Since I was mainly hoping to think of little more than fish for about two weeks, the cunning option was Kenya, helped by a couple of handy-dandy off-season deals and the prospect of diving in bath-temperature waters. So it was na shledanou to Praha and jambo, habari to Malindi and Watamu with a big bottle of insect repellent so strong it melted English flip-flops more quickly than the midday sun, and an even bigger bottle of factor 50 sun protection that managed to bond with any sand to form a rock-hard cement within seconds.
All very far away from knedlik, cobbles and the conditional tense, you might think… And yet… And yet… I'm not even speaking of the ubiquity of Bata, the Canadian shoe firm of Czech origin. Even though it's just opened a new branch in down-town Nairobi, just off Haile Selassie Ave. Oh no.
As I sped away from Nairobi airport through the African night, my eyes were inexorably drawn to the placards affixed to every lamp-post along Uhuru Highway (and if that doesn't make you think of Star Trek, you're a better earthling than me). For one thing, advertising in foreign countries is way more fun than the home-grown stuff.
Consequently I bring news that Mada hotels are "always in the right spot," and that "you never know what you might find" at Nakumatt shops (including love in the paper products aisle brought on by puffy red cartoon hearts). In fact, even sponsoring a lightpost is "more than just an advertisement".
And so my brain shifted into low gear, hypnotised by the flash… flash… flash… sequence of signs. Until, to my horror, the hoarding for a new and upcoming Ugandan tyre company hove into view. Later billboards revealed the fact that "Africa rides on [these] tyres". But little could the founder have known that his choice of corporate name would strike fear in the heart of this unwary student of the Czech language.
And so my gales of laughter at a fortnight's escape from dreaded grammar turned to hideous screams of terror that cut through the night like demented hyena juggling chainsaws through granite. For the PR people had chosen that particular overpass to make a bold and uncompromising statement of the company name in red and white block capital letters, eight feet high: