The book chronicles my year spent living and working in the South Bohemian town of Tabor in 1999/2000.
TOUCHING VELVET HAS NOW (AUGUST 2012) BEEN REISSUED WITH CREATESPACE.COM.
Touching Velvet came about due to my dissatisfaction with life in the UK and my decision to take up English teaching and live abroad. The book is 'subjective', ie it recounts my own experiences of living in South Bohemia, a region I was already familiar with, having visited Tabor numerous times during the 1990s. There are, however, references to Czech history where appropriate. I was inspired to write the book by reading Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence, and in length, format, and use of humour, Touching Velvet bears some similarities to this illustrious work.
TOUCHING VELVET HAS NOW (AUGUST 2012) BEEN REISSUED WITH CREATESPACE.COM. THE NEW EDITION (272 PAGES) IS VISIBLE ON THE RIGHT.
'I consider it [ Touching Velvet] one of the very few really good books about the adventures of a Westerner in post-communist society.' Jirina Fuchs, USA -based Czech writer.
Michael Ivory, of the British Czech and Slovak Association, records the following on the back cover synopsis:
"Encounters with grumpy landlords and white-socked shop girls, beer-fuelled evenings beneath the vaults of Tabor's Blues Bar...all are evoked in a wry style."
Tony Pogson of The Huddersfield Examiner records the following:
"Max is a stylish and reflective commentator on his own adventures, revelling in some of the things that he discovered."
The book currently (November 2012) has two four-star reviews on Amazon's UK website.
There was a slight sprinkling of snow on the ground. Two corpulent men in their fifties stood under a grubby canopy erected by the kerbside. They wore heavy checked jackets with fur collars into which they occasionally snuggled their unshaven chins. Their hands were stuffed into their pockets. In the dismal winter air their breath was white smoke.
Beside them were two plastic tubs the diameter of bicycle wheels and, lying on a wooden table under the awnings, a net attached to a short pole. An elderly couple approached. The man, grey and bespectacled, carried a large bucket of water. The woman spoke with the jacketed pair, who drew their hands expectantly from their pockets. The still air was soon alive with a momentary commotion as a fat fish, hoisted from one of the tubs, thrashed in the net before being dumped into the bucket. Their work done, the vendors waited while the woman raked in her purse for payment, her husband already yards down the street, weaving in and out of shoppers with his pail, eager to get home.
I had just witnessed the Czech equivalent of buying the turkey for Christmas. In the streets and squares of towns all over the country, carp - the traditional festive meal - are the prize purchase of the season, lugged home in buckets, basins or anything else which comes to hand, and kept in the bath before suffering summary execution on the kitchen table on Christmas Day. I could never envisage a parallel custom taking root in my own country - the squeamish British housewife would surely baulk at dragging live poultry home, let alone taking a knife to it - but Czechs insist their Christmas fare should be as fresh as possible.