I always judge a hotel by its club sandwich

As a child I was fascinated by the exotic names of certain cities: Havana, Rio de Janeiro and Los Angeles sounded so glamorous to me, and I was determined to visit them (which I eventually did). But never in my childhood musings did the country of Czechoslovakia join this roll-call of dream destinations. However, since a few friends returned from filming in the renamed Czech Republic and extolled the virtues of Prague, it started to interest me. So, I was delighted when producer Mark Rozzano offered me the role of Francesca Carlyle in his murder mystery Murder Between Friends. ‘Brad and George have made movies there,’ he said, ‘and the

The perils of Prague: Parasol Against the Axe, by Helen Oyeyemi, reviewed

An informal survey of friends, family, acquaintances and previous reviews suggests that the word most usually associated with Helen Oyeyemi’s fiction is ‘weird’. The author of eight novels has hardly shied away from unconventional storytelling, with books about everything from Brexit-through-biscuits (Gingerbread, 2019) to magical trains and a pet mongoose (Peaces, 2021). Her style is one of high and low: song lyrics jumbled up with references to medieval literature; nods to Shakespeare next to 1980s films. The result is either lauded – Oyeyemi was on the 2013 Granta list of best young novelists and her short story collection won a PEN award – or hated. In a TLS review, the

A thoroughly enjoyable grand old heap of nothing: The Excursions of Mr Broucek reviewed

Sir David Pountney, it appears, has been to Prague. He’s booked himself a mini-break, he’s EasyJetted out, and after (one assumes) necking a couple of pints of unfiltered Pilsner, he’s splurged the entire design budget for Janacek’s The Excursions of Mr Broucek on the loudest tourist tat that the Mala Strana has to offer. Scale it up, pile it on stage; job’s a good ’un. There’s a snow globe and a Lenin candle; there are dinky toy houses and a cardboard pop-up of the Charles Bridge. A massive souvenir plate (badly cracked) hangs over the stage, blazoned with a panorama of Hradcany Hill and the single word – at least

In praise of Greek royalty

New York Prince Pavlos, heir to the Greek throne, turned 55 recently and I threw a small dinner for him. Pavlos is a hell of a prince, father, husband and businessman. He’s tall, good-looking, a gent in every way, intelligent, hard-working and has never put a foot wrong. Neither has any member of his immediate family. Compared with them, the rest of European royals seem wanting, but then I’m prejudiced. The Greek royals are Danes, and the oldest reigning clan of Europe. Unlike another royal family whose name escapes me – it is the Platinum Jubilee issue after all – the Hellenic one has had no divorces, no scandals, and

Czexit could be closer than we think

Is Czexit closer than we think? Ahead of the Czech general elections in October, the rise of an anti-EU party as a potential kingmaker is making a referendum on EU membership a distinct possibility. ‘No to EU dictates,’ ‘Freedom to think, speak and breathe,‘ ‘Lockdown is not a solution,’ read election posters plastered around Prague by the Czech Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party. This hard-line anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-lockdown and vaccine-sceptic movement – which is currently polling at around 12 per cent – may hold the key to power for the ruling ANO party after a hotly contested election campaign. The Czech electoral landscape has turned on its head since

China’s obsessive attempts to subvert the West

Most people who think themselves well informed know little or nothing about China. They – or I should say ‘we’ for I am just as ignorant – understand what the CIA and FSB are, and what they want. But what is the CPAFFC, and, if it arrives in your neighbourhood, should you worry? How about the United Front, the ‘magic weapon for strengthening the party’s ruling position,’ in the words of Xi Jinping? What does it do and why does China’s dictator praise it so? I am back from the last place I expected to learn about the Chinese Communist Party: the Budapest Forum, a conference of progressive European mayors