Wednesday, February 28, 2007
We arrived at the grim little station and walked the half hour into town, passing smoke-filled pubs smelling of yesterday's food, pokey shops selling printer ribbons and rock hard bread, and drab panelaks in different shades of grey. It felt as if the air had been slowly let out of the place. Then right in the centre were the big hotels and currency exchange rates, and German tourists sitting outside cafes drinking expensive cups of coffee. We walked through the colonnade, trying the foul smelling, eggy water and then through fallen trees to the top of the hill behind the Nove Lazne, where we climbed 100 steps up a look-out tower and saw almost as far as the border.
We came back down through the Ski Area, walking on the grass a few metres from people practising their slaloms on what was left of the snow. It seemed an apt metaphor for the three times traumatised spa: try as they might, things just aren't what they used to be.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
I wondered where all the visitors came from, and found the answer on the window of the Becherovka factory, which advertises three tours a day in German, two in Russian, and just one for both English and Czech. We got back from Loket just too late for the English guide, so headed instead for the hills above the Grand Hotel Pupp. I realised later we'd retraced exactly the route I'd taken three years before, twisting right and left up the yellow-marked path to the Peter the Great Memorial, then down and along to the blue and white, onion-domed Russian church.
A concrete bridge took us over the river from the graffitied bus stop. For the longest time it seemed as if we were the only two people in town. There was a yellow Skoda Favorit parked up empty in front of the castle, two women talking in low voices outside the post office on the main square, a small group of men waiting - for what? - at the start of the alley running up the steps to the left of the Hotel Goethe, a truck delivering beer and a Vietnamese shop advertising Textil, Cigarety, Alkohol, Napoje. I swapped Dobry dens with a man walking his dog by the riverbank; two middle-aged couples were going the other way along a narrow street. We wandered up and down in circles, looping round the centre like a ball of string, until we passed the U Svejku pub for the fifth time and went inside for lunch.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Saturday, February 24, 2007
We met Stevie in Plzenka, around the corner from the town hall. His wife had had a baby boy two nights before and he was drunk and tired and happy, but mostly tired. He took us to his old flat and then went home while we wandered around looking for a late-opening pub, finally ending up in the kebab shop. Gersende, a French teacher at a now bankrupt private school, and her boyfriend were at the next table, disguised by low lights and cigarette smoke. I talked to her for a while, skirting certain issues, then left.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
This morning I sent off another letter. God only knows what I'll get back this time.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Friday, February 09, 2007
If that makes me cruel, then so be it.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
On the plus side there's a chance I could teach two classes every Friday for South Tyneside Council, which will take my hours back up to three quarters of what they are now, and might end up being much more permanent than the work at the college. As surprises go, I've had a lot worse.
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
It was late March, almost four years ago to the day. A few weeks after a comedy riot at Siracusa, a couple of months since Inter Milan supporters had smuggled a whole scooter into the upper tiers of the San Siro. Catania were fighting to stay in Serie B back then. I sat behind the goal with Johan in the cheapest part of the ground. A sunny afternoon, a young girl bounced a ball off the concrete steps while her father watched the game through marijuana smoke. Triestina scored twice in the last five minutes, the atmosphere turned completely and grown men hurled themselves against high perspex screens built to keep them off the pitch. The away supporters were caged in and protected by nets above and on both sides. Someone told me a Messina fan had been killed by a missile the previous year.
It shouldn't have taken another death to finally wake people up. It's been coming for a long time.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Saturday, February 03, 2007
So moving on, a more positive image for a sunny Saturday morning. The daffodils cost 50p from a supermarket at the end of last spring. I noticed them yesterday, flowering in an old wheelbarrow in a sheltered part of the back garden.
Last week she'd sent me another, more conciliatory email, the first time we'd been in touch since before Christmas. When life doesn't turn out to be what we hoped for we paint fresh pictures of the past, adding details that were never really there at the time. She'd been reading my blog, crying when she remembered the places we'd been together. She said she couldn't understand why "you've wiped me out of your life". I sent a polite reply but I couldn't bring myself to lie: nothing she does, or did, has any value to me anymore.
Yesterday I told her I didn't want to talk to her. Not now, not ever. And I meant it.