Thursday, 17 November 2011

Nothing to do on a Tuesday night? Fly to Prague!

I had a quiet Tuesday in the diary this week so when I was offered a gig in Prague I jumped at the chance. I've been to Prague twice before and both times had a bit of a nightmare to be honest. It's a beautiful city but it has been known to bite me. In 1989 I visited (again for a day) as a particularly green nineteen year old boy. It was still part of The Eastern Bloc then and as we reached the border town of Gmund NÓ our train stopped and I was interrogated by Czechoslovakian border guards for four hours after being accused of cocaine smuggling. The second time I went was in 2005 with a group of friends. While the girls went shopping the blokes went for a drink. This turned into a wine tasting, a very cold stein of lager outside (it was late November) and then a bar that was so cheap we had steins of dark beer with bottles of red wine chasers each. This was topped off with shots just before the unsuspecting girls arrived back. Everyone had Slivovitza except for yours truly who was sneakily thrown an Absinthe. On their arrival I turned into a monster. The Green faerie tipped me over the edge and like a drunken idiot I told everyone I hated them and walked out into the snow, only to get lost. There is more to this story but suffice to say I was persona non grata for the rest of the trip. Surely nothing could go wrong again?

Having a morning flight and deciding against sleep, I played scrabble online until 5am, showered, shaved and got in the car to drive to Heathrow. I got to the long stay car park just after 7am and was in the terminal building by quarter past. I was too early to check in so bought a copy of the "I" for 20p, read it and then checked in my guitar the minute I was able to. A very friendly Frenchman on the desk said that he would personally make sure it got priority for the plane. Happy, I went to the nearest departure lounge bar for my traditional pre-flight Bloody Mary.

Here I am rather sadly taking a photo of myself drinking a fantastic Bloody Mary at around nine in the morning - ah - the perks of the sleepless international traveller...
I didn't see the other acts (Martin Davies and Andrew Watts) until I got on the plane. We were booked in next to each other and chewed the fat for the duration of the shortish flight to Prague airport, which landed, on time at 2pm. Sadly, my guitar didn't. When I got to the baggage carousel there was a message in big letters that said

"Edwards, P - go to lost luggage".

That wily Frenchman had failed to actually put the guitar on the plane at all. I suspect he is still seething over Agincourt. I told the lost luggage desk in no uncertain terms that a lot of people were going to be very upset if I didn't get to perform my fabulous act and they promised me it would arrive on the next flight at 7.30pm in the evening. Problem - I was supposed to be on stage at 8pm. Dominic, our guide (and compere) showed up around half past two and drove us to the hotel. By the time we got there it was an hour later and we only had two hours to kill before he would be picking us up again to take us to the gig. The boys opted for a couple of hours' kip  but I wanted to get some local currency and go for a beer. Just down the road from the hotel was a cashpoint. Not knowing the exchange rate (well done, Paul) I plumped for the third highest amount offered on the screen as was presented with a 2000 Koruna note. The nearest bar was only a few doors down. I ordered a Pilsner Urquell and drank it. It was 35 Koruna. They had to empty the till to give me my change. "Someone", I thought to myself, "Is going to be getting very drunk tonight".

Martin Davis (pictured left) and Andrew Watts (right). I was the cash monitor  and at the end of the night paid our bills in Koruna, agreeing that they would give me the equivalent in Sterling. Andrew had bought a diet coke, a coffee, a packet of fags, ten Starupramen lagers and a couple of shots. His bill? eighteen quid. Martin had been taking it easy. He had consumed five cokes, two coffees and two beers. His bill? £6.50. Sweet.
The show itself was the fifth one in a new series of gigs called "Crown Comedy". The venue was brilliant, the staff amazingly friendly and Dominic couldn't do enough for us. Miraculously, my guitar arrived before 7pm and it occurred to me that its revised arrival time had been lost in translation and it had actually got in at 17.30pm rather than 7.30pm. Sweet relief. The show began, Dominic went on and warmed up the crowd and the next thing I knew I was sat on a chair at the front of the audience holding a radio mic and trying to get a woman to tell me her age. I had asked her a quick off-the-cuff question as a way in to the joke and when she refused to tell me had decided to pursue it further. It was a minor mistake and soaked up valuable minutes of my set with only a modicum of laughs. I got back on stage, stopped mucking about, got the guitar on, rocked out and buggered off. it had all gone fine and I was pleased that sporadically I had got big laughs from the whole audience. This was no mean feat as they were made up of probably 70% English-speaking ex-pats and 30% young Czechs so I was happy enough to get them all laughing at the same things. All in all the show was a good one but the woman who I had questioned became something of a centre of attention. Dominic discovered her name to be Petra. Andrew also had a slightly difficult time with her but did well, regardless. Dominic then went on after the break and got her doing (along with a couple of other people) motorbike impressions. Martin (On last) featured her throughout his own performance. At the end of the night we all had to go on stage and take a slightly awkward bow. I took the opportunity to photograph the audience.

The audience. They all appear to be a little blurry. I have no idea if that has anything to do with my late-night camera-holding abilities or whether they were in fact all a bit out of focus in real life.
Petra then came over to tell us all what she thought of us and was rather forthright. I was surprised to discover that I had been her favourite. She could have let her face know while I'd been on.

Here's Andrew with Petra. She is terrifying
After that there was nothing for it than to get stuck in to some serious drinking until the bar had emptied out sufficiently for three Russian girls to take a minimalist shine to us old soaks. They didn't want to give us too much information about themselves as they were working in Prague illegally (Well - they certainly hinted as much). I suggested they look out for Petra who had also been rather unforthcoming and at one point I thought might have been a spy.

I can only remember the name of one of these girls and that's only  because she wrote it down so I could point them in the direction of this blog. Hello Russians! I must also at this point say hello to Yolanda and Martina, two of Dominic's colleagues whose space we had unceremoniously invaded at the end of the night. Well - you can't blame us. They were gorgeous. We had been drinking beer at a quid a glass. It was like a dream I tell you - a dream.
All that was left to do was to go back to the hotel. We got there around 2.30am, got three hours' sleep, got up again, didn't get the breakfast we had been promised (nobody's fault) and I went outside to take a photo of the front of the building. This is what a (very nice) hotel in Prague looks like around 6am in November.

I tried to take several shots of this but they all came out the same. It's called The Carlton Hotel and is really rather plush. My bed was so comfortable I could really have used more than three hours sleep in it
The trip back to the airport was painless. I took great steps to make sure my guitar would indeed travel with me on the same plane this time, landed back at Heathrow a shade after 10am and I was home by midday, guitar and all. What did you do on Tuesday?

Oh and vote for me via the lovely folks at lovelinks - lots of blogs by housewives, from what I can gather!

1 comment:

  1. Great show Paul, thank you for coming to Prague. I hope to see you someday again. Take care, Dominik - owner of the Crown Comedy Club. ps. the link for votes does not work...


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