Wednesday, 24 October 2007

fort oakie

How can you make a suburban house look more uninviting than it already is? With more palm trees? With paving instead of a lawn? With five cars parked outside its two garage drive in? With plastic Santas still left on the roof in May? Oh no no no no. These are all incorrect suggestions. The answer is FORTIFICATION!

See example below: our old house in Oakie. Trees (okay, palm trees included) have been removed in favour of a concrete wall. Who and what are these new owners?? Is there a bunker being built out back? What war are they preparing for? Do they have a crazy killer kid who cannot escape the compound? Maybe it’s a new Oakie cult I am not familiar with.

When my aunt Dana sent these pics through today, I nearly shat myself with fear. I don’t think Dana and Marek will be making any more sentimental trips down Gersham Grove…

Also I believe it is the only house on the whole street that has now a front fence. These new neighbours must really be loved. Go private space!!

I'd cry if I cared - photo: Dana Weiss

graffiti anyone? - photo: Dana Weiss

Monday, 22 October 2007

last of the apples

view from our window on Saturday morning

złota polska jesień - the golden Polish autumn - and when you leave the city your realise just how true the statement is! It is absolutely beautiful out there at the moment. The trees have taken on about a zillion different shades of yellows, oranges and reds.

Woke up on Saturday to find that our street was covered in snow. Ah, the first snow fall of October. Apparently it is the norm. The snow then melts, and the sunny disposition of autumn returns. I’m not counting on it. Day by day it is getting harrowingly colder. What is worse veggies are becoming more expensive and the selection more disappointing. Root vegetables are in at the moment. There is not that much one can do with a celery root. Wish sweet potatoes were more available.

last of the apples

celery root - my mum always had a tough time finding this veg in Sydney - it's boiled in soups here or shredded into a salad
overrated in my opinion

last of the sunflowers too - we have about a kilo of seeds from Matylda -
lots of nibbling for those cold winter nights


soup is massive here - MASSIVE -
and these little 'convenient' soup parcels make me smile (NO PLASTIC!! - well minus the rubber band)

kohlrabi (kalarepa)
delicious when cut up into sticks and eaten with yoghurt and garlic dip

pretty coloured plums -
they grow on many trees just outside of Krakow so no need to waste your money.
It's tops going walkies and picking them off as you go along.
Got to be careful though - plenty of maggots (but therefore no pesticides)!

Also, bears are having it tough up in the mountains. A young cub who had left its mother’s side wasn’t prepared for the cold and snowy conditions, so was wandering the walking tracks looking for sandwiches left abandoned by tourists. It stumbled on a group of 6 dickheads who, apparently in self-defence, stoned the bear to death and then threw its body in a stream. Rangers found the dead bear and a quick arrest was made, once the dickheads were located. The 6 claimed the bear was attacking them. No scratch marks or bites were found upon medical examination. The bear might have roared, but it did not lunge. It was small enough to have been chased away with some yelling and a shaking of a stick. Charges have been laid. The dickheads if convicted are facing a maximum sentence of 2 years imprisonment. Lucky bastards. They should be facing a tidy lil’ stoning.

the poor dead bear - photo:

electoral party

It is 03:17 in the morning and I am ecstatic. I have been voting for the last 10 years and for the first time ever I have felt that who I am voting for really matters. It means that the party that I have voted for will change the country. And I don’t mean meaningless tax exemptions. It means changing the core of the country. It is significant. The mentality of the Polish people has changed. Today the Poles voted. The turnout was over 53 per cent. The highest since 1989. The highest since the collapse of the Wall! It means the students mobilised themselves and voted. It means that people who didn’t give a freakin’ hoot in 2005 got off their fat arses and went to the ballot box. Enough was enough. A change was mandatory. It means that people are celebrating tonight and will have a foreign policy to look forward to that they can accept and not be embarrassed of. The Platoforma Obywatelska (PO - Civic Platform) won with a sweeping 42 per cent (the official numbers are in on Tuesday), whilst the tyrant extreme right (PiS - Law and Justice) - whose major concern was turning Poland into a police state - ironic, given the country's commy past, - admitted its defeat (with a tad of class – I’ll give ‘em that), curling its tail between its succulent well-fed buttocks. Donald Tusk will be the new Prime Minister of Poland and although his Slavic formal breeding forbade him to crack a smile, we all knew the shiny eye socket meant he was about to shed a tear or two at the victory. Warsaw electoral turnout just a little under 70 per cent. Krakow came in second. The Poles of Dublin waited in 40 min queues to vote. 95 per cent of Poles living in Sweden voted. The Poles of Chicago voted for a sweeping PO majority. Ah, it is good to be here. Fuck. It is exciting.

Besides I am pissed and I cannot type properly. We had an electoral party at our place tonight and I take back everything I have written before. We were all happy, enthusiastic, with a lot to say. We popped champagne and congratulated ourselves that PiS will be thrown to the dustbin of shit.

I am typing on the computer whilst Mat is chanting in his sleep in an induced coma ‘Polska, Polska, Polska!’. He is sleeping in our spare room on the floor. I love it. “I wonder how many places in Poland are celebrating like we are today…?”, he is muttering. I bet a lot…

Truly. I am happy to be here.

Magda. Accountant. "Ostatnia niedziela" - Fogg

Tomek. Software engineer. "If we don't have Ireland by next year, someone will have a lot of answering to do"...

Wojtek. Engineer student. "So long PiS. Good riddance".

Justyna (Titka) . Portuguese translator. "We needed to reach the bottom so that we could rebound".

Mat. Gets called in on the job to make a last run to one of the voting centres that still hadn't closed.
Photographer. Gazeta Wyborcza (one of the major leading newspapers in Poland). "C'mon Tusk! Loosen up! Just take off your suit jaket and do a victory dance!!"

Marcin. Audit specialist. "It is just easier for Poles to unite agianst evil..."

Congratulating ourselves.
Then we all stood up and sang the national anthem with the telly (I haven't done that since year 2).

Tusk wins. New PM of Poland.

Victory jig at ours. The neighbour came in around 2am in his boxers with a pleading look.
I nodded. We turned down the music.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

last in before the silence

The election silence kicks in tomorrow. I am positive. Despite the smear campaign inflicted by PiS, I have this gut feeling that the Poles are fed up with being fed horseshit, and are actually going to appear in huge numbers at the ballot box. The electoral commission has put out a few hilarious ads to encourage the voters (yes, for those unaware, Poland as a democracy rightly does not make voting compulsory). One of my faves is: “Don’t be a dope. Go on and vote!” (Nie bądź durny, idź do urny!). There is also a good one that uses a satirical rip off of an Ikea ad. It shows a sketch (like the graphics of an Ikea assembly manual) of the parliamentary seats being put together as votes are cast with a voiceover “if you want to change the country, you have to do it yourself”. Civic responsibility is also being talked about quite a lot, which is nice because it makes me feel all warm inside and optimistic about the fact that I am living in a very wonderful and exciting country, in which people react when they are pushed far enough.

Analysts are predicting a 60 per cent turnout or a tad less…

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

poster of the week

Love the preggers lady and the faithful husband. When the lil ankle biter is born, maybe it too can vote for a party that eliminates classic novels from the high school literature curriculum deemed ‘unnecessary and controversial’. Goodbye Dostoyevsky, Goethe, Gombrowicz! Hello John Paul II with your “Identity and Remembrance” monograph.

"a strong family, a safe school, lower taxes" -
yeah, and neo-nazi youth party support

On Friday Michal and I went to a friend’s place for a movie night screened via a projector (fun!). The movie night was scheduled right after the hugely anticipated debate between the PiS leader and prime minister short twin #2 Kaczynski and his opponent Donald Tusk, the PO leader and one of the few politicians in Poland who has a brain (and is not embarrassing to look at) – aired live on telly. I literally ran home from my, well, run to catch the debate, whilst Michal ran some red lights to make it on time from work. It was tops. The Kaczor got screwed and his dumbarsness was made even more prominent than usual by Tusk. After having analysed each response and rebuttal, Michal and I felt uplifted that maybe PO would actually win this time round. With high spirits we arrived at our friend’s place eager to discuss the debate and talk about the upcoming election. I ranted and got a bit enthusiastic as did Michal, recapping the snide comments made and the cringeworthy moments of Duck man (Kaczynski). We quickly realised though that nobody was as enthusiastic as we were. Only the host made a legitimate attempt at carrying the conversation further. There was slight opinion expressed, but almost whispered under the nose of the speaker. Some girl whom I’d never met sighed loudly and said “oh no, let us not talk about the elections”, to which I rolled my eyes and my thwarting response was quickly silenced as the movie projector was switched on.

I sometimes have the feeling Poles don’t know how to be opinionated, express their views in an assertive manner or be feisty in their stance, whether it be political or otherwise. People who are in their late 20s and early 30s, who have been raised in the ‘old system’ appear to have been deprived from experiencing the thrill that is ‘speaking one’s mind’. Keep quiet, or the neighbours will hear you – meant a lot more in Poland’s 1980s than stickybeakness. Kids weren’t encouraged to express their opinions, just in case they would accidentally let it slip in school that mummy was all for private entrepreneurship and daddy hated The Party…

Thursday, 11 October 2007

this is where i am living

Early parliamentary elections have been called in Poland and we are all (well, probably less than half the population) going to vote next weekend. The election campaign has been a mixture of embarrassment, cringe and devastation. Nonetheless I am hopeful that Poland will only have the one twin in power by the time this circus ends.

Favourite quotes this week

When asked about their environmental agendas this is what some of the parties had to say:

PSL (Peasant Party)

“Please do not bother me with questions of this nature. I really am busy with the election campaign”

SLD (the former commy party)

“Oh yes, nature. I have always been interested in nature. I used to go to the meadows and the forest often when I was a boy. If SLD gets into parliament we will encourage a healthy lifestyle so that boys can take their girls out to the meadows and not out for chips”.

LPR (League of Polish Families)

“Come on! The only reason western politicians talk about the environment is because it is in fashion right now. They don’t have any bigger problems to deal with. We at least have pro family politics!”


I’m joining the Greens (who are useless at the present moment).

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

a postcard from the Mezzogiorno 2

We flew out of Naples instead of Palermo. And lucky we did because the city was fantastic. It was like a hideous, gaping wound making you squirm, and you just couldn’t help looking at it anyway.

Most cars looked like these. The streets are so narrow that nobody pays any attention to what and who they are hitting. I saw a small pick up truck drive into an alley way brushing against the knee of a dude sitting on a stool reading the paper. The paper was whipped out of his hands by the truck. The dude just looked at the driver and raised his eyebrows, slowly picking up the Le Republica and re-commenced his reading.

Loved the general respect for public monuments in Naples. This statute was my favourite. I was so mesmerised by the graffiti that I took no notice of who the actual historical figure was standing guarding over the piazza at the dirty end of Toledo. Some pope or bishop no doubt.

I saw these anti anorexia billboards strewn around the city. Looks like the image obsessed Italy is having some problems with its younger female population (and possibly male). Italians are the second slimmest European country (France is at No. 1 and Poland at No. 3). I thought these harrowing images were really strong and made me wonder whether they achieved the same effect as the Australian anti-smoking campaign did, with the dead lung in surgery ad and the hook in the cigarette.

We stumbled into this pizzeria by chance. Getting lost we wandered the tiny street getting hungry. Scoring a table at 7pm with ease, we were lucky. The locals start eating pizza at around 8pm. The two storey pizzeria with a special inbuilt lift to take the pizzas up to the second floor, soon became packed. When we left there was a huge line outside the place stretching for miles with people yelling wanting to know if any tables had freed up. This was the best pizza I have ever had in my life.

Friday, 5 October 2007

a postcard from the Mezzogiorno

Back in drizzly, cold, autumny Krakow. But it is good to be home. The basil survived. Wojtek did a good job. Sicily was ace, hot, dirty, with good food, nice beaches, fat mummys' boys and plenty of rubbish strewn across every single piece of public space (beaches included). We tried to hitchhike once to a village. No body stopped. They probably couldn’t see us hidden amongst the mountains of litter living rampant by the side of the road. Strewth. Ian Kiernan and his ‘clean up’ campaign would have no chance on this island. Dirty buggers. It’s all the mafia’s fault that Sicilians don’t give a shit anyway, right? I really liked it. It was raw and not Italian at all (but for their super cool high-end sunnies that they all seem to wear, including school kids). They don’t speak Italian, they’re not as loud as Italians, they’re super friendly and have all the time in the world. The Sicilian motto is ‘if you work you eat. If you don’t work, you eat, drink and sleep’. This explains the ridiculous siestas lasting 6 hours during the day, driving us all insane, as we could do nothing and achieve little during the sleep period.

The coffee was extremely delicious. We spent much time in public coffee houses. Standing by the coffee bar throwing back espressos like the junkies we became. Evenings were spent sipping various types of Marsala – the port-like wine from western Sicily (from a town with the same name) - chewing on octopus or the most fantastic olives on earth. Or both.

I have resumed reading 'Midnight in Sicily' by Peter Robb. It shat me when I first bought it years ago, but now it appears to be a thrilling read. The escapades of Cosa Nostra, the Corleonesi clan and the Andreotti bastard explain why Sicily is so fucked up.

Since being back I have attended one funeral and am off to a wedding in Szczecin tomorrow. Also my mate Jodie gave birth to her second daughter. Also a care package arrived from my uber-cuz Nat on the day I got home, complete with eucalyptus lollies, tim tams, papaw ointment, and various Japanese noodles! What a week!

old geezer at the banks of Cefalu

pottery in Taormina

walking up Mt Etna the volcano - not visible in picture

Vucciria fish market in Palermo

tops wireing and drain pipes of Palermo