Crap car, Dave's stag do in Prague, Texas Holdem and the geekiest coffee shop

Just back from the US (for work) and Prague (for fun) and it ended with me getting locked out of the car (it was a pig in more ways than one) by some deluded default setting. Having decided to cool the car down on a baking North Carolinian day before I got in it, I made the mistake of shutting the door without keeping a window open and so began a 80 minute saga trying to get the car hire company, Enterprise, to get the door back open. I'll never hire one of those PT Cruiser again, the engine was ropey, awful fuel economy, a boot only openable with the key and no handle even, and the ability to lock it's owner out when the engine is on, even though it knows when the driver is sitting, since it warns if the seatbelt is not being used. When I took the car back the guy who checked the car in looked and reconfigured the default setting - thankfully future drivers of that car will not be massively inconvenienced by this. And I hope that they take my advice and issue a notice to all drivers of affected cars to prevent a disaster befalling some poor soul caught in the middle of nowhere without the means of getting help (my phone and wallet were locked in the car). I suppose if pushed one would have to break a window to get back in. OK enough of that - there were much better times to be had the week before on a trip to the Czech Republic.

The Prague trip was effectively a stag weekend lasting 4 days, for one of my Uni friends David Lloyd-Nolan, with around 20 of us making the trip, most of the guys I'd never met before. The first day was golf in Kent, and I'd not played before except the odd pitch and putt game on Brighton cliffs over looking the Channel. It was a lot harder than it looks of course, the first shot of a hole the most difficult as you've got to seriously whack the ball, the only guarantee is that the ball will move forward by hundreds yards or, if scuffed, just a few. Notably I hit a ball in a small lake and found it, drove a lovely 2nd shot on a long doglegged hole and was on for a "birdie putt" - apparently a good thing for a total beginner. Given all the golf etiquette that exists (why golf shoes - they have spikes and surely can damage the greens, or perhaps it is a cunning plan to get the players to aerate the turf) it seemed inconsistent that we finished the round with a mass feed of ham, egg and chips washed down by a pint of beer much as I'd expect coming off army manoeuvres (which I haven't done either). On the course it was clear my now familiar companions dropped into a common foreign language golfspeak. Standing still I could look the part, but clearly I could not sound the part, so I did feel out of place. I'd play again, but the etiquette will take some getting used to. Still, I very much like Bridge etiquette, and also that of tournament Poker which I'm learning about, so maybe golf might grow on me. After the game we went over to Dave Britton's house so we could all get showered (his house has 3 showers! - a fact that impressed us all) and then over to Gatwick for the Easyjet flight to Prague. We all met up, had some more beers as stag do's do, and went on the flight pretty merry. The "stag" was sitting next to me and we ended up getting competitive over Sudoku and we ended up trying some bloody hard ones for a bet, which we did not win, but the penalty was downing a pint of Czech beer, so that was no hardship. At the hotel I was paired up with "Ham" who was a great room mate and, as it turned out, good at poker too. The rest of the time was a bit of a blur but it did involve go-kart racing, solid Czech food, poker in the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí) where from bright sunshine a mass downpour and then hailstones, cleared the square of all but a few brave folks while everyone was slightly awed and we carried playing on, under our very sturdy awning. I experienced the herby charms of Becherovka one fine evening when the waiters kept plying us with it - we might be wanting to drink and in great spirits, but 6 rounds of the stuff unsolicited, amongst the regulation beer, is enough! I reckon I'd drunk over a quarter of a litre of this sweet, almost desert wine tasting spirit, at that restaurant which added to what was becoming an accumulating hang over (when not drinking). So it was a great time, and there were a lot of laughs and Dave dressed up and dancing in the kind of pink outfit your granny might have wore in her youth, curiously reminding me of Sid James. Brilliant old English dancing from Dave, evoking pearly kings and queens and a good old cockney knees up.

A quick stop over in the UK and I was off to Raleigh again. The non-work highlights included playing football (yes, soccer) twice with the company team, in a match, a mini-night out and, a few days later, training, then also realising that I really enjoy going to Cup a Joe in Mission Valley, Raleigh, NC. It's no frills, but has a great selection of coffee, cheap, free wifi, lots of seats, a bit off the wall, not easy to find, and fun. A place I'd like to spend more time in.