I have a slightly unfortunate friend called David. This friend David – not his real name – always had on his desk a little motto: “CONTROL YOUR DESTINY, OR SOMEONE ELSE WILL!”
Through the years, this maxim served him well. Thumbing his nose at all temptations from sponsors and lowbrow editors – for this “David” was something of an Old School Explorer – he went about his intrepid ventures without recourse to anyone else (at times, I’m afraid, without regard even to his long-suffering readers.)
Then, one fateful day, David – now a family man based in Twickenham – decided that he’d like to take his children to the Amazon for a year. They were still young so it wouldn’t interrupt their education very much; they’d build a tree house right up in the canopy with the monkeys, parrots and certain more adventurous snakes.
What could possibly go wrong? Sadly, his wife – who was Czech and afraid of spiders – had other ideas. So, they ended up having a third child instead.
Poor old David. But, not one to give up easily (“CONTROL YOUR DESTINY!”), he suggested an alternative. Why not, when the latest child was ready – say, aged one – live in the Canaries?
Obviously not Lanzarote or Tenerife or somewhere with a beach and amenities but the invigoratingly barren island of La Gomera, where Columbus took aboard his last water before heading across the ocean blue.
This sounded perfectly reasonable to me – I mean, David – and we, I mean they, even went on a reconnaissance to make sure La Gomera was just the place. It was a disaster – food poisoning or possible sun stroke, and eventually choruses of “we want trees!” from the children as they stared out at the landscape of lava.
There was nothing for it: the year away would have to be in the Czech Republic, where the in-laws lived. And still all might have been well. After all, David was a travelled man – he welcomed the chance of learning another tricky minority language. It simply meant night after night of classes alongside the other beleaguered expat husbands.
The diet, too, would be a chance to embrace The New – only it was a shame that David had been trying for environmental reasons to cut down on meat and the natives appeared to eat just dumplings and pork – that pork presumably mass-produced in the gruesome farms that had sprung up thanks to petitions signed by well-meaning Britons wanting to ban them from our shores.
So, it came to pass that David ended up in “a faraway country about which we know nothing” – if I might misquote the words of Chamberlain as he handed the place (plus Slovakia) to Hitler.
The pound plummeted with Brexit, David’s wife settled in; David began to understand that the arrangement would last, not for a year, but the rest of his life. And to think, in Twickenham he had it all! But no, not content with a semi-detached house in south-west London, a patch described by the estate agent as “pleasantly suburban”, he somehow thought he could have a life of exotic adventure too.
Thus we end our cautionary tale. David is stuck forever in a land where pedestrians search obediently for a green light when rightly speaking they should risk their necks as our own urban folk do, with a well-timed sprint through the traffic.
Property isn’t cheap either; it seems to me that while the Russian billionaire squanders his money in London, the millionaire does it here in Prague.
Spare a thought, then, for me – that is, this err… close friend of mine, “David”. Yet the odd thing is, if you spot him all alone in a bar – it’ll be one slightly less frequented by hen parties – he’ll tell you he hasn’t given up hope! For he finds the city efficient and safe, and the younger sort of Czech not nearly as downbeat as all the others.
As ever, it’s about seeing life as a jungle no different from the Amazon. Whatever befalls you, soldier on with a glad heart, believing that one day you’ll reach your chosen destination – or anyway a fairly pleasant clearing. None of us can control our destiny, but whether we end up in Prague, Twickers or the humid topics, we can sure give the capricious gods a run for their money.
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