Friday, January 28, 2011

Village networking

In 2011 it appears that most of the world communicates via e-mail, Facebook and twitter. Fortunately the village is blessed with a much faster form of social networking, otherwise known as Doctor Lang's waiting room, located in the Health Centre (1 doctor and 1 dentist, Monday and Wednesday mornings only) adjacent to the Village Hall. As Doctor Lang's catchment area covers the adjoining villages then the good people come from far and wide to interface. There is no better place to follow, be followed, tell your fans or simply update your current status. Many has been the time where Doctor Lang, casually drumming his fingers on the desk, has had to wait a good five minutes until his next patient has finished regaling the waiting room audience with tales of mushroom picking, the carp that got away, last nights Czech and Slovakia's Got Talent  and exactly why the neighbours christened their new goat "Susanna".

 No need for twitter when you have these - cutting edge technology in the village.

For the less technically minded, there is the village PA system, specifically designed to broadcast messages to residents from HQ, the Village Hall. More observant visitors to the village will have noticed the loudspeakers attached to every fifth lamppost on each street. This ensures that residents do not always need to venture out, particularly in winter, to see Doctor Lang in order to network and get the latest news. Like 24 hour news channels, the village PA system brings the news right into the village living rooms. The system even has an inventive "prepare the village for an announcement" button which when pressed creates an ear-splitting hissing and crackling for at least two minutes, giving residents time to open windows for better sound clarity, pour drinks and pull their chairs up in anticipation of the days announcement.

In order to remain at the forefront of cutting edge technology, the Village Hall has adapted the PA system into a village home entertainment centre. Thus, at Christmas, traditional carols are soothingly played in the afternoons and funeral dirges are played when announcing a death in the village. Polkas (that's "oom pa pa" music to the rest of us) are regularly played a couple of afternoons a week. Standard announcements are preceded by a specially commissioned introduction that to the untrained ear appears to be a reworking of the 80s classic "Jump" by American rockers Van Halen and played on an early 1980s Casio keyboard.

Announcements range from the typical - "no electricity tomorrow morning"- to the stunningly personal -"Can Mr. Zach please return his overdue library please". Social networking really comes to the fore when residents are immediately advised of any salesmen or tradesmen venturing into the village to hawk their goods. Good and bad reviews are soon retweeted on the system: "They're selling those cheap chickens outside the Village Hall again......pretty good value", "Forget about the knife sharpener................last time he was here mine were blunt again in a week". No need for Sky Plus either - all news is automatically repeated several times throughout the afternoon.

In a village where an apple is still a fruit and an ipod is just a typo, its reassuring to know that whatever the technology used, social networking still remains at the forefront of every day life.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Snow, snow and more snow

Its back again. After a three week break where it decided to take a few days off and deprive us of a true white Christmas this year. While most of the UK collectively tucks its head back under the duvet once the first snowflake hits, here in the village its time to dig.

The snow shovel is an essential part of village life, even apartment dwellers are not spared the onerous task of snow clearing duties, the rota usually posted on the communal notice board. The village also has the village snow plough, in this case, lovingly cared for by Mr Hermanek from the Village Hall. 

First of all, let me say that Mr Hermanek is a popular and genial resident of the village, that is until the snow plough comes into operation. As the village rush hour (it is rumoured amongst the village elders that in days gone by five cars once went past the Church one after the other) is between 6.00 and 7.00 a.m then Mr Hermanek springs into action early, usually around 5.00 to 5.30 a.m. You can hear the roar (more of a chesty cough really) of the tractor, as with snow plough attached he studiously prowls the village sweeping snow from side to side, so the good residents can go about their daily tasks. 

And therein lies the problem...............

You see, the snow has to go somewhere and usually it is straight back down the path or the drive that has just been cleared. Early morning peace and quiet is often shattered by numerous insults (and the odd snowball) hurled in the direction of the departing Mr Hermanek, sat high in his tractor, as yet another frustrated resident hurls their snow shovel into the ground at the sight of their efforts going to waste. Of course, the residents could wait until after Mr Hermanek has been and gone but there have been days when, for one reason or another no snowplough has materialised. The excuse of "Sorry I am late/not coming to work because Mr Hermanek and his snow plough didn't turn up" would only meet with derision from Czech employers (and colleagues) in a land where only the truly dumb do not have winter tyres.

And what of Mr Hermanek? The device attached to the tractor usually determines his facial expression. No snow plough usually means a pleasant smile, a nod of the head and a wave. A snow plough attached results in a steely expression, reminiscent of the one that Bruce Willis has when driving a blazing tanker through a police blockade, ignoring all insults as he pushes the snow straight back down an unsuspecting residents driveway.

Mission accomplished, Mr Hermanek.