First Warsaw walks

1: Through Park Dreszera to the apartment

I arrive in Warsaw on a Monday. It’s Thursday, the day before solstice and the beginning of northern hemisphere summer, before I begin to notice my surroundings and enjoy the relics of spring. My left knee is still temperamental and the sole of my right foot is mildly painful, but walking – which I tend to fear when anything goes slightly wrong – seems to be good for both.

We spend a few hours in the park just over the road from the apartment I lived in on my last visit. I watch the twins colonise the playground, and I communicate with their young Polish-French friend by biscuit. When it’s time to go home, I walk through Park Dreszera – a nice symmetry. This was the last park I walked through on my 2018 visit, the five year old twins brandishing water pistols they’d just emptied – on me (Maja) and pigeons (Janek).

The shade is dense, the fountain playing, the formal flower beds blooming, and a dense smell I can’t identify filling the air.

Closer to home are a few bright patches of colour – a cylinder of unknown purpose, a segment of blood orange, and roses against the pale yellow wall of my apartment block. There is also the inevitable reminder of a dark past, this time more happily commemorating a survivor.

II: To Biedronka after light rain

My generic walks are beginning to deconstruct into themes. Half the photos I took en route to a grocery shop are bespoke for an ongoing exploration of loss. However, light rain left me something. I had no need to carry my spray bottle with me as last night’s read of 11 tips for incredible flower photography suggested.

III: Reconnoitering to buy paints

Maybe I overprepare, but before I embark on a shopping expedition with Janek and Maja I need to know where I’m going and whether the shop has what I want. So I travel by tram to Plac Unii Lubelskiej, passing a garden bed of splendid orange lilies on the way.

I cross five roads to look at an array of information panels, some featuring Susan Ryder, another the history of this area: 18th century turnpike; 19th century turning loop for horse-drawn trams; early 20th century turning loop for electric trams, and multi-storey tenements that survived WW2; 1892 – 1935 end-stop to narrow gauge railway connecting with Wilanów; 1939 aborted plans for Polish radio high-rise; 1959 Supersam supermarket featuring innovation in “roof architecture for hall-type buildings”; in the vicinity at different periods a race track and Russian barracks. And now glitzy Plac Unii.

The detritus of spring fills the cracks in the pavement, and piles up against the tree bed.

A new form of hire transport has appeared since my last visit, although bikes are still popular.

I’d forgotten how disorienting the glass temple to consumerism at Plac Unii is, reflections descending far below my feet.

I find an array of paints in Empic – when I finally track down Empic. So the afternoon excursion is, dare I say, under control.

Except that when it came to it, they didn’t want to shop themselves. They wanted me to do it for them.

IV: Here and there

Lovely hollyhocks, dribbling pollen right next to busy Puławska Street. I pass their corner coming and going to my daughter’s apartment (mostly, when I’m not getting lost, still.)

Lovely even in their fallen state, calyx holding firm and stripes vivid.

Looking down yields other treasures, like this neat patchwork of weeds.

V: To Nowy Teatr

Late on Saturday afternoon I join a group of Rose’s friends at the Nowy Teatr for talk about travel and theatre and a shared slice of lemon meringue pie. We soak up the sun, made pleasant by a light breeze, while Janek and Maja take turns to tear around on the pedal-less bike they rode when they were 4, now owned by Lea who has the most wonderful smile. A large concreted area is bordered by gardens (ID of the yellow one anyone? It grows in spikes.)

En route, I pass the apartment where we lived for a year, the renovations that tortured us with soot and falling rocks and noise now complete.

I love the way every walk through the same territory yields different noticing. I must have walked the route to and from the tram stop ten times already without registering these particular beauties.

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From the apartment window

My spacious Warsaw apartment has a lovely nook with comfortable armchairs, a lethal glass topped table, and five windows in a semicircle. That’s where I like to sit, looking across to an apartment block with vigorous and quite substantial rooftop gardens, and a mysterious flashing light at sunset.

The windows capture and frame blaring 4 am sunrises; and pastel sunsets, a background to the evening flights of crows as they swoop towards their wall shadows and fill the air with dark shapes.

I can also look down and watch the passing parade: the man crouched fixing the boom gate and rising to lift it every time a car needs to go though; the two young men who approach each other, shake hands without breaking stride and continue on their way; the children carrying floaties: the woman driver leaving the steering wheel to its own devices while she manipulates her mobile; the chatter as skateboarders slap past; the couple holding hands and swinging them over a stanchion; the young man texting as his foot falls perfectly on the point of the arrow.

Through a Warsaw window has had attractions for me since my first visit, when I was flat-bound for six weeks with a dodgy leg. The tree outside the window marked the change in weather and seasons and became my companion in enforced solitude.

Flight

A few days before my long journey to Warsaw, I found this mysterious print on the seat of my car, my talisman for the next two months. Even when Joe dissipated the mystery by saying “I probably sat on the poor thing and turned it into a stencil”, I continue to feel blessed.

I leave Bodalla on the 8.40am bus, on a surprisingly warm winter morning.

In Moruya I collect one visual memory, a grove of bare trees standing in vases of unmowed grass. I also note a VicLine bus heading for Bairnsdale. In case I ever want to go to Melbourne.

The journey unfolds slowly. In all my life I have never spent so long doing nothing. My mind is woolly and my body relaxed, storing up will for the long journey ahead.

In that unwelcome half-hour break less than an hour from home, I amble slowly along the foreshores of the Bay, paying idle attention to pelicans, and attempting, unsuccessfully, to frame a passer by and a boat with a pair of flourishing trees. The boat obliges; my last chance at a person skitters away before she reaches my careful composition.

However a bellshaped flower remains in its frame of leaves.

As we approach Nowra the sky turns layered grey, threatening rain which soon begins to spatter the windscreen. The lunch stop gives me a chance to scrutinise the Arthur Boyd mural, wondering why it was painted by a New Zealand artist.

A tall young man wearing fingerless gloves strolls over to the bus seat and says, addressing us indiscriminately, “Where are you all going?” Uncharacteristically, I answer. “Sydney, then Poland.” He says “I’m part Polish. My mum’s family comes from Moscow.” We talk a bit more and he shakes my hand and walks off. A fantasist, I wonder. Then I look at myself and think “I could well be perceived as a fantasist too. How strange it is to be going to … Poland. Me?”

As I walk up and down restlessly, aware of the long haul ahead, I notice a shoemakers shop window, full of old cobbler’s tools, a photo opportunity for the return journey. I’ve left my camera on the bus, so the iPhone has to suffice for these fruits, which, pixie-capped, will not be there in two months.

The rain begins to pelt down. As we go through Albion Park I send out a golden glow, hoping it will track down a friend having a hard time. On Mt Ousley heavy mist joins the rain, generating an invisibility I’m glad I’m not driving through.

Finally, at 4pm I reach the airport. Only 5 hours to takeoff. For once I’m not alone in being early. By the time check-in opens, the queue is almost unmanageably long. Luckily I ask whether I have an aisle seat: I booked it but I didn’t confirm and it’s been allocated to someone else. Much as I love looking out the window, easy access to the loo is a greater attraction. I must have an aisle seat, and I’m in luck, just how much luck I don’t realise till later.

My carry-on is about the weight Hugo estimated by holding it in one hand and a 4kg bag of dog food in the other. Customs is quick, although I’m challenged by the gymnastics required to go through the screening door – feet in the stencilled footprints, arms raised above the head – and I’m lightly frisked. Zombie-like, I make my way to the departure gate. It’s already more than twelve hours since I woke up.

I pay literal attention to the departure board: there are three categories – gate closed; now boarding; and Relax!

A tub of overpriced fruit salad. An exchange with a woman outraged by a couple flying with a four-week old baby (“They should stay at home till it’s older.”) More woolly headed staring into space. Finally, the boarding call. Herding cats is easier than persuading people to embark by zone. They’re assured of a seat. The plane won’t take off without them. Why can’t they just sit and wait for their zone-call?

I find my seat, hoik my bag into the locker, and wait to let the woman next to me settle. She says “Would you mind changing seats? My friend is down there and we’d like to sit together.” I think “The hide of her. The entitled young. This is my seat.” And then I realise she’s offering me that most coveted seat, the one with leg room at the bulk head, usually reserved for families. I say a prayer of thanks that my booked seat had been allocated to someone else, and graciously accept the exchange and her excessive gratitude.

I settle down in my new luxury of space, beside a family travelling to Italy for a wedding. I exchange grins with a two year old, a brief greeting with his father. The eight year old glares at me.

By the time we take off I’m already nodding, and sleep comes easily, although without finesse, head bowed, oblivious to any fear of dribble or snore. And that’s the way I pass probably ten of the fifteen hours of the flight to Doha. There is however some new learning in the interstices of sleep – how to extricate table and screen from the arm of my seat. And yes, I do have to ask twice.

When the plane “eases down like a brushstroke, throws out / it’s hurricane of air anchors” at Doha, I stay in my seat, seeing no point in a mad rush into a three-hour stopover. I watch “heads start rocking side to side, tick-tocking with times that are wrong everywhere”. * A flight attendant approaches me. “Are you waiting for a wheelchair madam?” That wakes me up! My turn to glare. “I’m not quite ready for that thank you.”

Customs again. A short hike through airport glitz past large brown dinosaurs. Another gate-wait. A call (by zone, with far less tolerance for non-zoners). Board a bus. Watch officials discussing things urgently. Unboard the bus. “A delay due to operational reasons.” Reboard the bus after 20 minutes. A long journey on roads and around tarmacs. And all aboard the plane for another six hours.

I’m not so sleepy now, but I can’t concentrate. Not on Underland. Not on my choice of movies. Not on music. Although I can focus on the subtitles of a Punjabi movie the man across the aisle is watching as I wonder what its appeal is for him.

Excitement mounts. Time to destination lessens. Beethoven’s 9th (or Beethoven’s something) pounds unattended through my headphones.

Finally the descent begins. Down the steps (where I manage to twist my knee again). Through the inevitable dourness of passport control. To the baggage carousel. Another failed attempt to roam with Telstra. Through the door marked “Nothing to declare.”

And there they are – two little people crouched down waiting for me, and one tall daughter. Maja grins and grabs my hand. Jaś grins and grabs my suitcase. Rose grins. I grin. And we head to the taxi rank.

* from Les Murray “Touchdown

Warsaw 2019

I’m heading off to Warsaw – again. For two months this time, which will make a total of twenty-eight months since Janek and Maja were born in December 2012.

Booking the ticket

Oddly, planning a trip seems to become more daunting the more often I do it, and the more years I add to my autobiography! It seems as if I always have to leave, just as I’m settling in back at home after some adventure away from Potato Point.

Making decisions is not my strong suit, and this time I need to decide between three flights, just as a plane has dropped out of the sky. The choice of airlines is Qatar, Emirates or Emirates, in ascending price. I predetermine that I’ll go for the cheaper flight if the differential is more than $200. And it is, by the skin of its aisle seat.

As a delaying tactic I read the flight quote in minute detail. I notice that I have to carry evidence of my travel purpose and of my bank balance, that it’s a single entry booking (what if I decide to whip off to, say, England or Portugal?) My long-term travel agent, Jessica, laughs at my anxieties and humours me with reassuring answers.

I draft an email telling her what to book, with both airlines questionmarked, and go to the movies. On the way I do “Eenie meenie miny mo” on my fingers. Out Dubai must go! Then I recollect a post this morning in my WordPress reader – a wickedwunderful photo of a swimming pool in a Doha hotel. As I’m watching the pre-movie credits for Capernaum, I see that a film company involved is based in Doha. Not a peep out of Dubai!

So I go home, erase Dubai from my draft email, and press send.

What being a travelling grandmother can really mean

That night I realise how easy I have it and I feel ashamed. My grandchildren are not in a refugee camp for ISIS families in Syria. They are not orphans. They will not be married at 13. Their parents aren’t dead, father in a targeted attack against an Australian ISIS fighter (in which two grandchildren are also killed), mother of a perforated bowel. I don’t have to do battle with the Australian government and my own real fears and panics. I don’t have to wander through a huge camp shouting the names of my grandchildren and hoping desperately that I will find them.

All these things Karen Nettleton, an Australian woman from the suburbs, has to do to extract three grandchildren, one pregnant, and two great-grandchildren, from years with ISIS.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/apr/15/australian-isis-terrorists-children-reunited-with-grandmother-in-syria

Planning for the entertainment of twins

Once I’ve booked, a new anxiety appears. If Maja and Jaś are on holidays, as they well might be, what can I do to entertain them? After a few sleepless hours (I don’t do sleepless nights) I consult google and find a superb newsletter that appears every Thursday in my Inbox and lists everything you can do with kids that week, from visiting classy schools to a mouse-and-rat expo.

That’s that sorted!

(And I discover later that they’ll be at pre-school anyway.)

Accommodation

For the first time I decide to stay with my daughter and her family for at least some of my visit. So I draw up a grid of eight dated boxes. The pattern takes shape: two weeks in my own apartment; two weeks with family (and one shared toilet); two weeks back in the same apartment, where Joe will join me for a week when he arrives; ten days with us all holidaying at Grójec Wielki in western Poland; and the remaining few days with the family.

So I pull up my AirBnb app. I find a cheap apartment close to where they live – now. They’re planning to buy an apartment as soon as they find one they like, so who knows where they’ll be by the time I arrive.

Plain sailing so far, but when it’s time to pay Airbnb, my credit card’s declined, and there’s no “payment methods” button on my iPad profile. I call help, get an instant response and head off to fire up the laptop where there is a “payment methods” button. By now I’m financially anxious – I really don’t want to lose my $35 a night two roomer.

It’s still waiting for me, still available for the second fortnight – for $50 a night. I’ve obviously crossed the boundary into summer holidays.

Enticements

Fall in love with Warsaw Facebook page keeps my interest alive with tantalising photos. The boulevards along the Wisła are complete, and the Royal Castle gardens open in May. There is even a drone view of the city where I can identify all the places I know so well. there are water curtains scattered around in a variety of squares, and everything looks deliciously green.

I go to my notes labelled Warsaw 2019 for more enticements and find a lineup of museums (the Neon Museum; the museum of life under communism; the remaining galleries in the museum of Polish Jews which I’ve been visiting little by little since it opened.) I find directions to parks and cemeteries noticed from buses on my last trip and to a few spectacular murals; articles about out-of-the-city adventures; the names of a few smaller art galleries.

Then of course there are things done before to do again – and not-so-little twins to enjoy.

Last days

A summer pack looks easy. I begin laying out clothes in the spare bedroom and whittle away over a few weeks – although I also add, mainly in the last few days. At this point I twist my knee: something real to worry about. I’ve been in Warsaw before with a compromised leg and it’s not fun. No hopping in a car to get from Point A to Point B, and when I get there, frequently jarring cobblestones. I google, see a physio, rest and ice pack, buy a knee sleeve and ibuprofen, and pretty well cure it, feeling like a wimp.

I farewell friends, talk to my Australian children on the phone, drive my resident son nuts with what he calls mental slippage (Where did I put my blood pressure pills? What have I done with my eyedrops? What if I pick up the wrong handbag on Sunday morning?), photocopy passport and credit cards, give up on the search for five missing black bras. I download Robert Macfarlane’s Underland to my Kindle, as a counter to being 30000 feet above sea level for 22 hours.

By Friday my eyelashes are tinted, my lip waxed, my hair permed, my legs shaved. This must mean I’m ready!

My remaining apprehensions? The fact that I leave home on the 9am bus and board the 9pm plane after already a day of travel. My propensity for mislaying things (yesterday a handbag I could swear I’d put on the car seat beside me, but which in fact I’d stashed in the boot a few hours earlier.) Negotiating an unfamiliar airport.

But my daughter will meet me at Frederic Chopin airport. Dare I hope Maja and Janek will be with her?

This post is linked to Cathy’s travel and preparation invitation

Warsaw Hotchpotch 4

Cupids

Cupids were going to be a Warsaw theme, but after a first flurry they didn’t come flocking, so theme was demoted to Hotchpotch. The first two were on plates in the Muzeum Narodowy.

The third one I spotted was in a most unlikely place, the Peru exhibition. There, Cupid was the personification of carnal love being squashed under the foot of an angel embodying divine love. The foot was strategically placed.

Pavement plaque

“We play more when it’s green” is a quote from a song by Wojciech Młynarski. The plaque marks a project to plant a million trees.

Buildings

A Warsaw breakfast

Decrepitude

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A wall of broken china

A panoply of umbrellas

My grandchildren inform me that these were indicators of a street party

Miscellany within miscellany

And the best for last

From the blogosphere to a Warsaw tram! Lindy, Gilly, Jo (and an unknown mother and child). How I love the way our lives conjoined, albeit briefly. Thank you, lovely women.

This is the final post from warsaw2018. I’ll be returning to snippetsandsnaps soon.

Janek and Maja

It is a year since I’ve seen Maja and Janek. Of course the long-debated decision to return to Poland to catch up with them is the right one, even though they’ll be in Australia in August.

Changes

They’ve grown long and lean; mastered bikes with pedals to the point where they can ride 20 kilometres; developed the habit of dressing themselves (no more dripping sweat on the changing room floor at preschool as I struggle to insert them into their outdoor shoes); learned their way around their apartment complex (something I didn’t manage) and how to make toast, brew coffee, slice bananas, prepare beans, organise their own entertainment. Now they court the camera and collect football cards.

Some things stay the same

Miss Maja is still mistress of the mainly white diet: white bread, pasta, cottage cheese, and pizza with nothing on it. Jaś is so interested in everything he’s easily distracted between Point A and nearby Point B. They both relish odd facts: “Nanny Meg, do you know how heavy a blue whale’s tongue is? As heavy as an elephant. Not a baby elephant. A fully grown elephant.” They still love stories, but now it’s chapter books. I read them the chapter of Charlotte’s web where Charlotte dies: I’m fearful of their reaction, but it is my daughter and I who are reduced to tears. The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary are the current favourite, with lots of debate about whether Ramona really is a pest. Listening to my daughter read these stories takes me back to the time when it was me reading them to her.

They both love dogs and bail up amenable ones in the park to pat, chatting to the owner and discovering all sorts of things to surprise me later. “That dog we talked to this morning likes kids. He plays all the time with his owner’s grandchildren.”

There are vestiges of the stuff we left behind: chalk, textas, Donald Duck comics, pipecleaners, stamps and stamp pads, and straws. They know where they’re stored, and climb on a chair to get what they want.

Managing twins

My management strategies include joining in a race across the courtyard and regimenting action by using the alarm clock. “Let’s see if we can eat breakfast … be dressed … or at preschool … before the alarm goes off.” I have to be careful not to depend on Maja to manage Jaś: to track him down when he disappears or hurry him up when it’s time to go.

Multi skilled

Their competence amazes me. They drive the lift, correct me when I’m heading for the tram going the wrong way, open the gate to preschool with the chip and type in the code to get in the door. Maja translates for us when the two babcias need to communicate, something she’s always resisted before.

Although they appear to be deeply involved in what they are doing they have one ear cocked to adult conversations. “How is that lady an old cow?” Maja asks, after R has been inveighing against a workmate. Jaś suddenly says “I hope Grandpa J didn’t die while you were away Nanny Meg”. We’re puzzled, until I realise I’ve been talking about friends who have died while I’ve been in Warsaw.

It’s glorious summer weather so they spend a lot of time outside in playgrounds, climbing rope pyramids, scrambling high up on a variety of climbing frames, riding bikes up the winding hilly track, pounding on drums, squabbling over fussball, following a simple maze, trying out skateboards, working themselves up on the swing, and of course eating ice cream.

They have their vagaries. Jaś spends 45 minutes waiting for his ice cream to melt so he can drink it. His allergies seem to be largely tamed, although nuts are still dangerous. Maja won’t go into the playground until she’s seen Mummy pay, always a bit anxious to do the right thing.

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Sleepover: Maja

I have such a good time on my first day with each of them separately that I suggest separate sleepovers. They become the highlights of my visit. I’m a bit hesitant because I have no supplies – no books, no pens, no toys. Miss Maja is happy playing noughts and crosses: games are one of her favourite things – and so is winning. She slices the beans with scissors; draws the cats we encountered on our walk home from their apartment: assembles the toy in her Kinder surprise; and watches Netflix. She chooses two or three cartoons and then says “Let’s watch Puffin Rock”. At bedtime I read her a picture book she brought with her and tell her, in an increasingly soporific voice, a story about some adventure of Cruz. During the night she rotates and when her foot encounters my mouth I kiss it tenderly.

Sleepover: Janek

When it’s Janek’s turn I meet them in the playground. He comes tearing over to me, only briefly losing purpose, leaps on my lap and says “Can we go to your house now?” We blow bubbles from the window as he yells “Cześc” to people two storeys down, me gripping him tightly in case he forgets where he is. He too chops beans “how I like them”, and peels a cucumber. He assembles his kinder surprise with astonishing deftness, reading the pictorial instructions as I tremble at the thought that I might have to help. Soon he has it functioning, pulling a strap and sending a wheel into the air, or onto the floor where it spins like a top.

Then, disaster. He locks himself in the bathroom and can’t unlock the door. I try to keep alarm out of my voice, as I feel him beginning to panic. I decide I’ll have to ring Tata to come and take the door off, but suddenly it opens, and the drama’s over.

We too watch Puffin Rock. I read a Beverly Cleary story on Kindle, and tell an unrecognisable mash-up of the Achilles story for bedtime. Eventually he falls asleep. In the morning, we beat every alarm, and have time to blow bubbles from the top of the rope pyramid on the way to pre-school. But he won’t go in till Maja arrives with Tata.

Waterguns

Every day on the way to preschool they gaze longingly into the window of the toy shop near the tram stop. On the last afternoon we finally buy something. By the time I gather my wits, they’ve already asked for the waterguns they want, their first independent shop. Pani deals with a problem with Janek’s trigger, and then offers to fill them. She tests them, firing out the shop door and almost squirting an amused passer-by. I’m apprehensive about twins with loaded guns on the tram, but it’s only one stop. By the time we walk through Park Dreszera they are emptied, Janek’s in an attack on a flock of pigeons, Maja’s in sly firing at me.

Leaving

As I prepare to go to the airport, they say, seasoned travellers that they are, “Nanny Meg, when the plane’s landing you’ve got to swallow so your ears don’t hurt.” Farewelling them, my heart is melon-balled.

The passing parade

At home, from a folding chair in the dunes. Here, I settle for a seat on a tram, bus, or train; a bench in a park; or an outdoor dining place. Anywhere I can watch with impunity and notebook in hand.

In transit

Crow with a chicken bone stopping at a puddle, placing claw on bone while (s)he drinks and then flying off, without the bone

Tattooed arms emerging from a singlet top like embroidered sleeves

Man jay-running, phone to ear, to catch the tram

Little girl, face intent, holding a tram ticket carefully as she approaches the validating machine

Harassed babcia trying to manage twins with loaded water pistols

From a park bench

Zebra, a tiger, horses in various sizes, go-karts, all wheeled, lined up waiting to extract złoty from grown-up pockets

Architecture of balloons in the shape of Peppa Pigs, Pooh Bears, kangaroos, hearts, soccer balls, Minnie Mice, aeroplanes with faces – all dipping with the wind and cluster-weight

Tiny girl with dark curls and beaded sandals holding a dandelion with tender care

Dad using the climbing net for chin-ups or pushing a pram while his son in a blue helmet and yellow jacket scoots along beside him on a pedal-less bike

Circle of children sitting in front of a man making bubbles, shouting “More! More! More!” whenever he stops

Stary Rynek, Poznań

Pigeon perched on an eagle’s head, high above the town square

Mother wrangling five children under six, one falling flat-faced on the cobblestones, two squabbling

Crouched warrior, helmeted and brandishing a spear, dribbling desultory water

Little children climbing up to peer over the edge of the fountain and splash their hands in it standing on tippy toe

Large family – grandparents, parents and children – out for an orderly stroll

Gaggle of kids trailing high pitched chatter and giggles carrying the treasures of the day, including a set of edible false teeth

A young woman with a large pink bag and toes turned in being photographed by a friend on the steps of the fountain

A pair of look-alikes in jeans and denim jackets

An old man in a red T-shirt stubbing his cigarette in the bin as he surveys it for loot

A nun in a grey habit and sandals and a boy in a white surplice

Chairs

I decided to make chairs one of my Warsaw themes, inspired by Maja and Jaś. When they took a tour of Wilanów Palace Museum, amongst all the splendour their attention was caught by chairs. Their discussion focused on relative comfort: “This one would be much more comfortable to sit in.” “This one doesn’t look very comfortable at all.”

My collection begins with this jumble outsidve a second-hand shop in Praga.

From the streets of Praga, my quest takes me to Fontainebleau Castle via the Napoleon exhibition. These chairs are mahogany with inserts and inlays in ebony, and a pattern of aquatic leaves and small palm trees on the back. The seat is covered with light green silk. To complete the poetry of detail, it is marked by a fire at Fontainebleau.

For grandeur, here is one of Napoleon’s thrones, replete with Ns in case there’s any doubt about ownership.

For seats you can actually sit on, here’s a collection arranged like a railway carriage near Central Railway Station in front of Stalin’s Finger.

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“Worrying is a hard job. It hasn’t helped anyone yet, but it’s hurt plenty.”
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“Crazy people who think they are able to change the world change it”
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A tribute to Andrzej Wajda, filmaker and philanthropist
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Bench for „Mistress and Margarita”, a book full of magic, understatements, riddles, secrets. (I think)
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Who does not know „The Little Prince”? His Rose and the three volcanoes? Sit on this bench and embark on a journey to glimpse what is most important in life.

I finished this post sitting on a chair in the lounge room at Potato Point, part of a set of eight from my mother’s childhood home which I had renovated and reupholstered after the death of my uncle. His canny stock market ventures gave me the wherewithal to buy this house and to seek chairs elsewhere.

Five

Little things that give delight

# the purchase of seven thin blank-paged notebooks

# the nubbly feel of thick cotton sheets

# the gradual dying of a vase of flowers

# stepping into my empty apartment

# buying strawberries, a kilo at a time

Distractions on the route to pre-school

# collecting a worm and watching him curl in the palm of the hand

# running madly, hiding behind a tree and bursting out with a “Boo”

# chasing fluff from poplar trees

# blowing a dandelion

# chasing two cats that live somewhere in the apartment complex

# watching a man dig up his garden

# squatting to scrutinise a dead sparrow

# standing under a drip from an upstairs balcony

# looking longingly at the window of a toy shop

# collecting cat food fallen from a balcony

Pleasant encounters

# an old woman who thought I’d miss the bus because I was looking at my device and tapped me to let me know

# an old man who saw my puzzlement about where a tram timetable was and pointed me in the right direction

# a few perfectly comprehensible exchanges despite mutually incomprehensible language

# a taxi driver who said “I love you. I love you. I love you.”

# a lengthy count out of coins at the checkout, accompanied by smiles

Blunders

# trying to get into the tram driver’s compartment instead of the tram

# taking four weeks to find the supermarket in the ‘hood

# heading for the wrong tram taking the kids to school

# entering the wrong code at the preschool

# booking a ticket for 5 instead of 17.00

Changes

# not so many demands for small coins

# signs for the blind

# renovations everywhere

# Sunday closing

# I’m relaxed!!

Things the wind moves along

# an airborne flock of tree fluff

# an accumulated ball of tree fluff

# a round golden leaf on its edge

# an empty bottle

# a pram in reverse

Things I didn’t come to Warsaw for

# a Napoleon exhibition

# the treasures of Peru

# an exhibition of Japanese wood engravings

# a binge on Netflix

# a week-long cold

Alien sounds

# the ringing, peeling and clanging of church bells *

# the clacking of high heels on pavements

# the roaring and squealing of vehicles in the middle of the night

# the song of birds I don’t recognise

# the sound of suitcases wheeled on uneven surfaces

Regrets

# I didn’t venture out to the Long Night of Museums

# I failed to succour my daughter when she was ill

# I didn’t do enough early morning exploring

# I spent far too much time with Netflix

# I didn’t visit Powsin, the neon museum, Wilanów; walk along the river; or go to the Sunday Chopin concerts

Things for kids

# a special Children’s Day – a day of treats

# the voices of children naming stops on the tram

# books in the park: a rug, craft, stories read aloud

# a custom of standing up for children on public transport

# a variety of plays and music for kids, and special events on The Long Night of Museums

Special memories to take home

# Maja and Jaś taking turns for a mighty run-up to push each other on a hard-to-move whirly thing in the park

# Maja and Jaś suddenly flinging their arms around each other as they walk along

# Maja stalking me quietly and grinning when I turn round and spot her

# Jaś putting on his sweet face and then showing the gap where his first tooth fell out

# Jaś and Maja’s hands in mine as we cross streets, or just walk along

Warsaw Hotchpotch 3

Hands

The hand fixation hasn’t gone away. This time I focus on what women’s hands have spent their time doing in the past, at least when they were having their portraits painted. The hands were amputated from paintings in the Room of Portraits in the Museum of Warsaw.

Church glass

These elegant glass panels were in the doors leading into St Martin’s Church in Piwna Street. That was as far as I could penetrate. The touch of red is from the stained glass window.

Window of life

I’ve heard about windows of life – places in a church wall where you can lift a door and place an unwanted baby in a cradle – ever since my first visit to Poland. Lost in my attempt to find the hotel where Gilly will be staying, I stumbled across one. Unfortunately my photo doesn’t show the interior, the basic plastic cradle, reflecting the bleakness of the act of leaving a baby and the circumstances making it necessary, as the world rushes by.

Palace of Culture and Science

No Warsaw visit is complete without at least one image of this monstrous edifice, preferably dwarfed by something – this time the clouds.

Education on the back of toilet doors

Plantings at a major bus interchange

What a surprise! Woven beds, planted out with flowers, and unless my market gardener memory deceives me, vegetables, even perhaps companion planting.

Two of my favourite things

In one image, I manage to capture both laburnum and a toi toi.

Three ones

In emulation of Sue

Disappearing spring

Stencil memorial

Poznań leftovers

What on earth does he mean?

Floral, avian and molluscal maraudings

And a smile