Les gens qui ne rient jamais ne sont pas des gens sérieux

Be who you are and say what you mean, those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Repeat after me: Trams are FASCINATING things.

Bear with me on this one. Reserve judgement. You don't know if you like something until you've tried it...

In the year I've been here, I have seen a tram break down once, maybe twice. Last week however I was in trams twice in two days which got stuck behind a great long line of other trams, the first of which had broken down.

The first time, I'd decided not to wait for a bus that would take me directly home, but to get a tram to a bus stop with a greater number of buses to choose from. One stop along the tram stopped and didn't start again.

That was here: You can see about four trams all stcked up waiting for the first to get out the way.

It didn't and I had to walk to the next bus stop.

The second time was following my last English lesson for refugees. Again, the tram travelled one stop before screeching to a halt behind about eight others. I got out and started walking as there were flashing lights in the distance and it looked like a long wait.

Turns out I was right to do so. A tram turning a corner had come off the tracks at the intersection of four roads. There was a line of trams stretching up each of the four roads and a big red heavy-lifting piece of machinery was installed in the middle of the crossroads.

There were men with blow torches, men in overalls shaking their heads and muttering, men speeding up to the scene of the accident with flashing lights, men waving the traffic through the chaos and lots and lots of men standing about just watching.

Look at that huge red truck thing! It pretty much lifted the tram up and placed it back on the tracks. Then the men who are leaning on the tram in this picture got their moment of superhero status and pushed the tram backwards so it wasn't blocking the crossroads anymore. Still the huge line of trams waiting just got longer and longer in every direction...

Hang on a minute... why am I writing this post? Why would anyone find this at all interesting? Ah well, maybe someone out there finds big red heavy-lifting equipment as exciting as I do. The thing is it was a lovely day and I had my camera handy as I always do and recorded it and then once it's recorded it might as well be shared right? I wonder. I think I may have to limit my camera usage. Or spend my time pondering more useful questions than whether the rise in tram mishaps corresponds to the weather and expanding metal or something... I think I have to get a life.

Here's a long line of trams if anyone's still reading this... There were loads of them!

That'll be all for now.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Today's other post is here.

I have no idea where all this productivity has come from.

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YOU may not find it exciting, but there are plenty here who do so just keep quiet and don't spoil it for them!

Please, dear people at the BBC; I did, I stole this picture of His Holiness from your site but I have no money so please don't sue me. Thanks.

The Pope's coming to Poland. I mentioned this earlier, but now I'm mentioning it again because he's released his schedule (as faithful readers of Catholic World News will already know...)

Actually, I'm a little sad I'll miss his open air mass in Warsaw. A little. Ok, so I'm not Catholic, well I don't even believe in God really, and I do have quite a few problems with some central beliefs of the Catholic Church, and I'll be in Canada having a good time... but still. It's The Pope. It's The Pope coming to The Former Pope's nation. It's An Event (ok, I'll stop with the capitals now).

I would like to see his reaction to the enormous picture of Jan Paweł II by the old town, I would like to see how the Poles react to his being here and I would like the opportunity to verify whether he looks like The Penguin in real life, or if it's just in the pictures (no bolts of lightening have struck me down yet... maybe God thinks he looks a bit evil to be a Pope too... it's just that pose he always does lowering his head and looking up, it's a little sinister. Oh I think I've gone too far now. I'll stop.)

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Well, it IS April...

I moved along the bus, making way for the swarm crowding on. I didn't want to move too far from the door as I was getting off the next stop, but clung to the rail, letting others push past. The sun had been shining all day and people were in shirtsleeves and jumpers. Gone were the puffy winter coats, the woolly hats and matching scarves. Hands were bare and eyes shaded. Everyone was warm and grateful for the breeze coming from the bus' open windows.

As water drops marked the window by my elbow, I was amazed by the power of the bus' windscreen wipers. Then I realised the driver wasn't cleaning the windscreen. Rain. The first few drops looked harmless enough, a couple of light splashes, the sun still shining strongly behind. As the bus slowed to my stop and I followed an old man shuffling his way off the bus however, it audibly increased in strength and volume.

I strode across the road, holding my cardigan up over my head and cursing myself for getting the bus that required what was supposed to be a pleasant walk through a sunny park to our flat.

The drops got fatter and more frequent, soaking right through my cardigan and through my hair to my scalp. I watched the damp dots join on my jeans, and held my bright newly-purchased daffodils so that they wouldn't get too battered. A group of kids rushed past, calling to each other and laughing under their hoods. I trotted down the steps and past the trees dotted all over with lime green buds. A couple of ducks quacked appreciatively and I thought how the rain would add to the colour appearing everywhere, pushing up through the earth and sprouting from the reawakened trees. It was wet, but warm. Uncomfortable but comforting.

As I turned into our road, the arm from my cardigan swung out and wrapped itself around a lamp-post. As I tugged it free, a little giggle escaped. I could just imagine what I looked like. My hair was plastered to my face, I was attached to a lamp-post and my jeans were now so wet they were tugging at my waistband.

I searched through my bag for my keys, sheltering under the porch and trying not to drop my cheerful flowers. Safely back inside the flat I peeled off my soaked trousers and glanced out the window. The rain had stopped, as suddenly as it had begun. The sun continued to shine brightly and I put the daffs in a vase.

Beats the hell out of snow.

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Monday, April 24, 2006


Yes, I know I haven't been writing anything at all regularly and all you kind people have been faithfully checking the site and being let down (indulge me).

Well, things have been busy and I've been unwell, but have a look at some photos and let me finish off this EVS project then in a couple of weeks I'll have all sorts of exciting things to tell you, like how my holiday in Canada is going, and how far Marek and I have got looking for a flat to buy together, and... er, well other thrilling stuff like that.


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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Spring for sure

There's no denying spring is taking over from winter. Thank the Lord (or whoever is responsible for the weather...)

Cafes have their outside terraces set up and people are cautiously sipping drinks, their collars turned up against the breeze. Birds are building nests in every available spot and singing their little hearts out. The sun is more often out than behind a cloud and (joy of joys!) I haven't worn a hat and gloves for a long time.

That was the longest, coldest winter I have ever lived through. Roll on summer.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Hi! How are you doing? Yeah, fine thanks. Oh Happy Easter to you too. Not bad actually, how was yours? Oh good. Yeah they have these traditions which I've never come across before and no chocolate eggs. I know! No Easter bunny, no egg hunt and no chocolate eggs. Well, you can get them, but most people tend to concentrate on the whole Jesus dying and rising again thing. Yeah, I guess so. But I like chocolate eggs.

Well, on the Saturday everyone prepares these little baskets, fills them with eggs (real, hard boiled, no chocolate ones, did I mention they don't do chocolate eggs?), salt, bread, sausage and a few token flowers and decorated eggs. Then they take them to the church to get them blessed. It's supposed to be symbolic for the food you eat on the Sunday. I went with Marek and took sneaky pictures in the church. I feel blasphemous doing that but I guess there's no reason why it should bother God. Then the priest came and said a few words about The Meaning Of Easter and flung holy water about near the table of baskets, and it was over. Yeah, pretty quick. Then we went through this whole, do we give money? do we ignore the begging bowls? (ok, that's not what they are called I'm sure, it's more likely to be 'donation basket' or 'tithes recepticle' or something but they looked like begging bowls to me and the priest kept coming and emptying them in a way that made it look like he thought someone was going to run off with the cash) how much do we give? I had a 5 and a 2 zloty piece. I felt like I should probably give the 5 but ended up giving the 2. I justified it by the speed with which the priest rushed through the ritual (admittedly probably the 9th that day) and for some reason Marek's family found this very amusing, and kept repeating it to newcomers as if it were a treasured family anecdote.

Yeah and then nothing really happened until Sunday morning and the Easter breakfast. Then it was the egg tradition (no, no chocolate ones). There's a plate of eggs and everyone takes one then goes around wishing each person something special and swapping bits of egg. It's like the big wafer thing they have at Christmas, except it's Easter so it's eggs. I think the wafer must be less messy. No, it was very nice, although pretty challenging to find enough nice things to wish people in Polish. I tended to be vague and stick to health and happiness.

Well, then we had a walk and spent large amounts of time either talking or eating or both and I spent a disproportionate amount of time answering questions about English Easters which came from an aunt who has lived in the Polish countryside all her life. Kind of difficult to relate.

Oh, the best bit was when they were asking about 'my' church, that being the Church of England. In response to their specific questions I told them how we didn't really go in for the whole making the sign of the cross any time we entered a church, and how there was no confession but that people tended to talk directly to God rather than through a priest. Oh the joy when Marek's sister said how it seemed like a jolly good thing and then got on to how there were too many 'religious' people in Poland who just go through the motions and give their money to paedophilic priests with sports cars. Better to be a person living according to Christian principles than to be a mean spirited person who goes to church regularly and follows empty rituals (this was accompanied a pointed look at an aunt). I know, the fun of family meals, I was trying not to grin too widely.

Well, no, not really. That was about it. I told them about egg hunts, we drank up our vodka and went home. I think we're off to church again now. Yeah, twice in 3 days. There's going to be lots of alleluiahs and apparently I have to take an umbrella. No, it's not raining but they have this tradition of spraying water on girls on Easter Monday. I have no idea. If I find out I'll let you know. Oh, someone said it also works with perfume which sounds like a much better idea to me. Hmm.

Ok then, better be off. Nice chatting to you... keep in touch. You too. Bye.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ha! I am a genius

And now you can all sit back and enjoy the beauty of Marek skiing down a hill.

Give me a break, it's just a test.

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There's no real point to this one

So I'm obviously waaaay behind on this, but as well as photos, apparently it's really easy to put videos on blogs. I would show you just how easy, except the damn thing hasn't been working for me yet. The 'uploading' status goes on for hours and never gets to the 'uploaded' status. This is not a great loss to humanity as I don't have many videos to share, except for a couple of Marek skiing down a hill which, let's be honest, are of little entertainment value to anyone except me and maybe Marek.

Still. If I can get it to work I can get you all green with envy next month when we're in Canada, and that would be fun. I intend to be a total geek and upload photos and video regularly as well as updating my blog more often than every 3-4 days once we get to the other side of the Atlantic. For now, let me off I'm sick.

Nothing new to share as I've only seen the inside of my flat for a few days, except that I like this. That's all.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Does every girl really turn into their mum?

The technical ones in my family are my dad and brother. I manage to bluff my way through anything technical I come into contact with, and by the way when I say technical I'm thinking along the lines of working a digital camera or mobile phone rather than something demanding like computer programming or building an atomic bomb, which I imagine are slightly more technically taxing.

My mum is not what you would call technically minded. She does email. She does word processing and she does internet (hi Mum!) She only vaguely does mobile phones, and drives my dad up the wall by letting the battery die, never picking up because it's at the bottom of her handbag or switched off or, more often than not, not even knowing where it is.

This weekend my mum is in the south of France with a gaggle of her friends, undoubtedly getting thrown out of restaurants for bad behaviour and making trouble in local bars. I spoke to her just before she left and as I've been under the weather she was obviously thinking of me and wondering how I was. At least that's what I think her intention was with this sms:

Zér high how s t lut num

I'm not even exaggerating on this one. I'm thinking she needs another lesson with the predictive text. I got the message three times and each time I read it, tried to understand it and gave up. Oh I get the lut num being luv mum and even the how s t could be how r u minus the question mark but
Zér high. Zér high?? Any suggestions??

It was midday so
unless they started reeeally early with the morning cocktails I'm going to attribute it to not being technically minded and leave it at that.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006


I walked past Belarus' Embassy today. There are a few protesters camped out in tents and the usual gaggle of armed policemen.

As I passed the police van which had transported the police to the embassy, I noticed the front seats were covered with tiger pattern seat covers. I was so tempted to take a photo but feared a 'random document check' as a result and as I'm not actually registered at the moment kept walking.

Tiger patterned seats??? That's not exactly encouraging us to take the police seriously is it? Or are they intending to show us their fun-loving side? Totally random.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

pinch me

I got off relatively lightly from yesterday's April Fools' Day. Just an 'oh look, it snowed again in the night' from Marek which would have been rather lame, if I hadn't fallen for it hook line and sinker 'whaaaaaat? This bloody country! Oh. Look. No snow.' It was especially gullible of me since I'd looked out the window about, oh, five seconds earlier.


Anyway, once he'd finished laughing about that I was all clear for the rest of the day.


When I was a teenager in Germany, I did what every other teenager in need of spare cash does, I babysat. Luckily for me, the babysitting I did was generally for dipomatic families and so the houses I went to generally had big tvs to watch, exotically stocked cupboards and impressive dvd collections. They paid well too and all I generally had to do was read the kids a story and put them to bed.

I am partly reliving my teenage evenings this week, but this time with a difference. A big difference: I'll be here all week, day and night. I'm staying at a big expat house just out of Warsaw (think sauna, jacuzzi bath, pool table) overseeing cleaning and ironing ladies, music and language tutors and the comings and going of 3 'kids', the youngest of whom is 14.

Sure I have to cook, and there are two dogs who have to be let out into the garden every once in while, but (without wanting to jinx anything...) it all seems pretty straightforward so far.

I'm staying in a room which, if you add in the en-suite bathroom and walk in wardrobe, is about the size of our flat. You think I'm exaggerating? Not so much. It's beautiful. The kids are charming and helpful, the dogs are bribeable with treats and the jacuzzi bath? Bliss.

If you need me I'll be in the sauna...

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