This post should have two sub-titles. One is the well known English saying that ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’. The second is ‘It could only happen in the Czech Republic’.
The traditional Czech Christmas delicacy is carp. They are raised in fish ponds, particularly around the town of Trebon in southern Bohemia. Then in the week before Christmas, carp sellers set up stalls in the streets of Prague where you can choose and purchase your carp as they swim around in large tubs of water. The picture above is of one such stall and you can see from the picture on the left that the price this year was 79 Kc per kilo.
You can have your chosen carp killed and gutted on the stall and this ‘delightful’ practice will often leave a stream of carp blood running down the nearby street gutter. But many people, especially those who buy their carp a few days before Christmas Eve when the price this year was cheaper at 73 Kc per kilo, take there carp home still alive in a bag of water. At home, the live carp is allowed to swim in the family bath until the time comes for it to be cooked and served.
On the afternoon of Tuesday 21st December, Sybille and I were both working in the Chaplaincy flat office when Sybille remarked that she could hear water dripping. Having checked that it wasn’t our shower which does occasionally drip, she looked around and discovered that what she had heard was water dripping from the ceiling in one corner of our hallway, adjacent to the doorways that lead into our two bedrooms. It was obviously coming from the flat immediately above us so Sybille shot upstairs to see if anyone was there. The flat above ours is occupied by a father who we now know is called Mr Tuma, together with his two teenage sons. Fortunately, one of the sons was at home and who does speak a reasonable amount of English. He was already aware that water had overflowed in their flat and he assured us that he had already stopped the flow. But then followed his incredible explanation of what had happened.
His father had bought a carp and they were keeping it alive swimming around in the bath until Christmas Eve. Their bath is like ours and has a lever tap, (as in the adjacent photo), which is raised to let water in and then is moved from side to side to increase or reduce the temperature of the water. Whilst the son was elsewhere in the flat, the carp had leapt in the bath water, flicked the tap lever and turned the tap on thus causing the bath to overflow! Hopefully, any reader will now understand the title of this piece and my suggested two sub-titles. It really was beyond belief!
Assured that the source of the water flow had been stopped and leaving a tea towel to catch and soak up the remaining drips from our hallway ceiling, we went off into the centre of Prague as we had previously planned to do. Unfortunately, when we got home a few hours later, we found more water on our floor and when Sybille tried to turn on our bedroom light, it threw the trip switch for the electricity for the whole flat.
More water had found its way through from the flat above and chosen the easiest route to exit. This was the respective holes where the electric wiring for main light in each of our two bedrooms passes through the ceiling. And because under each light is a saucer shaped frosted glass shade (IKEA’s best!), water had gathered in the saucers and then overflowed onto the floors and beds below.
We once more called on our neighbours and fortunately by now, the father was at home. Mr Tuma speaks better German than English but in a mixture of the two languages, gave us the details of his insurance and profusely apologised for what had happened. He also assured us that the offending carp was now dead!
The next day he called again, this time with a phone number and reference number for us to make our claim on his insurance policy. We were also presented with an attractive 2011 calendar and a very nice bottle of wine and yet more grovelling apologies. Fortunately after 24 hours, everything appeared to have dried out and all our electrics are currently working properly again. We are now awaiting a visit from the insurance company’s ‘liquidator’ to sort out getting the damage to plaster and paintwork put right.
The one final funny part of this story of Christmas carp induced flooding in our flat came when Mr Tuma gave us his business card with his name and contact phone number. As he sheepishly admitted, it also revealed what his occupation is – Water Engineer!