Fragile

My boss leaves one dirty glass and one dirty coffee cup and one used spoon on my desk today. Yesterday it was two dirty coffee cups and a pair of headphones. The week is still young.

In between bouts of frenzied copy editing I read a blog post that Julie Sheridan wrote, which contains an interview with a Scottish homeless man in Barcelona. Julie herself is a fellow copywriter and used to be my colleague in a previous workplace and she writes like a dream, but this one post has made me sad and introspective

Because here’s a man who, you know, lives in a foreign country as an expat and has a good job and savings and an apartment with a dog, all of which applies to me except for the dog (still working on it), and then he loses his job and nobody calls him back for job interviews and his savings run out and next thing he knows, he is living on the streets of Barcelona.

I have the usual questions — why doesn’t he go back to Britain where they don’t have 21 percent unemployment, couldn’t anyone help, did none of his friends have a spare room, etc — but that’s sort of beside the point. I know myself and I know what my answers to those questions would be if I ever should find myself in that situation: because I’m proud, because I’ll never ask for help, they do but I’ll never ask for help.

I don’t know.

If you want to see the real face of homelessness in Prague, you can do no better than to come with me every morning on my walk from my home to the Hlavni Nadrazi metro station. I used to save myself five minutes by cutting across the railway tracks from Winston Churchill square like most people do, but I almost got fined twice by the police and I don’t know how long my clueless smiley expat schtick is going to last.

So now I walk all the way around the tracks, up the park and into the central station like you’re supposed to, and I pass by many, many, many homeless men and women on my way there and back.

Homeless and many clearly alcoholized and many clearly dependent on some sort of chemical I’m not even going to try to speculate on.

I try not to look too closely because I did once, when I noticed a tall, very blond, very young, extremely drunk guy trying to fight his way out of — or was it into — an alcoholic stupor, and I could find no reason why that couldn’t have possibly been me. And then I felt fragile.

Because I am not special, and I won’t be spared. I am just holding on to a civilized life by the skin of my teeth, and so are we all. One bad recession and a few lapsed paychecks away from our alcoholic stupor in the park.

Not a target demographic for God’s creative power

Three million years ago, two Byzantine monks arrived in the Czech lands bringing the wrong alphabet and Christianity. Only one of those things stuck, but now we get two days off in the middle of the week.

And what I do with my two free days is go hunting for breakfast, which ends up being a spinach mango protein shake which looks like this:

Then H and I go to the gym, where I try very hard to move really heavy stuff with my legs. Then we go to Delmart where they ask me what ingredients I want in my salad and because of my astonishing ability to restrain myself I order spinach, chickpeas, smoked salmon, avocado, artichoke, mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, boiled goat, deep-fried hedgehog, aircraft bolts, plutonium and olive oil.

Then we go to EMA which is a hipster/preppy coffee house next to the Hilton and the plot by Masarykovo Nadrazi where they claim they’re building a building by Zaha Hadid but we don’t believe them. And I ask for an iced coffee with no sugar and H begins reading to me out of a book someone has left behind, and he says out loud

“In Jesus’ name and on the authority of His Holy Word, I call these debts PAID IN FULL!”

so I grab the book to see what it is, and it is called God’s Creative Power and it has a chapter about literally praying your mortgage away.

H has a mortgage but isn’t baptized. I am baptized but I don’t have a mortgage. We are not a target demographic for God’s creative power.


Then H goes singing and I come home to watch Trainspotting for the first time in my life, because we’re going to Aero later in the night to watch Trainspotting 2 and I want to know what happens in the first one (what happens is drugs and poo).

And then we go out in Žižkov and take pictures on our way to a restaurant where I order a chicken burger. H eats all of my fries but none of his own, so that when the waitress comes to collect the plates he looks like the one with all the self-control.


Today I go back to the gym where I try very hard to move really heavy stuff with my hands, and then I come home and lay in bed with the fan on reading a novel by Chuck Palahniuk while H packs for his trip to Iceland tonight.

And that’s how I spent my two free days in the middle of the week.