that one time, in czechoslovakia…

14th May 2013


It was our second attempt at Christmas in Prague.

The previous year, Mum had died suddenly and so instead of the Charles Bridge and Wenceslas Square with lovely friends (waves madly at the Rata clan), we had flown home to New Zealand for a bewildered blur of jetlag and grief.

And perhaps it was a stoic determination to have our wintery Christmas, or just a complete lack of imagination, but the day before Christmas Eve 2003 I was Prague-bound with ex-husband.

{branches off to provide contextual information}

In early December, I had heard of a miracle pill that sped up weight-loss by a whopping 30%. The Orlistat informerical was mesmerising: THEY ALL LOOKED SO HAPPY. These people had gone from looking sad and lumpy and wearing grey trackies, to playing beach volleyball and horse-riding in white skinny jeans!

Proper Science explained how fat was eliminated via one’s bowel movements. Woop! 2004 would be The Year that I would take hold of my body and sort it out once and for all. And this was the miracle answer I was waiting for.

I could literally shit myself thin.

The list of possible side affects was long, gross and scary so I threw that page away, and proceeded with the recommended dose. After two days, I had not lost any weight. So I added an additional half tablet.

A week later, on the afternoon we flew to Prague I was taking double the dose.

{and we’re back}

We spent the morning of Christmas Eve wandering around the Christmas markets. It was snowy and freezing -17° C. After a few hours outside, I thought I would never be warm again. And I had awful stomach cramps – clearly the previous evenings ‘Yay We’re Here’ goulash was a little too much.

Then the gurgling started. And the cold sweats. I had this horrible sense that something bad was going to happen. And soon. Through layers of pants, thermals and jeans, my issue appeared to be a largely ‘wind-based’ but I knew this was a temporary situation. If you have ever been in a non-English speaking country with a sudden and desperate urge for a loo, you’ll know the utter relief of catching sight of those golden arches, and the prospect of a McWee.

Lets just say my McPooh was epic.

{digression for further context}

My travelling companion’s interests included 5am workouts six days a week, and a diet of egg whites, rice, and tuna (I know, dear reader, I know). This holiday was his annual opportunity to eat like a normal person. He was fully up for much Czech beer and Utopenci (spicy pork sausage).

And so I felt I could not reveal to him, the precise details of what was happening in my little world.

Also: the Shame.

{back again}

I cleaned myself up in the McLoo as best I could and suggested that we have an afternoon of wandering on our own so I wouldn’t bore him with traipsing around second-hand bookshops. I then went straight back to the Hotel and ran a hot bath. I had three hours to wash and dry the one pair of jeans in the universe that fit me, before meeting him later.

Unfortunately, the McPooh proved to be, just the tip of the proverbial pooh iceberg.

A weeks worth of miracle pills had finally taken hold of my large intestine and were now fully absorbed in wringing the life out of it. This lasted for the best part of two days. I eventually found an anti-pooh antidote at an English speaking pharmacist, for whom I still pray. By Boxing Day the Fear of Sudden Onset Shart was much reduced.

And to think I almost missed out. Because Prague was magical: the Castle, the mad Astronomical Clock, the ceramics – the city is incredible and all completely unlike anything I have ever seen.

We spent hours wandering around the Jewish quarter, through the cemetery and stunning memorial to the Czech’s who were murdered in WWII (the name of every person is carved into the marble walls).

I remember the  higgledy-piggeldy gravestones, poking out of the snow like an unfortunate set of teeth; the sadness and the stillness in the frozen air.


ps: enrolment for emBODYment close midnight Sunday. There is such a gorgeous kind, supportive group gathering, and there are still places available – is one meant for you?



Hello, I'm Sas Petherick. I'm a self-doubt researcher, coach and podcaster who helps thinking humans transcend self-doubt. If you'd like to receive these posts in your inbox please subscribe here (with bonus info and first notice of opportunities to work with me). PS: I totallyInstagram - join me there?


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