Summer So Far

So Summer finally began. Sun, heat and fun. It’s all been pretty hectic so far, and there is still more to come. Excellent!

I will be writing, in more detail, about my family’s trip to the UK. But, for now, our trip was divided into two parts. Portsmouth in England, and then Wales.

First of all I have to say that Portsmouth was awesome. Two nights was just not enough, even for the historical dockyard. You could not imagine a place so full of history, so much to see, so little time. Historical ships, museums, hands-on exhibits and even an action centre to use up some of the kids excess energy. The city itself is a mixture of the old and the new. Historic buildings, quite often pubs, for the old and a modern shopping and entertainment complex for the young and the young at heart.

And then on to Wales, home. We spent more time in Wales. My nephew got married, we went to the beach, and then it rained. But that was no big deal, we were tired and just happy to spend time with family. And the Welsh countryside was, as usual, just stunning. If you want lush green rolling hills then this is the place, but you need a bit of rain to produce this combination. So, if it rains while you are there, bad luck. All you can do is pray that it stops, and then what you see will have been worth it.

This was the major holiday of the summer, so there were plenty of special moments to speak of in more detail. I will get to that soon, for now these two pictures tell the story so far.

© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

Echo: A short story

I sometimes wonder if I am cracked. It almost feels like places are speaking to me. Not every place, but ones with a history. But not what most people would think of as historical.

An abandoned factory, for instance, seems to resonate with past events. Just imagine the stories it could tell. Peoples’ blood, sweat and tears seem to impregnate those walls. Whereas, when I enter a church it seems like the emptiest of shells.

Today, I am exploring the former. A factory, abandoned for how long? I love exploring places like this. As soon as I enter, it feels like there is history here. This place is amazing.

The windows are almost all destroyed. Cracked and dirty, but allowing the occasional shaft of sunlight to illuminate the dust that hangs in the air.

The roof seems to be the home to every flying rat from within the nearest few miles. So, of course, the floor is covered with a fair amount of their history; as well as what was left behind when the factory closed.

But it is the machines that draw me in. I can feel the past here. How many hours did men spend standing at these beasts of the industrial age? Men who knew no other life, perhaps had no other option. But, perhaps, were happy with their lot; or perhaps not.

This space is cavernous and, in early winter, the air is cold and bites the lungs. But the sky is clear and has that deep blue which makes the world a brighter place.

It is so silent here now. But, once, there would have been a tumult; day in, day out. I can almost hear it now. No, I can here it now. I tell myself it is just my imagination, but I swear I can hear it.

The incessant repetition, as machines hammer and bend metal into shape. The shouts and calls of the workmen, struggling to make themselves heard. After a lifetime in this place, the silence of nature must have been terrifying.

If it is my imagination, it is so vivid at times, it feels so real. But I am not a believer of superstitions. There are no ghosts here, only memories.

But then there is another feeling, one of loss. I know men would have died here. Without knowing it for a fact, it would have happened. Lives lost, families torn apart. Their pain, their loss, still echoing through time.



© Neil Hayes and neilhayeswriter

Christmas Markets

This Sunday was spent at a traditional Christmas market in a small village near where I live in the Czech Republic. This village, called Kuks, is famous for its historical buildings, and the market was located at the bottom of the gardens that belong to this chateau. But it is more than a chateau, it also has a building which was used as a hospital, although you would have to see it to believe it. The old hospital building is a beautiful piece of architecture and is fronted by some stunning statues.

The market was a typical affair, lots of craft items to buy. As well as mulled wine to drink, and lots of food to eat. The typical market food in this country is not exactly healthy, but warming on a cold winter’s day. Hot potato pancakes, grilled sausages, freshly cooked hot pastries. You go home a little bit fatter, but very satisfied. These markets are very popular, so you must be willing to queue patiently for the choicest items. Unfortunately, patience isn’t always my finest quality.

The train ride home was a sleepy one, we were all a little chilly and tired. But it was a lovely day out with my family when we had the chance to eat, drink and soak in some history and culture. And, of course, continue to get in the Christmas spirit. 

© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

Czech History, Nature and Fairytales 

I love long weekends, who doesn’t? And on this particular one, we decided to visit a local town called Pardubice. We live in Hradec Králové, and being only twenty minutes apart these two large towns have a bit of a local rivalry. Like most Czech towns, Pardubice has interesting and beautiful places to visit. It can be easy to miss these, as some parts of this town are quite industrial but it is certainly not all the same.

We started our day at the chateau and it is a wonderful example of renaissance architecture. It is surrounded by gorgeous grounds, has a museum and many exhibitions always running. It also has quite a collection of peacocks, which can be see throughout the grounds.

Renaissance chateau
Local wildlife

Pardubice also has some lovely parks and one in particular has a very modern feel, with a nice design and natural-feeling children’s playground. My kids love places like this and we always have to drag them away, not literally.

Ride, ride

But we had to leave because we had been waiting until 2pm to go to our next destination. This has been on our to-do-list for a long time. It is the new eco centre in Pardubice. A little unusually, it opens from 2pm-9pm daily. We paid our, very reasonable, entry fee and spent over one hour walking around the inside and outside of the centre. Inside there were animals and some exhibitions. And outside were more educational, interactive displays and exhibits. We will certainly be going back, because there is much more to do. There are organised activities where you get to pretend you are, for example, a scientist or explorer and conduct experiments. These take around 2 hours to complete and it was already getting late, so next time.

Modern eco centre

The next day we went to a different area, in search of fairytales. These are very popular in the Czech Republic and there are many traditional ones, both old and modern. The first place we visited was another chateau, in Staré Hrady. This has been transformed into a wonderful day out for both children and adults alike. There are three different tours that you can do, and this time we chose the tour of the cellars. There are very interesting exhibitions throughout the cellar. The tour took around 45 minutes and when it was finished we had time to walk around outside, look at the animals and enjoy some shooting. We also drank some medovina, which is a warm honey-based drink. Perfect to warm you up, on a cold day.


The final job for the weekend, was to begin preparations for halloween. This is not such a special holiday, in the Czech Republic, but children like to prepare jack-o-lanterns and maybe dress up for school. But no trick or treating, they will often do that type of thing during other holidays, such as Easter. But Easter in the Czech Republic is something which requires it’s own article!

© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish