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

Monday, November 26, 2007

...and breathe

Now I'm into my last week here, I'm getting a little panicked. My schedule is packed with goodbye meetings, and I'm winding down the work I have to finish before I go. Packing will come later, but the little anxious knot in my stomach tightens every time I think of how little time is left.

If there's one thing I will NOT miss about this place (the only one I have thought of so far) it's the way complete strangers feel free to give you plenty of advice. Thank you for your suggestions, but I'M OK.

I walk to the bins, my arms full of cardboard and plastic that we have dutifully collected to be recycled. A neighbour opens the door and I thank him.

'That all wants to go in the yellow bin, the one for recycling.' he points out helpfully. No, really?? Did you think I'd go to the trouble of seperating my waste, only to throw it in with the rest of the rubbish? Do I really look that simple?

I take little Atom for a walk in the park across the road. He jumps about, thrilled to be out in the middle of so much excitement. As he whizzes back and forth, sniffing, looking about, refusing to pee, an old lady approaches. His back end contorting with the strength of his wagging tail, he goes up to greet her and she strokes his little head, commenting on how much energy he has. She then moves on to telling him that he has nothing to be so excited about, as it's cold and miserable outside. Then, giving me a critical glance, she suggests I buy him a little dog sweater to keep him warm. I smile and move on.

On the next walk, as Atom is growling at a dog in the distance, barking as if he wouldn't curl up in a whimpering heap if the dog were to get within 100m, an old man approaches. I look at him warily, as he is definitely going out of his way to come close.

'Dogs that small should have sweaters' he says, as Atom runs up to him, and jumps at his shin. I sigh, and nod half-heartedly. 'It's too cold for them and they get pneumonia very quickly.' I explain that the dog isn't mine, that I think he's probably ok for a few minutes running about in the fresh air, and that I'll pass on his message to the owner. 'OK, but just bear in mind that they get used to nice warm apartments and then the cold outside comes as a shock.'

I will bear it in mind.

This weekend, I am taking a large (sweaterless) labrador for a short walk around the block of a wealthy neighbourhood. As he is sniffing a patch of grass in front of a big house, the owners pull into the drive in a large SUV. A young woman gets out and glances in my direction.
'Would Pani mind terribly clearing up after her dog?' a shrill, indignant voice issues in my direction. As the dog hasn't done anything, I'm not sure she is talking to me, but I look around anyway and she walks towards me, her husband standing behind her like some kind of mute bodyguard.

'I'm sorry, did he do something?' I ask, confused.

'He was sniffing around here, and I really think people should clear up their dogs' crap!' she says, a little less shrill, but still indignant.

'Of course I will clear up after him,' I say, showing her the bag I have in my pocket. 'But until he gives me something to clear up, there's little I can do.'

'Oh. Thank you.' she says, deflated. What did she want me to do, run around crouched behind him, bag held up to his butt?

I suppose it's quite touching that so many people care enough about so many issues to confront me, and present their opinions, but to be honest, I'd rather they didn't.

I don't tell you, Mr Neighbour, that your incompetence at reporting accurately from house meetings has resulted in a lot of trouble and misunderstandings between the residents.

I don't tell you, Ms Dogsweater, that your fur coat is not only ugly, but probably saw the unnecessary and possibly painful death of several beautiful animals, which is a little ironic really as you think I am not doing enough to protect one little animal that already has everything his little heart could desire.

And I certainly don't tell you, Mrs SUV, that heating your ridiculous mansion and powering your excessive car is doing more damage to the environment than any number of dogs crapping on your lawn.

It's probably good that I'm leaving, or I may be tempted to start answering back.

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Anonymous Kinuk said...

Though I've met you twice in person, I've really enjoyed reading your thoughts on life in Poland and I will miss them. I'm sorry we didn't get together before you left and I hope all goes well in your new job and in Brussels!

As for the advice thing: it's really bad when you have a child. If I got 10zl from each person who's given me advice on how to dress, feed and raise A, I wouldn't have to go back to work and could be a Stay-At-Home Mum.

I'm thinking it's time to start answering back.

12:30 pm  
Blogger Becca said...

Thanks for all your well-wishing Kinuk! I'm sorry I didn't manage to get everyone together again, but who knows where the time goes!

Ignore them all when it comes to A - mother knows best :) And you're not like half the Polish women I see round here, puffing on their fags as they wheel the pram. Ooh, I could start on them before I go.

4:51 pm  
Anonymous said...


Couldn't agree more on the unwanted advice thing and also have deep sympathy for kinuk as well. As a man caught outside with a small child I know everything there is to know about unwanted advice!

I've enjoyed your blog but it seems you're moving on to pastures new. Will the blog continue but without the Polish angle?

11:11 am  
Blogger Becca said...

oh yes, the blog is continuing, but as you may have noticed, without the regularity of before so far! There will surely be a bit of polish angle as I'll be back fairly regularly, but a Belgian angle may creep in :)

7:18 pm  

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