn’t is simply normal to me now. However, I persevered and I am really glad that I did.

Paul Simpson has a talent for writing witty conversation and in Eight Crowns to Brno he succeeds in creating a comedic conversation-driven story that in the end pulls you in and swallows you whole. Initially, the star character, James, came across as a clever know it all jack ass sort of English man always making fast quips and seeing comedy where most people probably wouldn’t. By the end of the book, he is someone you are pulling for and hoping for a good ending. It’s actually the unexpected twist towards the end that makes this book a great read and I cannot say anymore without giving too much away.

The other characters are all very recognizable to any Expat. Misfit Brits and Americans who end up in strange foreign countries teaching English to equally strange and quirky foreigners. They all certainly exist in Brno! Ladka is a well written character who is the perfect foil for James and with her Czech village mentality, pulls James unwittingly into the world of the living turning a character I had little initial sympathy for into someone you actually want to succeed. No mean feat for a first book.

I give the book 4-stars because for me it starts slow but Simpson finds his rhythm and style as the book progresses and by the end his writing is really compelling. I am looking forward to the further adventures of James and Ladka.

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Work Space Blog Hop

So, once again I have been ‘nominated‘ on one of these blog hop things… this time to show off my work space!! So here goes.

I work from home in a small space fondly referred to as my office but in reality its the small guest bedroom and one could scarcely fling a cat in it… Strangely enough, it is almost the smallest room in our Brno apartment and, if you remove sleep hours from the equation, I probably spend 70% of my time sat in the corner of this small space. Rather bizarre when I come to think about it that way. It is my office, where I write, where I promote and market, where I meditate, where I deal with the mundane things like paying bills for example, its where I watch Hull City games on the internet, where I listen to music and, if my guitar was fully functional, where I would play that too. The photo below is dark I apologize but it gives an idea of how small this space is.

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For my birthday this year I was bought an iMAC – I love the machine both in terms of its design and functionality. I also like that via the iCloud, it shares photos and music with my iPhone and iPad – Guess I like Apple products! Thats a photo of my Dad on Eigg with me many, many years ago hidden away in the corner but it reminds me of a great week spent with him.

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The furniture is horrible cheap IKEA stuff I bought a while ago just to have somewhere to write and file stuff not realizing I would end up spending so much time here. We are looking for better, more spacious furniture so this may change in the near future. A more comfortable seat would be nice…

I also use this office to display some of my treasured items – photos of my kids, my Dad, Mum and drawings by Deni – That’s her looking down at me! A self portrait.

Among those treasured possessions are my Hull City stuff…

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Of course, I also keep my books in here as well – it is all rather cramped. I’m afraid that much of my collection was left in Houston years ago and is now in storage somewhere so what I have are really just the books I treasure and consult very often – along with lots of bureaucratic files of old tax returns – US and Czech republic as I have to file in both countries – as well as documents relating to my various businesses. I bought those weights once thinking I might use them – how foolish! also there are my magical diaries, books to learn Czech and one or two other books that just get stored here. The photos are of Gabriela and my eldest son Paul sitting in the pilots seat of a Boeing 747 over the Atlantic taken years ago when terrorism on planes was unknown and pilots would welcome kids to the cockpit while in flight…

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I am messy and allow things to pile up on the desk – today its not too bad as we had overnight guests a week ago and I had to tidy up! The lighter is for candles as I no longer smoke and I burn those candles in the blue sodalite candle holder by the speaker there…

I mostly write with music – meditation or otherwise – and so the speakers are an important part of my writing toolset.

So there you go…. this is where it all happens…. or doesn’t.

I will turn over this blog hop to Nick Wale as he too works at home in Prague and I would love to see how he is set up. Additionally, I will nominate  a prolific poet who I have never met and don’t know but I sure enjoy his poems…. – Paul F. Lenzi. I hope they don’t mind….

The House on Our Street

I posted photos of some of the decorative pieces on houses down our street the other day amongst which were representations of the green man, Hermes, Gorgons, Mary & Jesus and masons. Plainly, this wealthy street had some sort of masonic connection on the part of its owners or its builder. If perhaps you wonder how I can be so confident in this view, then you need to look at one particular house on the street…

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I think the hexagrams (triangle and compass) give the game away…..

This is what our street looked like around 1920 just after all of these houses were completed.

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Trams no longer run down the street however.

Apparently, many of these houses were built by Frantisk Pawl, an architect who was a Knight of the order of St. Gregory and won many awards for architecture in Brno. It was he who built houses replete with stone mason and masonic imagery and yet it was he who was bestowed apparently a knighthood by the Holy See for services to the Roman Catholic church.

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Just at the bottom of our street are the sensational art nouveaux Tivoli buildings – also replete with masonic and pagan images and also designed by Mr. Pawl.

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Faces

We live in a beautiful street just outside the city center of Brno in the Czech Republic. Its beautiful because it comprises of houses built in and around 1900 at a time when the Czech Republic was an industrial powerhouse in central Europe. The families that built these homes were wealthy and it shows in the art nouveaux decorations, construction materials and size of the homes. Designed for a well to do family and their servants, most now are apartment buildings with 3-5 families per building. I have always been intrigued by the motifs on the buildings down the street and I am reproducing some of them below. There is one building I am saving for later and will write a separate blog article on it…..

If anyone can cast light on who these faces and figures etc. might represent and wether they were mass produced or unique additions, I would love to know…

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Back in Brno

I am sat in my small office in our own apartment in Brno and already it feels somehow as if we had never left. There remains work to be done. Some additional unpacking and some hanging of pictures and so on but we are more or less done. Then of course, we need to do a least clean up and we are in. There are a number of projects still needed to be done. For example, the huge double front doors were never painted and they look horrible at the moment. Our built in closet is like a small room and requires some fittings, there are no towel rails in the bathroom or toilet and so on…. Our house is the one to the right in the photo below and we are the ground floor apartment.

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We live in the neighbourhood of Veveri just outside of the city centre. Its a Victorian area full of huge mansions complete with embellishments like Angels, Green man faces and other designs. At one time, these were the homes of the wealthy industrialists and their servants. Now they are mostly converted into apartments. Our house, for example, has four apartments in it. There are numerous small pubs, restaurants, clubs and a variety of small businesses including traditional bakers, butchers, alongside consulting businesses and real estate agents. It makes for a busy, bustling and active location but one that is imposing and in some areas almost regal. It would look fantastic if it wasn’t for the lack of any parking meaning that the streets are full of parked cars. In fact, the only drawback to the location is really finding a parking spot.

Brno itself has a huge and important University – Masaryk University with over 40,000 students. That means that Brno has the feel of a student town as well as students make up around 10% of the population of the City.

The City is dominated by two areas of higher land in the centre. One has Brno Castle (Spilberk) on it and that lies at the bottom of our street making for a great view when walking into town. The second has a major church atop it called St. Peters and St. Pauls. Together, these two buildings dominate the skyline of the City. The City also has a variety of attractions including a TT circuit, an ossuary, the Capuchin Crypt, a man-made lake, its own airport, one of the largest exhibition centers in the world, a penis-like clock and much more……

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