Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Out of the Third and into the Fourth

End September, early autumn. Morning spent working from home, late afternoon time to walk and catch some sun and sunset. It's getting cooler and cooler. By tomorrow morning the temperature will have fallen to 5C. We are being abandoned by the sun as, bored with us, it drifts south. Darkness and cold will march in to fill the void.

We've had equinox, equilux, and the first three quarters of this year have passed. A fine, hot, dry summer. Today the onset of autumn feels like it's arrived. Below: W-wa Dawidy at ul. Baletowa.

Below: a LOT Polish Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner, SP-LRB, takes off from Runway 15 at Okęcie airport - wind's in the south-east.

Below: the RE8 przyspieszony to Skarzysko Kamienna. This train does not stop at W-wa Dawidy or W-wa Jeziorki. The service stops short of Radom, a bus takes passengers from Lesiów to Radom, from where a train takes passengers on to their final destination. Over three hours journey time.

Sun is setting in the west; to the north, Warsaw's skyline is changing, below. Warsaw Spire gets closer to completion. Within a few years, four or five new towers will rise up around that part of Wola as Warsaw's central business district moves west.

Below: looking east along the S2 in the direction of Ursynów. The bridge over it is carrying the railway line that links Warsaw's Metro to the outside world.

Below: the sun sets under the bridge carrying ul. Hołubcowa over the S2. The Metro's rail link in the foreground. This line is very rarely used - the occasional draisine is all I've ever seen on this track. Having said that - every single piece of rolling stock running on Warsaw's Metro - lines M1 and M2 - has passed over these lines.

Below: in the foreground, the rail bridge carrying the Metro link (which has pedestrian walkways on either side). Beyond, the S2 expressway, Warsaw's uncompleted southern bypass, which peters out a few hundred metres to the east. Underneath, ul. Puławska.

Third Quarter ends and year-to-date stats are due: 2.94 million paces walked since 1 January (up from 2.75 million paces in Q1-3 2014). Average daily paces: 10,778. Last year - a mere 10,095. Average weekly alcohol intake 25.7 units (down from 29.2 units for same period last year) where 21 units is safe drinking and dangerous starts at 50 units per week. New for 2015 - daily fresh fruit and veg intake - average is 4.4 portions a day (five being recommended). Remember - if you don't measure it, you can't manage it!

This time last year:
Inverted reflections

This time two years:
Observations from London's WC1
and Observations from the City of London

This time four years ago:
Civilising Jeziorki's wetlands

This time five years ago:
Warsaw's Aleje Jerozolimskie

This time six years ago:
Melancholy autumn mood in Łazienki

This time seven years ago:
Autumn gold, Zamienie

This time eight years ago:
Flamenco Sketches - Seville

Monday, 28 September 2015

Curry comes to Jeziorki

Great was my joy to come home this evening and find in my letterbox a leaflet announcing the presence of an Indian restaurant 1.1km (two-thirds of a mile) or a 13 minute walk from home. Arriving hungry to find at home a hungry son, I suggested to Eddie that we try out the Garam Masala (ul. Puławska 538), located between the corner of Karczunkowska and Lidl.

The leaflet - and the restaurant's website - are enticing and professionally produced. The prices on the menu are around 30% cheaper than the Indian restaurants in town (Rain by India Curry, Arti, Tandoor Palace, Bombay Masala, Namaste India). And the fact that the owners have bothered to take leaflets round Jeziorki - almost entirely restaurant-free - is a very good thing.

We went. We could not find it, climbing to the top of the empty three-story commercial building at that address. I asked the security guard outside, while Eddie googled the restaurant and phoned a helpful waitress for directions. Turns out the restaurant is not in the main building at Puławska 538, but round the corner from the front entrance to the right, screened off from the car park round the side by a wall of conifers. No signage whatever.

We eventually found the gap in the hedge and through it the Garam Masala. Walking in... oh dear. The design is all wrong. Very little ambience of the Raj. Lights too bright. Décor left over from whatever was here before. A delivery rider in his motorcycle jacket sat a table waiting for an order to deliver. A crying infant in a pram, presumably belonging to a member of staff - and worst of all, no other diners seated (it was just past seven pm). Piped Western pop from the '80s and '90s rather than classic Indian music or Bollywood soundtracks. No alcohol licence (as yet), so no chance of washing back the meal with a Cobra or Kingfisher beer. The waitress said that the restaurant opened two weeks ago.

Eddie ordered the classic Chicken Tikka Masala - Britain's favourite, nay, national dish. I ordered a vegetarian main course (Palak Cholle - chickpeas and spinach in a spicy, smoky sauce) with a Lamb Samosa starter and Keema Nan (flatbread stuffed with minced lamb). When the food arrived, Eddie was disappointed. The CTM was orange rather than red, lacked zing and (to me) the sauce tasted like condensed tomato soup with some added spice. My food was fine - all was very tasty, and the portions were generous, meaning there was plenty to take away for breakfast.

I'm aware that when it comes to going out for a curry, Poles have a lot of catching up on the Brits. But among the rapidly growing Polish middle class, well-travelled, well-read and hungry for new ethnic food experiences, Indian food is becoming increasingly popular. Poles tend not to go for intensely hot, spicy dishes, preferring milder, sweeter tastes.

The bill came - it was totally reasonable. I noticed that the number on the top - this was bill no. 22, suggesting that 21 meals had been served here before ours.

I sincerely wish for the Garam Masala to establish itself and survive long-term to become a local fixture, full every night like the Ganesh on Al. KEN. But to do so, the owners will need to focus above all on interior decor and ambience. Make it more Indian - make the lighting more subtle, fill the place with bronze statues of Indian goddesses, the sounds of the sitar and tabla, and ensure the presence of Indian lagers.

Knowing that there's an Indian restaurant at the end of Karczunkowska, just a few paces from the bus stop, and that it delivers take-aways, is a big step forward for Jeziorki. We hope the restaurant will quickly develop, gain a strong and loyal clientele and flourish for many years to come - but first it must fine-tune its offer.

See this post about Indian restaurants in Warsaw, from five years ago.

This time last year:
Why we should all try to use less gas

This time two years ago:
Polish supermarket chain advertises on London buses

This time seven years ago:
Well-shot pheasants

Thursday, 24 September 2015

What's the biggest threat - Putin or ISIS?

Depends where you're located, depends on your history. If you're from around here, Central Europe, and you've had experience of the Russian boot stamping repeatedly down on the face of your nation - then it's easy - the answer to the question of the biggest threat to Europe is Mr Putin.

He'll soon be in Moldova; he has his eyes set on Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Poland... anywhere that was once part of the Russian Empire at the height of its glory. Here, we've experienced the evil of Russian hegemony, the sending of children to labour camps on account of their parents being deemed 'class enemies'.

But ask a Brit or a Frenchman where the biggest threat to Europe lies - and they will answer ISIS. A group of barbarians devoid of any humanity, ready to saw off the head of anyone who does not believe that the literal word of God has been handed down through the words of the Prophet Mohammed.

The difference is that Central and Eastern Europe has felt Russia's boot on its face, while Western Europe has only felt the threat of ISIS vicariously.

Apart from polonium poisoning of Russian dissidents and aerial incursions by Russian bombers, Britons have little idea of what threat Russian nationalism poses to European civilisation. Their attention is turned instead to the similarly egregious behaviour of Islamic fundamentalism.

Here in Poland, Islamic fundamentalism is not a big problem. The presence of Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad is. For Britons, it's the other way around. The presence of Salafist preachers in the heart of Birmingham, recruiting adherents to its intolerant ideology, of the Rochdale groomings - these are the vital issues that affect the nation today.

Poland has had its Islamic minority - in the presence of Tartars in the north-east - since the 17th Century. They have always pledged their allegiance to the Poland state, and there have never been any problems in their relationships with Poles. But then Poland never colonised any Islamic nations, so there's no guilt complex. And so Poland is able to ask its Muslim citizens to stay loyal. And to date, they have been. As have been the Muslim migrants from the Middle East, who have been coming to Poland - in limited numbers - since the 1970s.

The presence of millions of refugees from the conflicts of the Middle East, pressing against the borders of the EU has raised alarm bells across Poland. For each citizen ready to welcome them, there are five or six viewing them as a threat. The vast majority of these migrants are running away from the same barbarism that is abhorred by all civilised people.

All of this should be viewed in the context of Brexit - the Quixotic vision of a glorious Britain, free at last from the shackles of Continental Europe, regaining its dominant global position from 150 years ago, by democratically wriggling free from the constraints of Brussels' bureaucrats.

Since July this year, the percentage of Britons polled who say they wish to leave the EU has overtaken those who say they wish to remain in.

Why? The refugee crisis.

Images of people of Arab ethnicity, wishing to enter the EU (and that includes Britain) in search of safety and a better life, has tipped the scales in the Brexit debate. It's no longer the Polish plumber taking Wayne's job - it's the mass of ISIS operatives disguised as ordinary Syrian bakers and doctors fleeing from mayhem - that's what's swaying the argument.

But if you live in Poland, you'll have in your immediate family victims of Stalin's repressions. ISIS is a distant and vague threat. There's been no 9/11, no 7/7 here. These attacks claimed thousands of lives. Yet here, Poles have been subjected to mass deportations to the GULAG - hundreds of thousands of them - there have been the 45 years during which the economy has been held back through brutal stupidity imposed by Moscow. This is tangible, real.

Yes, there were the Nazis. But since the end of WW2, Federal Germany has begged its victims for forgiveness. My Ciocia Jadzia who died last week having survived Auschwitz, lived to the end of her days receiving a German state pension. My mother, deported to a Northern Russian lumber camp at the age of 12, has never even had a word of apology from the USSR or its successor state.

In order for Poland to stand strong against the threat of resurgent Russian nationalism, it needs a strong NATO and a strong EU. A strong EU needs to be composed of strong-willed nations - Germany, France, Italy ( and of course Britain. The UK has for too long wavered, prevaricated, looked on non-issues like straight bananas and metric martyrs, rather than doing what it did in the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries - striven to take the lead in Europe.

Poland needs a strong Britain in a strong Europe.

Why is Mr Putin currently meddling in Syria? Apart from the other geopolitical goals in his black heart, there's the jolly sight (for him) of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons from the Middle causing divisions between the leaders of the EU's 28 member states. Great! More Russian troops in Syria = an even bigger bloody mess = even more refugees = even bigger problems for the EU.

And what's happening in Britain? Isolationism. It reminds me of what was going on in the USA in the late 1930s. Many voices (Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, Fr. Charles Coughlin) urged America to stay out of WWII. Yet the urge to protect civilisation from barbarism prevailed.

Today, the forces of barbarism are seen in the Middle East and in the Kremlin. Which is the greater threat to civilisation?

It all depends of where you live - and what your family's experience has been.

Poland should be doing all it can to encourage the UK to remain in the EU - for the good of all mankind.

This time last year:
Scenarios for change in Russia

This time two years ago:
A new bus for Jeziorki - the 809 to Bobrowiec

This time four years ago:
Bunker in Powiśle

This time five years ago:
Sunshine brings out the best in everything

This time seven years ago:
There must be a better way (3)

Monday, 21 September 2015

Farewell to Ciocia Jadzia

To the cemetery at Bródno for the funeral of Ciocia Jadzia (93), wife of my father's brother, Zdzisław Dembiński. My Wujek Zdzich died in 1973, aged 52. His wife outlived him by 42 years. They are now both buried together in the same grave.

Ciocia Jadzia was with the Home Army (AK) during the Nazi occupation of Poland. She worked in an underground factory making batteries for torches for use by the AK. When the Germans discovered it, she was sent to Auschwitz - the labour camp as opposed to the death camp. As the Red Army approached from the east in January 1945, the slave labour was forced to march into the heart of the Reich. Of 60,000 prisoners made to march west, 15,000 died.

Ciocia Jadzia was a fiery woman who had little time for the communists who replaced the Nazis after 1945. At a political meeting after the war, a communist agitator was trying to whip up support for the new regime, railing against the horrors of Nazi occupation. He mentioned Auschwitz. Ciocia Jadzia stood up and said: "I know about Auschwitz. I was there. Now tell us about Katyń".

She survived the communist era, outliving it by more than a quarter of a century. She died as a grandmother of three and great-grandmother of two.

On a personal level I am grateful for the fact that my children heard her testimony as a first-hand witness of Poland's tragic 20th Century history around the dinner table, and saw the Auschwitz number tattooed on her forearm.

Ciocia Jadzia was not forgotten by the Federal Republic of Germany. As well as a monthly war pension, she had been invited along with other long-lived victims of Nazism to special commemorative events held in Germany, events aimed at reconciliation and forgiveness.

The German response to the horrors inflicted upon Poland stands in stark contrast to Russia's. No formal word of apology to the hundreds of thousands of Poles deported to the GULAG. As far as the Kremlin sees it today, Stalin's arrest and deportation of Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians into labour camps in the heart of the USSR was justified - even if many of those deportees were children, such as my mother, then aged 12.

As the generation that lived through those dark days passes from this world, it is our responsibility to remember, to write down and pass on those experiences to the next generations, lest they ever be forgotten.

This time last year:
By train from to Konstancin and Siekierki

This time two years ago:
Summer's end, Jeziorki

This time four years ago:
Ząbowska, Praga's newly-hip thoroughfare

This time six years ago:
Catching the klimat

This time eight years ago:
Road to Łuków - a road trip into the sublime

Saturday, 12 September 2015

English as she is used in Europe

I spent the best part of the day editing articles for our (English-language) magazine. Fifteen all told - two written by myself, the rest by various PR and marketing folk working for our member companies. The standard of written English in use in corporate Poland has improved immensely over the 18 years I've been living and working here.

My gripes about common mistakes are getting fewer and fewer - at least in the rarified world of multinational business. Yet one that I find interesting is the lingering use of US English, long after Poland has joined the EU.

Given the default setting in Microsoft Word is US English (you have to manually set it to UK English in the tools/narzędzie menu, and few bother), I find myself annoyed that PR professionals are happy submitting texts to a British business organisation including words like 'center' , 'defense', 'catalog', 'aluminum' and 'labor'. The '-ize' / '-ise' debate rumbles on with Oxford-educated purists siding with Americans in favour of 'standardization across the organization', while Cambridge University goes along with the majority of Britons, Australians, New Zealanders and Irish (and me) in sticking with the '-ise' suffix.

In the tragic event of a Brexit, the EU's default language wouldn't change overnight to German or French (much as both of those nations would like that to happen). It would remain English - though whether it would remain UK English is another matter. Britain's soft power - the power of its version of the English language - would surely wane should it leave the remaining 446 million citizens of the EU.

English is understood by 51% of adults in the EU. (German comes second at 38%.) Across the EU, English is the most widely spoken foreign language in 19 of the 27 member states where it's not an official language. How much of this is the result of BBC and the Beatles, and how much of this Hollywood and Elvis, is a question for future historians. This is where soft power resides - in people's desire to learn a language because they want to embrace the culture - and not because they are forced to do so by an occupier.

In Poland, according to a study conducted by the European Commission's Eurobarometer back in 2012, only 33% of Poles speak English well enough to hold a conversation, yet this is the most-widely spoken foreign language - with German in second place at 19%. But as I wrote last December, the inexorable rise of English as Poland's second language is rocketing ahead. EF Education First, an international education company with Scandinavian roots, conducts a ranking of countries by proficiency in English. Poland came sixth in Europe in last year's ranking. In 2013, Poland was eighth and in 2011, it was 12th. A huge improvement (see Poland's performance in the English Proficiency Index here).

Back in 1990 as Poland was in the throes of political and economic transformation, it was clear that the days of Russian as the principal foreign language were over. There were many Russian teachers and few English teachers. A vacuum for soft power emerged. The French came in, with publishing houses, language schools and literary institutes setting up across newly-free Central Europe with the aid of French taxpayers' money - to no avail. Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Lithuanians, Latvians and in particular Estonians wanted English. English, English, English.

It was the enterprising Americans who spotted the opportunity rather than the stuffy, insular, risk-averse Brits. The first wave of English speakers in Poland mostly spoke with an American accent as a result. They learned to say 'sidewalk', 'elevator', 'wrench' rather than 'pavement', 'lift' or 'spanner'. But then in 2004 Poland joined the EU, and since then the influence of US English has been on the wane, as UK English has rapidly stepped in to take its place. Poles wanting to polish their English are far more likely to seek a native speaker of UK English for conversation classes than US English.

The presence of a million Poles in the UK, where Polish is officially the second-most widely used language after English, makes the cultural ties between the two countries far stronger than between the US and Poland. Outside the US Embassy on Warsaw's ul. Piękna, queues of Poles trying to get a visa have shortened dramatically. Why bother going through the humiliation of an interview to enter the US when the UK is only two hours away by plane and totally hassle-free when it comes to finding employment?

I do fear for what would happen should the UK leave the European Union. It would undoubtedly result in the final fragmentation of the United Kingdom as the Scots - and probably later the Northern Irish too - would up sticks, say farewell to the Monarchy and rejoin the EU. A small, discontented England would wither in global influence, unable to stem the outflow of investment capital to destinations within the world's largest and wealthiest economic bloc.

And on the continent of Europe, English would remain the default second language, but would become tinged with an increasing number of Americanisms.

This time last year:
Where asphalt's needed - Nowy Podolszyn to Zgorzala

This time six years ago:
I cycle to work along the cyclepath along ul. Rosoła

This time seven years ago:
First apple (today, the same tree groans with fruit)

This time eight years ago:
Late summer spiders webs

Friday, 11 September 2015

September song

"But the days grow short when you reach September..." Hang on - there's plenty of sunshine left in the year yet - there will be a golden autumn, though the rain clouds pass and the temperature drops.

Left: view east from my office, with the iconic PAST-a building - scene of some of the most hard-fought battles of the Warsaw Uprising - to the left. Heavy rainclouds hang pregnant over the city. The heat waves of August are a distant memory.

Below: view south from my office, looking at the Ściana Wschodnia ('Eastern Wall') development along ul. Marszałkowska, stretching from ul. Świętokrzyska to Rondo Dmowskiego in the distance. It's wet outside, though there is the prospect that the dark clouds will go scudding by and more clement weather will approach from the west.

It will soon be dark when I get home from work - and by the end of October it will be dark when I leave the office. Below: Corner of ul. Puławska and ul. Karczunkowska. It's been raining all day and the drains can't cope with the volume of water.

But the westerly wind blows the clouds away, and a glorious sunset is on the cards. Below: looking west along ul. Karczunkowska.

I need my exercise - time to do several laps around the pond on ul. Pozytywki, below. One lap = 580 paces; nine laps ensures that I'll reach my target of 10,000 paces for the day if I include my total walking for the day so far and the short walk home.

Below: a quiet end to a September day, the ducks and gulls dotting the pond as though it were a seaside harbour.

This time last year:
Putin will not heal Russia's tortured soul

This time two years ago:
A traveller's tale (reading this shows how fast Poland has progressed in transport infrastructure over the past 24 months!)

This time three years ago:
One for the record - hot September day (30C)

This time four years ago:
The half-closed airport

This time six years ago:
Last of the summer bike rides to work?

This time seven years ago:
My own Polish Adlestrop

This time eight years ago:
Laurie Anderson's chillingly prescient 'O Superman'

Monday, 7 September 2015

In search of proper corn on the cob

It's corn on the cob season. In my childhood, I used to adore corn on the cob. Boiled until the kernels were golden-orange in colour, the texture firm, the cob dripping with butter and lightly salted, I'd love burying my teeth deep into ripe corn. But over the years, the growers, the seed-producers, the supermarkets and the mainstream consumer pushed for ever-sweeter corn that takes ever-shorter times to cook. What's available today is pale yellow even when boiled, small, and with regular, perfectly shaped kernels.

It is not the same.

In childhood, out of the corn on the cob season there was tinned sweetcorn, typically then imported from the US (Green Giant being a brand I recall from childhood). I liked the general taste but not the sweetness, the main differentiator between the tinned stuff and the real thing that had leaves and threads that needed removing before being cooked. Yet today, tinned or on the cob, the taste is the same - far, far to sweet for my taste.

Supermarkets currently offer no choice other than supersweet varieties, known to growers by names such as Kandy Korn, Crisp'N'Sweet, Krispy King - you get the picture. I'm not tempted by these items, shrink-wrapped on polystyrene trays at all. The supersweet varieties have four to ten times the sugar content of normal sweetcorn varieties, which themselves are sweeter than 'field corn' today used for animal feed or as a base for processed foods, which once upon a time was happily consumed by us humans.

Shortly after moving to Poland, I worked for a while by Hala Banacha in southern Ochota. There was an elderly peasant lady selling field corn outside the building. Sat on a small stool, she'd display a dozen or so ears of corn, and sell them for prices much lower than supermarket supersweet varieties. She said that her corn needed to be soaked overnight, and boiled for at least 20 minutes before it was ready to eat. This I bought from time to time during the autumn of 1997, and it gave me huge delight. It took me right back to childhood in terms of the taste. The kernels were large, crunchy and flavoursome. The corn was not sweet, so it did not need tons of salt to hide the sweetness. The butter could ooze between the kernels, which were not as tightly packed as on supersweet cobs. Corn heaven. Sadly, it would not last long.

By 1998, I'd moved offices away from Hala Banacha. By 2002, when I started to work near Hala Mirowska, there were no more old ladies selling corn on the cob on the pavement outside. Supermarket prices of sweetcorn had fallen, and there were bigger margins to be made on mushrooms or cut flowers. So the produce I bought outside Hala Banacha was the very last time I thoroughly enjoyed eating corn on the cob.

This is what I want to eat - old-style corn on the cob. Pic from Wikipedia.
Today I cannot find anywhere that sells old-fashioned stuff, the traditional varieties that once fed the world and now feed only livestock and industrial plants. I dream of a large cob devoid of excess sugar, that would yield those gorgeous golden kernels when properly boiled and would give me that taste of childhood  autumns.

I am surprised at the diversity of other vegetables. Looking at mainstream supermarkets such as Auchan, the number of different types - and colours - of tomatoes - is dazzling. And available in organic versions too. [The Polish ones are tastiest, beating the imported stuff from Holland and Spain that merely looks like tomato.]

So if retailers can bring to market diverse varieties of tomatoes, apples or potatoes - why not corn on the cob? Leave the supersweet as the white sliced loaf of corn, and introduce different varieties - yes, they may take longer to cook, but what a difference in taste.

Sugar-enhanced Supersweet? No thanks - not in the least bit interested in buying or eating this. Pic from Wikipedia
Does anyone who cares about food know where to buy old-fashioned corn on the cob? Field corn is on sale, but only by the tonne. Sweetcorn is called kukurydza cukrowa in Polish and the growers are all falling over themselves to say just how sweet and sugary their produce is. Why is there no consumer demand for the varieties that we once ate, and were forced out of the market by a product of inferior taste (though offering greater convenience in terms of shorter cooking time)? A world of sugar addicts, seeking enhanced sweetness in everything, is headed in the wrong direction.

Bring back the old varieties, I say, give the consumer choice when it comes to corn on the cob.

This time last year:
Classic machinery

This time two years ago:
S2/S79 opens partially (not yet reaching Puławska)

This time seven years ago:
Recycling time rolls round again

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Low water: Jeziorki at the end of the drought

As I write, I can hear the rain tapping on the window ledge outside. The forecast for the next four days is rain, rain, rain and more rain. Like God's own mercy. After a hot and unusually dry August, water levels in Mazowsze have plunged. This afternoon, the skies filling with rain clouds, I went out to document what could be the lowest water levels for some time.

Below: the southern pond, from ul. Dumki. The grass in the foreground indicates the normal water level. The ducks in the water can touch the bottom with their legs.

Below: the drainage ditch taking water from the area around ul. Sarabandy to the ponds. Bone dry.

Below: the middle pond - entirely devoid of water, though the ground is spongy. A bit drier, and this would make an excellent full-sized football pitch.

Not an overgrown WWI trench - this is the drainage ditch that carries water from the fields between ul. Trombity and the railway line to the retention ponds. I walked this from end to end - entirely dry (and I was wearing ordinary shoes).

Below: the retention ponds by ul. Kórnicka. Gabions made of stones encased in wire mesh hold the water. But look at the levels...

Below: I added the yellow line to show the usual water level, marked by a line of green moss. This represents a drop of a metre of so. There is abundant bird life here - black-headed gulls, ducks, coots, swans, grey herons, pigeons, starlings, sparrows, marsh harriers and swifts.

Walking up ul. Trombity, I note the heaps of soil excavated from the western end of the ponds - to prevent this area silting up, excavators were brought in last week to deepen this part of the lake. Scores of cubic metres of soil were extracted.

Yet this has had the effect of lowering the water level in the middle pond. In the distance the wooded area that's home to at least two pairs of grey heron.

But the rain continues falling outside, so by next weekend, the water levels in Jeziorki's ponds may have risen slightly. Below: Google Earth photo from March 2015 showing the usual state. Click to enlarge.

The coming weeks as Equinox approaches see the days rapidly shortening, three minutes a day, half an hour of daylight lost in ten days. This week may prove wet and dull, but Poland's Golden Autumn has a habit of delighting.

This time last year:
Around the Czachówek diamond, again

This time three years ago:
Second line of the Metro runs into delays

This time five years ago
Army helicopters in action at Kielce defence show

This time six years ago:
World's largest helicopter over Jeziorki

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Warsaw-Radom line modernisation work finally starts

Approaching W-wa Okęcie station this morning, the train swings left away from the old main line. I look out of the window and see extensive work going on. Below: the track alignment is changing - dramatically. And on the far horizon, Warsaw Spire nears completion.

Approaching the station, I can see the old tracks are being lifted...

...and the island platform is being demolished, along with the modest station building, which dates back to 1934, when the Warsaw-Radom line was begun.

Below: demolition of the old platform is under way. Island platforms - which mean one line has to swing around to accommodate them - slow down average speeds and thus increase travel time. The stations between W-wa Zachodnia and W-wa Służewiec have platforms on either side of the tracks. Now the island platforms between W-wa Okęcie and Czachówek are due for demolition so as to straighten out the track bed and improve running time

On my way home this evening, the train swings right towards the new platform, which is on the site of the former disused freight siding platform serving an sand and gravel depot, where the S79 expressway now runs.

Below: passengers on the train were confused, because - as the driver does not communicate the change - the doors open on the other side to how they used to.

It's over 4km from W-wa Okęcie to the next station south, W-wa Dawidy. Despite the dire need for more rail communication with the southern end of 'Mordor na Służewcu' - the vast office parks south of central Warsaw - especially around ul. Poleczki - there are no current plans for a W-wa Wyczółki (or W-wa Poleczki) station. Right now, the pressing priority is to modernise the line as far as Piaseczno, then onto Czachówek, so as to improve the communication with Warsaw's southern suburbs and exurbs. New stations are also needed to give access to the dormitory districts of Mysiadło and Stara Iwiczna.

So far so good - the works, which include single-track working between W-wa Służewiec and W-wa Dawidy - have not resulted in major delays.

At the other end of the Warsaw-Radom line, Radom station has been closed and an alternative bus service laid on between Lesiów station and Radom itself. And the Radomiak, the pospieszny or 'fast' service from Warsaw to Radom, which doesn't stop at the smaller stations along the line, now takes a different route - along the Centralna Magistrala Kolejowa towards Idzikowice. The Radomiak, being a push-pull train with the engine at one end and the ability to be driven from the other end too, crosses the junction north of Idzikowice, changes direction, and heads east down the line to Radom. And guess what - this convoluted journey actually takes less time than the scheduled Radomiak - not only because of the stops at Piaseczno and Warka - but because the trackbed is in such poor state that the brand new rolling stock is severely restricted in how fast it's allowed to go.

This time last year:
Won't be long 'til summertime is through

This time three years ago:
It was a good year for the apples

This time five years ago:
Early-September moan about the commuting