It’s beginning to be a bit expensive…..

Money © Ricky Yates

I knew that the work to connect my house to mains water was not going to be cheap as the house is set back quite some way from the road. In the end, it cost me CZK 30,500, about £1000 at current exchange rates, together with a further CZK 1000, paying František to complete the work the ‘chancers’, (thank you Sean, for your perfect terminology 😉 ), didn’t do.

I was also aware that once the house was connected to mains water, I would soon need to purchase a new washing machine. My existing machine was frequently failing to complete the set programme, in particular, stopping after one rinse. Therefore it was always impossible to go out whilst the washing machine was in use because of needing to keep it under close inspection and make manual changes.

I didn’t want to change it in advance of being connected to mains water as the discolouration of the previous water supply had left brown stains on various rubber parts. So I didn’t want to mess up a new washing machine in the same way. Therefore it was a perfect act of timing that, as soon as I tried to put a load of washing on, after I had been connected to my new mains supply on Sunday 25th October 2020, the machine refused to even fill and commence the washing programme. I needed to buy a new washing machine.

At that time, we were in our second period of lockdown because of COVID-19, meaning that Datart, the electrical shop I would normally go to in Decín, was closed. So I went online to their website, all in Czech 😉 , and successfully ordered a new washing machine. This was available at there depot in nearby Liberec, with the promise of delivery the following Sunday, 1st November 2020, in the afternoon.

The plumbing for a washing machine is in the same small room as my toilet. In January 2018, during the complete rebuilding of the adjacent shower room, the dividing wall between the two rooms was reconstructed. But since then, I have consistently put off redecorating the room because of the difficulties I could foresee of trying to paint behind the toilet, the hot water tank and all the exposed piping, as well as the washing machine itself.

The prospective arrival of a new washing machine gave me the necessary ‘kick up the backside’ that I needed. During the week without a functioning washing machine, I disconnected the old machine & moved it elsewhere, and then proceeded to redecorate the whole room. Fortunately, I had just enough white emulsion paint to complete the job.

Preparing to decorate © Ricky Yates

The photograph above shows the space where the old washing machine once stood, with old sheets put down to protect the tiled floor during redecoration.

Decoration complete © Ricky Yates

This photograph shows the same view with redecoration complete. You can just see the end of the toilet on the right of the photo.

New washing machine in place © Ricky Yates

And here is the new washing machine, plumbed in by me and washing its first load. The new machine is a narrower model than its predecessor which leaves a wider gap to pass through to reach the toilet. Cost CZK 12,189 / £400, plus the paint. Fortunately, the deal to buy the new washing machine included taking its predecessor away.

Whilst I was Priest-in-charge of St Clement’s Anglican Episcopal Church in Prague, the Chaplaincy flat where I lived had a landline phone, which enabled wifi for internet access. I also had a fairly simple mobile phone, proverbially known as ‘the Chaplaincy mobile’, which I took great delight in presenting to my successor at my farewell service.

Presenting the Chaplaincy Mobile Phone © Sybille Yates

With my new home in Stará Oleška not having a landline phone, but discovering I could obtain internet access by a wireless service from, I decided that all I would need following retirement, would be another very simple mobile phone. Like it or not, there is an expectation these days that everyone has a mobile phone, along with an email address, and ready access to the internet. I cannot log into my Czech bank account online, without a code being sent to my mobile phone. Nor can I pay for something by bank transfer, or use my debit card to purchase something online, without a code being sent to my mobile, to then be inserted online, to complete the transaction.

Chaplaincy mobile on left. My new mobile on right. Photo from April 2017 © Ricky Yates

My simple mobile phone has been fine for the past three and a half years. Unfortunately, I never discovered all the things it could do because the manual for it was only available in Czech, Slovak and German, and neither my Czech or German are good enough to understand phone manuals! But on Thursday 26th November 2020, my mobile phone died. The screen went black and it couldn’t be revived.

Having been teased by a few friends, (who shall be nameless 😉 ), about my very simple mobile phone, I decided that this time I would buy something more advanced – a smart phone is, I believe, the correct term. Once more, with shops closed due to COVID-19, I was again forced to order online without any chance to try things out or ask questions.

Initially I thought I was in a Catch 22 situation. How could I pay for a new phone online, if I needed a code sent to my mobile phone that wasn’t functioning? I did eventually discover that it was possible on the Datart website, to order an item, but then pick it up and pay for it in person, by being part of a socially-distanced queue at their shop in Decín.

New mobile phone © Ricky Yates

So that is what I did. A man in the T-Mobile office then successfully swapped my SIM card over allowing me to keep my old phone number and credit. And there is a manual in English for it online – all 261 pages! So far, I’ve only worked through the first fifty 🙂 Cost CZK 11,029 / £365.

Knowing that I was going to have spend Christmas 2020 in total isolation, I decided I would give myself a Christmas present. So during a short period before Christmas, between lockdown two & lockdown three, when all shops were open, I treated myself to a new CD player. My previous one died, just at the end of my time in Prague, and I had never got around to replacing it.

New CD player © Ricky Yates

So over the Christmas and New Year period, I enjoyed listening to my CDs of Christmas carols. In particular, I listened several times, to my double CD of Bach’s Weihnachts Oratorium. Cost, a modest CZK 2490 / £82.

With the current pandemic, and being over 65 with a pre-existing health condition, I have become increasingly aware of my own mortality. During over thirty years of ordained ministry, I have on numerous occasions, spent time with bereaved relatives who amongst many things, were having to organise a funeral and deal with the estate of a deceased relative, with no idea of what their wishes were, because they had not made a will.

I made a will back in July 2008, under the law of England and Wales. With nearly all my assets now being in the Czech Republic, I have increasingly felt that I ought to make a fresh will that would be recognised under Czech law. Through a Facebook group of which I am a member, entitled ‘British in the Czech Republic‘, I found Jan Šleis, recently returned to the Czech Republic from working in Exeter, who is dual qualified – a Czech Advokát and a Solicitor in England & Wales.

With the help and guidance of Jan, I now have a will in Czech, together with an English translation, which deals with all of my assets. Therefore when the grim reaper does decide to visit, it will enable my two adult children to inherit my house, bank account and personal assets I have here. Jan assures me that the English translation will also allow them to get probate in England and access my one UK asset – my Sterling bank account.

Lawyers don’t come cheap 😉 , as I’m sure anyone reading this blog will know. But as I’m still awaiting the bill from the associated notary and his translator, I cannot put an accurate price on it just yet. But it is one of those things it is easy to put off doing and I’m glad to have ticked it off my ‘To do list’.

Then last month, several times when I tried to use my toaster, it threw the trip switch for half of the electrics in my kitchen. I think I caused the fault when trying to extract part of a piece of toast that had got stuck. I must have pushed part of the heating element into contact with the metal casing of the toaster, causing it to short. So just like the new mobile phone, I went onto the Datart website, found a replacement toaster and ordered it, to be collected from their shop in Decín. Cost CZK 999 / £33.

New toaster © Ricky Yates

Just before the end of February, in view of the ever-rising number of COVID-19 cases putting pressure on Czech hospitals, an even more severe lockdown was announced to take effect on Monday 1st March. Therefore, although I don’t normally go shopping on a Sunday, on the afternoon of Sunday 28th February, I drove to the Kaufland supermarket in Decín to do a major shop, and to collect my new toaster from the Datart shop, next door to the supermarket.

The supermarket was pleasantly quiet and there was no socially-distanced queue at Datart as I was the only customer. I was halfway back to my home in Stará Oleška, with my shopping and toaster in the boot of my car, when the accelerator went limp and the engine died. I was fortunately able to roll off the main road into a lay-by which is a bus stop.

My wonderful neighbours came and rescued me, my shopping and my toaster and drove me home. But the car is another story and needs a further blogpost. But it definitely is beginning to be a bit expensive……

2 comments to It’s beginning to be a bit expensive…..

  • Sean McCann

    Hi Ricky,
    The old quote from “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare – “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions” sums up your recent experiences to perfection.

    I wish I could claim credit for the invention of the ‘chancer’; this person is well recognised in Irish culture at home and abroad as the man, or woman, who if they’re not actually criminal, at least know ‘the road it went’. A shady, sneaky, underhanded person who always leaves you feeling you have been made a fool of. They come from all social classes, and cut across all trades and industries,in both official and ‘grey’ economies.

    I sympathise with your phone woes, everything revolves around ‘two step’ verification of credit card or bank transactions and everyone expects you to have perfect connectivity everywhere, at all times! I recently had to take part in a work related ‘Zoom’ conference call; mobile data is almost non-existant in our area and, since Kate is mostly working from home due to Covid restrictions, our broadband signal is also poor. I had to drive to our local town and park at the shopping centre to ensure a good signal. One of my colleagues congratulated me on my ‘car interior themed home office’! 😉

    I’m sorry to hear the ‘Golf Carly’ has been poorly, I suspect it was something major from your reference to being the subject of ‘another blogpost’. As Walter Brennan remarked “Life gets Tedious, Don’t it?”

    On a lighter note, to finish, the Irish always thought difficulties should be welcomed, on the basis that “sure it could be worse, it might have broken a bigger cross!”

    Take care Ricky,

    Keep smiling ,

    • Ricky

      Hi Sean,
      Firstly, thank you for the Shakespearian quotation – very true!

      I have long ago, heard of the term ‘Chancers’. But I felt it was the perfect description and your definition in this comment is completely correct.

      I’m sorry to hear about your own problems with connectivity. ‘Two step’ verification is obviously for understandable security reasons. But it forces you to own a mobile phone if you are going to function in today’s world. Not having a laptop computer & ready access to wifi has become an issue here during lockdown, with schools being closed and children being taught online. The figure I’ve read is that about 20% of children in the Czech Republic fall into that category, those from poorer, disadvantaged homes. You can’t assume everybody has all these things. On a lighter note, it has become a matter of online discussion, regarding what appears in the background during Zoom conversations. I like your ‘car interior themed home office’!

      With regard to ‘Golf Carly’ and its troubles, I’ll try not to keep my blog readers in suspense for too long and get another post written & published very shortly.

      Thanks as always, for visiting, commenting & your good wishes.