Last Friday afternoon, Petr and I spent some time with English expat Dawn, who stole our hearts with adventurous tales and photos of a life on the sea and a very quirky medieval musical instrument that has captured her curiosity recently… Dawn, it was an absolute pleasure.
What brought you to Prague originally?
Well, I didn’t want to go to Asia or Western Europe. I’d never been here before and I had some Czech sailing friends too. But the bottom line is, they gave me a job here.
Great, so you used to sail? Tell us about that.
Yes! For 20 plus years… We lived on a boat for 20 years and travelled around the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
I heard a funny story about a cat on your boat once? Tell us about that.
Yes, well that was in Spain, Cabo de Gata I think. It was a tomcat that we rescued from some other cats. It would sit on my lap on the boat and just knead and claw at my legs. And you know, do cats do that horny thing that dogs do? You know when they hump your leg?
I don’t know actually. I thought they just sprayed everything!
Anyway, it seemed to be humping my lap. That was the impression I got, so I told it to bugger off! And then it spat at me, scratched me and then pissed on my bed! (laughs)
Sounds like he did it on purpose! (laughs) Ok, and who were you travelling with?
My ex and later on the dog too – a Pyrenean sheep dog. Very cute.
What do you miss most about this kind of life?
Just little things really, I suppose… The community spirit and constantly meeting new people was nice. And little things like rummaging through the bins, doing your dishes over the side of the boat (laughs).
So you teach English in Prague then?
I do and I like it a lot.
What would you say your favourite English word is? You are actually English so I’m curious to know.
Well I know what it is in French, but not in English. And in French it’s ‘ronron’ which is an onomatopoeia for a cat purring. But in English? Hmmm.
I prefer words that are nastier actually.. Like ‘insidious’!
Ohhh yeah, that’s a nice word.
How would you describe Prague in adjectives?
Hmmm, ok gothic, magnificent, clean, quite clean, cozy. Ummm, I always think of dogs too (laughs). Dogs in coats during winter.
So tell us about this interesting little project you’ve got going at the moment. You’re making a ‘hurdy gurdy’?
Yes! I first heard it from the hurdy gurdy man who was a bit of a travelling troubadour. So I went to his website and found that it is actually an old medieval musical instrument. Then I saw some clips on YouTube of all different sorts playing all different sorts of music and then of course I came across Jimmy Page playing one!
Great! And are you a Led Zeppelin fan?
I was yeah, absolutely!
And then I found that people were making them from scratch or making them from a kit. So I bit the bullet and ordered the kit!
That‘ll be fun. And what about Summer? You usually go away, but you have stayed once, haven’t you?
Yes, the first year I stayed and worked on a farm in the country, but it was so bloody cold there! I also worked on a pig farm when I finished school years ago. Just for three months, I studied agriculture, you see.
Wow! A pig farm! Ok, now it’s time for a bit of a random question, Dawn. If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?
I would’ve liked to have seen the volcano Mount Pelee erupt. The whole town was destroyed, and only one man survived, and that was a prisoner – poetic justice.
NOT the Titanic though (laughs)
Yes, that’s a common one. What about celebrities or icons from history? Who would you love to meet?
My immediate thought would be someone like Darwin… but I’m not sure how interesting he would actually be. All of his observations and stuff were just so fucking boring! (laughs) Maybe the writer Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins. And maybe for fun, Isadora Duncan. We could dance together! She was an actress/dancer and used to wear this long scarf and she went for a ride on a bucatti and her scarf got caught in the wheel and she died!
That’s a bit of an ironic death!
And tell me are you going to stay in Prague or will you travel some more?
I don’t think I’ll go back to England. The pension is terrible there. If worst comes to worst – a caravan or a canal boat would be nice for the future.
That sounds like a nice plan, best of luck Dawn! Thank you so much for your time.
Check out incredibly open-minded blog: Random Tales and Stray Thoughts, which also includes a hilarious article on a new ‘female urinary device’. Read more about it here.
Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating and photos by Petr Kurečka