#Wanderessence

Anticipation…

Hard to know exactly when the dream began.  Sometimes it feels like it was always with me.  Bored with my job, which nevertheless paid the bills, I watched season after season of ‘A Place in the Sun’, each week convinced that this was the place for me.  Perhaps not Benidorm, and never, ever a do-er upper, but almost anything else was fair game.  There was so much world to choose from!

Early on, I discounted Florida.  Too far from family, I rejected the notion of becoming a snowbird and, silly as it sounds, I hate alligators.  I am thoroughly European and, though I might want to wander further, my natural habitat was always going to be on our continent.  Italy was a front runner.  With all those delicious miles of coastline and inspiring culture, how could ‘La Dolce Vita’ be wrong?  There was the allure of Croatia and its island jewels.  Greece with its ancient history and azure seas.  France seemed logical.  I had A level GCE in the language, and that whole unknown country, almost on my doorstep.  The Canary Islands, a contender too.  A nomadic life between islands and an agreeable climate would always appeal.  One place I didn’t consider was Poland, though in retrospect it could have been an interesting choice.

Portugal was quite low on the radar.  I’d never been, and knew little of it.  A week’s holiday swiftly changed that, and I came home the joint owner of a house.  Fortunately my husband loved it too.  The adventure of furnishing our home began.  Our first visit, 4 frantic days, was spent buying beds, a boiler and light fittings, and arranging for the fitment of a fireplace.  Two bright yellow, folding chairs doubled as indoor and outdoor seating.  The bare essentials of life.  We gazed in wonder at our ‘place in the sun’.  Tavira filled us with pleasure each and every time we ventured out.

The years ticked by, and holidays came and went.  The love affair didn’t wane, and we began to hope for the day when we could make the Algarve our permanent home.  Dad died, and there were no longer any serious impediments.  The youngsters would be able to visit us whenever they chose.  Time to put the English house on the market.  Much scrubbing in corners (having first emptied those corners!) ensued.  No doubt about it- the house needed decorating.  Should we strip everything for that blank canvas look?  Or go out and enjoy a ravishing English summer, potentially our last.  I bet you know the answer!

Silly question, wasn’t it?  As summer wanes, we now have some choices to make.  With a few viewings but no serious offers at the moment, at the end of September we will fly out to Faro.  No point yet in emptying the house and driving down, with as many memories stowed in the car as we can manage.  We will need to come back, for at least a week or two, to keep an eye on the house, our old friend of 29 years.  The family are already booked to join us to celebrate another significant birthday in early November.  It would be rude of us not to be there, wouldn’t it?  Until then, we’ll keep on anticipating… and preparing.

All set to see Cathy off on her next great adventure, ours has yet to begin, but it’s getting closer.  Join her at Wander.essence for Anticipation & Preparation.  I hope you will love the path she has chosen as much as I do.  Wishing you safe and happy travels, Cathy!

Jo’s Monday walk : Sunrise on the Salt Pans

I sometimes do daft things!  When I saw a sunrise walk featured in Tavira, in Todos a Caminhar, I just knew I had to do it.  I’ve always wanted to live beside a beach, so that I could slip outside into that beguiling early morning light.  My reality is far from that, but a 20 minute stroll will bring me to the riverside, and beyond, a world of salt marshes and oyster catchers.

Trying not to disturb a certain person, I tiptoed down the stairs at 5.45, gulped a few mouthfuls of coffee, and out into the mild, morning air.  I thought I had made good time down to the Praca, but when I got there the place was deserted.  I hadn’t been sure how many other enthusiasts to expect, but the streets of Tavira were Sunday morning sleepy.  Just as I was deciding what to do, a lady in joggers sprinted into the square, threw off her jacket and made off at speed.  It was 6.18am!   I had missed the start by three minutes.  And sure enough, the sun was just starting to rise.

I had no intention of hot footing it after them.  I had all this to myself!  In lazy pursuit, I ambled out along the river.  The soft light pearled the water, the stillness unbroken.  Even the birds were enjoying a Sunday snooze.

As I reached the edge of the salt pans I smiled to myself.  There in the distance, lycra clad figures sped towards me.  All of this seemed wasted on them.  I continued to stroll and snap.  As they straggled past me, in twos and threes, I smiled ‘Bom dia!’ but most were focused on home.

Across the salt pans there was just enough light to reflect Tavira in the water.  Ahead, the small marina and boatyard of Quatro Aguas.  It’s a place that I love, but I had never seen it in such opalescent light.

Enjoying the early morning mellow.  Gently I retraced my steps, in the ever increasing light.  Mauve crept into the heather and bronze lit the sandbanks.  I played at being a birder for a while, an obliging chap posing for me.  The wrecked mill drew closer.

And then I was back in town, and crossing the flyover.  A fisherman, releasing his boat to catch the tide.  Passing the common, a strange sight caught my eye.  An inverted Minnie Mouse, remnant of last night’s festival revelry, perhaps?

An elderly gentleman with a nice smile had also observed the balloon.  As I stopped to take the shot, an agitated shrieking filled the air.  Body taut and wings beating rapidly, it flew overhead again and again.  I supposed it must have had young close by.  Feeling like an intruder, I wearily returned home, where all was still silent.  Time to put the kettle on and start the day.

I hope you enjoyed watching the sun rise with me.  I’d like to add it to Cathy’s Photographic challenge at Wander.essence.  She’s doing some fine work over there.  I tried to bring the salt marshes alive for you.  I’m half-tempted to add this to Tina’s Soft too.  I hope she won’t mind.  The light on the water was so very soft that morning.  Are you following the Lens Artists?

Many thanks to all of you who accompany me each week.  My wanderings would be nothing without you.  Join me here any time.

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Let’s start with Lady Lee and an outing to the park :

Skywatch – our day out

Alice invites you to ‘smell the flowers’.  It’s that time of year, isn’t it?

Delaware Park- Buffalo NY

Some people say I have too many of these, but Jackie’s a lady who knows all about food :

Tea Break

A world far removed from my experience.  Let Janet take you there :

Monday walk…. sites and sights of Sheridan

Nothing I like better than going adventuring with Drake :

Bay of Kiel

Geoff rediscovers the delights of the Kent coast :

Thanet, a Walk on the Not so Wild Side #walking#kent

And Eunice shares some local history and a pleasant walk :

A local walk to Hall i’ th’ Wood

The heat has been getting to them in Norfolk, I think, but Janaline makes the most of this garden tour :

A walk through West Acre Garden in Norfolk

Fancy walking a race circuit?  Let Jaspa take you to Monaco!

Walking the Epic Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix Racetrack

I always love Aarti’s style :

Walk in a Monasterio

A very different monastery experience from Banactee, dipping back into memory :

Climbing on Mt. Sinai

And finally, another enthralling outing with Cathy.  The scenery is superb!

Strolling along Park Avenue at Arches

That’s all folks!  Wishing you a wonderful week.  Hope you can get out and about a bit.  See you next week!

On Journey : Inflight blues

‘Excuse me… why are you polishing the window?’  The young man was tall and pale, squashed into his seat beside me on our Ryanair flight from Faro to Leeds.  That was how our conversation began.  I’ve had many on board exchanges over time, but this young man and his troubles really touched me.  I was at the back of the aircraft and my husband far away at the front, because we are too mean to pay the extra to sit together.  We can cope with separation for a couple of hours, and on this occasion I had the compensation of a window seat.  Which is how I came to be polishing my smeary window.

Glancing at him, I replied ‘Because I like to take photos’.  Fair haired and blue-eyed, he nodded.  ‘That makes sense’.  He seemed eager to chat and we exchanged a few details till he sat back, with a sigh.  I thought maybe he was an anxious flier.  We hadn’t yet taken off when he reached beneath the seat and pulled out a full sized wine bottle.  Glugging at it greedily, the flight crew still about to start the safety demonstration.  Time for some friendly advice!  ‘You’re not allowed to drink your own alcohol on board’, I said, feeling a bit hypocritical because, for the first time ever, I had purchased a small rosé in the Duty Free, intending to drink it with my sandwich.  He looked at me.  ‘I need it!’  In a polite, conversational way he explained to me that he has an addictive personality, currently using alcohol, and that he has an appointment with the family doctor in Leeds tomorrow to check him into rehab.

A moment later he was on his phone, to a friend.  I assumed it was a friend.  In close proximity it’s impossible not to overhear someone’s conversation.  I looked out of the window as we began to taxi along the runaway.  He was talking urgently to Tom.  ‘You are going to meet me?  You promised!  My Dad will give you a lift to the airport’.  Almost pleading.  He was near to tears when he switched off the phone.  Out poured the story.  He was gay, and it was hard to trust anybody.  His boyfriend was supposed to bring drugs to the airport to help him till he could see his GP, but he hadn’t got them.  He was desperate to give up alcohol because it was ruining his life.  He had been terrified they wouldn’t let him on the plane home if he was drunk, but his friends had helped him board.  He had spoiled their holiday because he had no self control.

The plane was now in the air, so all he had to do was appear sober a little while longer.  He was waiting anxiously for trolley service to begin, and we talked.  I felt so sorry for him.  25 years old!  I wondered how I could bear it if my own son was in his situation.  He said that he had a good family, and that they would help, if only he could get home.  The middle child, his siblings were successful.  He had managed to work sometimes, but had spent most of his life addicted to drugs, whatever he could get his hands on.  He’d tried to ‘give up’ numerous times.  This time it had to work because his life was completely out of control.

The lakes beside the River Guadiana

He’d been to the Algarve several times before and liked the place and the people.  He was interested in the landscape unfolding below us, and was amazed at the vast area of lakes along the border.  When the trolley pulled alongside he ordered 2 beers and a wine.  I asked if he should have something to eat but he said it was better this way.  He had to drink himself into oblivion and he would sleep.  He downed one can in seconds and slumped back.  Beads of sweat had broken out on his face.  ‘Are you alright, sir?’ asked the air hostess.  He struggled to answer, and she gently informed him that she wouldn’t be able to sell him any more alcohol.  I smiled, despite myself.  After a while he drank the small bottle of wine, and soon his eyes had rolled.  Unless it’s cloudy I’m usually glued to my window throughout a flight, but I couldn’t settle.  I kept watch as he slept, hoping he could make it through the flight.

He jerked half awake, and groped for the remaining can, spilling much of it in his haste.  A male crew member went past and gave him a disgusted look.  I felt defensive for him and wanted to explain that he couldn’t help it.  The stupor overtook him again, mercifully.  With 20 minutes to go, he woke.  The captain had just announced our descent and, with relief, he reached beneath the seat for the last of his wine.  The crew man was just passing back through the cabin, reached over and took it from his hands.  ‘I must have it!’, he protested, to no avail.

We talked some more.  I asked if he would need assistance to get off the plane and he agreed.  He gave me the name of one of his party, a girl, sitting much further down the plane and said he thought she would help.  When we landed, I climbed past him and went to seek the help of the crew man.  Though sceptical, he noted the details.  I went back to say my goodbyes, to wish him luck and to hope that he could get his life back in order   ‘You’re a really nice lady’, he said.  I so hope that his family have been able to help him.  He seemed a really nice boy.

I would probably have kept this sad story to myself if it hadn’t been for Cathy.  I thought it might work for her On Journey invitation, over at Wander.essence.  She has the makings of a novel over there, and much else besides.

Jo’s Monday walk : A Tall Ships Treat

A visit from the Tall Ships is always a special occasion, but when it coincides with a significant birthday there is an opportunity to make it very special indeed.  When Thursday dawned cool and grey, I thought I might’ve made a mistake with my husband’s birthday surprise.  But, the tickets were bought, and I’d even purchased train tickets to Sunderland.  He could drink without driving, and not worry over parking.  The pattern of the week had been overcast skies till about 3pm, when magically the clouds rolled back.  Here’s hoping!

To host the start of a Tall Ships Race is a great coup, and Sunderland has made the most of the opportunity.  Leaving the station it’s only about 10 minutes walk to the riverside, and from there you have a choice whether or not to cross over the River Wear.  The ships were berthed on both sides of the river and are nothing short of majestic.  As ticket holders we stayed on the near shore and followed the trickle of people heading down to the quay.  The East End of Sunderland is still undergoing changes to bring this historic area into the 21st century.

The Tall Ships will race over a thousand nautical miles in 3 weeks.  The first leg races from Sunderland to Esbjerg in Denmark, then to Stavanger in Norway, and finally to Harlingen in the Netherlands.  You can see the full line up of over 50 ships on the Tall Ships website.

Despite grey skies they were an awesome sight as we made our way along the quayside.  Various entertainments were on offer, and we paused for a few minutes to observe Martin Lewis of the ‘Money Show’, taking questions from the audience.  On the far shore, next to the National Glass Centre, a full scale fairground was in progress, and some of the ships had entertainment on board.

No time to linger at this stage.  We had a destination.  Unbeknownst to my husband I had booked a 2 hour sail on a Tall Ship.  Until we checked in I did not know which.  Enjoying a drink at the bar, we waited for our number to be called.  Half an hour later we were boarding the beautiful  Wylde Swan from the Netherlands.  The largest two-mast topsail schooner in the world, she was built for speed.  The story of our voyage was the subject of this week’s Six Word Saturday so I’ll simply say that it was magnificent.  The crew demonstrated their proficiency, hauling on ropes and tying sails, yet still finding time to engage with their passengers.  The camaraderie as they worked together was a joy to see.  As we returned to port the sun, which had been hovering behind the clouds, finally broke free and we were bathed in golden sunlight.

It was a long walk down the quayside and I had spotted a pub with a bird’s eye view of the festivities.  Naturally this involved a number of steps, but the sun terrace of the Boar’s Head was worth it.  Built in 1724, beside Youlls Passage where press gangs were reputed to work, the pub was later frequented by Laurel and Hardy.  Peggy Potts, a local brandy smuggler, lived just 50 metres away, and her family are said still to be patrons. We basked in warm sunshine and friendly chatter with the locals.

More strolling was required after our lunch, and there was plenty still to see.  Entertainers were either resting or setting up for a performance, and many of the crews were at ease.  Further along the quay the ships grow smaller, the industry of the port an interesting backdrop.

Our feet were tiring by this stage and there was still the walk back to the station.  A convenient icecream van was just what we needed.  The event was rounded off with fireworks each evening, and on Saturday a Parade of Sail, as the ships left harbour to begin the race.  If they didn’t manage to find a Cooling breeze or two, I don’t know who would! (do join Leya for this week’s brilliant Lens-Artists Photo Challenge).  And how could I forget Cathy?  I love what she’s doing over at Wander.essence!

The walks I share are all so very different in style and content.  Please find time to visit as many as you can, especially if it’s a blogger you don’t know.  Many thanks to all of you for sharing and for your wonderful company.  Kettle on?  We’re good to go, here at Jo’s Monday walk!

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Self-realisation is a wonderful thing, especially if you can share it with Elaine :

A quiet walk

When I said to Drake that I always wanted to visit Annecy, he came up with the goods!

Pure idyllic transitions

South Carolina!  There’s another dream for you!  Salt marsh, I’m familiar with from the Algarve :

A walk on the wildlife side

I can’t resist Meg, and her close scrutiny :

Sunday bushwalk

Lichens, fungi, grass, tree bark and herbal cures… you’ll find them all at Meg’s :

Weekend strolls

I’m not a great cook, but Lady Lee could tempt me with her chicken and cashews :

Food, glorious food!

But if all else fails, Jackie has a good idea :

Picnic

Who doesn’t sing along when the Bee Gees are on?  And maybe strut your stuff?  With Carol, of course!

Born to Sing

Or you could try a bit of gold digging?

Gold Fever

Meet Melanie and say hello to Captain Cook, while we’re Down Under :

Melbourne- It’s a Walk in the Park

This sounds a bit like a radio programme, but take a turn with Anabel.  You’ll love it!

Ambles from Ambleside

I don’t know anyone who writes better garden posts.  Another beauty from Jude!

Garden View: Bonython Manor Gardens

Seeing the title I thought Amanda might have a ship or two.  Far from it, but this is a wonderfully lyrical post :

Walking Around in Whitby

And finally, Cathy surprises me with a lovely swathe of bluebells :

Riverbend to Great Falls : the Bluebell Path

That’s it for another sweltering week.  Hope it’s fine where you are, but if you need a drop of rain then I hope it lands.  Take care till next time!

Reminiscences from Poland, 2

If you read Reminiscenses from Poland, you know that I reached Bełchatów, almost without mishap.  Immediately I was enveloped in a warm Zawady welcome, in the place that Dad once called home.  His only remaining sister, Aunt Lusia, lives there still, daughters and grandchildren close at hand.  A long summer evening was spent in her garden, rabbits proliferating, and a cardboard box sheltering the tiniest kittens you ever saw.  I could feel my ankles being bitten, the pond and the sultry air an open invitation.  All in a good cause.  Her arm tucked through mine, we took a gentle turn beneath the apple trees.  Not long since she was in hospital, with family fearful that she would not recover.

As darkness fell and eyes began to droop, I was returned to cousin Jadzia’s house.  Halfway through my Polish adventure.  I had scoured timetables, and lost sleep over how I would get from Bełchatów to Kraków.  In the event, the problem was solved for me.  Jadzia’s daughter Ania and family were driving to the Tatry Mountains, south of Kraków, for a few days holiday.  If I didn’t mind being a bit squashed, they would take me with them and break the journey at Adam’s house.  I’ve never been one to mind a squeeze.  And so it was that me and 2 little girls, with 2 sunhats and a furry green frog, shared the back seat on a 4 hour journey.

We took the scenic route to avoid roadworks, but it was market day in Radomsko, and the car crawled beside the brimming stalls.  Once out in gently rolling countryside, Hubert slipped a CD in and we sang along to Polish nursery rhymes.  Two year old Nadia’s eyes sparkled as she sang, but all of a sudden they were filled with distress and she was being sick.  Swerving off the road into a field, operation clean up began.  “She’s never done that before” Hubert ruefully observed.  “She’s normally a good traveler”.  Five minutes later, in fresh clothes, she was beaming again, and munching a bag of crisps.

At Adam’s house all was suspiciously quiet.  No sign of the two little boys who lived there, but the playroom overflowed with toys.  A lovely respite for two little girls, who didn’t stop till every shelf and cupboard was empty and there was no space to play.  Out into the garden for a quick burn off energy then, fuelled with coffee and cake, Mum and Dad round them up.  Time to say goodbye….

I had a luxurious hour to myself before the onslaught.  Toys swiftly back on shelves, a peep at TV (Rafa was playing in the French Open) and I was sitting on the balcony, waiting.  Hot and mildly harrassed, Weronika and Marta shepherded two small boys through the gate.  Bedlam!  But in such a good way.  My turn to play with Marti, 18 months old and a happy soul, and his rather more cautious brother, Bartek, aged three.  Gradually the household filled as first Adam returned from work, then Wojtek, Weronika’s husband, and finally my lovely neice, Ula.  One member was missing.   Łukasz now lives with his girlfriend and I was promoted to his bedroom.  The buzz of chatter, and patter of slippered feet on the tiled floors, filled the evening as we ate and drank.  And finally, collapsed gratefully into bed.

Fluffy clouds greeted me through the skylight next morning.  Sniadanie (breakfast), and an outing to the park, followed by wolny czas (free time).  When I returned from the city, preparations were in full swing, the house full of bustle.  Adam’s pride and joy is his barbecue room, a design wonder of wood and folding glass panels.  The end wall is solid brick to enclose the grill and a smoker.  Marta’s pride and joy is her garden and the delicious meals she provides for her family.  Between them they conjure up many a feast.

That evening there was a guest of honour.  A gentleman to whom I will always be in debt.  Tomasz, Adam’s business partner, a warm and generous man and an impeccable English speaker, made the phone call to Dad that reunited him with his Polish family. (A night I will never forget, my tearful Dad hardly daring to believe his luck).  Taste is of supreme importance to Tomasz, and is one of the foundations of the bakery business.  Fond of wine and good company, with many tales to tell, you can imagine how our evening progressed.  Adam provided salmon and garlic bread from the barbecue and smoked sea bass to compliment Marta’s salads.  Wine flowed, and then Łukasz arrived, affectionate as ever.  He had spent the afternoon sleeping after an early shift.  The children played.  Sandpit, bubbles and swing, until it was time to haul them off to bed….

Last day…ostatni dzien… and one last trip into the city.  A tram ride home, stopping to collect a deep red rose bush for Marta, and a bag of cherries.  A whirl of emotions.  Adam, watering the garden after another hot one.  Marta, pottering beside him, relaxed after feeding everybody again.  The children at a birthday party in the neighbours’ garden next door, laughter and occasional tears drifting our way.  The evening settling around us.  Time for more goodbyes… we don’t know till when.  In halting Polish on the way to the airport, I try to tell Adam how very grateful I am.  His eyes twinkle as hugs me….

You must have met Cathy over at Wander.essence?  I’m adding this to her Prose challenge.  It’s the last of my Polish adventures… for now.

Reminiscences from Poland

It began with so much angst, and then developed into the most heartwarming experience.  Come with me to Poland?

My 12th floor hotel room in Warsaw was wonderfully luxurious but I slept fitfully, with one eye on the clock, as you do when needing to rise early and excited for the journey.  Tiny beads of red tail lights trailed into the distance until a hazy dawn crept through my window.  Patches of mist nudged the buildings as I gazed down on the city in all its immensity.  I made coffee and the mournful tones of Leonard Cohen filled the room as I showered and gathered together my belongings.  Downstairs in reception a smiling face awaited.  Meg, promptly at 7, to deliver me safely to my coach station, Zachodnie.

Down into the subway we went, that subterranean city maze that bewilders me so, but with Meg by my side it didn’t seem so bad.  The ticket lady understood me, and sunlight beamed down on the tracks at Sródmiescie.  Two stops later we sat side by side on a bench, speculating on which coach it might be.  Trying to cram a world of emotions into dying minutes.  Those hugs may have to last us a long time…..

On the bus my neighbour is an elderly Polish lady, who tells me in minute detail about her health and her family.  No matter that I can only translate one word in ten.  I nod and shake my head vigorously, and attempt a brief family history, and moments later she is fishing in her capacious handbag to pull out a blue and white plastic bracelet with a St. Christopher attached.  She presses it upon me.  Apparently it will bring me good fortune, but I must look very needy, because immediately she’s back in the bag pulling out a red and white necklace and crucifix too.  I am mildly alarmed, wondering if I should offer money or will I give offence and destroy our budding friendship?  I risk all and she merely shakes her head.  We ride in companionable silence but I am shamefully relieved when she gets off at the first stop….

Two hours later the bus stops on the outskirts of  Bełchatów, and lots of passengers climb aboard.  An imperious looking lady demands to know where I am getting off and I mumble ‘na centrum’.  With a toss of her head she declines to sit next to me and moves on down the bus.  She thinks I’m stupid because the bus isn’t going to the centre.  I only realise this when a voice from the back of the bus penetrates my consciousness… ‘Johanna!  Johanna!’  It is Andrzej, my cousin Jadwiga’s husband, waving his arms frantically.  Sent to collect me from the stop, he has had to board the bus to attract my attention.  I have arrived….

Things I can do without language…. almost.  Sit on the floor and piece together a Snow White jigsaw with a 2 year old.  Blow bubbles.  Not so successful with the king-sized version- much twirling and blowing, to no avail, but producing gales of laughter from 2 small girls, so a result in entertainment terms.  Bounce on a trampoline.  Peel potatoes.  Eat strawberries and icecream with Marysia and Pawel.  Take a walk around the neighbourhood.  But the biggest success?  Play dominoes with my Uncle Jakub, rolling back the years to when he and Dad played for many an hour.  He won, of course!  And kiss and cuddle my beloved Aunt Lusia….

Memories….  Andrzej, retired now, with time to ride on his motorbike, feed the rapidly growing ducklings with his granddaughters, and attempt to learn English on his Ipad with Duolingo.  Much scratching of head.  Silly English language!

His wife, lovely Jadzia, drives the bus for the local school for handicapped children.  On an event day in a nearby park, the children flock round her, eager to introduce themselves and curious about her company.  They dance with no inhibitions, inside a tent, and drive buggies, under casual supervision.  Blond and beautiful, Nadia attracts much attention.  Her mind is firmly on candyfloss.  ‘Zielony, prosze’ she insists.  Green….

Cousin Ewa, quietly but proudly showing me the shell of her home, with its rudimentary furnishings.  Her husband Henryk was building it for them when he died 3 years ago, and there is no money to finish it off.  The hardware business she was running has failed and she has moved in to the house to save rent.  ‘At least I am close to family.’ We sit by the open fire in the garden, bottles of beer in hand, turning the kielbasa on the homemade barbecue as evening fades.  Squeals as cousin Marysia plays hide and seek with the children.  And then peace….

The neighbourhood….

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Cathy is throwing out challenges left and right over at Wander.essence.  I thought I would enter this for Prose.  Part 2 will follow next week.

 

Anticipation and angst

I can’t remember a trip when I was quite so angst-ridden.  I do angst very thoroughly, and most trips, unless it’s my beloved Algarve, as the date for departure approaches I lose sleep worrying over the ‘what ifs?’  In my head I’m a control freak, but reality is often far beyond my control.

Lake Czorsztyn in the Pieniny Mountains

I well remember being let loose by the Polish family in the Pieniny Mountains.  A trip river rafting in the Dunajec Gorge was in the offing, but where to catch the bus?  My other half always reads timetables meticulously and was unconvinced either that we were in the right place, or that the bus would turn up.  This despite a visit to Tourist Information to enquire.  ‘You’re the one who speaks Polish!’ he said, accusingly.  If only this were so!  The sun beat down, and we waited.  And waited.  Eventually a tiny minibus pulled to the curb, destination unknown.  We looked at each other.  This one?  Fortunately a good-hearted, English speaking couple had witnessed our confusion.  They were going hiking in the Gorge.  “Come on!  We’ll tell you where to get off.”  Huge relief and, ultimately, one of my best ever days in Poland.

But I digress.  What makes this particular trip so worrisome?  I had always known that I would return to Dad’s homeland one day, even though Dad was no longer with me.  The Polish family were so kind, and so accepting when we walked into their lives after all those years of absence.  Dad was welcomed with open arms.  Here I was, going back alone, and still without the benefit of Polish language, try as I might to make sense of it.

You might recall from My Call to Poland that I have elderly family.  The need to see them is pressing, but I want to cause the least possible inconvenience.  This means not flying into Kraków and expecting to be driven 3 and a half hours north to the family home, which is what always happened when Dad was alive.  A wild notion had occurred to me.  My lovely Australian friend, Meg, was back in Warsaw for 6 weeks.  This might be an opportunity to see her again, however briefly.  It all hinged on whether I could find transport from Warsaw to Bełchatów.  When Gilly leapt, with gay abandon, onto the scene, announcing she had booked 3 days in Warsaw and was going to see Meg, it was just the catalyst I needed.

A sequence of emails took place.  Kind Adam, in Kraków, declared that I was welcome in his home at any time.  Lovely Jadzia in Bełchatów said that my timing was perfect to celebrate her birthday with her.  Meg, more than generously, offered to put me up for the night on my arrival in Warsaw.  I didn’t contact Gilly,  hoping to surprise her.  Now all I had to do was pore over online timetables.  Endless timetables!  Until my head hurt.  It wasn’t simple, but finally I secured a prized bus ticket from a Russian company- the small print indecipherable.

And speaking of language, it was again time to seek out my ‘Colloquial Polish’.  I started a course at a local college about 10 years ago and purchased the required book.  The course was discontinued, due to funding, long before I reached the end of the book, but I did acquire a lasting friendship- another lady with a Polish Dad.  Each time I have visited Poland I have started the book again, with renewed enthusiasm.  Never have I reached the last page, but it has accompanied me proudly on each of my visits, and sat on the table as a declaration of intent.  This time it must stay home as I need to travel light.  A pocket dictionary will have to do.

Transferring from Bełchatów to Kraków is equally problematic.  The train service I relied on has changed providers and disappeared.  Buses go in random directions, sometimes taking as long as 13 hours.  I could reach the Pacific in less time.  Angst heightens.  Meantime, Gilly asks questions about my visit.  Nothing to do but confess and hope she won’t mind my gatecrashing her meeting with Meg.  Assuming I can find them in the teeming metropolis.

And just as I’m about to embark on this journey, I discover that I’ve lost the coach tickets to visit my daughter in Nottingham, scheduled just days after my return from Poland!  I can’t reprint them because I don’t have the ticket number.  Much hunting and an email to the coach company.  It can only get better?  By the time you read this I should know the answer.

Meantime I’m linking to Cathy’s Anticipation & Preparation: Spain and Portugal in 2013 on Wander.essence.  It holds many fond memories for me.