Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Kick out against Change - or accept it?
Meditations upon West Ealing

Where am I? This could be anywhere in the UK; generic urban scene. Put me back here 50 years ago, and I'd not recognise the place. This is Singapore Road, West Ealing, between the Uxbridge Road and the railway line. Half a century ago, to my left would have been the backs of the shops long gone - F.W. Rowse, Mac Fisheries, Tru-form - and the Green Man pub; to my left, an estate of single-story pre-fab houses. All gone. A new landscape emerges, new blocks of flats are arising in the distance.

Now, this place I'd recognise, the Salvation Army church on Leeland Road, corner of Leeland Terrace. Childhood memories. From here, the Sally Army band would march out and play on the streets of West Ealing, songs of salvation to salve the soul. Built in 1909, my early-'60s childhood was nearer the date of its construction than today.

Going shopping with my mother at Rowses ('u Rałsa'), to Marks & Spencer ('do Spensera') or Woolworths ('do Łulłorsa'). British Homes Stores? We didn't go there. Below: this stylish Art Deco facade once graced Woolworths; I loved going there with my mother; often she'd buy me an Airfix model aeroplane. Today, Woolworths is but a memory, the store divided into three, the largest part of it a Poundworld. The second-hand jewellry shop to the left has closed. Incidentally, does anyone remember the pedestrian crossings with animated stick-men that moved when you were allowed to cross the road? Maybe a failed experiment, in the mid- to late-1960s?

Below: Ealing Magistrate's Court, Green Man Lane - the street named for the pub. The pub sign, a green man's face peering through leaves, used to frighten me as a very small child in pushchair on my way to nursery school.

Below: Felix Road, and beyond Jacob's Ladder footbridge over the Great Western Railway line. Much as it was when steam engines plied the tracks, which I can just about remember.

West Ealing has changed but has stayed the same; the people are different, the cars are different, some of the buildings have gone, new ones have emerged. The spirit of place is there, recognisable from half a century ago; change happens. Useless trying to set the clock back - the forces of globalisation and information technology have changed the way our towns look. Yes, the search for the spirit of age, the nostalgic longing for times past, bring balm to our rushed lives, rushing away from the known towards the unknown. But we can never bring back those exact qualia, those precise emotions we once experienced gazing on a street scene from our childhood.

Politicians who arouse people's nostalgia for times past, when there were fewer migrants on the streets are playing dangerous games. Times change; we must get used to it. It was never as good as we think it was, we cannot turn back the clock.

This time two years ago:
Warwick University alumni meet in Warsaw

This time three years ago:
Pluses and minuses of PKP InterCity

This time four years ago:
When transportation breaks down

This time nine years ago:
Full moon closest to Earth

Monday, 11 December 2017

Half An Inch Of Snow Brings Travel Chaos To UK

Pathetic. The amount of snow that fell on London and the south-east of England yesterday would not even provoke the slightest comment in a Warsaw office as staff got into work. But here in London - chaos, pandemonium, drama. The upshot of this chaos is that I'm still in London and will be stuck here until Thursday - while in Warsaw there's work that should be done.

Yesterday, Sunday 10 December, West Ealing, noon...

Knowing that the tiniest amount of snow disrupts London utterly, I check the TfL website to see how my journey to Luton Airport will look. As expected; "Central line - part closures, severe delays on other parts of the line. Piccadilly line - part closure, severe delays on other parts of the line." Metropolitan line - not working at all. The District line is working OK, so I set ofp to Ealing Broadway with the intention of getting to St Pancras changing at Victoria for the Victoria line. All goes well, I reach St Pancras and see the ThamesLink services have been diverted to the East Midlands platforms; in any case I board an East Midlands train to Nottingham, first stop Luton Airport Parkway, it departs on time (14:10) and arrives on time (14:30). Marvellous.

Stepping outside into the snow at Luton Airport Parkway station, I can see three airport shuttle buses standing idly and a huge crowd of people. No bus staff anywhere to be seen, no information - just disgruntled passengers with planes to catch, suitcases, buggies, small children... I walk around the buses to see some guys with snow shovels trying to clear wet snow off the approach road. I know what's going on... the buses don't have winter tyres. The approach road is steep, as is the slip-road linking the station and New Airport Way. The buses are unable to climb either hill. No snow-ploughs, no salt, no pavement clearing.

So I walk - I've done this journey many times before; it's usually 20 minutes on foot. Today, I take the footpath rather than walking alongside New Airport Way for safety's sake - half an hour sloshing through slush and muck, snow and ice. Half way to the airport terminal, I start seeing people coming down the other way, walking towards the station because the airport bus is not running from that end either. Total traffic jam on the roads. At times, I'm walking between the stationary cars rather than risk the treacherous pavements.

Finally reaching the airport, I can see the bay where the station shuttle buses usually stop. Not a shuttle bus in sight, just hundreds of people, in the cold, (some unsuitably dressed having flown home from warmer climes), with luggage and infants and zero information, waiting to get to the station.

The photo (above) shows the amount of snow - not a whole lot by Warsaw standards, yet enough to paralyse Luton. A local bus from the town centre has just arrived (centre left of pic), but it's neither come from nor will it be going to Luton Airport Parkway station. The time: 15:06.

Entering the terminal building, my jaw drops. The departures board is awash with red - cancelled flights. Those that have not been cancelled and are presumably flying were scheduled to depart at 06:30, 07:00 and still have not left. The first Warsaw flight of the day, at 08:10, is showing that the gate will be announced at 14:40 - that is, 20 minutes ago. The next Warsaw flight, 14:20, has been cancelled. My flight, at 17:30, is shown to be scheduled for 17:50 (this squares with information I had online before I left my father's). So I go through security and arrive airside to see what will happen next...

Hours pass, the departures board hardly changing. Flights are being called over the loudspeaker, the departures board seems to have got stuck. Milan, Cluj-Napoca, Lublin... people rushing to gates, somehow things are moving... We wait for further announcements. They are garbled, read out by non native-English speakers, I'm straining to hear what's going on. At one stage, all passengers for cancelled Ryanair flights are called to Gate 16 from where they will be escorted away from the airport. It's 19:30, and finally passengers for WizzAir flight W6 1308 to Warsaw are called to Gate 6.

There we meet passengers from WizzAir flight W6 1302 to Warsaw, which had been scheduled to depart eleven and half hours ago. The mood is turning ugly - the staff on the desk are provided with scant information, and that seems to be contradictory. W6 1302 will be taking off shortly, but W6 1308 is cancelled - or was that the other way round. At last passengers for my flight are told that yes, it is definitely cancelled. Leave the airport, re-book your ticket, WizzAir will reimburse for the ticket and for hotel costs. All flights from the UK for Monday and Tuesday are fully booked.

I leave the airport terminal and catch a Green Line bus to London, which leaves at 20:30, and to my surprise negotiates all the steep slip-roads and gets onto the motorway without any problem. I catch the Central line at Marble Arch ('Expect severe delays' says a board at the station entrance), but by luck there's an Ealing Broadway train on the platform as I reach it. I'm back at my father's at 22:15, and straight away I go online to book my ticket home. Monday - all flights to Poland booked. Tuesday - the same. Wednesday - there's one seat left for the evening flight to Warsaw, but by the time I've reached for my credit card - it's gone. I manage to book a seat on the early afternoon flight on Thursday 14 December. It costs £155, more than three time more than my original Luton-Warsaw ticket (£47).

This morning, British TV news is full of pictures of a snow-bound country beset by traffic chaos. At Heathrow Airport yesterday, more than 300 flights were cancelled. Ealing Gazette's Twitter feed is full of stories about traffic jams and school closures. Poland can have this or much worse weather for three-four months of the year, and schools will only close when temperatures fall below -20C. And here in Ealing, it's +1C and it's raining! Here's a sample Tweet from Ealing Gazette today: "Snow in west London: Vyners School shut amid concerns for 'safety of staff'".

There's nothing new or unexpected about snow in London in December. It seems that year after year, people responsible for keeping the infrastructure going get caught totally unprepared. Where's the training? Where's the process, the systems, the management? Why can Okęcie (or indeed any Polish or Central European airport) keep the airliners flying through the depths of winter, while a few hours of wet snow cripples British airports? Where's the crisis management? Where are the procedures for de-icing runways, taxi-ways, gates and aircrafts' wings? Where are the procedures for keeping passengers informed? This weather had been forecast - why were no steps taken to foresee what would happen and react accordingly? 'Train hard, fight easy' should be the way. Expect the unexpected and plan for it.

Climate change means more extreme weather events; I've observed warmer winters in Warsaw, but here in London heavy snowfalls are become less rare and something that planners need to plan for.

Not least the provision of snow tyres for public-service vehicles. Of course, the UK makes very little snow equipment of any kind, so it will have to be imported from EU countries (Goodyear, Michelin, Bridgestone, Dębica etc all produce winter tyres in factories in Poland).

This time last year:
Łódź Fabryczna station opens again

This time three years ago:
Pluses and minuses of PKP

This time four years ago:
When transportation breaks down

This time six years ago:
Take me back to Tulsa

This time eight years ago:
Another book launch

This time nine years ago:
Jeziorki in the 16th Century

This time ten years ago:
Rotten weather, literally

Polish Perivale

In Tesco Hoover yesterday bulk-buying stuff for Xmas at my father's. Had to put up with It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas played repeatedly for over half an hour before staff changed it to a more varied medley of Yuletide slush (a relief for the chap dressed up as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, who stood in mortal danger of ending up impaled on a pointy Xmas tree). Anyway, Perivale being Perivale, with its diverse mix of humanity, still shocked me by how many Poles were shopping there. I left Perivale 20 years ago, and then there were Poles, second-generation like me, and some newcomers, but all in all, not in the least bit visible.

Today there are many, and they most certainly are visible. From young families pushing laden trolleys hither and yon to men in hi-vis jackets placing słoiki of bigos or flaki into their baskets. Polish food is no longer in the 'Food of the World' aisles, but present across the entire store mixed in with other ethnic foods for ethnic groups who are no longer a minority in Perivale. Parents would speak among themselves in Polish, to their children in Polish - who'd reply to their parents in Polish, but speak to their siblings in English - without a trace of foreign accent.

When you see a white face in Perivale, it's likely to be Polish. I heard one or two middle-aged couples in Tesco (and I was there for nearly an hour and half) talking in native English to one another. To them it must seem strange, to say the least, to have become a minority, but the same process happened in Southall, just down the road, at the end of the E5 bus route, some 40 years ago. Whereas Southall is Asian, Perivale is extremely diverse, with peoples from all corners of the world in evidence.

Outside in the car park, vehicles with Polish number plates so exotic, you'd not see them in Warsaw - RRS for example, or LJA (that one I know to be Janów Lubelski), although of course nary a car on Warsaw plates. Many Poles in Perivale have long settled down, sending their children to the Catholic John Fisher primary school on the Western Avenue, and having bought properties before their reached their current high (half a million pounds for an ordinary three-bedroom terraced house) are paying off mortgages. The ones that run their own businesses, in the construction sector in particular, are doing well. Unemployment is low and hard-working skilled tradespeople are in demand.

Perivale UB6 is downmarket of West Ealing W13, which in turn is downmarket of Ealing W5; clawing one's way up the property market to reach the (literal) peak of Edgehill Road or Hillcrest Road will take some doing, but I can sense the determination among many Polish business owners and self-employed people.

The London Borough of Ealing, which also includes Perivale and Southall, voted 60.4% to stay in the EU, on a turnout of 71%. Given the large immigrant population in the borough - far higher than most Vote Leave districts, one can only surmise that a long-standing exposure to migrants has made Ealing less nativist with the passing of time.

POSTSCRIPT: Round the time I pressed the 'Publish' button on this post, a young Polish man died after being stabbed on Bilton Road, Perivale...

This time last year:
Power in the vertical

This time five years ago:
And still they come [anomalous flashbacks that is]

This time six years ago:
Classic glass

This time seven years ago:
What's the Polish for 'pattern'?

This time ten years ago:
"Rorate caeli de super nubes pluant justum..."

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The triple benefits of walking

Yesterday evening, I'm on may way to town from my father's house. I pass bus stop CE by Hollingbourne Gardens; the indicator says a bus to Ealing Broadway is due in 10 minutes. A woman in her 40s, a little overweight, is waiting. Probably been there a few minutes... I march on. By the time the bus arrives, assuming it will arrive on time, I'll be more than halfway to its destination. I continue... past the next stop (Kent Gardens SA) and the next one (The Knoll SB) and the next one (Charlbury Grove SD).

And just then, the bus whizzes past me, only to stop a few hundred yards later by the junction of Castlebar Road and Carlton Road as it hits the back of a traffic jam standing all the way back to Ealing Broadway. I overtake the bus (walking pace, no running) as it passes Eaton Rise and reach the destination before the bus.

So the lady who'd been waiting at Hollingbourne Gardens a) took longer to reach Ealing Broadway than me, b) spent £1.50 for the privilege of waiting in near-freezing weather for ten+ minutes then spending a further 12 minutes in a bus, much of the time stationary in a jam and c) missed out on 20 minutes' exercise.

Later that evening, heading back to Ealing from town, I arrive at Queensway station on the Central line to find disruption on the line and a 15-minute wait for the next Ealing Broadway train. Seconds later, a West Ruislip train arrives, and I take than with the intention of taking it to Perivale. The walk to my father's from Perivale station is longer than from Ealing Broadway (around 2,500 paces rather than 2,000 paces), but the balance between an extra 500 paces and waiting 15 minutes is a no-brainer. Even at an unhurried rate, I can walk 100 paces a minute, so 15 minutes = 1,500 paces, therefore I'll be home ten minutes earlier if I do the longer walk compared to waiting at Queensway.

As a youth, I'd do what I can to avoid having to walk, but now that walking has become an ingrained habit, I have no problems with it, spending on average between an hour and half and two hours a day walking. As well as the benefits of moving one's body, walking clears the mind. But in London I find it's saving me money (not having a season ticket, as I do in Warsaw) - and also saving me time.

Finally, a hint for Public Health England: while I value the One You project and the Active Ten part of it, I've long given up on the app - why? I often don't remember to launch the app when I set off at a brisk pace to the station or bus stop - I know I'm doing the walking but not getting the 'reward'. One day, when I knocked out a worthy 16,000 paces without once launching Active Ten (I was travelling - Warsaw - Łódź - Gdańsk, to busy to think about the app), I gave up. If Public Health England wants us to keep tabs on our brisk walking, I'd recommend an app to which you give permission but once to log your brisk walking, and it does so day in, day out, the year round.

This time last year:
W-wa Jeziorki: new 'up' platform nearly ready

This time two years ago:
Tottenham Court Road station revisited

This time three years ago:
Zen and the Art of Publishing

This time five years ago:
Wrocław, another Polish city of neon

This time six years ago:
Ronald Reagan remembered

This time seven years ago:
Accident of birth

This time nine years ago:
Under the Liberator

This time ten years ago:
Jeziorki on old maps

Friday, 8 December 2017


Remember, dear reader, that 14 units of alcohol is the upper limit of 'safe drinking' set by Britain's Chief Medical Officer early last year. Once upon a time it used to be 28 units for men, 21 for women, then it was reduced to 21 units for men, 14 for women, now 14 units for men and women.

It is the run-up to Xmas, the days are short, darkness and cold reign. What better time of year than to meet up with old friends, and raise a cheering glass or five to celebrate a time of Peace and Goodwill to All. But those 14 units...?

Since 1 January 2014, I've been keeping a health and fitness log, entering - literally - every unit of alcohol consumed into the spreadsheet, along with my daily walking and exercising, and portions of fresh fruit and vegetables consumed. If you can measure it, you can manage it.

Here's a sample entry (from Saturday's get-together in Shoreditch):


That's four bottles of Forest Road Work IPA at 5.4% alcohol by volume, each of 330ml, plus one glass (150ml) of red wine at 13% abv. Total = 9.1 units of alcohol. [One unit is equivalent to 250ml of 4% beer, for example.]

Now the social evenings are coming thick and fast at this time of year. Last night a do at the Polish Embassy in London, tonight the PBlink mixer in London, night before last meeting up with old school-friends down the Kent. In each case several beers or wines - hard to avoid and not appear a party-pooper. Plus alcohol is a great social lubricant, making you more garrulous, confident and amiable - of course, up to a point. The trick is to know exactly where that 'point' lies; when you can feel you're starting to lose the logic of your statements, when you're choosing the wrong words. With me, this starts to occur after 10 units, spaced out over an evening. And then there's the hangover, which is a combination of factors, including how much water you're taking in alongside the alcohol to prevent nocturnal dehydration, the mixing of grape and grain, and the hangover-generating quality of the alcohol consumed.

So ten units is what I can handle and remain sensible, with consciousness working normally. Last night it was 8.1 units - five small glasses of red wine with food consumed over two and half hours. No slurred speech, no hangover, a good memory of the many people I talked to and the conversations engaged in (blockchain, investment in Poland's regions, ethnic food in Poland, business succession and investment, Brexit and the new Polish premier).

But five such evenings over a week equals 40+ units; 50 units according to Public Health England is the dangerous drinking level. And Public Health England discourages us from 'hoarding' our drink-free days so that we can binge-drink and still stay within overall limits.

Looking back over the first 11 months of this year, I consumed an average of 19.1 units a week (below the old 21-unit limit, but much more than the current 14-unit one). And I had 179 alcohol-free days, more than every second day. Two alcohol-free days in a row is recommended by Public Health England, which I generally abide by. And then of course there's Lent (26 years now) during which I touch not a drop. The New Year is a time of resolution, and after Christmas excesses, I treat January as a gentle run-up to the rigours of Lent, slowing down alcohol intake considerably.

Past Decembers look like this:
2014: 56.1 units a week (DANGER!)
2015: 39.8 units a week
2016: 35.2 units a week (still 2.5 times over 'safe' level)

It goes without saying that December is the most intensive month for drinking by far; the most important thing is to be aware of this, monitor it carefully and go for a liver recovery programme in the New Year.

This time last year:
Emilia comes down

This time two years ago:
On being rich in Poland

This time five years ago:
The link between health and happiness explored

This time six years ago:
The black SUV, the black SUV... (with the darkened rear windows)

This time seven years ago:

This time ten years ago:
Where I'm from, and why

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Milton Keynes

Apologies for not updating sooner, have been very busy in London these past few days. I'd like to share my impressions of Milton Keynes, a town I visited on Monday. It stands as testimony to a bold social-engineering experiment begun half a century ago - to create a brand new modern city around a grid pattern of roads running north-south and east-west, each grid being roughly a square kilometre.

Roads are named 'H' for horizontal (east-west) 'Ways', and 'V' for vertical (north-south) 'Streets'. Built for the car, the Ways and the Streets intersect at roundabouts (no traffic lights on the grid) to allow for high-speed travel. But the cyclist and pedestrian were not ignored at the planning stage; there are plenty of cycle paths augmenting the road network.

An urban area of nearly a quarter of a million population, larger than say, Radom or Częstochowa,  or for that matter Northampton, Norwich or Ipswich, Milton Keynes has a prosperous air about it.

Below: Milton Keynes Central railway station (to the left), one of six stations serving the town, and the only one to have 'Milton' or 'Keynes' in its name. The station itself is busy and extremely well connected with London, with up to eight trains an hour. Buying an off-peak return ticket on Saturday for a Monday journey cost me a mere £12.

Work to build Milton Keynes - a central business district surrounded by six existing villages - began in the late 1960s, and some of the architecture looks decidedly passé and shabby. The Old Bus Station has now become a car park. Given that the fastest journey time to London Euston is 30 minutes, the average is 38 minutes (48 miles/77 km), Milton Keynes is also an attractive dormitory town for the capital. It would be interesting to know how many people commute into London from here.

Housing in Milton Keynes is rather attractive - a kind of neo-vernacular Brookside Close, with tightly controlled architectural designs ensuring a harmonious visual environment. Features such as gabled dormer windows, decorative brickwork and traditional materials hark back to local history.

The interface between parkland, footpaths and roads. Below: this is H6 Childs Way crossing over a footpath that links Tear Drop Lakes to the housing estate shown in the above photo. Note the exposed concrete (béton brut) used for the ramparts - a very 1960s feature, now disappearing under ivy.

One of the Tear Drop Lakes (below) reminds me of Jeziorki - can you see the grey heron? It allowed me to get far closer to it that ones back home do. The wooden pier has been cordoned off for safety reasons. This tranquil scene is less than 500m from Milton Keynes Central station, and shows how closely nature can sit beside a thriving urban centre.

Back to catch my train, I glimpse the future as it was seen in my childhood; mirrored glass buildings set amid manicured landscapes, intersected by fast roads and railways (this footbridge crosses both).

It would be valuable to spend more time in Milton Keynes (preferably on a day of longer duration) to get a better idea of the town's character; my first impressions were curiously positive; there's already an air of nostalgia about a vision of the future as seen from the not-to-distant past.

This time last year:
Warsaw by night, early winter

This time four years ago:
Burn less gas and do Ukraine a favour

This time seven years ago:
Early evening atmosphere

This time nine years ago:
Toponyms - how many names has Jeziorki?

This time ten years ago:
On the road to Białystok

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Viaduct takes shape in the snow, W-wa Jeziorki

November 2017 is approaching an end. And how's the viaduct that one day will take ul. Karczunkowska over the railway line at W-wa Jeziorki coming on? Snow's falling hard and fast, warm enough to stick to vertical surfaces. Between the electrified lines and the non-electrified coal train line, an excavator digs out the soil between the retaining walls. Here will one day appear the central pillar supporting the new bridge.

Below: down in the pit, the work goes on. Note the people walking down the coal train tracks; there's no direct route from the west side of the line to the 'up' platform; you can choose to walk a muddy 200m detour or walk the line.

Left: I arrive at W-wa Jeziorki, delighted that the temperature here is one degree lower than in the centre of Warsaw, and that the snow here is settling on the ground. I'm greeted by a little snow station-master, who causes some amusement to the train's conductor.
Below: now the trains have passed, I check how the foundations look in the dark.

Bonus shot from yesterday; the snow was falling but not settling, as a Freightliner PL Newag Dragon locomotive passes through W-wa Jeziorki with a rake of full coal wagons. The Freightliner Dragons are dual-power electric locos with auxiliary diesel power, allowing them to work in non-electrified shunting yards.

This time three years ago:
No in-work benefits for four years?

This time four years ago:

This time five years ago:
Another November without snow

This time six years ago:
Snow-free November

This time seven years ago:
Krakowskie Przedmieście in the snow

This time eight years ago:
Ul. Poloneza closed for the building of the S2

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

50th Anniversary of the Polski Fiat 125p

On this day fifty years ago, the very first Polski Fiat 125p rolled off the production line at the Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych (FSO) in Warsaw's Żerań. The licence-built copy of the Italian saloon car was in continuous production until 1991, with more than 1.4 million made. A common (though not as common as its small brother, the Polski Fiat 126p) sight on Poland's roads right through to the late 1990s. Today considered a classic, well-preserved examples are highly sought after by collectors.

To mark the half-century that's passed since the start of production, a small exhibition has been staged in a tent outside the Palace of Culture (Plac Defilad, facing ul, Marszałkowska), which I visited today.

Poland had had a licence-building relationship with Fiat since before WW2; from 1935 to 1939, the Polski Fiat 508 III (below) was produced at the PZInż factory in Warsaw (from 1932 to 1935 the Polski Fiat 508 I and 508 II were assembled there.)

At the time, the Fiat 125 (below) represented sharp, modern European styling, a far cry from the lumpy Warszawa 223 that was produced in parallel at FSO until production of the that type ceased in 1973, by which time the Warszawa was a complete anachronism. The Polski Fiat 125p was a simplified, lower-cost version of the Italian 125, with engines from the discontinued Fiat 1300 and 1500 saloons, while the Italian cars had new 1600 and 1800cc engines and square headlamps.

Below: an estate version (kombi) was produced, and successfully exported too. This is the ambulance version. I had a ride in one of these in 1979; the ambulance driver was moonlighting as a taxi outside a railway station somewhere in western Poland, from where he drove me to a lakeside chalet resort where I was meeting my group of young Poles from London on our Montserrat holiday. The journey (around 25km) cost me $10, I remember.

This is a prototype 4x4 version of the estate; with mechanicals based on the Soviet Lada Niva, it was never put into production because of difficulties in obtaining those Soviet parts.

After Martial Law was imposed in December 1981, the FSO factory lost many of its key workers, and soldiers were drafted in to keep the machines running. Quality plummeted. Fiat was upset that its brand was attached to products of such execrable reliability that it insisted the 125p was renamed the FSO 125p. The car continued to be sold under the FSO brand until production ceased in 1991.

This exhibition runs until next Monday, 4 December, if you can't make it but like the Fiat 125p, there are usually a handful available for hire for retro-style tours of central Warsaw, based in front of the Palace of Culture.

Another view, in the sunlight, yesterday morning.

Bonus shot - a 1972 Ford Capri 1600 GT at the DESA Unicum auction house on ul. Piękna. The auction takes place this Saturday (2 December) and the car is expected to fetch up to 80,000 złotys (£17,000). My father had one like this (1600, but not GT), in bright red, with maroon upholstery. Says it was his favourite car ever, in over 60 years of driving.

This time last year:
Fidel Castro's death divides the world

This time two years ago:
London to Edinburgh by night bus

This time four year ago:
The Regent's Canal, London

This time six years ago:
An end to the entitlement way of thinking

This time seven year:
West Ealing - drab and sad suburb

This time eight years ago:
To Poznań by train

This time ten years ago:
Late autumn drive-time