Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Uprising commemoration - excitement on Day 3

After breakfast, we are joined by Eddie for another three-generation day. We set out to find where my father lived for the first four years of his life before his family moved to ulica Filtrowa 68 (more on this tomorrow), and then onto the Uprising museum. Below: Warsaw's transformation continues to amaze my father, who remembers little more than street names and how the streets connected before the war. This is ul. Prosta, looking east towards ul. Świętokrzyska.

Left: here we are in Plac Europejski, Warsaw Spire in the background. My father is impressed by the urban planning - the wide boulevards, the amount of greenery and the new buildings. He quips that along with the ul. Złota, Żelazna, Miedziana, Srebrna etc there should be an ul. Szklana - so much glass is on these new buildings.

Below: we find the house of my father's childhood. This is ul. Łucka 16. It still exists! (it's set back from the road - I assumed that it had already been demolished, but it's still here, albeit it will be demolished soon.) My father doesn't remember it from the 1920s, but does remember revisiting it with his older brother Zdzich in later years; their flat was on the fourth floor. As they opened the window, a cat that was resting on the ledge was pushed off and it fell into the courtyard. They rushed down fearing the worse - but the cat was fine, having landed on all fours.

Below: on to the Warsaw Uprising Museum for a very special celebration organised by Peter Chudy, a great supporter of Polish military history (and historians). Peter had persuaded Representative Marcy Kaptur, a congresswoman with Polish-American parents, to arrange for U.S. flags flown over the Capitol to be presented to veterans of the Warsaw Uprising, including my father, by members of the U.S. military stationed in Poland

My father poses with U.S. military personnel in the library of the Warsaw Uprising museum, clearly delighted! Diplomatically symbolic, very important to strengthen the ties between NATO members.

Dziadzio wants to show his grandson where he what on Godzina W ('W' hour - the moment the Uprising began). It was here, in a first-floor room on ul. Filtrowa 7, visible in the photo below. Here, 20 soldiers from Batalion Odwet awaited their orders and weapons - they never came.

And so, to fight on, the soldiers had to make their way across Pole Mokotowskie to the Polish-held barricades along ul. Polna, defended by Batalion Golski. My father made it across, traversing first the cabbage fields (now buildings of the Politechnika Warszawska) and then through what was coincidentally his secondary school from 1935 to 1937, on ul. Śniadeckich. By a further coincidence, that building now hosts Cafe Krem, where we ate lunch today.

Below: looking for the rooms where my father manned the barricades along ul. Noakowskiego from 18 August to the end of the Uprising. Somewhere up there on the first floor, between staircase A and staircase B. Right across the road from the main Politechnika building, which was in German hands.

Below: we attended a commemoration in the Politechnika grounds. In the background, the white walls of ul. Noakowskiego 16. The Batalion Golski memorial is a sheet of armour penetrated by six shells and a section of tank track. Golski managed to destroy and disable a few German tanks early on in the Uprising, as a result, the Germans were wary of launching a headlong attack on the unit, fearing it was well-armed.

Finally, the last (and very lengthy) event of the day was a field Mass followed by a roll-call of the dead and a laying of wreathes at Plac Powstania Warszawskiego.

This time two years ago:
Ahead of the Big Day

This time three years ago:
Once in a blue moon

This time five years ago:
A return to Snowdon - Wales' highest peak

This time seven years ago:
On the eve of Warsaw's Veturillo revolution

This time eight years ago:
Getting ready for the 'W'-hour flypast

This time nine years ago:
A century of Polish scouting

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Warsaw Uprising 75th Anniversary - Day Two

Day Two of my father's visit. The fourth year in a row now that he's flying over for the commemorations, each year is essentially similar but slightly different. The main difference this year is that there's no Sunday in the week's calendar, so my father is missing his weekly Mass. His unit, Batalion Odwet, celebrated Mass together on the morning of Sunday 28 July as he was on his way to Heathrow with my daughter (driven there carefully by Cousin Hoavis). We fly back on Saturday 3 August, so no Sunday Mass in Warsaw this year.

We arrive an hour and fifteen minutes ahead of the big event outside the Warsaw Uprising Museum, during which Poland's president Andrzej Duda presents medals and awards - an important but not too symbolic occasion, though at a highly symbolic location. To get the best seats, one must be early! I can hear around me people talking French, German and English; veterans and their families have come a long way to be here for the 75th anniversary.

The president arrives. The military band strikes up the Polish national anthem. We stand to attention, the soldiers salute. I wonder what is going through my father's mind as the band plays...

A few words from the president of Poland (below left) and the president of Warsaw (below right). Then a great many people coming forward to receive medals.

The ceremony, around an hour and 45 minutes long, is somewhat longer than it should have been given the summer heat and the fact that most of the honoured guests are nonagenarians. The speeches etc come to an end and the crowds make a bee line for the buffet.

Left: the volunteers and scouts are all very helpful. Before long, my father has a solid plate of food in front of him - braised pork, boiled potatoes, surówka and bigos. Something is missing though... A volunteer asks my father whether he'd like something to drink. Water - fruit juice, maybe? "No." he replies. "I'd like a beer." "I'm sorry, we haven't any beer..."

My father eats up his food and we set ofp down ulica Grzybowska - the part of Warsaw he spent the first six years of his life, past Plac Grzybowski and the church where he was christened, and to the iconic PASTa building, a central battleground in the Uprising. Down in the basement, there's a craft beer bar called Piętro Niżej (which boasts 160 different beers).

Here I buy my father a beer that really takes his fancy; it's called Relaks Pils, and its from the Zodiak brewery, slightly sour, quite bitter and served cold, the very thing to quench a summer's thirst. Moni joins us, and we pop by my office, from where my father can look down upon the massive building works that are going on all over Warsaw. The city is unimaginably different to the one he left at the end of the Uprising.

We have passed so many construction sites, around Rondo Daszyńskiego, along ulica Grzybowska, south of my office - as we did so, my father's eyes would gaze upwards at the new buildings - the Hub, the Spinnaker, Mennica Legacy Tower, and marvel at Warsaw's phenomenal progress.

UPDATE: My father and I had just finished dinner at our hotel and were on our way back up to our rooms when we intercepted by two lady volunteers who wanted a chat with my father about his Uprising memories. Once my father started recounting his story, he continued for over an hour and a quarter. Another volunteer, a young lad, joined us, and my father kept recalling new details that I've never heard about (and well-known facts too). Such clarity of mind - he suddenly became about 20 years younger - and his listeners didn't want him to finish or go, kept on asking more questions. We felt like we were all there, in Warsaw, 75 years ago.

The two-hour-long interview my father gave to camera yesterday for Muzeum Powstania lacked the spontaneity and warmth of this evening's impromptu event. It might have been aided by a small bottle of Żywiec Przeniczny.

One episode I never heard before I'll share: my father was recounting the final days of the war, when the Germans were herding prisoners-of-war and forced labourers away from the advancing allied forces. My father said he saw a narrow-gauge train heading south, a loco hauling tipper wagons, the sort used to convey ballast or building materials. As the train approached its destination (Westertimke), it stopped, and Germans hurriedly started running down the length of the train, getting the wagons to tip out their loads sideways beside the track. The load was human beings. These were forced labourers from a penal camp, barely alive, almost naked, tumbling out onto the ground. My father noted that even in these, the very last days of the war, the Germans had not lost their inhumanity.

This time last year:
Karczunkowska viaduct takes shape

This time two years ago:
My father's return to Warsaw, 2017

This time three years ago:
My father's first visit to Warsaw in 40 years

This time four years ago:
What's worse - unemployment, or a badly-paid job?

This time five years ago:
A return to Liverpool

This time seven years ago:
Too good to last (anyone remember OLT Express airline?)

This time eight years ago:
Poland's Baltic coast as a holiday destination

This time ten years ago:
The Warsaw they fought and died for?

This time 12 years ago:
Floods, rainbows and hope

Monday, 29 July 2019

Getting ready for Warsaw's Big Week

Sunday evening, back from the działka to meet my father and daughter off the London flight. A group of volunteers are also waiting to greet Warsaw Uprising veterans who are flying in from around the world to take part in the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of its outbreak.

This year, being a round anniversary, the City of Warsaw is paying for return flights for each veteran wishing to attend, plus carer, and hotel stay for the week for veteran and carer (in adjoining rooms). All very well organised. Here we are, just arrived in Dziadzio's room at the four-star Golden Tulip. It's very well located for the Uprising museum and ul. Filtrowa, where Dziadzio lived before the war and during the occupation.

My father had been asked to do a piece to camera for the Warsaw Uprising Museum (below). This ended up lasting two hours. The questions were posed by a historian rather than a journalist, so the questioning was less directed, more archival in nature, recording his memories in unfiltered form.

This morning, we set off on foot to the first major event of the week, the opening ceremony officiated by the mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski. My father insists on pushing his wheelchair the first kilometre and half. Here we are, crossing Aleje Jerozolimskie. Everything along this stretch of road has changed since he was a boy - literally nothing prewar has survived from Plac Zawiszy to Plac Starynkiewicza.

We walk past the entrance to Warsaw's water filtration plant, from which the area (Filtry) gets its name; my father never realised before the war just what a huge area of the city the plant occupies.

We arrive in Teatr Nowy on ulica Madalińskiego for the grand opening, the music is from a Most excellent band, Warszawski Combo Taneczny. The music was so emotionally powerful that both my father and I shed many tears; this is authentic Warsaw street music from before and during the war played with great intelligence and period detail.

Below: my father's friend and fellow Ealing resident, Pan Ryszard, exchanges a few words with mayor Trzaskowski. Behind them, the band relaxes after their performance.

Cheers! Let's hope everything goes well.

This time two years ago:
What makes scenery scenic?

This time three years ago:
Theresa May flies into Warsaw

This time four years ago:
Announcing the start of the Radom railway line modernisation

This six years ago:
In praise of the (Polish-built) Fiat 500 

This time seven years ago:
Llanbedrog Beach and a farewell to North Wales

This time eight years ago:
To the Polish seaside, by night train

This time nine years ago: 
Accounting for the past - 20 years on from PRL's fall

This time ten years ago:
An introduction to fine British cheefef

This time 12 years ago:
Over the Peaks by bus 

Saturday, 27 July 2019

You either got or you haven't got style

This post has been gestating a while in but publication has been speeded up by the hilarious revelations yesterday of Jacob Reef-Mogg'f  rules for his staff in his new role as Leader of the House of Commons. The style guide issued by the Right Honourable Member for the Eighteenth Century has become a source of humour for social media, but it does raise valid questions as to what a style guide should be.

Two weeks ago, I bought my third copy of The Economist's style guide; the first I bought in the late 1980s or early 1990s and was a useful pointer for me in preparing a style guide for CBI News, which at the time I was editing. The first is still in London, the second has fallen to bits over the years. Style guides exist primarily to ensure consistency across any publication, especially one with numerous authors. Key points in any style guide include use of numbers, names, titles, addresses and, comma, of course, comma, punctuation.

I had intended to write about this in the context of Poles writing professionally in English - but the new Leader of the House of Commons has prompted me to change tack.

If Mr Reef-Mogg'f rules show a lack of awareness of familiar conventions in current usage, it's probably because he one learnt these from his English master at preparatory school at the age of nine and has not moved on since.

Going through his list one by one, as a former magazine editor and publisher, I must say that not all of them are wrong in my book. It's just that so many are; some are so hilariously wrong that Mr Reef-Mogg has duly received public mockery for them.

'Organisations are singular' he says. In general, I agree. But...

[from the BBC's style guide:]
Singular and plural
Treat collective nouns - companies, governments and other bodies - as singular. There are exceptions:
  • Family, couple or pair, where using the singular can sound odd
  • Sports teams - although they are singular in their role as business concerns ("Arsenal has declared an increase in profits.")
  • Rock/pop groups
  • The police, as in "Police say they are looking for three men". But individual forces are singular ("The Metropolitan Police says there is no need to panic").
  • Press and public should be treated as singular, but rewording may be advisable (replacing "The press arrived soon afterwards. It had lots of questions" with "Journalists arrived soon afterwards. They had lots of questions").
Be consistent within a story (don’t say "The jury has retired to consider its verdict" followed by "The jury are spending the night at a hotel").
'All non-titled males - Esq.' he says. A plain anachronism. As a child, I'd see letters addressed to my father as 'Bohdan Dembinski, esq.'. (These letters would usually be signed off by 'your humble servant'.) But this was more than half a century ago. I don't recall ever receiving such a letter in my adulthood. The Economist's style guide doesn't mention 'esq', nor does the BBC's. Even the Daily Telegraph's style guide has no mention of the word esquire/esq. Mr Reef-Mogg'f  lack of temporal awareness and desire to return to Victorian times is living proof of reincarnation.

'M.P.s No need to write M.P. after their name in the main body of text.' There's no need to put full stops between M and P either. It's an Americanism (consider how Americans abbreviate 'U.S.'). In any British media style guide, it will be 'MP' (plural MPs, singular possessive MP's, plural possessive MPs'). "Do not use full stops in abbreviations", says The Economist. But hello? What's this? "...after their name"? Not "...after his or her name"? Suddenly we see a crashing dissonance, the collision of the 18th and the 21st century - the genderless plural possessive pronoun to refer to a singular masculine or feminine noun/proper noun. The introduction of they / them / their with singular reference by the BBC a few years back caused a massive outcry among more reactionary viewers.

'Double space after fullstops (sic)'. No, no, no. This died with the typewriter. And it's 'full stop', not 'fullstop'. This really shows a man out of touch with detail, instructing his staff to do things that are plainly incorrect. Just one space, unless you are an American typist from the 1950s.

'No comma after 'and' '. I assume this is a mistake. How can you construct a sentence with a subordinate clause without using a comma after 'and'? Consider the sentence: "I will catch the six o'clock train and, assuming it's on time, be home at seven." The subordinate clause needs to be bracketed with a pair of commas to make sense. "Detention, Mafter Reef-Mogg! You fhall write out fifty timef : 'A comma can be ufed after the word 'and'."'

'Use imperial measurements'. Remember, this is no longer a back-bench MP writing. This is the member of the Cabinet responsible for arranging government business in the House of Commons. Pints and miles are still in use in pubs and road signs of the nation, acres and square feet still figure in estate agents' windows, TV screens and car wheels are measured in inches, but this is daft. Bushels, roods, chains and quarts? Furlongs, gills, grains and hundredweights? Move on, granddad! Science uses SI units; without science we fail.

Banned words: Mr Reef-Mogg'f list is interesting. Partly prep-school master prejudice (he has banned the word 'got', see below), partly a reaction to political correctness (he doesn't like the word 'equal'), the list also contains words that I bridle at. The chief offender here is the word 'very'. It adds nothing to the meaning of a sentence. Compare 'I was busy last week' to 'I was very busy last week'. The word 'very' is a Trump word, there to lamely pad out sentences. Mark Twain wrote: "Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."

"You either got or you haven't got style"

We all have our linguistic pet peeves; I dislike the overuse of the word 'great', another Trump word. I deeply dislike the word 'societal' when the word 'social' will do. 'Anti-Societal Behaviour Order,' anyone? Comedian Alexei Sayle dislikes the word 'workshop' outside of the context of light engineering. The word 'ongoing' was once a fortnightly source of amusement in Private Eye back in the early 1980s, but is generally accepted today because it has no adequate substitute. Many people dislike 'going forward' (I don't have a problem with it).

Mr Reef-Mogg'f banned-words list also contains an all-too-gentle stab at bureaucratic turns of phrase that really do need rooting out. One example: 'I understand your concerns' (subtext - 'but there's nothing you can do anyway'), but this short selection goes nowhere near far enough at rooting out soulless constructions overused by British civil servants (and indeed bureaucrats the world over). But that's a far bigger issue.

I fear Mr Reef-Mogg'f rules show him up to be a pompous lightweight who appears intelligent because of his accent and background but actually quite lacking in intellectual firepower.

This time last year:
Total eclipse of the moon, Warsaw

This time three years ago:
'Others' vs. 'Our others'

This time four year:
Reducing inequality in Polish society

This time six years ago:
Llanbedrog beach

This time eight years ago:
The Accursed Soldiers - a short story

This time nine years ago:
Driving impressions of the Toyota Yaris
[The car continues to be totally, 100% faultless nine years from new]

This time 11 years ago:
Poland's dry summer

This time 12 years ago:
The UK's wettest summer ever

Friday, 26 July 2019

Poznań and Wroclaw, scenes from two boomtowns

Thursday morning at half past three in the morning I awake, to catch the 04:46 train to W-wa Zachodnia (arrive 05:08 to photograph the sun rising, below), from where I catch the 05:40 express to Poznań. At 08:30 I've arrived. A couple of meetings across Poznań, which I traverse by suburban train, taxi and tram. Poznań has unbelieveably low unemployment (1.3%) which is hampering business growth - firms are struggling to recruit and retain people.

Below: electric scooters for hire by the minute are present in Poznań - these happen to have lovely design, very retro, slightly reminiscent of the Polish WFM Osa scooter of the early 1960s.

Below: joined-up public transport in Poznań - tram stop by the main railway station. The tram route took me in from the the north of the city to the centre much quicker than the taxi going to my meeting. Trams might stop every now and then to pick up and set off passengers, but taxis stop at every red light and traffic jam along the way. Modern and comfortable rolling stock.

Joined-up public transport in Wrocław - this is how to buy tram tickets! Simply choose the ticket you require - in my case one normal single for 3.40zł (70p) - and present your payment card to the reader - and the ticket is encoded on the chip. No wasted paper or card.

I am booked to stay at the Haston City Hotel on the northern fringes of Wrocław. To my delight, there is a display of classic American automobiles!

Once upon a time, Hupmobile was an automotive brand of distinction and prestige; I heard of it here:

"Rich the makes of motor whirring,
Past the pine-plantation purring
Come up, Hupmobile, Delage!
Short the way your chauffeurs travel,
Crunching over private gravel
Each from out his warm garage."

[From Indoor Games near Newbury, by John Betjeman]

Well, here's a Model 20 (from 1911), the first Hupmobile I've ever seen in my life...

And here's a 1932 Packard Eight sedan...

And here's a 1930 Chevrolet pick-up truck...

Lovely, bright, modern hotel, excellent breakfast, air condition worked perfectly and did not make an unholy racket as some hotel aircon systems do. Lots of business people staying.

Time to go to work, to visit our members and talk about growth and the limits to growth (finding the right people in some cases, just finding people in others). Below. ul. Świętego Mikołaja (St. Nicholas Street).

Left: under a cloudless sky, parts of Wrocław are starting to resemble California. This is the western entrance to Wroclavia shopping mall, located near the main railway station.

Below: the main railway station, Wrocław Główny, does not resemble California - it harks back to imperial Germany. I have written about the station before, during its major refurbishment ahead of the Euro 2012 football finals.

This time six years ago:
Scaling the highest peak in Wales

This time seven years ago:
Beaches of the north coast of the Llyn Peninsula

This time eight years ago: 
The Accursed Soldiers - a short story

This time nine years ago:
Driving impressions of the Toyota Yaris
[Nine years on - still no imperfections to report whatsoever]

This time 11 years ago:
Poland's dry summer

This time 12 years ago:
The UK's wettest summer ever

Thursday, 25 July 2019

From station to destination, on foot

I have written about this before – whoever designs PKP stations pays scant regard to the needs of passengers who use them. One major fault of many Polish railway station is the lack of pedestrian access via more than one entrance. Platforms can be long – up to 12 carriages long – and for passengers seeking to reach a destination located at the wrong end of the platform, a single entrance can mean a detour of many hundreds of metres.

A glaring example of is can be found at Poznań Wschodni station. There is only one entrance/exit, to be found at the extreme eastern end of the platforms. The result for local passengers is that destinations lying to the west of the station are difficult to reach directly.

I alighted from the back of my train from Poznań Główny, and, seeing the huge difference in distances, I consciously chose to risk trespassing on the railway line. So I walked 400m, crossing two tracks (checking of course if anything was coming along a long, straight stretch – it wasn’t), then reaching an access road linking the goods yard to the main road (my destination). In total, this walk was far shorter. The legitimate route would have been 1.5km, a full 1,100m longer, taking 13 minutes extra to walk under a baking sun. Who’s going to do that, when a short trespass can save almost a quarter of an hour!?!

The safety argument I'd put thus: the chances of being hit by a car as opposed to a train are an order of magnitude or two higher. (Compare number of pedestrians killed by cars and by trains each year.) If you know what you are doing, look and listen before crossing the track, you will be safe.

The designers who plan station layouts strive to achieve cost-cuttings which frustrate the passenger. This can lead to people taking risks, as happens daily at W-wa Służewiec, where office workers jump like lemmings onto the tracks to cross to the tram loop and save a long detour involving several flights of steps. Often they can see their tram about to depart and so are less mindful of the need to take care while doing so.

At Czachówek Południowy station, the lack of a completed underpass has resulted in passengers and station staff taking matters into their own hands, and the construction of a provisional exit at the southern end of the station has been built from piles of old wooden sleepers left over from the modernisation work.

If passengers can cross here, why not elsewhere? As long as barriers, warning signs etc exist, crossing a railway line is inherently far safer than crossing a road.

But there is hope. The recently-completed upgrade of line from W-wa Zachodnia Peron 8 has seen the provision of a long footpath alongside the tracks that gets passengers to destinations north of the platforms without having to take a massive detour. However, I suspect that the city hall had something to do with this investment, ensuring that rail passengers have easy pedestrian access to Expo XXI on ul. Prądzyńskiego.

Foreign exchange: don't get diddled!
[for the saps who paid £250 for €200 at the airport]

This time four years ago:
Defining my Sublime Aesthetic

This time six years ago:
Porth Ceiriad on the Llyn Peninsula

This time eight years ago:
Jeziorki sunset, late July

This time nine years ago:
Jeziorki sunset, after the storm

This time 12 years ago:
Rural suburbias - the ideal place to live?

Monday, 22 July 2019

22nd anniversary on the 22nd

For my father!

My father doesn't like the number 22, so here I am today, on the 22nd of July, celebrating the 22nd anniversary when I arrived in Poland to stay. So a bitter-sweet anniversary for my father; bitter in that his son and young family moved a thousand miles away, sweet that they moved to his beloved Warsaw, closing the loop which began with his deportation at the end of the Uprising in October 1944.

It is a day to remember for me, a farewell to the UK, to London where I was born and raised; a hello to a new life in a new country - my fatherland - a country which over those years has seen incredible growth and vast change.

Moving to Poland in 1997 was not as difficult as it had been just five years earlier - back in 1992 there were no cash machines, no mobile phones, hardly any fixed-line phones for that matter, very few supermarkets. And an unwieldy, post-hyperinflation currency where most larger items costs millions of zlotys. By 1997 Poland had settled into its upward trajectory; soon the country would vote to join the European Union. Though by no means perfect, Poland today is a much, much better place to live and work than it was in the 1990s.

The main improvements are the result of better governance - most noticeable at local level; better public transport, hugely improved infrastructure, and the benefits brought by the IT revolution. Retail works much better (however, I still find Sunday close-down irksome), again IT has brought benefits, not least in the form of e-commerce. On Sundays, my 'shopping' ends around 8am when the Auchan Direct delivery man calls and I stow all the ordered goods into the relevant cupboard space. Going to the shop physically required breakfast and around 90 minutes of driving there and back and a lot of trolley-pushing around the aisles buying things we didn't necessarily need.

When we moved to Poland, I dreamt that in time, Poland would become a normal, unremarkable country in which everything worked normally, in which there were few absurdities, a country that others would look to not with fear or loathing but with respect for its achievements. In particular, achieving huge civilisational leap from communist marazm that of a vibrant modern free-market democracy. Obviously, not all is perfect, but in terms of my everyday life, things are better than ever before. There are clouds on the horizon, but there is always hope.

Unlike many Britons of my generation, I cannot bemoan the passing of a bygone age in Poland - it was dire. Going back a further eight years from 1997 to 1989, right at the tail-end of communism in Poland, the country was in a dreadful mess that Britons can scarcely begin to imagine. From 1989, it took just four or five years for Poland to turn itself into a country to which I could countenance emigrating to and building a future life in. But Poland's miraculous turnaround had its losers as well as  winners; the social fractures all too visible in today's Poland are the result of the side-effects of neo-liberal economic reform.

A quick look at the unemployment stats from across Poland shows the geographical unevenness of the benefits of economic growth. There remain massive regional disparities between cities where unemployment is very low (Poznań 1.3%, Warsaw 1.4%, Katowice 1.5%, Wrocław 1.8%, Kraków 2.3%, Gdansk 2.6% in May 2019) while in many small provincial towns it remains stubbornly in double digits. Szydłowiec, some 120km south of Warsaw, also in the Mazowsze province, holds the record at a staggering 23.1%. Nearby Radom, a city of 200,000 people, also has high unemployment at 11.5%. Fruit-growing Grójec powiat (district) south of Warsaw has just 2.1% unemployment. My działka in Jakubowizna is in this district, and as Polish countryside goes, it's well off. New houses growing like mushrooms after rain, to use the Polish expression.

Below: a quick scan of Warsaw's skyline suggests a boom city that has kept on booming for all the time I've lived here.

My first impressions of Poland in the summer of 1997 was that of a country under water; Wrocław had just experience intense flooding, and the area around Pyry (north-east of Jeziorki) had plenty of flooded fields, ul Baletowa and ul. Farbiarska were both cut off by giant puddles, and there were midges everywhere sucking my blood. It was a hot and humid summer; every morning I'd cycle to work in what would later be christened Mordor (ul. Konstruktorska), passing mirabelle trees that deposited their fruit on uneven paving slabs, fermenting in the hot, damp air, releasing an unforgettable aroma. A handful of coins would get me through the day, buying sandwiches from Pan Kanapka; offices would sport signs saying 'akwizytorom dziękujemy' and car number plates were white numbers on black backgrounds, like in Britain until the early-1970s.

Twenty-two years flashed by so quickly; more than one-third of my life spent here in Warsaw. No plans to return to Britain (may Brexit never happen!). May Poland stay safe and happy.

This time last year:
A tale of two orchards

This time two years ago:
My 20 years in Poland

This time three years ago:
PiS, Brexit, Trump and cognitive bias

This time six years ago:
Portmeirion, revisited, again
[My last summer holiday - not had one since!]

This time seven years ago:
Beach day, Llyn Peninsula

This time eight years ago:
Down with cars in city centres!

This time nine years ago:
8am and 26C already

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Local round-up

A vanilla-flavoured post to capture the everyday progress of life in Jeziorki under an increasingly humid sky. The heatwave has passed but is due again, the air heavy with threat of downpour.

First, a catch-up on the snail's pace work on the Karczunkowska viaduct; into the second half of July and progress since the last deadline (end of May) is limited to the crash barriers and ballustrades at the top of the bridge. Still very much to do. Thirteen pedestrian crossings needed.

Below: to the west of the railway tracks, there's still no asphalt for the unfortunate residents of Karczunkowska. Three days ago, this was a mudbath.

Below: cars are not yet crossing the bridge, and yet its walls are already sprouting plantlife.

Below: from the top of the viaduct, new views of the every-changing skyline of Warsaw. I can count 14 cranes in this one photograph.

Below: storm cloud at sunset, ul. Trombity.

Below: Polish government Boeing 737 coming in to land over our garden.

A good year for the swans on our ponds, not so good for the grebes; our annually-visiting swans, male 2KC1 and his mate delivered eight cygnets in May of which seven are still alive; four seen below swimming with their parents. The reeds are getting ever-higher and choking the southern end of the ponds.

The remaining three are on their own at the other end of the northern pond, about 250m away. Two of the trio are seen below (the other sibling's out of shot to the right). Have they been abandoned by their parents, or have they struck out on their own?

Below: Jeziorki house at night, ul. Trombity.

This time last year:
New Nikons on the way!

This time seven years ago:
Work continues on S2, going under the railway lines

This time eight years ago:
Stand Easy! - a short story

This time 11 years ago:
God Save The Queen - I mean it, Ma'am

This time 12 years ago:
Legoland, Dawidy Poduchowne

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Two days in Rzeszów, heart of Poland's aviation industry

Lack of sleeper-train space three weeks (!) before date of travel meant that I had to fly to Rzeszów on Monday. Very good visibility on approach to Rzeszów's Jasionka airport (below), the A4 motorway visible lower left.

My first four meetings of the day were all in or around the Aeropolis Science and Technology Park, home to many global aerospace companies and their supply chain. These include several UK businesses that have recently moved into the area.

The area around the airport is a boomtown. New buildings appearing at an incredible pace, older ones (like, three-four years old) being extended. The BorgWarner gearbox factory has been extended five times since the original site was opened. Below: the G2A Arena, just across the road from the airport terminal, is a popular conference and exhibition venue.

An excellent example of a British manufacturer in Poland's Aerospace Valley - McBraida (established in Bristol in 1954) specialises in the precision machining of aircraft engine parts from extremely hard materials such as titanium. The firm has been present in Rzeszów since 2013 and currently employs over 70 people. Other British firms here are Bodycote and Poeton (heat-treatment and coating respectively), and Rolls-Royce joint venture, Aero Gearbox International.

The day's last meeting was in Rzeszów's Old Town, so a chance to walk around and take in the summer atmosphere (last time I was in the Old Town was in March 2017 on a sunny but cold day).

A very attractive part of Rzeszów, well catered for with bars and restaurants. The Stary Browar Rzeszówski, where we pitched by, brews its own craft beers. A 'deska konesera' of four quarter-litre mugs on a wooden board costs but 20zł (£4.23). Each was excellent, the American Pale Ale the best.

Below: the Old Town square in the late evening.

Below: the 1890s juxtaposed with the 1990s. How will the 2090s look?

Below: Rzeszów's main railway station is undergoing a massive remont, likely to go on for a long time. There's no direct link between the ticket hall and waiting rooms in the station building and the platforms; the only way is across the footbridge in the foreground, as the underground passages are closed. The train back to Warsaw took five and a quarter hours, with long (planned) waits in Tarnów (25 minutes) and Kraków (21 minutes to change direction of travel). The line via Lublin is currently being modernised, so the more direct rail route home is not an option.

Below: awaiting entry into Kraków Główny station, 318.3km from Warsaw Central.

This time last year:
Hala Gwardii, Hala Mirowska

This time two years ago:
Four stations between Piaseczno and Czachówek

This time five years ago:
A tragedy foretold