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

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Last one of the day... promise... before this turns into a photoblog.

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Nicknames too...

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and they tell me it isn't a Polish name...

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Monday, October 30, 2006

(All together now!) Happy nothing day to you...

Yesterday I made Marek a birthday cake.

Marek's birthday is the 28th August. Yesterday was the 29th October.

It's the first cake I've made since his actual birthday - due to no flat/oven/time - so I sang and lit candles and he humoured me.

I think non-birthday cakes are even better than birthday cakes.

No expectations means the possibility of a surprised, happy 'oh!' instead of the risk of a disappointed 'oh...' especially if the cake is carrot cake and has sprinkles.

I like sprinkles.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

angels and devils

We went out Thursday and Friday night this week, so by Saturday night I wasn't so sure how good an idea the Halloween party was going to be. Turns out it was a GREAT idea.

We'd been very artsy fartsy and made some angel wings and devil horns, (yes, not the most original Halloween duo ever seen but it's a relatively recent thing in Poland so I thought we could get a way with it...) and I'd had great fun backcombing hair and overdoing the eye liner.

Put a costume on and the whole world wants to chat. It started before we even left our building: 'Is he going to fly?' a gruff man asked me, nodding in Marek's direction. On our way to a local shop for some beers to take with us, a fire engine passed us, on its way back to the station on our road. The fireman by the window did a double take and grinned broadly and waved when I waved my devil fork in his direction. In the shop, there was more. Sales people sniggered, a youngish guy dramatically proclaimed 'I've seen an angel!' and the lady in front of us in the queue shook her head and said solemnly, 'an angel with beer. It's just not right.' The lady who served us said 'surely it should be the other way around!' (see! I'm always doing my bit, challenging Polish gender stereotypes...) and told Marek his card had been refused. 'Just a joke' she smiled, 'I wanted to refuse an angel's card.'

People are funny.

The party was fun, and when we moved on to a club, the costumes came in handy again. Our group of ten or so collectively groaned when we arrived and saw the long queue. 'It'll be hours to wait, can we go somewhere else?' someone asked.

'No!' I said confidently (bolstered by the beer), 'we're VIPs, we can get in!'

I approached the nearest bouncer and smiled as sweetly as is possible with devil horns and wild hair. 'How long do you think we'll have to wait if we join the queue now?' I asked. He glanced at our group, noting the various costumes and said 'oh, ten minutes or so. You're all dressed up, you won't have to wait long.' I was surprised and tried not to show it. 'Should we get in line or can we wait here?' I asked, not quite believing my luck. 'Stand here, by the side,' was the reply, as a second bouncer turned a small group away with a 'you're just not coming in!'

Who knew exaggerated self confidence/arrogance would pay off so easily?

Soon after we were let in and, avoiding the poisonous looks from those in the queue, squeezed through the crowd, immediately attracting a host of people wanting to touch Marek's wings and make devil comments.

Apart from Marek's wand being stolen (evil cowface witch of a girl), the evening passed without incident. A rather large guy borrowed Marek's wings and pranced about in a way that made it perfectly obvious that wearing angel wings was a secret wish he'd kept hidden for years and actually being able to do it had made his night, if not his year.

People are so great when you're dressed up. I may get the wings out next weekend too.

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Friday, October 27, 2006

You MUST have something worthwhile to debate, surely


What is wrong with these people?

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Thursday, October 26, 2006




Yeah, that was my general train of thought when confronted with it too.

Now I have sold my soul.

I'll explain what happened. I went to this totally amazing concert (Oh, really? I told you about that...) and wanted to leave a note on Skin's myspace page, but only members can do that so I was all 'well fine! I can be a member too!' and so I joined.

Then I only had one friend. Everyone on that thing has at least two hundred, so I felt a bit sad and lonely, and then people started sending me friend requests which freaked me out a bit, but it seems that's basically what goes on at MySpace. (Eww)

Anyhoo, if you have a similar dirty little secret, send me a friend request. I'm aiming to get out of loser territory and give in to the peer pressure of having friends. Oh, don't bother telling me the red and black is gross. It's gross on purpose k?

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Ringing ears and a hoarse voice... what I got after Saturday night. It was a very very very amazing concert.

Its been a while since I was a regular gigger, but I went through a particularly rich period around 1997. At the time I was living in Germany and me and my friends would regularly go and see Brit-pop acts that came to weeny clubs in Cologne. I've been in conversation with members of Dodgy while they've been on stage; I've stood in awe, before Tim from Ash as he's smiled and chatted away while my friend's wailed 'I can't see you, that crowd surfing girl kicked me in the head, I think I'm concussed'; I've sat next to Crispin Mills as he's smoked a joint after a Kula Shaker gig, thinking 'Cristian Mills' corduroy trousers are actually touching mine'; I've been given one too many beers on the Stereophonics' tour bus; I've sat at a table with three of the four blur members, filling in a questionnaire sent to them by some French magazine (yes, it was the delectable Damon who was missing, but I only just survived being approached by a very drunk Alex, to whom I stuttered 'great show!' before collapsing in a teenage pile of giggles, so imagine the meltdown had the man himself appeared...).

Where was this going? Oh yeah, my gigging history and how last night was just as incredible.

Last night was up there with my favourite teenage experiences. No, I didn't meet Skin, but the performance she gave was enough. She was so full of energy and her voice! - it was just as amazing is it sounds on the CDs. She was flirty, friendly, playful and at times downright scary, but the girl performed her socks off. It was suuuch a pleasure to be a part of.

Our tactic when we were seventeen was to befriend the t-shirt seller and get back stage passes for after the gig. I guess old habits die hard, and I chatted a bit with the girl selling the posters and pins. 'Are you English' she asked incredulously, when I asked to see a t-shirt close up. I told her I was, and I think it came as a bit of a surprise to her that an English person would choose to live in such a place as Warsaw.

When I asked where they were headed next she wasn't sure. 'We've got a fifteen hour journey early tomorrow morning. Er, Holland maybe?' Her stereotypical Englishness made me smile, and I went for another beer. Actually Sunday they played in Austria, off to the Netherlands today...

Skin played the songs from her latest album, as well as giving us the first public playing of a new piece.

This is her introducing it...

She was cheered and clapped throughout the show and after the second encore, she was obviously chuffed with her reception. She said we spoiled her, but we only gave her what she deserved and I for one was proud of the Warsaw crowd.

I've been waiting ten years for this concert. It was one hundred percent worth the wait.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006


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Friday, October 20, 2006

Want something to read?

Go here and here.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

film festival part two: the films

The first film we saw was this one, the story of a manic-depressive and his quest for fame.

We arrived just as it was starting, and as we entered, a guy with thick-framed glasses, an arty aura and a beer in his hand was just leaving the front of the audience, to applause. I'm guessing he was something to do with the film, possibly the director, I'm not very good at face recognition...

The film was good. OK, I'll never be a film critic but even I can expand on good. It was made up of original camera footage of Dan Johnston's life, facilitated by his obsessive need to record everything and everyone around him. The film looked at his obsession with one girl in particular, his disregard for the rules of society and his slow spiral into mental illness. I wanted to hug his poor parents. Seriously, poor things. His escapades, his banishments into mental hospitals and the bizarre paths he chose to follow made for fascinating viewing, but ultimately it was a tragic film. Very sad. There may be a thin line between madness and genius, but the genius sure as hell doesn't make life any easier for the people around a madman.

The second film we saw was the one Beatroot mentioned before, and one that I'd read this review for, so I wasn't expecting it to be very ha-ha funny, more interesting in a historical perspective way. I'm glad that's the approach I took because the jokes? They weren't funny.

Want an example? Here goes...

How does a Russian visit his friends?

wait for it....

In a tank.

Hmm. Yeah. Anyway, it was great because we got a potted history of communism. The theory that the strength of the system could be judged by how rigidly people were being stoppped from telling jokes was maybe a little thin, but an interesting perspective, and I enjoyed it.

It was also pretty cool because they had a couple of shots of my favourite Warsaw Social Realist statues, which can be found by Plac Konstitucji. They are these huge chisel jawed men and big-bosomed women, holding tools and children with pride that shouts out 'look how wonderful we are, I bet you wish YOU were communist too'. I love them because they are so stuck in the time they were made, and the film appreciated them too, because they were shown twice. Seeing the film in a cinema down the road from them kind of fitted neatly too.

The bit I didn't like so much was the tone of the narration. It was trying to be light hearted and entertaining but in doing so risked ignoring a few details ' the second world war, the Russians got as far as Berlin, which meant they won...' It also had the voice overs of Poles/Hungarians/Czechs/Slovaks etc etc done in regional accents, which I suppose was supposed to be refreshing and slightly comic, but ended up reminding me of eurotrash (which obviously, I never watched, but... ahem). They also referred to 'plucky little Poland' starting off the collapse of communism. Poland may be plucky but it's not very little.

Now a joke that actually got a chuckle out of me...

An Englishman, Frenchman and Russian(man?) are discussing Adam and Eve:
Englishman: Adam and Eve were obviously English - it's clear by how shy and reserved they were.
Frenchman: No! Adam and Eve were French; they were both naked and beautiful.
Russian: You're both wrong. Adam and Eve were Russian. Why else would they have no clothes and just one apple to share between them.

Ok, it was funnier in the film, surrounded by all the dire jokes. Honest.

Anyway, we made more use of the film festival this year than last year but hopefully not as much as we will next year.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

How to make me feel self-conscious today

1. Stand by me at the bus stop, and although it's clear you're trying not to, allow your gaze to be drawn to my bulging swollen eye as if you were looking at the wreckage of a particularly nasty car crash. Repeat until the bus comes, looking away guiltily when my good eye meets yours.

2. Visibly wince when I walk into your chemist's and point to my various bites. Shake your head in amazement when I explain it was just a mosquito, and scrunch up your face in pain when I ask for something to put on the larger bites. Look sceptical when I insist it was just a mosquito and advise me not to drive a car.

3. Trip over your own feet in horror and amazement when you see me coming towards you with my absurdly half-closed puffy eye.

Really, I'll look normal again before you know it, couldn't we just pretend I do already?

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Like a six-year-old the week before Christmas

I am so so so ridiculously excited. You may not realise but I'm twirling around in a dizzy spin of fizziness. Why am I this giddy? I'm finally seeing this incredible goddess next week. I've wanted to see her/skunk anansie in concert for the last ten years and somehow it just never happened. You may not have guessed, but this is a big deal for me. Excited. Very.

Oh, the world tried to bring me down, by getting a mosquito into my room last night (it's October!! You little bastards should all be dead and gone by now) It bit my left wrist, right hand, left cheek and left eyelid, which has swollen my eye half shut. Fun. Didn't work - I'm still excited...

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

The best England has to offer

One day last week Marek returned from work brimming with excitement.

'This guy from the office was in England for his sister's wedding and brought us back this amaaazing stuff'

'Oh yeah? What was it like?'

'You know those chocolates? Eight? Eight o'Clock or something?'

'After eights?'

'Yeah, well it was like that, except without the chocolate, and harder, like a mix of icing sugar and mint and sugar. Delicious stuff.'

Becca goes to cupboard and pulls out box of Kendal Mint Cake that has been hanging about there ever since she brought it back on a whim after a trip to see the family in Cumbria in August.

'Er, like this?'

'That's it! How did you know?'

What else does England have to offer? I could hardly bring back baked beans now could I?

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Friday, October 13, 2006

mighty pathetic 3

I have a confession to make. There are some parts of modern life that I'm just not wired up for. I think I've inherited this from my mum, who can email like a trooper but visibly pales when confronted with a mobile telephone.

I like the internet stuff, I like the mobile phone stuff, but the mp3 stuff? That's just confusing.

My project requires me to interview people so I obviously needed a dictaphone. I got an mp3 one, and oh! look! I can get extra use out of it by putting lots of little music files on and sticking these things in my ears and voila! the modern walkman.

I think I should point out at this point that my last walkman died in about 1991, I never upgraded to a discman and my life since has been remarkably free of headphones.

I now know why.

I have this slightly odd relationship with music. When it's on, it has my attention. More than that actually, I sing along, I make up harmonies and jump about in a poor imitation of whatever they did in the video. If (God forbid) it's a rousing song with dramatic changes of key or extravagant accompaniment I'll belt it out, filling my lungs to the max and setting off all the dogs in the neighbourhood.

I never listened to music while studying because if a song I liked was on, I'd find myself staring out of the window, murmuring along to the words, feeling the pain (or joy, or whatever) of the singer, and wandering off into a little daydream about where the song had come from, why the songwriter had felt that way, why...

So, I only listened to music when I could give it my full attention. Sure the radio would be on in the background fairly regularly, but my music, the songs I chose to listen to only got played when I could really enjoy them.

I should also mention my internal radio. I assumed for a long time that everyone had this, but a few people looked at me weirdly enough when I mentioned it for me to think that it might just be me after all. I always have a song in my head. When it's in my head and not being played by an electronic machine, I can have it on in the background and not get sidetracked. I'll phase it out and concentrate on what I'm doing, only to realise afterwards that it's been playing along in my head all the time. It's a pretty good radio - if I'm half way through a song (or more likely hearing it for the third time running) and I decide I want a change, it's enough to think about another song and off it goes, all on its own, drowning out my internal monologue.

Ok, now I know I'm freaking you out a bit so I'll get back to the original topic: The mp3 player.

I'm walking along, plugged into the player, happy that I figured out the software and loaded on some songs. The first song is a good one, but slow and relatively calm so I can listen without joining in fairly easily. A favourite song comes on next however and I have to physically restrain myself from singing by covering my mouth with my hand. I've given up fighting the urge to walk along in rhythm, but I really can't inflict any dance moves on the poor people of Warsaw.

I make it to the bus stop and, getting the hang of just listening to the music rather than interacting with it, I notice that being plugged in to an mp3 player makes waiting for the bus easier on the one hand (nice lovely muuuusic to listen to) but much less interesting on the other (cut off from people watching/eavesdropping/interacting with your environment).

I'm nosey and love listening to other people's conversations - it's good Polish practice above all and I've learned masses of vocab this way, honest! With my earphones in though, even at the ridiculously low level my paranoia of permanent hearing damage allows, I can't be nosey!

Maybe I'll get speakers and just listen to it at home.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

film festival part one: the tickets

I remember the film festival last year.

We spent the ten days or so of the festival intermittently remembering that it was on, forgetting, remarking to one another that we should go and get tickets, forgetting, reading reviews and listening to people telling us about films they'd seen and then making it to one of the ticket offices only to find that it was over.

I was determined not to let it happen again this year.

We didn't get off to a good start. Despite having two copies of the programme and several films ringed in thick black marker, we were out of the country for the first weekend of the festival.

Suddenly, it was wednesday, the second half of the festival already and we hadn't made it to a single film. Yesterday lunchtime I dragged myself away from working on this, to go to the cinema and get tickets. The Polish film we wanted to see that evening was sold out, but I got tickets to the Devil and Daniel Johnston instead, and for this one Beatroot talked about six months ago on Sunday afternoon.

So, we'll get to see two of the hundred odd films to choose between. It's not much, but at least it's better than last year...

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

the murder of a journalist

This is the best article I've read so far about the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, although Edward Lucas also wrote a good obit, which was published in the Economist Global Agenda.

Both have far more knowledgeable and insightful perspectives to offer than I could attempt, but to tell the truth, the killing really got to me.

It sounds false and affected to say that a political murder touched something in me, but it did.

Maybe it's because she was someone who paid for her unceasing fight to let the truth be known with the ultimate price. Maybe it's because the suffocating regime of Putin's Russia has impacted upon the lives of people I've met, people who have fled the horrors of Chechnya to the bleak prospects Poland has to offer. Maybe it's because the thought that a prominent journalist, whose articles uncovered crimes, corruption and violence, could be silenced forever so simply, so coldly, so finally.

She's not the first to be killed for what she believed and how she worked, but to think the selflessness of her actions was rewarded with a bullet is just plain unfair.

The world's a bleaker place. Hitmen working for criminals with power are winning against the selfless champions of the importance of human life.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Refugees in Poland you say?

I promise not just to use this blog as a channel for getting people to the project site, but I've had to work on the layout and all before being able to turn to the content, so I'm anxious to get it all sorted and move on.

I've had great feedback - thanks everyone who chipped in!

It's not finished, and doubtless I'll be chopping and changing it pretty regularly, but for the moment this is how it looks.

Imaginary prizes galore to the first person who comments

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Is this too cheesy?

I may scrap the whole part of the site I did before and just use wordpress for everything. It's neater and gives me less opportunity to mess it up.

We just had a wonderful weekend in Bonn and after a truly horrible workday yesterday (why can't everyone just speak English properly? Er, probably because then I wouldn 't have a job) I am content to faff around all day on t'internet.

I wish I was slightly more geeky. I just don't understand why you can categorise your links, but only those in the 'blogroll' category show up on the site. I'm missing something.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

be careful what you wish for

One of the biggest advantages of the new flat is the bath. Those of you who remember this will know exactly what I mean.

We've gone from the smallest bath in the world to a comfortable corner bath with a seat, which lets me stretch my legs and really relax in the bubbles, surrounded by candles.

The only disadvantage of the new flat (apart from the radiator that still has to be moved and the temporary work surfaces - can't do everything at once...) are the little specks of paint I keep coming across.

We had the whole place redone and although the guy who did it all for us (Pan Darek, hand-kisser and plasterer/electrician/painter extraordinaire) swathed every room in plastic, the specks got through.

The door handles, the windows, the window ledges, the doors, the floor, the cupboards, and particularly the bath, where Pan Darek presumably washed his brushes, are spotted with pink, purple and brown. I spent my first bath in the flat obsessively picking off the specks with a fingernail, determined not to let any stay...

... which is ironic really when you look at my response to Edd's comment.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Remember how much I like you?

I never really ask anything of you right? I mean, I spew out all this stuff, and some people comment, and most people just have a look and then bugger off, but I never really take up any more of your time than you're willing to give.

I've been meaning to tell you how good-looking you are for a while now. Really.

Ok, I'm starting a project this month, funded by the EU and I have this little favour to ask. I've done a basic, small (for the moment) no-frills website with which to start. It's to give a bit of background and will grow over the next nine months (people have been commenting about my baby obsession recently - it's not intentional!) up to World Refugee Day.

The main part will be supplemented by interviews and information, blog style with room for comments as soon as I spend some time blending it into the main site...

I would love it if you would just go and have a quick two-minute look around (actually you could probably see the whole thing in about 30 seconds...) and tell me your first impressions. It can be an email if the comments box scares you that much, and it can be cruel if you hate it.

Thanks, I knew you'd do it. You are such a nice person. It's here.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Not here

Post over here today. You remember P3, surely...

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Baby steps

Yesterday we found ourselves (again) in one of those big soulless shops that sell everything from sinks to lawnmowers to light switches.

Marek had to buy his Dad an aerial cable ending, and couldn't find the one he needed. 'I'm going to find someone to ask' he muttered as he walked away, past two women who worked there and were chatting in the curtain section.

'Er, you just walked past two people who could help you,' I pointed out, 'why don't you ask them?'

'But they just deal with material,' he said, 'I'm looking for a guy to ask.'

Now, bear in mind that this was the day of the Miss World competition, we'd been through the 'women are more than objects to look at' argument and I'd already ranted about Polish gender stereotyping several times that day.

I gave Marek the kind of look that, by rights, should have melted the flesh clean off his face. 'Because they're women they just deal with curtains?' I asked, trying not to shout. 'They work here! You can ask them about their products; any of them. If they can't help they'll get you someone who can.'

Marek, very sensibly, didn't react to my agitation but approached the nearest woman and explained what he was looking for. She led him off and for an awful moment I thought she was looking for another employee. It turned out she was just getting the right aisle.

I followed and tried to control my grin as she talked him through the different aerial endings. He asked a couple of questions, picked out the one he needed and thanked her.

As we walked to the checkout Marek smiled at me sheepishly, 'it just didn't cross my mind to ask her' he said.

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