Manchester born Damien seems to be a local celebrity here in Prague, known by many for his work with the worldwide famous hiking (with a little bit of drinking) group the ‘Hash House Harriers’. But during the interview we were also pleased to see that Damien is quite a devoted football fan, but probably not to the team you’d think. He also has quite a controversial perspective on the current FIFA World Cup in Brazil…
Where are you from originally?
Originally from Manchester in the UK.
How long have you been in Prague for?
It started with a big football tournament in 1996, the Czech Republic played two games in Manchester. I lived in a bar at the time and we had a girl working for us who had been teaching English in Prostějov and one of her former students came over for the tournament and basically my mother adopted them. So in 1999 we came over to the Czech Republic to visit them, then I went about 5 or 6 times a year to visit them. Then about 6 years ago I just gave up and moved here.
What do you miss about home?
What are the Czechs’ reactions when you say you’re from Manchester? What is it known for over here?
Ahh most people know it for football, unfortunately. I mean, they’ve got the two famous football teams, but I’m actually a fan of Liverpool which a lot of people find strange. I just say that I was raised proper. I mean at the time that I was being raised, every newspaper in the country thought that the Manchester teams were the greatest thing that ever happened. They’re so far off, it’s ridiculous. Manchester City has just been bought by a Sultan or whoever and he has put in hundreds of millions of pounds to buy the best players.
Are you following the World Cup?
So far I’ve managed to avoid every minute of it.
Yes, I just got so fed up with the corruption of FIFA. If anyone asks me about it now, I just call it the FIFA World Bribery Tournament… I mean the next two World Cups after this one are in Russia and Qatar, and they’re talking about having to switch the World Cup (in Qatar) to the Winter because it is 50 degrees there in the Summer, which they knew at the time; it didn’t suddenly become 50 degrees after they’d won the bid. There was obviously millions and millions being paid to FIFA members to help secure that vote.
I heard you take in stray dogs?
Yes, I foster dogs. I travel as much as I can, but when I’m here I like to have a dog. I help out the shelters by taking a dog for a few weeks at a time. The shelters have limited resources and can only keep them for so long. They way I look at it is if I take the dog for a month, it goes back to the shelter as a new dog, as opposed to a dog that has been there for three months and is about to be euthanised. It then gives them another three months to find a home.
Is it easy to get into? Should more people do it?
Yes more people should. I love dogs, not a huge fan of cats, but there is also the opportunity to foster them as well. It’s very easy, I just found a group on Facebook and emailed someone.
You mentioned that you travel a lot, what do you do for work?
I do freelance proof-reading.
Is it stable work?
Most of the time it’s pretty stable. It goes through slumps. Sometimes I struggle to keep up with the work that I have, and sometimes a week will go by with no jobs at all. It’s mostly university papers, dissertations, theses etc.
What is the weirdest or most interesting thing that you’ve read?
The only thing I’ve really learnt in the three years doing this is that Turkish ice-cream is made out of orchids.
That is weird. On this topic, tell us about your writers’ circle. What do you usually write about?
Prague Writers Group, yes. I founded that maybe 3 years ago – I was trying to write a novel at the time and I thought that would maybe give me a little push if I could meet some people on a regular basis and they could give me some feedback. It’s really starting to take off now, we have around 8-10 people who turn up for meetings.
What is your novel about?
Well the one I was working on at the time was about a serial killer knifing people at train stations, it’s mainly told from his point of view. A lot of the stories I do are short stories, and quite a lot of them have a twist at the end.
You told me some time ago that you’re in a running/hiking group with the slogan “Drinker’s with a running problem”.. How did you get this slogan?
Yes (laughs). The group is a worldwide organisation and was started in the 1930s in Malaysia. We just had the 30th anniversary in Prague. We’re called the ‘Hash House Harriers’. One person will set a trail using chalk and flour and every other person has to work out where the trail goes. Some people like to run, and some like to walk along at their own pace with a beer.. I am more the second part.
How would you describe Prague in adjectives?
The greatest city I’ve ever been to – the atmosphere, the people, obviously it’s the best beer in the world. You actually have seasons here, I’m from Manchester where you have rain.
If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?
That is one thing I’ve never thought of. In my lifetime, the thing that I most wanted to see, I was actually there and saw… That was when Liverpool won the champion’s league in 2005. They beat A.C. Milan in Istanbul and I was there in the stadium.
For more information on the groups, check out the links below.
Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating-Lambert. Photography by Petr Kurečka.