Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Electric cars for hire by the minute

Is this the start of a revolution? Our electricity supplier, Innogy, has launched an electric car-hire scheme in Warsaw, placing a fleet of 500 BMW i3 cars at the disposal of any driver with the Innogy Go! app in their smartphone. Full information (in English) here.

The white-and-lime-green cars are becoming a common sight on the streets, people are getting used to them. By-the-minute car hire has been around in Warsaw for a few years (Panek and Traficar), but having electric ones that can zoom along bus passes is an advantage. And Innogy Go! only charges by the minute, not by the kilometre.

Before going any further, a digression about electric vehicles.

A few years ago, I took a close look at the range-topping Tesla S at an event in Łódź. I was struck by how tinny the doors sounded when they closed. There is a reason (Toyota's hybrids also have doors which make a similar sound). The doors - the entire car body - has to be built as light as possible. With fossil-fuel-engined cars, if you need to put in an extra weighty feature to help make the car more attractive, you add a few cc to engine's capacity. "I want the car door to shut making the sound of a door of a bank vault!" says the car designer. "Yes," replies the car engineer, "to achieve that, the car door will have to have the weight of a bank-vault door." "Quite so. Make the engine bigger to compensate!" Easy enough to do with petrol or diesel, a tough ask on an electric engine - or more accurately, on the battery that powers it.

So electric cars have to be lighter, thus more fragile. And so, the vicious circle will be broken. In this, the automotive industry has been making ever-heavier cars more powerful - therefore kinetically more dangerous to other road users in a crash, leading to heftier safety cages, crash bars and other passive measures, making cars even heavier - therefore needing even more power, and with it more kinetic danger, leading to more defensive measures. A bit like the the naval powers building Dreadnought battleships with ever greater guns and armour. Or the nuclear arms race.

I have sworn never to buy a fossil-fuel engined car ever again. But then, do I really need to own a car - any car? I'm entirely happy pottering around Warsaw on London on public transport and on foot, and hiring a car when necessary.

Will I ever use an auto-na-minuty? On Tuesday after work I went to Ikea in Janki to check out a few things. I went by public transport and was there quick enough (SKM from W-wa Śródmieście to W-wa Rakowiec, from there a 15 tram to P+R Al. Krakowska, and from there a 711 bus to Janki.

Whoever was responsible for planning the shopping centres at Janki assumed that literally no one would want to get there by public transport. The bus stop is over 900m from Ikea! After my retail experience was complete, time to go home. The journey home (a mere 8km as the crow flies) took the best part of 90 minutes because of the vicissitudes of the suburban bus routes weaving around various villages calling at empty bus stops along the way. And it was bucketing down with rain. A good time to use an electric car for a short-distance journey. According to Google Maps, the journey home from Ikea in Janki should take 16 minutes by car (through Falenty, Łady and Dawidy Bankowe); at a rate of 1.19 złoty per minute, that would be under 20zł. Now, the cheapest rate taxi would be around 30zł for this ride. Is this an attractive saving? Your first ride is 1 grosz for the first 15 minutes... Now, that's tempting.

A fair-weather alternative to the electric car is a electric scooter (skuter as opposed to hulajnoga). Operated by Blinkee, these are cheaper, but you need to wear a helmet (in the box at the back).

Below: the alternative, in the pouring rain.

Pricing: electric car vs electric scooters in Warsaw

Units Driving/min  Parking/min. Daily fee
InnogyGo! (e-car) 500 1,19 zł0.50 zł 236 zł
Blinkee (scooter)200 0.69 zł0.09 zł89 zł

This time last year:
Sunday shopping issue solved
[After a year of doing the Big Grocery Shop online, I won't return to doing it the old way! It's 25 minutes of my time to order, receive and unpack the goods, rather than 90 minutes including the 7.5 km drive there and back.]

This time three years ago:
Mszczonów - another railway junction

This time six years ago:
The Devil is in Doubt - short story, part I

This time seven years ago:
Stormclouds are raging all around my door

This time eight years ago:
Floods endanger Warsaw

This time nine years ago:
Coal line rarity

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Russia's Far East - maps and roads

Until not so very long ago, Russia's Far East had no year-round, asphalted road connection to the rest of the country. In 2010, Vladimir Putin officially opened a new road that finally allowed motorists to make the entire journey from Moscow to Vladivostok without having to cover a thousand kilometres off-road.

In my 1989 Atlas Avtomobil'skich Dorog SSSR, the gap is glaring. The Soviet motorist - unless an intrepid explorer with a rugged and reliable four-wheel drive vehicle - could not drive from one end of the country to the other. Below: the key map shows where the gaps are. Between the eastern edge of page 83 and the western edge of page 84 - nothing. To the south of the Amur river - China.

Let's zoom in a little bit - the Soviet highway network had a huge hole in it between Chita and Khabarovsk - over 2,100km of gap. However, if you go east from Chita and west from Khabarovsk by minor roads not of highway standard but were asphalted,the gap shrank to just over 1,000km.

Below: the eastern edge of page 83 of Atlas Avtomobil'skich Dorog SSSR: Note the dotted line heading north-east out of Sretensk - the dotted line means no asphalt - in Russian as in Polish, 'gruntowa'. Beyond Gorbicha, there is no road. At all. Whatsoever. The black lines are the railways - the Trans-Siberian and the Baikal-Amur. As you can see, Russia's east and west were held together by just these two slender threads. Now a third is in place (since 2010), the connection of Chita and Khabarovsk by a main road - certainly not motorway standard - but something entirely acceptable in the Western world, given the volume of traffic using it.

Below: the western edge of page 84 of Atlas Avtomobil'skich Dorog SSSR: Two roads leading north-south, but nothing east-west. This was 1989, remember...

Below: Google Maps shows us the 1,004km of 21st-century asphalt that today joins together the road networks of Siberia and Russia's Far East. It might be long, but it's just seven metres wide. The only road connecting east and west.

Three years after the asphalting of the road was complete, Google sent a car with a camera mast to drive the length of it, taking photos for Google Maps Street View and for Google Earth. The result is fascinating. Unlike in Soviet times, when unauthorised possession of military maps was a criminal offence and the few maps available to the public were riddled with deliberate errors and small in scale, Google offers top-quality images and maps to one and all. Based on satellite imagery and backed up by cameras on the ground, we can now see into the lives of Russians living in distant provincial towns and villages like never before.

Much of it is ramshackle, rusty, potholed, improvised, crumbling; here and there some new buildings appear but this is not China. Rather this is slow decline.

Here is a small selection: Below: this is the point, north of Never (pron. 'N'yev'yer), where the road to Magadan, over 3,100km away, begins. Note - when the photo was taken, the roads were numbered M58 (Chita- Khabarovsk) and M56 (Never-Magadan); they were re-numbered P297 and P504 respectively in 2011, though the old nomenclature remain on photos taken in 2013.

It's a mighty long way down the dusty trail to Magadan, once gateway to the hell that was Kołyma. Double the distance between London and Warsaw. At least today it's accessible by road from 'mainland' Russia - in Soviet times, it was only accessible by sea during the ice-free months, and by air. No land routes.

Below: Magadan is well covered by Google Earth Street View. A desperate, hellish place even in high summer.

"Minus 40 is no frost. Forty kilometres is no distance. Forty percent is no alcohol" (Siberian saying).

The imagery is from 2013. After the rupture with the West following the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014, it is unlikely that Russia will allow Google to update its Street View maps or to extend the coverage. So see what's available to see today, dragging the orange man symbol onto roads highlighted in blue on Google Maps (on picking up the icon).

Google Street View offers an excellent sense of 'being there'. A few weeks ago, I was riding through Góra Kalwaria, not far from Warsaw, and thought to myself - "I was here recently with Eddie. We were looking for the location of the pizza restaurant we used to stop at when he and his sister were small... but I couldn't recall driving here with Eddie... and then it occurred to me that we did this scouting online, on Google Earth Street View, and my recollection of that moment shared by the computer screen felt just as though we'd actually been driving through Góra Kalwaria!

This time two years ago:
Heavenly Jeziorki

This time  six years ago:
Why are all the shops shut today? 

This time seven years ago:
Jeziorki at its most beautiful

This time nine years ago:
Useful and useless in my wallet

This time ten years ago:
In search of the dream klimat - remote viewing made real

This time 11 years ago:
Zakopane to Kraków in 3hrs 45min

This time 12 years ago:
The year's most beautiful day?

Saturday, 18 May 2019

The Day the Forecasters got it Wrong

I awoke with a start on Saturday morning - a clap of thunder very near, followed - in Hollywood style - by the sound of rain drumming on the metal roof. It was quarter to seven. I considered going downstairs to switch off the router and disconnect the computer, but with each passing minute, the thunder was getting more distant. The rain was still falling heavily. I went back to sleep, not waking until a little before nine - a hour or so later than I'd planned.

The rain was still pouring heavily at 10am, the drive was flooded. Without the heaviest rainfall so far in 2019. But none of the forecasters had predicted it for Warsaw for 06:45! I follow Meteo.pl, Google Weather and the BBC, and Instytut Fizyki for real-time weather - yes, there were thunderstorms due for Warsaw, but not till the afternoon. Looking on the map, I had to scan much further south-east, down towards the Ukrainian-Romanian border, that's where this massive weather system was meant to be sitting.

Below: Thundery showers - for 14:00. Over seven hours early, they arrived. Weather forecasts often predict that rain would come earlier, and it arrives later. Sometimes a whole day late. But very, very rarely does it come earlier than forecast.

They all got it wrong - badly wrong - so wrong as to shake my faith in the supercomputers that predict our weather.

UPDATE: answer a question in a comment - here are two stills from the dynamic weather radar map found at mapy.meteo.pl. Below: zoomed right out, showing Europe from the Atlantic to Moscow, the sweep of the radar showing clearly. Heavy rain in the western Baltic.

Below: zoomed right out, the last prognosis on Sunday evening, looking ahead to Tuesday morning at 08:00 CST. Warsaw and the south of Warsaw; medium overcast and patches of light drizzle (the sandy colour).

This time last year:
Carlo Rovelli's The Order of Time

This time five years ago:
W-wa Wola became W-wa Zachodnia Platform 8 two years ago today 

This time six years ago:
From yellow to white - dandelions go to seed

This time seven years ago:
The good topiarist

This time nine years ago:
Wettest. May. Ever.

This time 11 years ago:
[My last visit to Zakopane - good riddance to the place]

Monday, 13 May 2019

On cue, the Ice Saints

Here they come again - right on time. This week in mid-May brings the Cold Gardeners (zimni ogrodnicy in Polish, or eisheilige - ice saints - in German. Four days of below-average temperature, falling on the name's days of the following saints: St Pancras (Święty Pankracy, 12 May), St Servatus (Święty Serwacy, 13 May) and St Boniface of Tarsus (Święty Bonifacy, 14 May); the three days are rounded off with St Sophia's day, 15 May, known in Poland as Zimna Zośka (cold Zośka, the diminutive form of Zosia, the informal form of Zofia or Sophia).

The arrival of the Ice Saints yesterday afternoon was right on cue. At 1pm, the temperature in Warsaw was a pleasant 23C, by 9pm it had fallen to just 6C and would fall further; this morning it was 4.8C at dawn. Cold - and wet. The rain - forecast to continue falling until the feast of St Sophia on Wednesday - is overdue, the ministry of agriculture having issued a preliminary drought warning on Friday.

Below: the Physics Institute at the Warsaw University of Technology has a good website recording the past week's weather. You can see that massive sharp dip on Sunday (click to enlarge)

Below: set to continue - this is the short-term forecast from Meteo.pl. Temperatures slowly returning to May norms, but rain expected (heavy on Wednesday).

With the weather, so my spirits - am I merely more aware of something that affected me all my life, or has moving from England to Poland changed my emotional response to bad weather? On Saturday, I was unable to get my act together - I had intended to visit the classic car show at Nadarzyn over the weekend but somehow I felt that looking out of the window was the more attractive alternative. I did do two long walks before the Ice Saints arrived and the bruising skies finally yielded some heavy rain. This morning, and all day today, I have felt a particular indifference to everything. Time for an ale.

I need the sun, but the fields and orchards need the rain.

As disappointing a May as Theresa.


As I was doing my evening exercises, I noticed this chap at eye level with my bedroom window...

Here's a wider view to put this splendid phenomenon into context...

A not infrequent visitor to our garden, but I've never seen him perched so high!

This time four years ago:
Then and now: Trafalgar Square (recreating my father's photos)

This time six years ago:
Reflection upon the City Car

This time eight years ago:
Biblical sky

This time nine years ago:
Travel broadens the spirit

This time ten years ago:
Welcome the Ice Saints

This time 12 years ago:
On the farm next door

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Sułkowice station, changing.

Lying one station north of Chynów, Sułkowice is a village of a thousand souls, best know for its police-dog school. Below: looking towards the grounds of the school, just across the railway line.

As I've reported in previous posts, the past eight months have seen intense work on the second stage of the modernisation of the Warsaw-Radom line, along the Czachówek to Warka stretch. 

Below: Looking south from the platform end at Sułkowice station towards Chynów, you can see clearly how work is progressing; the 'up' track has been lifted, the track bed is being prepared. It is Sunday and work is going on here and down the line at Chynów (on the horizon you can see an earth-mover removing old ballast and sleepers). This shot also shows how the 'down' track curves to accommodate the island platform (and indeed the pillars supporting the DK50 viaduct crossing the line). New platforms will mean straighter tracks and higher speeds between stations. Note too the difference between the old and the new supports for the electric traction cables

Below: looking north from Sułkowice towards Czachówek Południowy, an SM42 shunter runs light towards Chynów to meet a works train there. It has just a few minutes to make it to the points at Chynów to get off the single track before my Warsaw-bound passenger train passes through. Again, this shot shows how the line had to deviate around the island platform. When the modernised 'up' line is ready, the remaining half of the platform, which currently serves 'up' and 'down' services, will be demolished.

Below: wide view of Sułkowice station. To the left, the new track bed and the shaping of the new 'up' platform - still a long way before its ready. The fate of the covered waiting area is unknown - the 'down' platform (as at W-wa Jeziorki station) will be moved to the north, staggered in relation to the 'up' platform.

Below: I walked to Sułkowice from my działka as the sky filled with heavy rainclouds; passing through Grobice, I was struck by the similarity between the landscape here and my old atavistic memories of 1930s Kentucky...

Below: an hour or so earlier, sunshine, warmth - my back garden.

This time three years ago:
Warsaw in its May finery

This time seven years ago:
What's left of PGR Mysiadło

This time eight years ago:
What's the Polish for puncture?

This time nine years ago:
Welcome the Ice Saints

This time 11 years ago:
Like a Kodachrome

This time 12 years ago:
The future of cities

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Another rail bridge over Puławska for renewal

If you're going to Piaseczno by road, be sure to arm yourself with patience. This spring and summer (and most likely autumn too), ul. Puławska, notoriously jammed at the best of times, has become even more clogged up where the coal train line goes over the road. A week ago, demolition of the railway viaduct that carries coal trains from the sidings at W-wa Okęcie to the Siekierki power station via Konstancin-Jeziorna began. The purpose is to widen this choke-point, where Puławska narrows from three lanes to two. By rebuilding the bridge with a narrower central pillar, three lanes of traffic can pass under in each direction.

Below: looking north - the railway bridge has been dismantled entirely. Beyond it, a smaller structure that used to carry pipes across Puławska. It too will go, but won't be replaced.

Below: looking south: both spans of the railway bridge are down, but the offending central pillar remains; it won't be here much longer!

Below: to the west of Puławska there's a two-hectare patch of waste ground used only for dumping domestic rubbish. From here a view looking east under the bridge that used to carry pipes across the road (long since removed). Note the heaps of ballast removed from the railway track.

Below: view along the railway line looking towards the chasm left by the missing bridge. You can see one of the diggers in the distance. No chance of being hit from behind by a train! Siekierki has been well-stocked with coal; in the past weeks I could hear far more coal trains rumbling through the night than is usual; there's enough for summer months, but will the new bridge be ready for the winter?

I hope once the new bridge is up and Puławska's widened it will be time for a bus lane for the road - all the way from Piaseczno to Wilanowska.

Bonus shots - now and then; May 2019, May 2007; looking along ul. Karczunkowska towards W-wa Jeziorki and the railway line. How much change; new bus shelter, tennis school, garden centre, pedestrian crossing - but above all, the viaduct (another 'opening date' - end of May - will come and go). On the horizon of the 2012 photo, the radio mast of the old air traffic control radar base.

The old bus stop used to welcome the 319 (to PKP Jeziorki) and the 715 (to P+R Al. Krakowska). The 319 has been replaced by the 209 (which goes to Ursynów rather than Wilanowska); night buses no longer call at Jeziorki.

This time six years ago:
Thoughts about life occasioned by the birth of kittens

This time seven years ago:
Waiting for the footbridge on Puławska

This time eight years ago:
Lost in the wonder of it all

This time nine years ago:
Bicycle review

This time ten years ago:
A Celebration of the Garden

Friday, 10 May 2019

Busy doing nothin'

Setting the sliders, life in balance time. If I'm to set the slider between 'activity' and 'inactivity', it will have to be right across to the 'activity' end.

I hate doing nothing. I feel pangs of guilt if I've not had a productive day. Being lazy is not an option in life. Yes, rest if you need rest - sleep is extremely important (I slept nine hours last night, from 22:15 to 07:15, waking naturally this morning). Take time off to recover, to unwind, to relax - but do so consciously. Drifting off into hours or days or weeks or months or years or a lifetime of being unproductive is dreadful - it is nothing less than the denial of one's human potential. Especially if one drifts off into such a useless state without even noticing it.

While I am harsh on myself for wasting time in idleness, my definition of 'productive time' is small-c catholic and small-l liberal. Reading, thinking, exercising, writing, taking photographs, walking, socialising, enjoying good food and drink and conversation, being busy around the house and działka - all these things are a good use of time.

The other day in the office I caught myself staring out of the window. At first it was interest in the construction work going on in the foundations of the building that will be called Central Point, that will emerge nearby. But then my attention wandered, I was drifting, lazily, while an urgent e-mailshot needed checking (four attachments in legal English)... the sky, the clouds, mind entirely elsewhere...

It's all too easy to do. There are many frivolous demands on our time. Television I stopped watching years ago; sport I don't follow (I push myself in my daily exercise routines rather than watch others pushing themselves while sprawled on a couch with beer and crisps).

Writing - I should do more. Yes, I've been blogging for over 12 years, and a fine body of work is building up; I enjoy coming back to old posts I wrote several years ago and seeing how my thinking - and indeed writing - has evolved over time. I have got a book for self-publishing in the pipeline, it's coming on nicely especially now I've moved it from Microsoft Word to Google Docs (access via any device, am always working on the latest version). But still not enough. I should be knocking out four or five pages a day every day (I have most of the material, it needs to be ordered, polished and completed).

Office work - I'm doing less than in previous years, when I used to have commissions from five or more businesses in the space of a tax year, at least three being regular work. Now - mainly to avoid bureaucratic hassle and unpredictability - it's just the one (the Chamber). 2018 was the first tax year in which I received just one PIT-11D tax form. More time for myself, but not to waste.

Not doing anything brings on anxiety in me - the anxiety caused by the passage of time during which nothing has been achieved nor moved forward.

Social media - one often reads that you can only do three well. For me it's Blogger, Twitter - and - for a far smaller number of friends I've known for decades rather than merely years - Facebook. LinkedIn I use rarely (should do more on LinkedIn, especially work related stuff), but if three's the limit then LinkedIn becomes the one too many.

It's easy to waste time on social media. Twitter in particular, especially if you believe it helps shape social and thus political attitudes. I have spent an inordinate amount of time on Twitter combatting Brexit; it would be so huge a disaster for me personally that I cannot just let it happen unopposed.

Sleep is important and so is exercise - before retiring every night, I do press-ups, throw some weights around, do some chin-ups and planks (as I do each morning). Good habits, good routine. Good health.

Well, enough blogging - exercise time and an early night!

[The title of this post brought back memories of Children's Favorites on the BBC Light Programme in the early- and mid-1960s - where this song made famous by Bing Crosby was frequently played.]

This time last year:
Retracing my grandfather's footsteps

This time two years ago:
The opening of the open-air gym, Jeziorki

[Incidentally, two years ago today, the winning tender for the construction of the first section of the S7 extension from Grójec to the S2/S79 junction by the airport was announced. As now, not a hand's turn of work has been carried out on the ground here.]

This time five years ago:
Springtime pictorial

This time six years ago:
Kitten time!

This time seven years ago:
Warsaw - Centrum to Jeziorki by train with super-wide lens

This time eight years ago:
Loose Lips Sink Ships - part II

This time nine years ago:
Jeziorki in the infra red 

This time ten years ago:
Some rain, at last!

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Up to my waist

May the third; Poland's national holiday. I arrive with Moni at the działka - and to my horror there's water seeping out of the front door. Inside, there's about 2cm, maybe an inch of water with more gushing from under the bathroom washbasin. I rush round to the garage to find the cellar under about 1.2m of water. Quickly undressing to my underpants, I enter the cold, dark, underground room and, submerged waist-deep, I make my way to the stopcock that regulates water flow to the house. It was like being inside a sinking ship with water gushing in at a frightening rate. At least here I could stop it with a 90-degree turn of a handle.

Upstairs and in the house, the water had indeed stopped flowing. The next task was the get the water out of the house as soon as possible, which Moni and I did by shovelling it out at first with wooden boards, then once the water level was down to a few millimetres, with mops and rags. This we did quickly; fortunately the sun was shining, it was relatively warm outside. Within an hour the house was drying. Only damage - the internet router which was standing on the floor pending a shelf being made for it and the risk that the bottoms of the door frames will swell and warp.

Back in the garage, the water level was stable. Below: six submerged steps steps, each one around 20cm in height.

The next few hours were spent baling water out using empty 9-litre paint buckets and a 12-litre bucket that goes with the floor mop. Between us, Moni and I shifted over two and half tonnes of water, but counting the steps, I reckoned that there was probably another five tonnes left. By five pm we were exhausted, so we headed back to Jeziorki.

This amount of physical effort would normally lead to aches and pains the next morning, but my exercising regime put me in good stead, especially the planks, which have massively strengthened my core muscles. All that bending and lifting, carrying and emptying, had not done my back in nor resulted in pains in either arm  or leg muscles.

The following morning, Moni said we should try a different approach, one that a friend of hers had suggested overnight. "Phone the OSP", she said. The Ochotnicza Straż Pożarna (volunteer fire service) is a very significant rural Polish institution; the local fire station (remiza) is frequently used for wedding feasts and other rural celebrations; many have their own brass band.

I had my reservations, chief among which was my innate reticence to ask others for help. Moni took the initiative - on the train from Jeziorki to Chynów, she googled the phone number for the OSP -  I knew there was one in Chynów, but it turned out the HQ was in Grójec. We arrived at the działka, the water-level had neither risen nor fallen since the previous evening, so Moni called. "Flooded cellar in Jakubowizna". "We'll have a crew round in ten minutes," she was told. Sure enough, we went back down to the road to open the gates, and we could hear the siren at the OSP in Chynów, two kilometres to the west. Indeed, the fire engine was within sight down the end of the road within those ten minutes.

Below: the remiza strażacka, Chynów (photo: Google Maps Street View, imaged captured July 2013).

The fire crew were excellent. Moni noted that the day (4 May) was not only her name day, but it was also the feast of St Florian, the patron saint of firemen. Three cheers for that! My concerns about a bunch of grumpy guys turning up were immediately dispelled - the crew were very jolly, very helpful and grateful that the siren had wrested them away from domestic chores. Below: the fire engine - note the registration plate - W1 OGIEŃ (ogień = fire). The fire engine was paid for by EU funds, something the firemen were keen to point out.

A pump was taken to the cellar, lowered into the water, the hose put outside, and within minutes the water level started to fall markedly. Soon it was down to ankle-height, below which the pump could no longer draw water. One of the firemen, Pan Tomek, was a plumber; he took a look in the house under the washbasin and immediately saw the root cause - one of the coupling valves had burst, not taking the pressure from the mains. He said that the valve was too short (not robust enough) and the thread wasn't wrapped with hemp but with string. Cost-cutting by the plumbers 15 months ago resulted in this flooding... Within half an hour, Pan Tomek was back with a new valve and, after helping Moni and I empty the rest of water from the cellar floor, he'd installed it and everything was back in working order.

Our experience with the firemen of Chynów was first-rate - they proved themselves to be highly efficient, experts in what they were doing and above all helpful human beings. Good to know they're around and at hand should their assistance ever be needed again.

Phew. To quote from The Simpsons quoting Tennessee Williams, "You can always depend on the kindness of strangers," for me this episode has resolved the question I posited at the end of Lent; how should I balance the notions of asking for help with offering help. Fearing bombardment with pleas for all sorts of assistance from all and sundry, I have tended to prefer self-reliance, never asking anyone to help me with anything. And now I have found myself in a situation of needing help, and the help came, and was excellent and efficient and not expecting anything in return. As the fire chief said - "you pay your taxes, this is what you're buying". Indeed - I paid my annual property tax to the gmina in Chynów in February; this tangible demonstration of  the local community in action has brought me closer to the people and the spirit of place.

This time last year:
Luton Airport's never-ending modernisation works

This time four years ago:
Another office move

This time five years ago:
Workhorse of the Free World's Air Forces over Jeziorki

This time six years ago:
Looking for The Zone, in and around Jeziorki

This time eight years ago:
I awake to snow, on 4 May

This time 12 years ago:
This is not America. No?