Monday, 9 August 2010

the summer bra

I recently met up for a beer with a British friend who reminded me of the Polish summer bra phenomena...a disturbing practice I have until now, refused to accept as reality. But here it is.

Imagine, a hot, sweltering day. The sun is burning into your brain, your survival mechanism is to sweat profusely. Your logic tells you to drink water. You drink beer instead. There is no air-con anywhere. The nearest swimming hole is too far to peddle to on your bike. The apartment is too hot to sit in. Breezy refuge is found underneath the shade of a tree at the local park. But the clothes on your back are an annoyance. Too heavy. Too burdensome. What do you put on to achieve maximum coolness and the possibility of breathability. Perhaps a cotton dress? A skirt? A loose, long t-shirt?

Don't be silly. Just wear your bra! The ugliest, the most pointy and polyester number you may have in your draw. What? You're not over 50? You don't have a flabby tire round your mid-drift? Or a husband who wears sleeveless, beige wife-bashers, socks and sandals? Pft. Well, you'll just have to stay hot in the heat wave.

A country known for it's conservatism somehow has let this one slip. For some unbeknownst to me reason, middle-aged women, find it completely acceptable to prance around in their bras, in the summer days, pretending that they're wearing, um, bikini tops? At least their skirts or shorts remain safely in place. Otherwise I'd have to emigrate.

Is it a lack of summer culture amongst the older generation? Maybe. Fried meat meals with heavy loads of potatoes and stewed cabbage after servings of hot soup, are still the preferable dinner choice when it's 34 degrees out. Eat a boiled beetroot, wear your bra out, why not ey?

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Islam Fundamentalists Eat Your Heart Out!

I am beginning to wonder what Middle Ages backwater I am living in when the hottest political topic of the week is whether or not to remove and relocate a wooden cross from the front of the Presidential Palace that was erected after The Crash* by some scouts to a more suitable area. Current President wants the cross gone. The conservative whining bitch party wants it to stay. They've even, it appears, hired security guards dressed as praying wet blankies who have come from all over Poland to guard the cross should any hooligan be bold enough to lynch the 'monument' and “Polish icon” (their uniform: long skirt, heeled sandals with stocking sockettes). Um separation of church and state? Nup, at least not east of the European west. After all, it is only 2010.

Photo: Filip Klimaszewski

It gets better. What is required of an investor when wanting to open, say, a new shopping centre in Poland? Building permits? An environmental survey? Market analysis? A big fat loan from the bank? The presence of the clergy of course. The devil needs to be kept at bay when one wants to spend up big time, silly. Enough reason for the holy water to hit the tills and shopping trollies.

Newsagents need a good ol' blessin' too.

so do security beepers
(images courtesy of:

And just a last point of interest. This is more of a tourist attraction for the devout. Newly opened and owned by Catholic Poland Pty. Ltd., a modest, simple and austere place of worship for every lamb of God, complete with all the mod coms.

Sanctuary of the Our Lady of Sorrow in Lichen - 100 per cent of its funding came from its followers. Built between 1994-2004

It has such a community feel about it too. When Catholic Poland Pty. Ltd. needed further funding to bring this simple structure into being, it sucked out money from its die-hard followers in a classy fashion. Brainwashing particularly those living in villages, without higher education, or the old, living on their measly government pensions it singled out households with its Catholic Poland Pty. Ltd. newsletter asking for money “because every extra brick counts”. God will love you even more. Even the most incompetent follower had it made easy, with a choice of a money order, card payment, account transfer or a simple envelope drop at the local church. The somewhat forgetful were bombard a couple more times over the course of the months with follow-up payment reminders. Poland simply deserved its very own Taj Mahal.

* The Crash: the presidential plane goes down in Russia, killing the Polish president, his wife, important cronies, dignitaries, heads of military forces, Justyna hides her head in the sand in embarrassment, romantic Poles mourn for two weeks, controversy heats when the dead president is buried in Krakow in Wawel castle (in a crypt containing Polish kings), Justyna develops ulcers from her inability to deal with the absurdity of the whole situation, the plane crash victims' credit cards are stolen from the crash site by Russian soldiers who then go on shopping sprees, AND THEN the TWIN BROTHER of the dead President runs FOR president in the sped up elections. Crikey. Kill me now. Brazilian soap operas have nothing on this.

Friday, 16 July 2010

one last attempt

After my two or so years of arse sitting, being engulfed by the claws of Facebook, taking criticism badly and no longer being able to see the novelty value of daily living in Poland, crooked corner is once again in action. Constant pressure from one particular, young, Bathurst dwelling cousin and the fact that I am statistically losing 8 English words per day, has forced me to rethink this stagnation. Not sure how constant the writing will be. But it will be.

Besides, the Twin President is dead, all of Poland was a flooded swimming pool, I experienced the public hospital health care system, became self-employed, contemplated village life, started eating lard during the winter period, became a qualified folk craft instructor (more on that later – I have government papers to prove it), put on a whopping 23 kilos in the short space of 9 months*, learned to cook sorrel soup and accepted Krakow as my home. Enough bits and pieces to scrape up a couple of entries.

Enough as a starter methinks.

* As a result of the weight gain an independent human emerged.

Disclaimer: crooked corner may now contain, sporadically, children-related banter. If this annoys the crap out of you, you have been warned.

Monday, 22 September 2008


Unfortunately this is what I will remember Albania for the most.

Albania. Two weeks. Four days in transit on three different trains to get there. 300 euros each. Down the coast. Through the mountains. Hitchhiking. Buses. Walking. Taxis. Boat. Arse end of Europe. Little asphalt. Domesticated animals strutting through streets. Garbage management system – none. Unless you count the burning of rubbish in the evening by the side of the road. First private car to be owned 1990. Until then Hoxha the dictator allowed only state owned vehicles. Hence the lack of roads. And road rules. Car of choice – 1980 Mercedes, the toughest sucker out there to survive Albania’s dirt tracks. Aggressive development. Resort towns popping up with horrid speed. No planning. The sea is crystal and beautiful. Coastline chaotic, packed, uninviting. Freelance camping the go! Mind the turds on the beach. And a week’s worth of rotting nappies and watermelon. The fish is delicious though. And tomatoes taste like tomatoes. They do good coffee too. That’s the ‘Italian’ in them. People are wonderful and hospitable. They still scratch their heads and ask in amazement ‘so why did you come to Albania’? The mountains are stunning as are the villages wedged in between them. Especially at night. When you can’t see the mess. The village roof tops are made out of stone. The fortresses grand. The one rail line is slower than the slowest mini-bus on a dirt track. We did 60ks in 6 hours once. We were still patient then. Ohrid Lake is mind-blowing. 300 metres deep in its deepest part. It is known for its koran fish, the most expensive on the menu (a whole 8 euros). It tastes like a more dignified trout. Nobody goes fishing with a rod. Too deep. The lake is translucent. You can see the bottom even when you’re on a dingy and far out. Interesting since all the sewage flows into it. The beer is served in chilled beer mugs. A wonderful treat, since the days are always furnace hot.

after a 6hr train delay we missed out connection to Montenegro. So ended up in Belgrade. We bribed a Serbian train conductor
to get us a free sleeper. He did. For twice the amount sleepers usually go for. The compartment was the official blanket and pillow storage space of the train. It took us half an hour to move the stuff elsewhere before we could go to sleep.

intimate, cozy, relaxing. We sunbathed standing.

days of searching later we found this secluded spot. Shared it with two Hungarians. Nice boys. Beautiful water.

Trusty mover. Town of Gjiokaster.

stone rooftops. Fortress on hill. Gjiokaster.

Ksamil. Village down south. Apart from the smell and feasting on garbage cows, a nice spot.

Donkey chariots faster than rail. "Shite" means 'for sale'.

Ochrid lake. The owner of the hotel we stayed in took us out on his dingy. For fun. He had nothing else to do.
My favourite place in Albania.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

post this

I have a love-hate relationship with two government institutions in Poland: PKP (Polish rail) and the Poczta Polska (post office). The latter provides me with plenty of amusement, created by its mind boggling archaic ways. Sweet post ladies provide you with string for extra parcel strength, entertain you with their chatter and bleached-blond perms and complain about their wages (one of the lowest in Poland). Despite constant plans and postal policies little is being done to reform the institution. God forbid privatisation! You still cannot make payments either by way of credit card or eftpost (yup – cash only please), but then again there is some news of a mechanised letter sorting system being introduced to the mailing room. Also the postman no longer needs to wear a postman uniform. Idea is to make them inconspicuous. Too many muggings for pension cash envelopes apparently. No, the post bag doesn’t give him away. Nor that load of letters he is carrying in his hand.

By far the most entertaining aspect of the Polish post however, is the ‘post shop’. It is filled with wonderful elements that you would never even think of buying at a post office. Sanitary pads anyone? How’s about washing powder? What about a candle lantern for your grandmother’s grave? You would like a hard cardboard envelope for that CD you want to send? No sorry. Try the stationery shop down the road.

for those who may have sticky fingers, a glass cabinet with key has been installed

Wednesday, 30 July 2008


Meet my new hero. My love affair with the Ukrainian is over. I ride the German now.

Friday, 27 June 2008


There is a tiny village some 70ks east of Krakow. There isn’t much there except that its locals are super happy. People walk around with smiles on their heads and talk to you in their streets when they see you are visiting. Quite strange for Poland. Here people usually drop their gaze when you look straight at them. If you smile their way, they tend to think you are an idiot (that doesn’t dissuade me though – I am on a crusade to make Poles more pleasant – the Push for Pleasant Poles campaign). But not in Zalipie. There is a skipping vibe about the place. Maybe it has something to do with this:




The women of Zalipie have been painting and decorating their houses for about 60 years now. Just for kicks. Every year there is a competition for the best folk decorated wall. We were there the weekend before the competition began. The place is beautiful. And all the women so proud. 

Am writing this on Tina's Mac so have no idea why this is underlined.

Wimbledon news: Tipsarevic kicked Roddick's arse yesterday. It was brilliant. Groaning Shazza is out too. It was wonderful to see. Silly slurry.

crooked corner