Head in Hands Time again.
Well it's starting Merkel in SS uniform (though not half as sexy as Erika Steinbach in Wprost magazine , a while back) and coal-scuttle helmeted germans bossing coffee-drinking Greeks. All very Fourth Reich. For those of us who read history the comparison is not that far-fetched at least in one respect – that of the myth of German ordnung. The Third Reich kept order in Europe without too much trouble ( notably by using methods that we all know) , but was hopelessly inefficient and corrupt. The Germans and the French both wanted Greece in the Euro-club , ovelooked the realities of Greek economics and are now using the tried and tested means of the bulldozer to have their way. Plus ca change. Now there's me thinking that the crisis started by irresponsible lending to American who could not afford to repay and now it's going to be resolved by…irresponsible lending to Greeks who cannot afford to repay. How thick am I ? Mind you, everyone will be rubbing their noses in it next holiday, in the tavernas and pavement bistros , if there are any left in business that is.- hubris has its price, you know. That's a Greek concept- ancient rather than modern, but with a smidgeon of relevenace to to today. At the moment of writing the yield on Italian debt is 7% and rising! Oh yes, war with Iran is just around the corner.
If you are ever in the vicinity of Eastern Europe – pop in during Autumn. 'Well worth it. We're having a relatively mild November, plenty of glowing warm sunshine.
Here, the best time is an hour before sunset. Stroll along the Krakow Suburb and you will see the last rays of the sun brushing baroque sandstone facades , endowing them with a top coat of pink and gold .
One of the main criticisms of the Polanders is that they spend too much time dwelling on the past, defeat and death. All this is true , but at least for one day they get it spot-on right. Come here and on Halloween and All Saints' youcan forget the crass commercialisation, the imported trick or treating, theBatman and Zombie costumes and for one day, just one day contemplate for a while your time on this Earth and those who have gone before. Thousands come to pay their respects to loved ones who have died, military heroes and units and place a small light on the grave of their choice. The overall effect is breathtaking- achingly beautiful as in the evening darkness entire necropolae are underlit with a gigantic mass of candle power of golds, reds , blues , greens and violets. Most people probably come just to take it all in . It may be all to horribly Christian for Western tastes, too oldy worldy, morbid and solemn . Certainly Richard Dawkins would have a field –day with it all. Save for one irritating fact- it makes you think just what it is to be human and mortal. How about that for retro chic? Just a thought.
Magpies as big as eagles here in Autumnal Varsovia City. These magpies - they're as big as condors and you can watch them crack open chestnuts by flying up a distance then dropping them onto the pavement. They do this repeatedly until the nut cracks and they can eat . Great fun and very instructive. They're big, are solving-elementary problems and can shit on us from a great height with utter impunity . Evolution is terrible and fascinating. The EU can do two out of the above-mentioned three. I'll give you a clue ( it can't solve problems).
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Putting Stuff In Jars.
It's mid –September; the melancholy month. The one ray of light and optimism is putting stuff in jars. You're not a real Pole unless you put stuff in jars. I'll briefly run through the procedure.
1.The Jars . From June to October most good shops will sell you jars in half, three-quarter and litre sizes with the right screw tops. What you do is give 'em a good wash and get ready for the next stage.
2..The Stuff. This can be almost anything – but fruit and veg I find works the best. June is a very short strawberry season. Then come raspberries and other berries( red ,I think), and cherries – sweet and sour; apricots, peaches, blueberries, you name . Then in August and September the crowning glory – plums. There is one variety that is the Napoleon of all plums. It's called the węgierka, and from it's etymology we may deduce that it has a Hungarian connection somewhere. Small, the sixe of a large hazlenut, where the others are golf-ball sized. A depth to it ; tobacco, earth, pepper where the rest are merely sweet and fruity . It's like preserving the Lotus.
3. Putting In.
You buy several kilos, yes several and at less than a quid a kilo it's a sin not to . You de-stone , your fruit if you have to and then put it all in a bowl with some sugar to macerate , preferably overnight. Then in the morning , you stick it all in a big pan and cook it very slowly for twenty minutes or so . Take it off the heat and allow to cool. Next day,you do the same and the next. You can add , ginger, pepper, chocolate( for a velvety finish)- the only limit is your imagination.
When you are ready to put the stuff in the jars .You first stick the jars in the oven and in a separate pan , boil the lids. You have to burn your hands when you take the jars out of the oven as well as dropping a couple on the floor. Then , with the aid of a special funnel ( again from the local shop together with and any de-stoning contraptions) you pour in the the glutinous glory. Put the lids on.
You then put a dishcloth at the bottom of a pan of water and put some jars in . The water should come to two-thirds up the jars. Boil for about ten minutes to pasteurise. The tops should have expanded a bit.
Take the jars of stuff out and leave to cool . Oh , yes you must burn your hands again. Then turn upside down to see if you have driven all the air out. The heating would have expanded the tops , forcing the air out . Cooling then gives you a tighter fit. If some of the stuff oozes out , that means you haven't done it properly and you must get ready to have an argument with your other half at this point ( unless you are DIY).
Et voila! Summer in a jar. When the weather closes in you can have hot plums with ice cream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nothing better to banish the Autumn nostalgia. Hanging on to the vestiges of Summer, like Life itself. After all is said and done , on your deathbed you are going to remember all the great tastes you've ever had: office meetings aren't one of them; węgierki certainly are.
You're not a real Pole unless you can't walk by a fruit and veg stall without thinking 'Hmm...I wonder if?' , and then staggering up four flights of stairs with at least ten kilos of stuff to put in jars. I am one of them, now.
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Anyone for Ice?
Let me be the first to break the news to Western Europe. Poland has officially taken over rearrenging the deck-chairs on the Titanic, or if yu prefer to be a bit more formal about it, the Presidency of the European Union The portents were'nt looking good last Friday when we ( m' honey and me) headed to the Palace of Culture to watch the inaugural concert. To mark this historic moment they had rolled out the Reall Big Guns ie., Kenny G and his banshee clarinet (WOW!) and , wait for it Michael Bolton , yes Michael Bolton with more hair than he had back in the eighties. He even sang Nessun Dorma (passably). Manhattan Transfer put in a song or two as some other Yank arteests that I couldn't begin to name. All botoxed –up to the eyeballs and beyond. The question was ,B or C list? And why American arteests to open a European event ? I couldn't get my head round that one. Polish rock bands could have fitted the bill far better and got the evening going. It wasn't that the performers were bad, all ( yes, including the Yanks) put in fine performances: Leszek Możdzer, the Warsaw Village Band for example, and ageing rock-dinosaurs ( and I use that as a compliment) Perfect. The whole didn't add up to the sum of the parts however rather like the EU itself, it was all low-key and downbeat, and the audience just watched in the rain. More like a wake really. But no major catastrophes. Hmm, let's hope the next six months stay that way.
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A night at the museum, and theatre and palace and other stuff
Is Culture dead? I don't know where you are, but here in Warsovia city at any rate it's alive and well. Last weeken for instance , we had the annual Museum Night. Each mid-May year every museum, art gallery, artist studio, craft workshop, theatre, palace, government bulding is open to the public for free. Queues stretch for miles to see the 'Filtry' , the water filtration plant, the Gasworks museum or the Presidential palace. All tastes are catered for- majority, minority or niche. Antique buses from the commie- era take you around . The city pulsates with life like no other time. We ( my little group of friends) shuffled round and gawped at the interior stucco of the Tyszkiewicz Palace or the art-nouveau splendour of the Teatr Polski - the Polish Theatre. It's a brilliant concept in theory and practice ( should be a whole weekend though) and a masterpiece of Reithian philosphy, proving that there is always a demand to reach higher not lower : a hunger out there for the serious stuff; ideas, art and learning to get us through our day. Dumbing down has yet to reach us and maybe it will, but I'll enjoy nights like these while they last. After all when you are waiting in the anteroom to meet the Reaper you're not necessarily going to be thinking about that X-Factor episode you missed. Are you?