SYLVESTR – NEW YEAR’S EVE TO YOU.

As Our Dad and Our Mum have come all this way and only seen the part of town where I live, I decided to take them for a nice little drive in the country up to Pustevny  to see the view and visit the statue of Radegast, our local pagan god.

After an hour and a bit, we turned off the main road and up into the mountains… where we promptly ran into a group of firemen turning everyone back.  Road closed due to immense amounts of snow everywhere apparently.

Horni Bečva under vast amounts of snow.

We stopped at Horni Bečva on the way back for a spot of lunch and a few pictures of the mountains in winter and to let the dog run around like a loony trying to eat all the snow.  I had a very passable venison gulash and my parents enjoyed sausages with meat in them, something of a novelty for anyone raised on British bangers!

Our journey home was interrupted by a broken-down lorry which had slid across the road on ice, the driver seemed to be facing a 5km reverse back to the last turn-around, and a phone call from Our Lass pointing out that it was Sylvestr and as we had no food or booze in the flat, could we please stop at Tescos before it closed.

We dutifully made it to Tescos 20 minutess before it closed and stocked up on what little stock they had left.  Enough ham. cheese and bread for respectable nibbles and enough booze to stun an elephant.

Sylvestr is traditionally marked by fireworks and from our balcony we had a choice of shows to watch; we were surrounded by pyrotechnical maniacs.  The noise woke Our Kid up and he was sore distressed by it all until we took him to the window to see what all the fuss was about.  I could tell by the look on his face that he plans to investigate the possibilities of gunpowder more thoroughly at some point in the future!

Although it seemed terribly domesticated to be standing on a balcony with the family at this traditionally wild and drunken evening, I reflected that it had to be one of the safest Sylvestrs I’ve ever spent among Czechs.

There was, for example, the memorable night when the Czech and Slovak Republics separated in 1992.  Deep in the sweaty, smoky bowels of Klub Nora in Kopřívnice, under the camouflage net decorating the ceiling, my mate Pavel bent down and lit the Roman Candle that he had placed on the floor.  He had recently shaved his long hair off except for a bit which hung down over his forehead like some kind of limp unicorn’s horn and had trouble lighting the fuse without setting his last hair on fire.

Suddenly, the candle fizzled and popped.  Nobody noticed it at first but then it started to do what it was designed for and shoot bloody great balls of coloured fire 10 metres up in the air.  As the club was no more than 3 metres high, these balls of fire ricocheted around a bit before exploding with deafening bangs and setting fire to the camouflage net.

Feeling that I ought to do something before there was a mass panic, I ran to the bar to warn the barman that his club was on fire.  He was polishing glasses, far and away the most sober person within miles and he looked up at the carnage with the sort of tired resignation I would associate with the father of a naughty child.

‘What fucker made this?’ He asked in exasperation, before returning to his glass-polishing.

Back on the dance-floor, the burning net was beginning to fall from the ceiling but instead of the panic I had been afraid of, the revellers simply danced on it until the fire went out.  Through the smoke I caught sight of a laughing Pavel, his last remaining hair burned off, being encouraged to light another one. It was too much for me and I decided to get out while I could.

Outside though, things were no better. For a start it was -20C and the sweat in my shirt immediately started to freeze but like one emerging from a sauna into the cold bath, I thought I’d stick it out for a few minutes.  Besides, it was midnight and fireworks were going off all around me.  One firework seemed to be off course.  It was heading for the top of the block of flats which was above the club and seemed to have been fired from a window in the block opposite.  It hit the building, exploded and fell into the bush by the entrance to the club but my attention was taken by the fact that another was being launched from the same window in the same direction; my God! We’re under attack! I stood rooted to the spot as the second missile struck, exploded and fell into the snow at my feet with an angry hiss.

Soon though, the building’s defences sprang into action and a volley of return fireworks were directed at the enemy building.  This was all very amusing until one with a long fuse bounced off the wall above and fell almost to the ground, i.e. almost on top of me, before exploding with a violence I found unsettling to say the least.  As no panicking clubbers or billowing smoke was coming up the stairs, I decided the fire must be out in the club and even if it wasn’t much safer inside, it was definitely warmer!

I descended back into our world of bad craziness in search of a drink.  In the corner a small crowd of people were ripping up cardboard boxes and throwing them at a mild-mannered Irishman who was curled up in a ball on the stage howling with laughter.  He was laughing so hard he seemed to be in pain.  Tears were streaming down his face but every time another piece of cardboard came spinning at him, he laughed harder.  I asked one of the box rippers what was going on and she told me that his friends in Ireland had sent him a letter before Christmas with some LSD inside.  With everything else that was going on around me, it made perfect sense.

Flash forward to the Millenium… Honza and I were standing in Nový Jíčin town square on snow packed hard into black ice by hundreds of revellers, the slightest movement likely to end in a slip and a fall.  As the clock on the Town Hall struck midnight, smoke and fire flared from the top of the clock tower.  The number 2 appeared in red flares, followed rapidly by one, then two zeroes.  The year 200!  As this failure dawned on everyone there was much laughing and jeering and we all had a good giggle and a good pull off of whatever bottles we were holding.  The numbers started to go out and with a great spluttering and fizzing the final zero lit up, all alone on the rooftop.  God knows why but there was a huge cheer and it seemed like everybody threw their bottles up into the air at the same time.  A hushed second followed while everyone thought about what they’d just done and then it began raining glass bottles. The treacherous black ice of the town square was strewn with broken glass and anyone who slipped was in for a nasty landing.

Honza and I made it to the covered arcades at the side of the square and went looking for a bar.  There had to be one open somewhere.

As I stood holding my little son, safe in a warm flat while he giggled at the colours in the sky outside, I stopped feeling nostalgic and realised that, while it’s nice to have these memories, I’m bloody glad they are memories and I now have a nice, mundane, SAFE life and a giggling son to pass all this insanity on to.  Whatever madness he gets up to is his own affair!

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