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, February 24, 2008

Belgium: must try harder

Marek pulled in to the shiny new petrol station outside Auchan. Apparently, some rule recently came in about opening times for supermarkets. There is a clause about the rule not applying to petrol stations, so the supermarket promptly built a petrol station to get out of whatever it was that it didn't want to do. (Sorry, I don't know any more details and someone may well have made that story up, I can't remember where I heard it. So if you work for Auchan don't sue me, but it's something along those lines. Ta.)

I was just musing over how new builds like the petrol station showed how far Poland has embraced the modern world - the bright lights and slick machinery showing off the latest in petrol technology - when a man came up to the window. He was bundled up in puffy layers, with a reflective coat over the top and his breath left traces in the -5 air. After writing something on a post-it note, he handed it over. I was confused. I looked at note, saw a number and noticed it corresponded to the number on the pump. OK. Then I looked at the exit barrier, just past little huts where you paid for the petrol. It was all clear.

In this shiny new petrol station, with its modern system of filling your car and drive-thru paying on the way out, the managers had stumbled on a worry. What if people forgot the number of their pump? What if they tried to cheat the system and pay for someone else's petrol who'd taken less? The solution, according to the people in charge? A man in bright clothing standing in the freezing cold, handing out numbers on post-it notes. Genius.

Poland: top of the class.

links to this post

Pijemy Po Polsku

This blog is struggling on. Like a plant short of water and straggling yellow-leaved up towards the light, it's still here. Not happy, not living its full potential, but surviving.

I remember the days of Polish classes, visits to refugee centres around Warsaw and empty afternoons in our cosy flat, when my projects kept me busy and my blog ate up all my spare time. Spare time! I remember that!

Surprisingly people still come here and read the few notes I manage to jot down in between my Proper Job, work trips to places I can't pronounce and meetings I am actually expected to contribute to. It's another world.

One thing I was happy to discover last week was a newish collaborative blog about Poland. We had such fun with P3 (remember that?) Ah, the memories... [by the way, the old site is still up but the newer one, which was slicker because it was wordpress and paid for, has died. People left, others had babies and everyone got very busy.]

So, basically what I'm trying to say, is thanks for continuing to come here, even though I'm a bit rubbish at the moment. And when there's nothing to read here, there's bound to be something interesting going on over there at Polandian.

links to this post

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I turn my head as a mother tells her child to 'chodź tu!' and smile as two girls enter a shop in front of me, discussing last night's 'dyskoteka'.

A group of men standing around a removals van break their conversation as I wander past, but I get snatches of 'strasznie zimne' and 'jutro zobaczymy' as they resume their chat.

Two boys crossing the road in the opposite direction fight over a bag and I hear 'oh! widzisz!' as they drop it.

The one thing I wasn't quite prepared for about Brussels life was the Polishness of it all.

links to this post

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Meme. Meh.

I may have been tagged in memes before, in fact I know I have, but I have this sneaky suspicion (read: crystal clear memory) that I've never actually followed through and completed the assignment. It's still early enough in the year for me to feel guilty about not having made any new year's resolutions, so with my vague aim of Doing Better at Everything, I am going to do what was asked of me, by Pani Pinolona...

Here's my list of seven random facts about me that are strange but most definitely true.

1. Jobs
It's taken me 27 years to get a Proper Job. Although that in itself isn't particularly strange, the jobs I had beforehand mostly were. Oh I've been a waitress, translator, proofreader, art gallery assistant, UN conference assistant, volunteer and intern... but the strangest thing I did was probably the gig driving around Lytham St Annes, interviewing kids in playgrounds for a local government project redesigning them according to users' needs. Interesting, sure, but definitely Odd.

2. Celebrities
Salman Rushdie once trod on my foot as I passed wine around the guests at a poet's party. He didn't say sorry either. My admiration for him was dinted somewhat. Then there was the time my friend Jo got me and her tickets to a kids programme on the bbc when we were about 8. We sat behind Liza Minelli as she was interviewed and marvelled at her large bum. I was awestruck by her super long fake eyelashes. My third near-celebrity experience was when I wrote a poem about peace for Terry Waite when he was released from Beirut. I sent it to him and received a very nice letter back.

3.Bands in Bonn
One thing that makes a fifteen year old who has been ripped from her friends/home/school/life in her own country and dragged kicking and screaming to foreign lands more open to her new environment is the prospect of seeing Indie bands that give huge concerts back home, in intimate smokey bars. Crispin Mills' knee bumped mine once as we sat on a sofa backstage; the Stereophonics got us smashed on their tour bus another time and the Dodgy boys used to wave as soon as they saw us, we went to so many of their gigs. The climax of that great time was the evening we waited in a hotel bar, after pleading phone calls to parents asking for another couple of hours... the hotel staff told us there was no guarantee they'd appear, and for a while we sat, despondent and convinced it was a waste of time. Then. Then, they appeared. We finally plucked up the courage to approach them and soon we were sitting on a table with them, filling in a questionnaire on their behalf for a French magazine and having pseudo-philosophical conversations. Dave was sweet, Alex was drunk and swaying and Graham was very chatty. Damon however stayed in his room.

4. Hollywood
I thought I was going to grow up to be an actress for quite a long time. I realise lots of little girls think this, but I had good reason for such ambitions as I'm sure you'll agree when you see the roles that came my way, at even an early age. My starring roles have included (but are not limited to): a cow in animal farm (I think I was Daisy, but that could be a false memory. Gertrude rings a bell too); the Angel Gabriel in the nativity (yes, my costume was made entirely of a white sheet and tinsel); a cockerel in Noah's flood (actually that was a damn good mask. I kept it for quite a while); and a maid in dracula (a vampire too I seem to remember. Think the cast was a bit smaller in that production).

5. Music
As well as being an accomplished actress, I have been known to make the odd feeble attempt to make music. Ha. I "play" the piano and recorder. Not strange enough? OK then, I play the harp too. I joined an orchestra once, which went on tour. I advise against the harp if you are playing concerts on tour in halls that are up hills. My lasting memory of that trip is one long neverending mountain and me at the back of the group pulling the harp on its trolley.

6. Appearance
I hate my right foot. It's really ugly.

7. Embarassment
My Dad has always been very proud of being a good Dad. In his book that means embarassing his kids as much as is humanly possible. He takes great joy in it. Just one example (of hundreds):
I have come to the end of school. As our school is an international school that used to be an American school, certain traditions (like prom) have persisted. The year book comes out and all my friends are standing about looking at the back page. There, parents have written loving messages to their graduating kids - 'we're so proud of you son!' 'you have been the best daughter we could have wished for!' and 'we know you will succeed in anything you decide to do!' Then, my mouth falls open and I gasp involuntarily as I spot a picture of 3-year old Becca in a fairy outfit gleefully waving a wand next to this heartfelt dedication from my own father:

The space is short to put a thought in just a doodle;
No one's poodle, cock-a-doodle, Becksy Boodle!

I'm not tagging anyone. So there.

links to this post

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.