National Lampoon's Prague Vacation
Zsuzsa and I have been locked in a tumultuous tussle about Christmas trees. I want a massive tree smothered in lights and shiny things, whereas Zsuzsa want a tiny tree that can sit on our dining table (Grinch!).
I’m now driving my family to Prague. About an hour in to the drive it hits me. I’m Chevy Chase! I’m the man with a family who wants to have the biggest tree in the world, a house covered in fairy-lights and who also gets overly excited about the prospect of family road trips! Oh my God! Have I always been Chevy Chase and just not realised it, or it is something that’s happened very recently, since fatherhood happened? I mean, I do love Chevy Chase and think both National Lampoon's Vacation and National Lampoon's European Vacation are things of rare beauty, but the realisation still hits me pretty hard.
About two hours later, we’re in Slovakia and need to stop at a service station to change Mila’s nappy. Zsuzsa wanders off to find a changing area while I attempt to buy a coffee from the most serious, gruff looking Slovak that has ever lived. The man stares at me with his sad, Slovakian face. He seems to be a broken man with cartoon stubble and soulless, dead eyes. A moment goes by and I suddenly realise that I have been trying to make him smile. I have been using the same tried and tested technique that I use on Mila. It consists of me making eye contact with Mila and then repeatedly smiling an exaggerated smile at Mila like a lunatic. With Mila, this works nearly every time. She loves it. The Slovak service station attendant though, apparently doesn’t love it. He just glares at me. I decide to stop trying to make him smile.
“Do you speak English?” I ask.
“No!” he responds.
This throws me a bit as his answer suggests that he might do, but he doesn’t seem to be the joking kind so I try another option.
“Magyar beszél (Do you speak Hungarian)?”
Again I’m confused by his answer, but I decide to let it pass. It’s time to resort to technology. I whip out my app (that’s not a euphemism), and type in the Slovak for coffee. I show it to him. Take that Slovak service station man (which incidentally sounds like an awful super hero film)!
After a stunted conversation in which the man told me that all they serve is espresso, I ordered an espresso and he then gave me a cappuccino, I return to the dining area. The only place available to change Mila is a bench in the middle of the room. Zsuzsa is well in to the changing process. Mila has her nappy off, naked little legs, baby butt and baby bits in the air. She seems to be having the time of her life and she’s smiling wildly at all of the miserable looking Slovakian truck drivers munching their way through equally miserable looking sandwiches.
“I hope she grows out of this.” I say to Zsuzsa. “It would be unfortunate to get a phone call in twenty years time, telling us that Mila is half naked in the dining area of a Slovakian service station, smiling at truck drivers.”
About two hours later and we are now in the Czech Republic. We are approaching a city named Brno. Mila is letting out little baby snores from the back of the car and I’m doing my best to make sense of a fairly treacherous looking road.
“Honey.” says Zsuzsa. “Did you know that this week, last weekend, was the first week, last year of my first trimester?”
It’s fair to say that I did not know this, largely due to the fact that I have no idea what that sentence means.
“What?” I reply.
“This week, last weekend” she repeats. “It was the first week, last year of my first trimester.”
It’s too late. After five hours of driving this sentence is the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ve accidentally turned off the motorway and we are now heading in to the heart of Brno.
“Where are we going?” Zsuzsa asks.
“I don’t know!” I respond. “You twisted my mind with your crazy sentence and I lost my concentration!”
I check the sat nav. Okay. No major issue. There’s a roundabout coming up, we can just go all the way around the roundabout and get back on track. We enter the roundabout.
“Did you understand what I was saying?” Zsuzsa asks. “About my first trimester?”
Aaaarrrghhh! She’s done it again. I accidentally thought about the sentence again, she’s bamboozled me and I’ve missed the turn! We are going round and round in circles on a roundabout in the middle of a random Czech city that seems to have lost some of it’s vowels. It’s like that scene in European Vacation when they drive round and round the roundabout in London.
“Look kids! Houses of parliament! Big Ben!”
I am Chevy Chase.