Monday, 22 January 2018

Notes from the Arena of the Unwell (II)

"Feed a cold, starve a fever". Or is it the other way round? Can't remember. Google doesn't help [Starve a Cold, Feed a Fever? Learn the Facts - WebMD... BBC Future - Feed a cold, starve a fever?]

Whatever. My fever is abating - this morning, for the first time in four days my temperature is below 38C, last reading a very positive 37.1C. And as the fever passes, my appetite returns.

The worst day was Saturday. Other than hot drinks, I literally ate nothing until the early evening, when I boiled up a bowl of rice; I have a few forkfuls, then left it to go cold, then returned to the bowl after a couple of hours for a few more forkfuls, could eat no more, finally threw away about a third of the bowl. Dreadful. The rice at least stemmed the diarrhoea that had been bothering me since the Friday evening.

Yesterday morning I scrambled some eggs for breakfast, a signal that my appetite was returning. But a strange thing is happening... I'm craving sugar. I can normally live totally without sugar, but now, I want the taste of sweet. Last night I woke at quarter to four with an abnormal craving for tinned pineapple rings in syrup. And at the same time, I find myself shunning the savoury tastes that form the basis of my diet. I couldn't face Pecorino Romano or Roquefort, the salty sheep's milk cheeses sitting in the fridge. Neither did I add any salt to my scrambled eggs.

And what I am doing drinking Coca Cola? When my preferences change to such a degree, I know something profound must be going on in my organism. As I mentioned yesterday, I yearn nostalgically for the taste of original Lucozade, not today's Japanese-owned sports drink, but the carbonated, Sunset Yellow and tartrazine-coloured recovery drink manufactured in Brentford, Middlesex, by Beechams. I can see it now - taking off the cellophane wrapping, opening the bottle, filling a glass with it, watching the effervescence subside and taking a long, deep draught of the sweet, sweet drink (containing one-quarter more sugar than Coke). As a child, Lucozade was such a treat it almost made up for being ill.

This morning I made an espresso - the coffee tasted different - even better - more... rounded (?) despite being my regular Lavazza brand, half way through the tin. Clearly different. Odd that. Why? Enzymes?

Calories in means calories need to be burnt. Since Friday I've walked no further than to the kitchen and back. Normally, I'm walking 11,000 paces a day, which in its own right is exercise that burns off around 350 kCals. Plus - no chin-ups, no weights, no press-ups. So I need less food just lying here.

Final diet/illness thought: I checked the assertion that putting honey into hot tea kills off its health benefits, and that one should wait until the tea is lukewarm before adding the honey. NOT TRUE. See what food scientists say here. So: boil kettle - pour water into 500ml/one-pint mug over one tea bag, cut four thin slices of lemon, add to the tea, dig out one tablespoon of set honey, stir into tea, remove teabag, enjoy.

Being confined to bed in the digital era is a huge advance over illnesses of the past. YouTube keeps me entertained. I came across The Comic Strip Presents The Hunt for Tony Blair (2012) - a total gem - really funny, beautifully filmed and acted and sharply satirical. Poland could never do political satire as well as this! (well at least today. Maybe in a generation's time...)

This time two years ago:
Ice - pond - night

This time four years ago:
Sorry, taki mamy klimat - Polish rail in winter

This time six years ago:
Music of the Trees

This time seven years ago:
Studniówka - a hundred days before the exams

This time eight years ago:
It's all in the mind - but where's that?

This time nine years ago:
Roztopy - the big melt-down

This time ten years ago:
The year's most depressing day

Sunday, 21 January 2018

From the Arena of the Unwell...

I've not been this ill in years. On Thursday, I retired to bed at 5pm with a 38.8C fever and woke up over 15 hours later still feeling shit. Planned trip to London cancelled). Friday's maximum fever was 39.1C. Spent all day in bed yesterday and today - with fever abating just slightly (to 38.3C). But at last I feel well enough to sit up and write.

This is clearly flu and not a heavy cold (I had a cold in mid-December, brought on by my march from a snow-bound Luton Airport Parkway Station to the useless Luton Airport; the cold passed well before Christmas). But this is as bad as I can recall from childhood; aching muscles, phlegm-filled lungs, unrelenting fever.

Maybe it was Monday - can't recall exactly when or where, but I remember the scene. I was on a bus and some guy was coughing his guts out. He covered his mouth as he did so, but as the bus lurched forward he grabbed a handrail before sitting down; then a moment later I held on the same handrail before taking a seat one row back from him. I rubbed my right eye. AAAARRGH! At this precise moment I realised what I'd done... [LESSON - get in the habit of avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your fingers, wash hands frequently, wear gloves]. Sure enough, symptoms developed in due course...

Should I have taken a flu jab in the autumn? My father (94) does and somehow escapes the worse of the virus, but hearing from several people who came down with flu after the jab cast doubts on the efficacy of this course of action. I feel I'm once again in that 'set the sliders' dilemma between, on the one hand, fighting the onset of old age, and on the other, gracefully accepting it (along with cheap train tickets) and taking the inoculation in future. My blasé attitude this season proved to be the wrong course of action.

Being in bed all day with zero energy and zero appetite is a challenge above all for the mind. Sleep is broken, interrupted by periods of heavy sweating that cause me to have to turn duvet and pillow upside down. Incidentally, taking paracetamol to reduce fever is not a great idea - rather than fighting the fever, one should let the fever fight the virus, put up with the discomfort a bit...

While dozing I set my mind running. In the long, dark nights I go back to my grey jumper'd childhood in Hanwell, London W7, the 1960s, to see how much detail I can remember; how much I observed as a child, what I saw in my surroundings, starting with our family house, the neighbourhood, my primary school... One memory brought back another, most happy memories, one after the other, then another, some quite surprising, just brought back out, catalogued, that I could enjoy as I lay awake between one period of sleep and the next. [Indeed, looking back at this post suggests that I was rather unwell in January 1968 - exactly 50 years ago!]

Our deepest memories form the core of our personality. Those deepest, most intimate observations of the curious mind of a child trying to make sense of the world around him shape who we are. [More about this during Lent (14 February-31 March) here on this blog.]

Outside my bedroom window, it's snowy...



This time last year:
The magic of a dawn flight

This time two years ago:
Warsaw as a voivodship

This time five years ago:
Around town in the snow

This time six years ago:
Reference books are dead

This time seven years ago:
A winter walk to work, and wet socks

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Proceed with utmost caution

Warsaw's first proper snowfall of the winter. Fifth consecutive day of sub-zero temperatures, with an overnight low of -9C. Time for a first stroll across the frozen pond. In my previous post, I noted that the ice wasn't thick enough for walking on. Last night walking home I saw a group of three youths testing the ice by jumping up and down on it - no one fell in.

Walking on new ice needs to be done with caution. Never be the first - nor the last - person of the season to go on it. Look for signs that someone's been before; footprints and bicycle tracks. Listen all the time for tell-tale sounds of ice cracking (whenever a plane took off overhead, I'd stop and wait, so I could hear properly). Above all, know your lake or pond, keep to the edges at first. Last year, there were over 54 days of ice cover on the ponds - this year's ice season will be shorter.

Anyway, off I go. Gingerly. Below: to my left is the northernmost wooden walkway skirting the top pond. Should the ice show any signs of cracking, I can make it to safety. Black patches are ice from which the powdery snow has blow off from.


Below: the middle walkway. At this stage, all is solid and sound, at least at this distance from the shore. To my right (well out of shot on this pic) is the last stretch of open water still unfrozen.


Below: the pier at the south end of the middle pond. Ice totally solid here.


Below: view across the lower pond, ul. Dumki to the left, houses on ul. Trombity on the right. Again, the ice is solid, the wind whipping snow off the surface.


Below: looking along the canal leading to the drainage ditch. Open water right of centre - this is where my ice-bound journey ends, and where I take to terra firma. Still, no ominous sounds.


Below: a Vivian Maier-style selfie with my camera, the Nikon CoolPix A. I love this little camera, so solid, great battery life, fabulous lens; sadly discontinued (if you find one now for sale, chances are it'll be around the original list price of $1,100. I bought mine for around $400, at the time 1,500zł, in April 2015.


A hour or so earlier, I left the office in the middle of a steady snowfall, below.


This time last year:
In which I see a wild boar crossing the frozen ponds

This time two years ago:
Communicating the government's case in English

This time four years ago:
Thinking big, American style. Can Poles do it?

This time five years ago:
Inequality in an age of economic slowdown 

This time six years ago:
The Palace of Culture: Tear it down?

This time eight years ago:
Conquering Warsaw's highest snow mounds

This time nine years ago:
Flashback on way to Zielona Góra

This time ten years ago:
Ursynów, winter, before sunrise 

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Jeziorki mid-January catch-up

A brief walk around the manor, making the most of the weak sunshine that appeared today. Sundry snaps below... Starting off with the railway scene - as on 1 January, PKP Cargo is leasing an elderly diesel loco from Tracktec Logistics (below). I like the midnight blue (almost black) colour scheme. This is TEM2-016, built in the USSR over 42 years ago, passing W-wa Dawidy station. It is hauling a short (20 wagons) train of coal from Okęcie sidings to Siekierki power station.


Below: the train passes, on its way along the non-electrified track that turns off from the Warsaw-Radom line just past Nowa Iwiczna station.


Down the line at W-wa Jeziorki, the viaduct that will take ul. Karczunkowska over the tracks is beginning to take shape (below), between the 'up' platform (from which the photo was taken) and the 'down' platform, in the distance to the left. Three rectangular support pillars are rising out of the ground, at present as steel rods, awaiting the poured concrete.


Below: viewed from ul. Karczunkowska, one can get an idea of the viaduct's alignment. There will be bus stops at the apex of viaduct, one on either side of the roadway, serving the station with stairs (and wheelchair lifts) down to the platforms.


More infrastructural news: there's a fair amount of water/sewerage work going on around ul. Trombity. On ul. Dumki, new asphalt marks where recent excavations have been completed.


Below: not a Soviet rocket launcher, but  well-boring drill. This is parked up on the piece of land on ul. Trombity earmarked for a pumping station to pump sewage from a new sewer serving the top end of the road with the existing sewer, down which effluent can then gravitationally flow into the main sewer running along ul. Karczunkowska.


More local infrastructure news; in October I wrote here about the competition to draw up master plans for a new estate for 8,000 people beyond the Biedronka store off of ul. Karczunkowska. This was announced by state-owned property bank BGK Nieruchomości. 48 architectural studios submitted projects for the 15-hectare site. The winner will be announced on 12 March. This estate of 3,000 homes is part of the government's flagship Mieszkanie + programme; the first tenants are to move in some time in 2021, said TVN Warszawa early last month.

However, since then, there's been a change of government; the Ministry of Construction and Infrastructure is no more. It is said that new prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki will focus much energy on making Mieszkanie+ work. Still, a new ministry needs to be created, secretaries of state, under-secretaries of state, department heads etc must be appointed - this takes time. Will the 2021 deadline be met?

On to wildlife matters. The mild freeze continues with sub-zero temperatures since Thursday night. The ponds are icing over again, this time the freeze is forecast to linger for more than just the two days the last one did (8/9 Jan). The swan family will get cold feet...


There are still patches of open water here and there, but they will ice over. Last year, when this happened (on 1 January), the swans departed. 


But I'm worried about one of the cygnets - I saw this one alone (below), a few hundred metres from its parents and siblings, on 7 January. Was it ill? Since then, I've seen the swan family three times, each time two adults and just four cygnets. Has this one died, or is it alone, ill, in the rushes across on the western banks of the ponds?


Final shot - not a good one on account of the long shutter speed and zoom - the two goats of ul. Kórnicka out and about. With the new football pitch taking up a lot of their grazing grounds, they seek new grass to nibble on the other side of the road.


Despite the light frost (-2C for over 24 hours), the ice on pond is nowhere near safe to walk on. Several more days and nights needed yet before it's like it was this time last year...

This time last year:
On ice

This time two years ago:
Tweeting and blogging

This time four years ago:
The sad truth about the pavement for Karczunkowska

This time eight years ago:
A haul of wintery wonderfulness

This time nine years ago:
Optimal way to work?

This time ten years ago:
Highest point in Jeziorki 
(photos of the Rampa before demolition)

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Black hat merry-go-round

It's that time of year when going outdoors without a hat is foolish - all the more so if you are bereft of hair. I have a wide array of headgear, but when temperatures are not low enough to warrant a furry trapper's hat with earflaps, a black knitted watch-cap hat does the job. Probably the most popular item of male hear wear in Poland, and indeed in the UK, in winter - in black, or very dark grey or very dark navy blue. In wool or acrylic, branded or generic, they adorn the heads of a significant part of the male population in winter.

Trouble is, I keep losing them.

But then, I keep finding them.

I don't know if I ever bought a single one. This winter season alone, my win/loss on black knitted watch caps is three/two.

First one I found by Pitshanger Park in November. Lying in a gutter on Meadvale Road. I picked it up (it was sodden with rain), took it to my father's, where I washed it, dried it and proceeded to wear it whenever I was outside. A month later I lost it, also in London. I suddenly realised it was my Tube stop, got ofp the Central Line train at Queensway, and forgot to check that I had it with me. That night was freezing. Walking back hatless from Perivale station, I regretted its loss, trying to make amends by wrapping my scarf around my head, turban style. When lo and behold, I found another black watch cap lying conveniently on the footbridge over the Western Avenue.

It was slightly frosty, but otherwise clean and dry; my scarf returned to my neck and my head was kept warm in a more conventional manner. Nice one this - Karrimor brand. But then I lost this one when getting ofp a bus in Warsaw as I was engaged in a chat with my sister-in-law. Again, I didn't notice it slipping off my lap as I dashed for the doors. Never mind, there's another two found black knitted watch-caps at home to chose from!

The day before yesterday, the lady sitting next to me on the northbound Metro left her knitted hat behind her seat as she alighted from the train at Centrum, the stop before mine. But in beige - for me, no, so I left it.

Yesterday, as the 209 bus emptied at Metro Stokłosy (lit. 'hundred sheaves'), I noted that a black knitted watch cap had been left on the seat by the door. As I was the last person to leave the bus, I picked it up. Easy go, easy come.

With regards to peakless knitted caps, the  watch cap is the most universal. Originally worn by US Navy sailors on watch, it has a deep rim which can be turned down over the ears when needed. The similar docker's cap is less deep, while the beanie is longer, made of thinner material and worn like an oversized sock on the heads of Millennials. A watch-cap with a peak is a skip-cap; it is also knitted, but with a rim at the sides and rear than can be pulled down over the ears, while still retaining the peak. More of a US Air Force item for ground crew wear, so olive green.

A good watch-cap should not be round, but with a definite front-back crease. However, best to refer to the US Navy website for official guidance...
Description 
Made of navy blue wool, closely knitted, bell shaped, pullover style, 11 to 12 inches long, 8-1/4 inches wide at bottom, with 5/8 inch border. 
Correct Wear  
The watch cap will worn with a single fold approximately 3 1/2 inches - 4 inches diagonally from the base of the back of the head, across the ears and on the forehead with the bottom of the fold one fourth of an inch above the eyebrows.  The watch cap will be worn snugly on the head.  Rank/rate  insignia is not authorized to be worn on the watch cap.  When authorized by appropriate authority, will be worn during cold weather conditions that may result in personal injury if not worn.
I'm sure I'll lose another few watch caps over the years, but will find even more. Look out for them wherever you are!

My father and my son, both endowed with a full head of hair, obstinately refuse to wear anything on their heads even in mid-winter (my father's only concession is to wear a Home Army beret for the Warsaw Uprising commemorations in August). However, hats I have many (indeed my father posited that I went bald precisely because I was into wearing hats from an early age). I blame genetics. Will you go bald? Check your maternal grandfather!

This time last year:
Skarzysko-Kamienna and Starachowice, by train

This time two years ago:
The world mourns the loss of David Bowie

This time four years ago:
Where's the snow?

This time six years off:
Two drink-free days a week, British MPs urge

This time seven years ago:
Depopulating Polish cities?

This time eight years ago:
Powiśle on a winter's morning

This time nine years ago:
Sunny, snowy Jeziorki

This time ten years ago:
Eddie's giant soap bubble

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Transport news

Last week I noticed a subtle change that few travelling on the Warsaw-Radom line would have discerned... the replacement on certain services of the EN57 rolling stock with EN71 trains...

The non-anoraks using the Koleje Mazowieckie services to and from town may have noticed a bit more space... room to sit where once were sardines... the reason is that the EN71 is not much more than a more powerful four-car version of the EN57 and its three-car units. So a train made of two units now has eight carriages as opposed to six.

Below: this is a modernised EN71, in service with Koleje Mazowiecki since 2010 in this form.


While I was delighted to have got a seat on the 08:11 service from W-wa Jeziorki to W-wa Śródmieście this morning, I was less than happy at the fact that the journey took 22 minutes longer than scheduled, arriving in town at 09:03 and not 08:41 as advertised.

Varsovians may have spotted a new logo on the side of buses, trams and Metro trains that appeared between Christmas and the New Year. Like a lower-case letter 't' with mermaid's tail. This poster, on a bus stop, explains what it's all about - the logo belongs to Warszawski Transport Publiczny a new branding concept of ZTM. A bit, I guess, like the change from London Transport to Transport for London (TfL).
A beautiful though cold (-3C) morning, clear blue sky and frost. By the time I arrived in town, the there was a fine view of the Palace of Culture, with two Jelcz 'ogórek' buses parked outside. The sunshine melted the frost off the south-east facing windows - but not the ones facing north-east.

The cold weather, however, brings out the polluters who warm their houses by burning low-grade coal and other rubbish.

The result is there to be seen in the sky. The photo below, taken just 90 minutes after I snapped the brilliant blue in the shot above, shows the yellowy-grey blanket of smog that enveloped Warsaw today. [Click on the link below and the label 'smog' at the foot of this post to compare this same view with different smog levels.]


Clamping down on polluters - and making examples of more egregious burners of old lino, mouldy rolls of wallpaper, leaking wellington boots and old copies of Gnasz Dziennik coupled with heavy fines and a ban on short-distance one-per-car commuting might help.

This time last year:
Uneasy Sunny Day - smog

This time two years ago:
Public media? State media? Party media?
[another year of not watching a single second of TVP1]

This time three years ago:
Beer, consumer choice and the Meaning of Life

This time four years ago:
What's Cameron got against us Poles?

The time six years ago:
Anyone still remember the Przybyl case?

This time seven years ago:
Wetlands midwinter meltdown

This time eight years ago:
Jeziorki rail scenes, winter

This time nine years ago:
Winter drivetime, Jeziorki

This time ten years ago:
Kraków, a bit of winter sunshine

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Ready for football by the pond

Just after Christmas, the perimeter fence went up; obviously a ball game but which - all is now clear. Today, Sunday 7 January, work continued in the preparation of a proper five-a-side football pitch for Jeziorki. Located on ul. Kórnicka. With Astro-Turf playing surface. Looks good!


Work is nearly ready - just the gate to finish and some final touches and it will be ready for a new season. This looks like a standard Orlik pitch, 40m by 20m with 3m high fence, created within a programme intended to provide more footballing amenities to the nation's youth. What is the Polish for "Please mister, can we have our ball back?"


This pitch is built on the site of an old one, which was hardly ever used (other as a meeting place for young folk to drink beer of a summer night). Goats would be seen grazing here.

"Build it, and they will come," Field of Dreams style?

This time last year:
The Winter Sublime
(Overnight low 6-7 Jan was -17C, this year it was +5C)

This time seven years ago:
Long train running

This time eight years ago:
Most Poniatowskiego

This time ten years ago:
Warsaw well prepared for winter

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Jakubowizna, warm January day

The average daily high temperature for Warsaw (1981 to 2010) is +0.6C. Today's high was +9C, the third time this week this temperature has been reached or exceeded. No rain today, so a good opportunity to get to know the countryside surrounding my new działka, bought in November. Located in Jakubowizna, 10 minutes' walk from Chynów railway station on the Warsaw-Radom line, the działka is surrounded by orchards and forests. After raking the lawn, I went for a short walk in the vicinity before heading back to Chynów to catch the Warsaw-bound train home.

Below: on the corner of my street, I'll be following this particular row of apple trees as they blossom and bear fruit.


Below: further on, beyond where the asphalt ends and turns to a rutted, muddy track, a pair of coppiced willows stand as a gate to the more rural vistas beyond.


Around a kilometre from the działka is a small forest on top of a small hill...


...and soon it ends after about 400m and yields to uncultivated scrub.


Time to return, lock up, and catch the train home. I'm heading south-west; there are those coppiced willows again framing the setting sun.


On to Chynów. The sun set today 16 minutes later than the earliest sunset (15:23 on 15 December).


The level crossing with barriers and lighting, something that Jeziorki's ul. Baletowa only got last month - a road hundreds of times busier than ul. Działkowa.


And on, in good time, to PKP Stacja Chynów, which boasts a ticket office and ticket machine plus waiting room.


As I mentioned in a previous post, modernisation work on the railway line between Warsaw and Czachówek Południowy is almost complete. Beyond Czachówek Południowy, preparation for modernisation of the line as far as Warka is underway. Below: two shots of the long row of new concrete sleepers and track ballast, stored by Chynów station. In the dusk, it looks like the ramparts of ancient city captured after a long siege...





Return (senior's) ticket: 13.64 złotys, just under three quid - less than the price of a return bus fare from Cleveland Road to Ealing Broadway station. Getting here from Warsaw is not going to break the bank.

This time last year:
Seeking an aesthetic in the Grim

This time three years ago:
UK overtakes France as the World's Fifth Biggest Economy 

This time seven years ago:
Ice in the Vistula

This time eight years ago:
A consolation to my British readers

This time nine years ago:
Winter in its finery

The time ten years ago:
Snow fences keep the trains running