This time I got there even earlier than usual, just before 6:30pm (the official start is 7pm), as we wanted to try out arranging the tables and chairs in different ways to see how many people we could fit in for a discussion event that we are planning. Once we had agreed we could seat 30 people in that format we moved the tables into their usual format for the socials, six tables arranged in a long rectangle. Experience has taught us that is the best format for conversations.
The only business of the evening done we settled down to our first drink of the evening. Sonia had decided to go dry for a while and went for a Czeck/Slovak lemonade with grape juice that neither Richard nor I were particularly impressed with - we both went for Pilsner Urquell, as always.
Other people started to trickle in, including the ubiquitous Ruzena without whom these socials would not really work as one of her roles is to welcome new Czechs and Slovaks into the room, something which Richard and I are incapable of.
The other people who came had either not been there before or had only been once and the new people gave Richard the opportunity to retell many of his stories from our time in Prague over twenty years ago. I managed to stay awake for most of them.
The beers kept flowing, possibly a little too well, and around the same time we all decided to order something to eat. I had Smazeny Syr (fried cheese in breadcrumbs) because I had decided that having had it so often I was now determined to have it every time. It is somewhere between a tradition, a ritual and an obsession.
Towards the end of the evening the draft Pilsner Urquell made way for bottles of Zlaty Bazant. Another tradition.
There were fewer of us than usual which was nice in a way as it meant that we could have one conversation, rather than splitting into groups as we normally do. What most of those conversations were about is lost to me now due to the ephemeral nature of casual conversations and it is possible that the drink may have had an impact here. Such is the randomness of memory that the one hard point that I remember is a brief discussion on GRAD (Gallery for Russian Arts and Design) that two of us there had a fondness for.
We were politely thrown out at closing time, 10:30pm, which was probably just as well. It had been a great evening and even the signalling disaster on London Overground that forced me to go home via the Jubilee Line and Waterloo (after a long wait for trains that were clearly not coming for quite some time) did little to dampen my good spirits.