Sundays in Prague 4 Podoli
As I bustled about my flat last night, washing dishes and finally tackling that seriously grubby floor, I suddenly tuned into the song that was playing in the background on my stereo. Sunday Morning Coming Down - one of the Johnny Cash numbers that I didn’t buy the CD for. An orchestral, jangly offering, in which the singer laments (among other things) the loneliness and desertedness of his city on a Sunday.
This is how I used to feel about Prague as the weekend wound down. I didn’t know what Czechs got up to at the weekend, but it seemed to me that they either emptied out of the capital all together, deserting the city in favour of the hills, or at least the nearest clump of mushrooms – or the whole city adopted the same approach to a Sunday as I used to back when I was at school – hiding under their blanket and harrumphing that Monday was fast approaching.
But now, I have grown wise. If ever I feel like Prague on a Sunday is looking a bit too like a scene from the post-apocalyptic film 28 Days Later, I just head down to the swimming baths at Podoli in Prague 4, and all human life is there.
… Okay, that’s not entirely true, I actually go swimming at the weekend because slightly less human life is there than during the week. Less kamikaze school children, at least. But I would say there is still quite enough to behold on a Sunday in Podoli pool, as I shall go on to explain…
My favourite swimmers are the elderly couples who chat about what happened in the Post Office and the TV serial Ordinace v ruzove zahrade that previous week as they slowly swim the length of the 50-metre pool. Very often, there is something quite stately about these couples, with the gentleman swimming about a metre behind their partners. Maybe it’s because of all the strain being put on the pacemaker, but I like to think it is for the same reason that Prince Phillip follows Queen Elizabeth II a couple of steps behind.
Then there are the be-goggled males and females who seem to take about five minutes to do one length, in a very ponderous breast-stroke. With each outstretch of the arms, they submerge themselves for as long as possible, holding a star-like position as if they were parachuting underwater, that is until they come bobbing back up to the surface. And then the whole process takes place all over again.
And then there are the boys who go to show how nice their girlfriends look in a bikini to the other boys who go along to show how nice their girlfriends look in a bikini. They, alas, don’t seem to do very much swimming.
It occurred to me recently (during a swim of course) how often swimming pools appear in comedy sketches. I remember as a little girl watching Mr Bean falter at the tip of the highest of diving boards - with hilarious comic consequences - while more recently swimming pools provide the setting for a lot of Little Britain’s comedy sketches. I can see why public baths are so often the setting for comedy, because really, you see all sorts of people there – even, I maintain, in Prague on a Sunday.