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

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Put down that handbag!

Yes, the rest of us all knew Twinky Winky was a gay icon, but as many of you have gathered, Poland's politicians have adopted it as the latest non-issue to get their knickers in a twist over. The big purple tellytubby with a triangle on his head has (gasp!) a handbag! Quick! Cover the eyes of all Polish babies! They might catch the homo bug!

Luckily, not all Poles are convinced by all this ridiculous obsession with gay people trying to 'infect' the rest of us, and yesterday's paper published a sweet little survey. They asked Polish people whether a number of issues reported in the foreign media were making foreigners
a. laugh at Poland?
b. not change their impression of Poland either way?
c. endear Poland to them?

The teletubby fiasco got 80% of respondents saying other countries were laughing at Poland. At least we are nearly all aware. That's something.

The other three issues also had at least half of the respondents pointing out how ridiculous many of Poland's politicians are:

- The Prime Minister admitting he has no bank account (preferring to use his mother's...) because someone might put lots of money in it and accuse him of corruption - 71%
- MEP Giertych refuting Darwin's theory of evolution - 59%
- Education minister Giertych banning 'homosexual propoganda' in schools (yes, MEP Giertych's son, see the family resemblance?) - 50%

That last one is interesting though, because although the others only had single digit numbers of people saying the issue would endear Poland to foreigners, for the homosexual propoganda in schools issue, as many as 12% thought it would make the people of other nations think 'oh, look, Poland's a jolly good country! No homosexual propoganda in schools! Too damn right.'

Meanwhile, this country carries on down this merry little route it is headed.

While I feel terribly sorry for the man concerned, and wouldn't dream of laughing at a sick man, it has a certain poignancy that the health minister has just announced that he is suffering from cancer.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Clarification - no porn stars here

Someone told me recently he'd googled me and found 'my blog'. As I know him in a work context and as I have had er, five blogs at the last count, I was curious which one he'd found so allowed myself a few minutes of self-absorption and googled myself.

The page he found with a link to one of my blogs was number four on the list, an old one from last year I no longer update.

The first three however, may have given him something he wasn't expecting. This girl has my name. Couldn't she think something a little more exotic for crying out loud?

I'm definitely not that one. K?

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Monday, May 28, 2007


As I walked away, I tried my very best to feel, if not sad, at least a little reflective, or solemn, or something.

As hard as I tried though, no matter how many times I reminded myself I met good friendly people there, or I learned a little maybe, I couldn't help the feeling of euphoria bubbling up inside. I couldn't keep that silly grin off my face as I said a cheery 'do widzenia!' to the doorman, knowing full well I wouldn't see him again. I couldn't shake the feeling even when I missed three trams in a row and reminded myself sharply that the money wasn't going to be regularly coming into my bank account any more.

I really don't care.

The summer is ahead of me, and I'm free of that place!

I'm free of incomprehensible texts and pages and pages of barely concealed advertising. I'm free of American spelling and infuriating translations that stick to Polish sentence constructions. I'm free of incompetent management and awful communist writing styles. I'm free!

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Sunday Summary a.k.a. after not blogging for a week, a lot of random unconnected threads are strangling Becca's brain

Yes, I know I've been a little quiet recently, and yes, I know it's not like me. Things have been, well, mildly hectic sums it up, or maybe fairly overwhelmingly busy would be better.

Not that has hasn't been interesting you understand. I've been writing, editing, reviewing (bars and cafes, now that's what I call a proper job) rushing backwards and forwards between the flat and the printers with exhibition material, and doing a range of fairly random things like a surreal voice test at a recording studio (don't ask, I honestly don't know). I have also been sitting around yet another luxurious Wilanow house this weekend, trying not to feel guilty about doing nothing more strenuous than going for a wander in the sunshine with a lovable old dog and getting paid too much for it.

Most of the Happy this weekend has been thanks to flowers (choosing, buying, smelling, picking, giving and planting them), the prospect of my last day (tomorrow!) at The City Squeal (which I have been wanting to bitch about ever since I started a year ago but have bitten my lip due to the 'don't blog about work' rule) and Marek (obviously. More? OK, because he's Marek and he took me to the theatre like a sweetheart and he's honestly nearly finished his dissertation two years later, and we may finally get to spend a bit more time together in the next week or so).

I also have a new camera. I love it so much I want to write a poem for it. Or seranade it. Seriously, it's a beaut. About 27.3 billion new photos will shortly be up on flickr as evidence of my new obsession.

Also, anyone ever had someone offer you a job, but on the condition you think up a role for yourself...? It's very Polish. And something I'm trying to figure out right now. Give me a minute.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

CS fire

In our corridor

'Uh-oh' Marek said, speaking over the breakfast news. I looked up from my toast.

'Huh?' I'd caught 'w Anglii' and something about fire, but nothing else.

'Some old clipper has been burned.' Marek said, and I went back to my breakfast. I don't care much for ships, and I was thinking about something much more important.


At work it was hectic. I didn't stop all day, even reading texts while munching on my sandwiches. The excessive workload stopped my usual visit to the BBC News website to catch up on what was going on in the world. It was hot and I resented the time I was inside. I dreamed of cool showers.


When I finally got in from work, I flopped onto the sofa, turning on the telly just as the newsman got to the end of the transmission. The picture from the last news section was still up behind him. That picture... that boat looks familiar. Hang on a...

I flicked channels frantically, cursing UPC for the millionth time that we have no more BBC World. CNN was talking about Lebanon and the German news was on some local festival. Finally, I waited a while on TV5 and a French woman told me what I was beginning to suspect. The burning ship? It was the Cutty Sark!

I grew up in Greenwich, and couldn't tell you how many times we took visitors to that ship, walked past that ship, stood near the ship waiting for our friend to run past in the marathon... That wasn't just a ship, that was part of Greenwich. Is part of Greenwich. As I got older, it was a meeting spot for Saturday afternoons with friends, and as I got even older (but not old enough for the pubs) it was an evening hangout, sneaking sips of beer on the benches around the ship.

The Cutty Sark!

Close-up of in our corridor

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

not quite ready

Every time I'm in the company of a baby this cute and smiley and squishy...

...Marek gets this panicked look in his eye.

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She crouches, one protective arm held up to shield her face. They fly through the air towards her, small ones, fat ones, long ones. She falls sideways to avoid the largest one, which thumps at her feet and stares up at her.

'Please,' she whimpers, 'I'd just like the afternoon off. I want to go for a walk in the sunshine.'

The faceless throwers laugh at her request and remind her she only has herself to blame. They tell her she earned Polish monthly minimum wage in three days this month and congratulate her on her inability to say no. How hard is it to say no? they laugh. They continue to throw the work.

She looks around and notices the piles around her, the piles of small pieces, little jobs she took on without hesistating because 'they won't take long.' She glances across at the longer bits, the writing and editing and proofreading that need time and effort. Then she notices she is sitting on the biggest pile, an imminent deadline with jaws wide open that threaten to swallow her.

She starts to slip, towards the gaping mouth, and tries desperately to get a grip on something stable. Her hands grasp at papers, everything falls and she cries out for help, but it is futile. She slides down the hole, never to be seen again.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

sleepy head

I stroke his hair and try to wake him gently.

'Chyba tak,' he mumbles.

'Tak?' I probe.

'Można go remontować.' I wonder what on earth he is dreaming about. We can do it up? What can we do up?

'Co można remontować?' I ask, hoping for an intelligible answer.

'Samochód!' he says in a way that implies he's already said this to me a thousand times.

Oh, the car. Powerful dreams buddy.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007


Today is International Day Against Homophobia.


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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

S for Stereotype

When I moved to Poland I decided to follow a Polish soap opera, as an entertaining way of increasing my colloquial vocab. Two years on, I understand most of what they say, and I'm well and truly hooked.

M jak Miłość
(M for Love, well L for Love then) is a typical soap mix of trauma and tragedy, but it has a good dollop of Polish family fun as well. Recently, a sweet if rather whiney young woman, with husband, two kids and a big Polish family home including grandparents, persuaded her pregnant friend from the big city (pregnant by her evil married boss) not to have an abortion but to keep the baby, because she would regret it otherwise, and being a mother was pure joy that couldn't be diminished by being alone with no money (or something like that... that was the general gist anyway). Another recent event was a pilgrimage to Rome, the Poles' Mecca.

Yesterday evening, a young divorcee (whose husband wanted her back but she refused and now he is going to marry the woman he had an affair with and fathered two children with while married to the first one just out of spite, so that's going to end in tears - got it?) was getting ready to leave Poland for England. She's going with her old flame the doctor (is anyone still reading this? It's a fabulous plot line) who is still in love with her and hopes to swoop in, once she's finally over her cheating ex-husband. Anyway, her amusing aunt, who thinks it's all highly immoral, has come round a bit and was giving her niece some advice.

"Cook good Polish food!" she said. "Don't go eating any of those fish and chips they have. There are Polish shops in England now, make sure you get proper Polish bread. Apparently the stuff they have is awful."

The only thing she was in favour of in England was "five o'clock". She's not the only Pole who is convinced that as soon as soon as it nears 5 pm, English people around the country stop whatever they are doing and rush frantically to put the kettle on so that the water can boil and the cuppa is ready on the hour. I tell them all the fuss about five o'clock is not true. The kettle's always just boiled.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I had a lurvely weekend, as we had a friend over from Bruxelles. We ate and chatted and ate and drank and chatted and saw some more of Warsaw (it's her second time, seasoned traveller that she is) and then drank vodka.

The most memorable moments were being adopted by a friendly guide with infectious enthusiasm about history in the uprising museum; standing huddled under an umbrella in the park, eating doughnuts and waiting for the downpour to ease; being ushered in to eat soup with Marek's family and their Ukrainian worker; waiting almost an hour for Napoleon's army to do something in Pułtusk before giving up; accurately guessing most of the eurovision points as they were being handed out, and planning fabulous outings every evening, only to sit with a good meal and plenty of vodka chatting until the early hours.

Ah, tis good to have weekends like that. Sunday night was a bit of a bummer though. Friend? Gone home. Resident Pole? Off to Zakopane for four days of training with his sister. Becca? All on her lonesome with no excuse not to tackle that enormous pile of work that has been building up. Sigh.

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Monday, May 14, 2007


A little old lady pulled her trolley along behind her, not shuffling but placing careful footsteps. She focused on the ground in front of her, and looked up every often to get her bearings. Her body was bent by age, and wrinkles cut deep into her face. I watched her moving slowly, as I stood waiting for Marek outside a shop.

As she approached I took a step back, to let her pass, but when she drew level she stopped. Her gaze travelled up from my feet to my questioning smile. As she looked up at me, towering above her and wondering if there was something she wanted me to do for her, she gave a bright smile. "I'm so short!" she said, laughing and looking at me with twinkling eyes. I just stood there, smiling almost apologetically and wondering how I should respond.

She shook her head with a little sigh, gave me one last glance and carried on her way.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

No really, we have plenty more. Help yourself!

In a world where young girls are stoned to death for daring to love someone of a different religion and babies are stolen from their beds, the theft of a pot plant is pretty insignificant.

It's way down there with irritants like knotty hair and stale doughnuts really. Not life-threatening, or even harmful. It rankles though. It irritates and taunts from a distance, and makes you feel a little bit violated, like someone has reached slimy fingers into your nostrils or laughed open-mouthed in your face.

This morning we added this poster to the drear that is out communal stairwell:

For those of you who haven't found the time in your busy lives to learn the Polish language (purlease, as if any of you have an excuse...), I will translate.


Right you lot (no, not really, this is like a formal address to the people of the house, I don't know what we'd say... Dear people? no, we'd probably leave that bit out in English, ignore it).

For quite a while there have been three plants between the third and fourth floor. (God aren't translations weird, that's a bit crappy, like plants have been scattered between the two floors, lying about getting in the way. You get it though right? On the windowsill I mean, between floors, three plants. OK, good.)

Unfortunately, since Sunday there are now only two...

Someone probably borrowed it rather than stealing it, because that wouldn't make much sense (or, I prefer the 'that would be ridiculous/pathetic/sad' translation. Take your pick.) It was a very common plant and the plant pot was cheap, but they just went well together.

We hope it'll be back in place soon.

We didn't want to be all scary obsessive about it, going door to door and peering into rooms to try and spot the plant. But we didn't want to let it go either, without the slighest little squeak. It may not be much but it's ours, and the stupid thing, Mr. (or Mrs.) plant-pot-stealer, is that if you'd asked, I would have given you a damn spider plant. We have loads of them hanging about.
So, just so you know we noticed and we think you're just a teeny bit pathetic, we put up the poster.

By the time I got back from work this evening someone had nicked the damn poster.

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Today, matura students are sitting their English exam. In recognition of the Polish sense of occasion, all these 18 years olds (who are going to spend hours sitting in an exam room sweating and writing) dress up in new suits. I get buying a fancy dress for a post-exam party. But for the exam? I dunno, some things about this country's traditions I just don't get.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Flag day. Yay for flags.

Today is Flag Day in Poland. As far as I can tell, this is because May Day is already a big holiday, the 3rd is Consitution Day and they felt sorry for the poor little 2nd, all alone and squished between two big holidays, forgotten by everyone. Either that, or they wanted three days off work.

Buildings have flags, buses and trams have flags, even people have flags. The best flag I've seen so far today though was one little old lady's. She was dragging a shopping trolley on wheels, which was mostly carrying her dog, rather than any visible shopping. Just by the dog's head, flapping by his ears, a little Polish flag was sticking out. They both looked very proud.


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