Sunday, October 21, 2012

Last of the Bohemians

I almost spluttered into my chai latte made from the milk of virgin goats in the Andes when I saw these Roger Vivier tie-dye velvet "Bohemian" boots. Only $2,525!  Gosh, I hope they come in other colours because I'll take three pair! (Seriously though...I can't work out whether they are hideous or heirloom-worthy cool. What do you reckon?)

The $2,525 "Bohemian" boots featured in Vogue

According to Vogue, where the Bohemian boots were featured this month, the original Bohemians came from a province in the Czech Republic formerly known as the Kingdom of Bohemia. Henri Murger's portrait of life in the Latin Quarter of Paris, Scenes de la Vie de Boheme, dissolved those geographic borders and "popularised the term as free-thinking, artistic and nomadic state of being."

Being that they came from a certain area of the Czech Republic, it occurred to me that I once met what must have been one of the last of the true Bohemians.

I forget his name - he flatted with Kevin and me in London for part of the summer more than 17 years ago. He was one of a series of European interns working at a big bank, who helped us pay the rent on our two-bedroom flat in an old Nun's convent in Notting Hill.

I think I must have forgotten his name because we just called him The Bouncing Cheque for his incredibly ebullient personality. We would arrive home most nights to find him ironing his shirts. He would be customarily dressed in his underwear only, the original iron bloc tighty whities, enthusiastically ironing to either folk music or terrible European pop. We later realised he may have constantly washing and ironing because he only had one change of clothing.

One day he told us his family was coming to visit for a week and asked us for advice on budget places for them to stay. It became clear that his family had very little money and we told him they could stay with us, of course. He was ever so grateful and promised over and over they would not be in our way and we would not even know they were there.

In fact when the time came, they arrived and had stayed for six nights before we realised it. Each night, as soon as they heard us coming home, they had scuttled into their room and bedded down with not even a hushed whisper.

On the final night we came home a bit earlier to find Bouncing and his whole extended family in the kitchen; little apple-faced Grandma and Grandpa, Mum and Dad and siblings, cooking up all sorts of fragrant dishes to loud folk music. It turned out they had driven all the way from the Czech Republic in a tiny five seater car -  the name of which I hadn't seen before or since -  stuffed with all their bedding and pots and pans and food.

They were mortified that they were inconveniencing us and offered to retreat to their room. We of course said no and they invited us to share their meal. They then pulled out the final treat - a bottle of Czech champagne. With a lot of fanfare this was poured into glasses they had brought with them - the Marie Antoinette bosom types of glasses. I pride myself on being able to drink anything but this was hard to swallow.

The evening rolled on with lots of smiling, lots of translating from Bouncing, clapping to the music, exhortations of "Na zdravi! Cheers!" and me pretend-sipping.

They took off the next day with tears and laughter and hugging. Loading into their tiny bubble of a car, they faced their 853 mile journey back home as though they were flying to Heaven. The last of the Bohemians.

Have you ever met a real Bohemian? (Apart from the Gyp-setting ones who can afford these boots?)

45 comments:

  1. In Toronto, there used to be a bar called the "Bohemian Embassy." It was an interesting place, which I never did get to frequent. There was also a bit of a joke about it. For some time, the telephone company (mistakenly, I think) listed it with other diplomatic buildings, in the Yellow Pages.

    Your bohemians sound like they were a delight.

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  2. I have never met any true bohemians but I've really enjoyed reading your experience of meeting this family!! Have a good week:)
    ~Anne

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  3. Okay I like tie dye and I like velvet but close up these look like you have walked through a slaughter house LOL

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    Replies
    1. Vicky - you hit the nail on the head! I knew there was something about my childhood that reminded my of these boots. It's the yards we visited occasionally.

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    2. Considering my grandad and uncles worked at the freezing works I believe you are right LOL

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  4. I hate the boots, but I do like a real bohemian. That Czech family sounds wonderful. On a recent holiday I met a Czech lady who was quite a lively, foot-stomping singer. She even managed to get my klutzy paws on the dance floor ( well, it was either her or the cocktails!)

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  5. Not desperately keen on the boots which is just as well given the price tag attached. I don't think I've come across a family like that ... but does it count if it's your own?

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    Replies
    1. Sue - you get double points if it's your own!

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  6. I've never met a real Bohemian but they sound like fun! As for the boot, I've seen much cuter one's!
    Love Di ♥

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  7. Jody, I love your stories! I wish I lived closer to you but then I'll be bugging you everyday to tell me all about your adventures. I didn't have a bohemian but I had a backpacker who latched on to me when I was traveling in Greece. Fascinating lady but she chatted non stop for 3 days that I needed a break.

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    Replies
    1. I have had so many of the beckpecker stories too! And the bickering couples always wanted to travel with me too.

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  8. I'd wear the boots if they cost me a tenner and pretend they were my granny's...

    I've never met a true Bohemian either although I've met several people who fancied themselves rotten as pseudos and posed about in what they believed were Bohemian type clothes. Generally they were prats.

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  9. Just been catching up on your recent posts and this one really made me smile - what an interesting evening spent with the family. I can just imagine you pretend sipping - I think we've all done that at some point on our travels!
    http://mesmemosphotoblog.blogspot.com/

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  10. What a great story, Jody. I have a wonderful picture in my head now of Bouncing in his tighty whities.

    You couldn't stomach the champagne? Now that really does surprise me ;-))

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  11. Yes, my Uncle is Chech and a total character. Love him. And I lived in Santa Cruz for a while. Lots of bohemians there.

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  12. I really loved this story...really lovely picture of a person, a family and a culture.

    I don't know that I've met a true Bohemian, but there truly is something lovely about these lost cultures.....

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  13. What a lovely story, Jody. I don't know if I've met a real Bohemian, but one of the most wonderful trips I've taken was to Prague (one of my favourite, most beautiful cities in Europe) and my husband has only praise words for Karlovy Vary where he stayed for a couple of weeks a few years ago.
    Ada

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  14. I like all the colors and the velvet .. but maybe not all together?

    Interesting, fun story about your brush with the last of the Bohemian's. What a great experience!

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  15. What a sweet story! I wish there were real bohemians here in so cal, but it's mostly spoiled kids from beverly hills draped in tie-dye and big hats and kind of one of my fashion pet peeves--now that i've read about your roommate i have a new respect for it!

    xo mary jo

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  16. Adorable story. I want to meet a real bohemian and when I do I hope I'm wearing the boots! Love them!

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  17. I need to track down some of that Champagne to use at a blind tasting for vinogirl...just hoping it won't send her blind.

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    Replies
    1. Thud: She''ll at least need glasses afterwards.

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  18. Can't say Ive ever had the pleasure of meeting a real bohemian! As for the boots, they aren't for me but doesn't mean the wont appeal to others!

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  19. Cute story! The boots wouldn't be my style and that price Wow!!

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  20. What a fabulous story! It's a shame you never kept in contact with him, I bet he was full of stories of distant lands. How adorable is his family, how did they all manage to squeeze into his little room at night? My goodness, I bet it must have been a shock when you realised how many of them were actually sleeping over. I'm hoping one day I'll come across someone like your roommate. People fascinate me.

    xx Jenee C.
    {camo meets couture}

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  21. I don't think I've ever met a real Bohemian..but I would love to! Your story is really sweet! The boots are interesting!

    xoxoxo

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  22. neither!! clearly i am- no, i have missed out.

    "free-thinking, artistic and nomadic state of being"... as my kids continue to get older... as life continues to get BUSY... i'm starting to think they're the ones who've got it all "right."

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    Replies
    1. You're so right - their tendencies are always to keep it free and easy.

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  23. Forget the boots. What a cute story! Living in Vancouver, it's hard NOT to see any bohemians. :)

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  24. Yes I have a school friend Debbie who is definitely bohemian she is now a clairvoyant wearing flowing dresses and is certainly a free spirit.

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  25. This is a fantastic story!! Sounds like he was a real character.

    And with the the boots, I lean more towards hideous.


    *Erin

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  26. Loved your tale. As for the boots, they are velvet not hair calf? For the price, maybe the boots give massages while being worn.

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  27. Great story! Love the boots & the whole bohemian vibe - even though it's not really my style - but I'm working on it!
    x
    Melissah from Coastal Style

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  28. Your post amazing like always.. Love it

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  29. Re the boots - on you they would be heirloom worthy.
    Loved your post about the Bohemians and it rang a bell - when my step grand-daughter got married and all the grooms family came over from wherever.
    Sadly the marriage didn't last.

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    1. A bohemian in the family albeit briefly, must have made for a fun weddding though (Pat: also congrats on placing runner up in a field of 5,000 entries in the Saga competition. And your story today about Daniel Bunyard bussing it to meet you!)

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  30. You need to write a book about all your whacky adventures. You certainly live a fun life:) Love the boots!!

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  31. I fear I reveal everything about myself in one comment by admitting that I love the boots (though not the price!)
    Loved your story too.

    Best,
    SP

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  33. Jody I have to tell you I'm Bohemian! I can't believe this post. It's cracking me up. My grandfather was from part of Czech called Bohemia, which used to be a kingdom. He and his family spoke Bohemian, which for all I know may have been a form of Czech. He always called himself Bohemian, never Czech and so do we.

    As far as crazy and nice, he was. Cute story!
    xo
    Kim


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