Swinging on Valentine’s Night

Valentines 3I am not sure about you but Valentine’s day can be a bit of disappointment. The flowers are expensive, the restaurants full of love struck young couples or couples who can no longer find words for each other. This year, the husband and I had agreed on a 150CZK spending limit, about £5, we enjoyed fancy macaroons in the shape of hearts with raspberries and some chocolates – Boheminan Sekt flowed since this was considered outside the spending limit by both of us. This year we also attended a fundraiser and I got to swing with a Catholic Priest from Chicago. No disappointments!

The fundraiser was a ‘Gatsby’ themed party, monies raised were to go to the Nadeje charity, which works with a variety of vulnerable and needy, including the homeless and elderly in the Czech Republic. The charity was formed on 21st August 1990, the date is significant, as on the same day in 1968, Russian tanks rolled into Prague and the feeling of hopelessness gave rise the name of the charity, Nadeje, means ‘Hope’ in Czech. In 1990, when Communism had been overcome, there were thousands of Romanian refugees arriving in Prague at the main station. They had experienced a very harsh and brutal regime and were desperate to escape it. Volunteers at the station gave the weary travelers some food and water. The charity had been born.

I am a great fan of fundraising for such a worthy cause, a call to arms, which involved a headband, beaded dress and dancing was something I felt I could contribute to. We rallied up a few friends from Prague and arrived looking extras from Downton Abbey. The food, beer and wine were included in our ticket price, so everyone was keen to make merry and as the swing band was brilliant we filled the floor and did our best to flap – like a 1920’s Flapper girl! This turn of phrase is open to debate, earliest printed form is from 1903, used to describe life of some of the young ladies at Merton College who were studying at Oxford University. Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms. I was up for all of that! I danced with a visiting Catholic Priest from Chicago, who is also a Professor of Ethics, so it must have been alright to drink fine Czech beer and chat liberally with him before we hit the dance floor. Since Sunday is a busy day for Priests he was one of the first to leave but not before he had shaped his moves on the wooden dance floor of the exceptionally beautiful, old building we were in. This is the lovely thing about Prague, it is full of wonderful buildings. My new Priest friend could not get over the renaissance decorated 18th Century ceiling, the view Valentines 1from the window onto Malostranské náměstí, the main square of Mala Strana and the magnificent St Nicholas Church as a backdrop. It is a little like living in a film set from that point of view. In fact, the platform trucks with arc lights were just around the corner – they really were filming on the streets of Mala Strana and use powerful lights to recreate daytime at 2am when all the tourists are tucked up in bed. We were all having a great time and the charity was getting richer as we bought our raffle tickets. I went home with an excellent bottle of Grappa!.

Valentines 2I want to give special thanks to my friends for turning up in some magnificent outfits. Men have the easy option, every time, with the dinner jacket – us ladies had to put in some proper effort. As far as Valentine’s days go, it was pretty brilliant, we all had a great time, the charity raised money and there was just so much fun to be had, throwing ourselves around the dance floor.

I did have a Cinderella moment, as we got home, the Palace church bell tolled midnight, just as I put the key in the door. It made me smile to myself, a magical setting and there I am with my very own Prince Charming. I had a few hours sleep before my 5.45am taxi arrived to take me to the airport and my return back to England to look after youngest daughter over half-term. Gone are the days of partying all the way through, they are in the distant memory somewhere but next month we have a school reunion, the first after thirty years, perhaps we will revert to our adolescent behaviour then.

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