I give up. I mean, there's always the odd thing that you miss from other places called home. Usually it's food, sometimes it's entertainment. It could even be peculiar national customs (standing on the right, extreme cutlery, service with a snarl). But this? This is insane. This is a cleaning product.
Something is wrong with this picture. Smoked paprika? No problem. It's something you can reasonably ask a friendly compatriot to pick up if they're back in Blighty for the weekend. Friends and family can post emergency magazines. Well-trained sales assistants can be persuaded to sneer and ignore anyone who looks furtive and dresses badly enough. But oven cleaner? Oven Cleaner?
'Tis true. Over the last couple of weeks, my grail runneth over with caustic soda. And it's not even my oven, per se, that's the problem. It's actually the grill pan. While I was on holiday it seems to have acquired a thick layer of goo the consistency of road tar on a sunny day. The first notice of the problem was when cooking a pizza filled the flat with clouds of noxious black smoke.
Brillo pads and cream cleaner just won't touch this new blight on my domestic soul. I've used half a bottle of lemon-scented Cif, and destroyed three scrubbers in the process. Soaking it with vinegar merely gave the sludge a nice sheen. It's time for the big guns.
Except that the land that gave the world the dumpling-distribution cannon appears to be somewhat lacking in kitchen heavy artillery. I've spent hours scouring the aisles of various Alberts, branches of the well-known-supermarket-that-ate-the-world (sorry s-i-l, but desperate times and all that), and local potravinys (corner shops) for a heavy-duty bottle of noxious looking fluid bearing a picture of an oven with a little *ting* star of sparkling shininess and a skull and crossbones.
So far, nada. Not a sausage. Well, actually plenty of sausages, for this is sausage country and we are moving into sausage season. But sausages, no matter how old the horsemeat and how strong the garlic are of no use whatsoever. The slick is too goopy to beat into submission. Anyhow I have deep suspicions that the whole household environmental catastrophe may have been kicked off in the first place by the roasting of an unwise pig product. But nary a bottle, flask or spare lead container of nuclear waste to be found sloshing about anywhere in downtown Praha.
In desperation, I abandoned my devil-may-care insouciance and approached my cleanest-looking colleague for assistance, only to hear her proudly declare with a merry laugh, "We don't have that kind of oven." Oh, the shame. Presumably the oven, grill pan and baking trays in question have never been permitted to reach the state where only industrial-strength chemicals will suffice. The humiliation. I am unclean.