As October has become November, so many aspects of my life and the situations around me with which I interact, have changed. I’ve therefore decided that this provides an overarching theme for a new blog post 🙂
As all across Europe, overnight between Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October, our clocks changed, going back one hour. I write this, partly for the benefit of my British son-in-law who some months ago, famously remarked, ‘I don’t suppose the clocks change where you are?’ Well yes – they do! At the same time as the United Kingdom was moving from British Summer Time (BST), back to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), here in the Czech Republic, we changed from Central European Summer Time (CEST), back to Central European Time (CET). This means that we remain one hour ahead of the UK, and also the Republic of Ireland and Portugal. Whilst the clocks always change on a fixed date – the early hours of the morning of the last Sunday in October – there is never any guarantee that the seasons and the weather will change in a synchronised manner. However, last week we had our first overnight frost and most of the leaves have now fallen from the trees. Autumn is rapidly changing to winter.
When Sybille and I moved to Prague more than five years ago, in September 2008, the third bedroom of the Chaplaincy Flat, was already furnished as an office, with a desk, bookshelves and a rather simple trolley on which was situated a printer/scanner/photocopier. Some time ago, the bottom shelf of the trolley collapsed when I put too much weight on it. More recently, the only reason it has remained reasonably upright, is because part of the metal trolley frame, was leaning against the wall! Before the printer/scanner/photocopier ended up in a heap on the floor, we decided that a change was required.
Late last week, we visited the IKEA store at Zlicín on the outskirts of Prague, in search of a replacement for the collapsing trolley. A three drawer chest that had the correct dimensions to fit into the corner where the trolley was located, seemed the best purchase. Thus I successfully put together a piece of flat-pack furniture for the first time in several years. The end result is very much a change for the better, as all the things that were on the trolley shelves, are now stored in the drawers of the new chest, where they cannot fall down or gather dust.
Last Tuesday, I met Her Excellency Jan Thompson, the new British Ambassador to the Czech Republic, for the first time. Jan arrived here in August and presented her credentials to President Zeman, at the beginning of September. She replaces H. E. Sian MacLeod with whom I had a very good working relationship, not least through hosting the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, during their visit to the Czech Republic in March 2010.
As part of a commendable and very understandable exercise of beginning to learn about and comprehend, the British expatriate community living here in the Czech Republic, Jan had invited Christian ministers working with British citizens, to afternoon tea at the British Embassy. Amongst those present were Rev’d Gareth Morris who is pastor to the International Baptist Church, together with his wife Elizabeth, and Major Mike and Major Ruth Stannett, who head up the the work of the Salvation Army throughout the Czech Republic.
The Ambassador was keen to both learn about our work, and to have our insights on life in the Czech Republic. Just like her predecessor, she has had over six months of individual language training and was able to present her credentials to the President, speaking in Czech, much to his surprise! After all that hard work, it does seem a shame that she is likely only to be here for four years before there is another Ambassador change.
There is another change that I have noticed at the British Embassy, over the time that I have lived here. With the exception of a relatively small number of senior positions that are held by British nationals, all the other staff are now Czech or Slovak. When I met my first British Ambassador, (I’m now on my third 🙂 ), the PA who set up my meeting, was a British young lady, who was on secondment for a few years from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.
Now the Ambassador’s PA is a delightful Czech young lady, who first sought my help for names and contact details of those she ought to invite to afternoon tea with the Ambassador. Likewise, all the staff of the consular section, dealing with lost passports, Brits who run foul of the Czech police etc, are also Czech or Slovak. The reasoning behind this change is almost certainly one of cost. Czech staff are cheaper to employ and have no additional expense of being moved from, and eventually back to, the United Kingdom. But it does seem slightly strange as a British Citizen, to be mainly dealing with non-Brits at my own Embassy 🙂
Last Wednesday, I paid a visit to my good friend Adrian Blank in Nepomuk, so that my car could experience an important change – from summer to winter tyres. This is the first winter that I’ve done this, as previously the car has been little used during the winter months. But after a couple of somewhat hairy return trips from Brno in falling snow last winter, this year I’ve purchased and had fitted, a completely new set of winter tyres. They certainly gave a very smooth return journey last Wednesday. And I shall be most interested to experience the promised improvement in grip and control they are meant to provide, once the snow and frost do arrive.
Finally for this post, there is one change that the Czech nation is still waiting for – a change of government. On the last weekend in October, the Czechs went to the polls to elect a new lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. The background to the election and its eventual outcome, would require a further post in its own right. But if a stable government is to be formed, it will need a three/four party coalition. Talks between the parties are under way, but lurking in the background is a President who has his own ideas of what should happen. Watch this space!