Monday, 20 December 2010

Christmas countdown: 4 days left

I've been up for a couple of hours this morning, since I had to wake my son up early, so that he'd have enough time to get tired by noon - when some medical test in sleep is scheduled for him.

There is still no trace of the sun, I really have no idea as to the exact time it shows up these days. Our alarm clocks get us out of bed typically about eight o'clock, which means we're late for most of places but in quite a good mood.

So, as you may guess, I'm rather miserable today in those pitch dark, polar night like circumstances. But - I'm thinking about my twin brother who's just checking in at the London Luton Airport, where traffic was paralysed on Saturday. And I'm, every now and then, checking the on-line live flight information, because the word "cancelled" still tends to appear all to often. Anyway, I hope his pink Wizzair plane will carry him here today, to Wrocław.

At the same time, when I look through the news, I see I didn't have the slightest idea what was happening at the British airports last weekend. Thousands of passengers had to radically change their plans for Christmas.

And here - one of my absolutely favourite Christmas song. About another type of travelling strain.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Christmas countdown: 6 days left

The closer to Christmas it gets, the more I feel I won't be able to carry out all the plans. Fortunately, I won't have to put to death any carp or any other living creature, but cooking now seems to be a challenge - not to mention shopping for groceries preceding the cooking itself.

Of course, the closer to Christmas it gets, the more I am aware that it is and yet it is not about the ginger cookies and snow, and presents, most of which, by the way, are now hidden in the wardrobe of my "home office"*. They all matter only as the things that help (re)creating or strengthening the link with the others. Being tired as I am now, it's easier to let go of things that are secondary - say, some huge tidying up, cleaning the windows - to give just some examples of the activities traditionally linked with Christmas in Poland, which kill the housewives dead only to present them served on the Christmas table along with dumplings and cabbage. Now, more than ever,with that incredible chill outside and the rush of completing the last tasks before we're free to celebrate, it seems to me, that "togetherness" - is what Christmas is about. If I have any Christmas wishes, is that the Readers may experience just that.

* my office at my home, but also - the UK government department for immigration and passports, drugs policy, counter-terrorism, police, and science and research:)

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Christmas countdown: 9 days left

I've never believed that a picture is worth a thousand words (come on, words are like clay with which you can make entire worlds!) but take a look at these below. My husband took those pictures for our friend in India, who - after visiting our remote country a couple of times - expresses the strong will to return. He has even mastered quite a few words in Polish and keeps on learning new phrases, which we truly admire, as they must sound like real tongue-twisters. Even though we'd be happy to see him end up in here, we feel one should have a larger picture of what it is to live in that nearly polar circumstances (it's a joke! it's only moderate climate). So this is what winter is like in here. You wake up and start searching through the snow banks, and one of them may turn out to be your car. You're lucky when there's a helping hand (here - our sonny's):

PS. This night we are told to expect -20 degrees. Centigrade...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Christmas countdown: 10 days left

Yesterday we had a vast skating rink all around. Then came the snow, white, fluffy, like powdered sugar, with all those miriads of sparkles.
I've lost my gloves, which I'd had only for a month and with which I believed to have looked like a genuine lady. Heartbroken and mourning my gloves, I'm reading the BBC news, and lo! there's a note about Poland, too, which happens once or twice a qaurter of the year, always with respect to some embarrassing situation or failure.

So now they echo the stir made by the first Afro-American MP in the Polish Parliament. And here comes this:

Racism is still a problem in Poland, where it is not uncommon for well-educated people to make racist jokes, our correspondent says. 
Fristly. There are so few Afro-Americans in our country (they too, just like BBC news, may not find our "emerging economy" attractive enough), that you have to explain to the kids on pics that people may be different colour and that white is only one from many options.

Secondly: it's true, many people would not even know they'd told a racist joke. But, to be honest, I haven't heard anybody telling one for dozen or so years now. I believe we're a freindly nation that respects the others, especially the disrespected ones; we might not have had slavery in our history, but experienced all sorts of repression and deprivation. I hope I'm not too idealistic about that!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Christmas countdown: 13 days left

After a fabulous, white morning (it was quite a challenge, digging the car up from the snow), around lunch time (while I'm studying hard at my translation school) - it starts raining. What this gigantic snowmelt brings about are not merely some puddles, no: imagine a great deal of water, a sea, an ocean of water in the middle of a big city - and what it takes to find any dry patch to set your foot on! Swimming along the street, with my shoes completely soaked, I wonder if it's time we started building an ark.

In the meantime (again), our home ginger cookies factory goes on manufacturing first rate products! These are my daughetr's:

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Christmas countdown: 14 days left

I think children add some magical flavour, otherwise a bit forgotten by the adults, to waiting for Christmas. Our living room turns into one large (physically - very small, however!) artists' study, and Christmas decorations appear in wholesale amounts.

At present our son is also fascinated with the "Pettson and Findus" book series (Pettson och Findus in its original Swedish version). So we're reading. Those lovely, wise stories, so richly decorated, are, however, entirely devoid of "glamour" - an old lone man and his lively cat enjoy small things and have adventures as the small things begin to complicate.

Unmissable, for the kids and adults alike! :)

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Christmas countdown: 15 days left

I can't keep up with the days and the dates, and the time keeps counting down till Christmas by itself. There's no possibility to negotiate, to ask for at least half an hour daily more, and no business training on "how to make the others give you what you want" could teach me to extort even a couple of more minutes, not to mention days.

In the meantime, in which I think my life generally happens, we're busy preparing Christmas stuff. My daughter is painting with acrylic paints a box for ginger cookies, the ginger-flavoured dough's in the fridge and bedtime stories revolve around Christmas trees, waiting for the Santa and adventures on the snow.

Outside the window, the snow is melting and only now I know it was better with the frost. At the moment, the street is covered with the dirty porridge. Why can I never enjoy things on time?

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Christmas countdown: 19 days left

My daughter goes to a playdate - her classmate invites her to decorate ginger cookies together. In general, almost everyone I talked to today is baking, has just baked or is planning to bake ginger cookies. I've been eating them a lot recently, my favourite "Speculatius" - German Spiced Cookies.

Today the teachers at my postgraduate translation school are trying to spoil the fun of waiting for Christmas by making prophecies about tests and exams. First, I have to pull down my head from the clouds.

playdate - an arranged appointment for children to get together for a few hours to play

Friday, 3 December 2010

Christmas countdown: 20 days left

And yet, even in those Arctic conditions, you can find reasons to laugh out loud. Like for example this story about a woman in Kent, who called the police to inform that someone had stolen a snowman from outside her house. Which she said she noticed when she had gone outside "for a fag".

With my friend we're preparing presents for the classmates of our daughters, and I can't help thinking that I made a mistake the moment I entered the teacher-parent association. Wouldn't that be nicer to pay in a small amount of money and not to care anymore who will take care of organizing the Santa Claus' Day at school? So we need to organize one last thing: a "wrapping meeting" - which means meet and wrap up the presents that the other parents will feel free to criticise.

Christmas countdown: 21 days left

The journey to the pharmacy is like a pilgrimage through the desert of snow. I'm astounded how this short distance of about 300 meters changes in different seasons. In summer it's a short walk, long enough to take a break or find inspiration for a short blog post, but short enough not to get exhausted.

But not today. It's the end of the day, almost 7 p.m. I'm really amazed by this winter landscape, by this abundance of snow everywhere - to begin with the snow banks over the cars that people parked a couple of days ago and so they stay, and to finish with the streets, along which the cars are moving shakily, like modern amphibians. My shoes are wet inside, and those -10 degrees, in general, make my heart sink. Just like the whole municipal road service - I wasn't ready for winter.

PS. I had to change the headings to match the idea of countdown, which I realized only today - what a shame.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Christmas countdown: 22 days left

It's freezing cold. I'm freezing. Last year I said goodbye to my faux sheepskin coat before shutting the wardrobe's door forever, at least for that particular item of clothing which made me look like an old-age pensioner, a ball with four short limbs, or like Paddington Brown in winter. So I'm wearing my Coco Chanel-like (Id' like to believe) salt-and-pepper flimsy overcoat and I wonder, what price I am going to pay for the sake of fashionable (hopefully) looks. Pneumonia?

The frost is -9, my Firefox toolbar kindly reports, but "it feels like -17". My son, even in his thick snowsuit, refuses to go out, but still, we have to go and believe me, today we're closer than ever to the Arctic Circle. I know, the Emperor Penguins are far braver, they can stand even minus forty something (degrees Centigrade, not Fahrenheit!). I quickly organize self-help in those unfavourable conditions: my staple diet is fat cheese, herrings, chocolate and hot coffee. Towards the end of winter I'll surely be as slim as Claudia Schiffer in her prime.

In those survival conditions, when all I'd like to do is glue myself to the radiator, I take a break from work to look through some books that might make nice Christmas gifts. They are very good books, insightful, interesting, all "must-have"s. Then I realize these are actually the books I myself would like to find under the Christmas tree. Oops.

faux = artificial
in one's prime = at one's best age

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Christmas countdown: 23 days left

When I'm driving my son to his sensomotoric rehabilitation lesson, I skid and swerve on the snowplough forgotten streets. But the journey past the Szczytnicki Park is a feast for the eyes: the old thick fir trees, planted by Germans when they used to live here before WW2, with their heavy snow caps make it all look like Narnia, or some other fairy-tale setting.

Later, as I'm pushing my trolley around the shopping mall and searching for products to be exchanged for a gift voucher that expires today, I'm trying to picture some Christmas presents for all the kids in the family. Not to mention the adults. This year I have virtually no ideas, except for the suspension bridge for a woodem railway that my son has asked Santa Claus so expressly for. The rest is vague, which nicely matches my ignorance of my relatives' dreams and wishes. The more I dig into the shelves, the more obscure those visions become. Some shapes are slowly emerging from the alarming emptiness in my head and I wonder if that process will ever reach the speed necessary to make it before the Christmas Eve. I'm not panicking, ok?

Monday, 29 November 2010

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

November passed in the blink of the eye, it seems, although it was tough; days went by to the rythm of the plagues of Egypt, with the kids falling ill from all sorts of viruses - and I'll spare you details.

I somehow cannot keep up with the pace of the changing seasons; I opted for fixing the golden and red leaves to the branches permanently, but no, everything is gone, and what we're getting outisde the window is the monochromatic blend of black and grey, and from today on - white. Only in the shopping malls can you get the blinding extravaganza of colours, unfortunately in the form of the utter kitch of Christmas decor. Thank God I have children, they are so happy about the snow that I have no choice but to share their enthusiasm, while contemplating if we have enough warm caps, scarfs and most importantly - gloves. And also, I participate in their joy of writing to Santa Claus, even though I have to schedule somehow buying the items they describe.

And in Wales they had the coldest night in the last 89 years, with the temperature plunging to -18. Maybe it's not so bbad here, after all:)

Sunday, 31 October 2010

the history of love

I rarely rewrite somebody else's prose. Only at times when I like it so immensely that I would like to memorize each word in it. So forgive me doing it now, so openly in the public, but the topic seems to suit the occasion, anyway.

And one more thing: I have digged this book out of my vast book collection, equipped during that short time when the second hand clothes shop near my childrens' kindergarten offered books in English, and offered them at ridiculous prices. I knew it wouldn't last, so each Wednesday I made the effort to be there. After buying it, I forgot about that book and put it into the queue of volumes waitning to be read one day.

Two or three weeks ago one of my students said she was reading a book about an old man who goes out to a sport shoe shop and asks for modern sneakers only to get the chance of speaking to somebody. When she said the title, History of Love, I remembered I had it on my bookshelf. Do not let the apparent banality of the title mislead you as to the content. It goes back as Shoah and as far as Poland, from New York, where it is set.
The fragment - below.

by Nicole Krauss

Suddenly I was filled with regret that I'd bought my plot so prematurely . . . . I'd been afraid of being left to the dogs. I'd gone to Mrs. Freid's stone setting at Pinelawn [a NY cemetery], and it seemed like a nice place. A Mr. Simchik showed me around and gave me a pamphlet. I'd been imagining something under a tree, a weeping willow perhaps, maybe a little bench. But. When he told me the price my heart sank. He showed me my options, a few plots that were either too close to the road or where the grass was balding. Nothing at all with a tree? I asked. Simchik shook his head. A bush? He licked a finger and rustled through his papers. He hemmed and hawed, but finally he gave in. We may have something, he said, it's more than you were planning to spend but you can pay in instalments. It was at the far end, in the subarbs of the Jewish part. It wasn't exactly under a tree but it was near one, near enough that during the fall some of its leaves might drift down to me. I thought it over. Simchik told me to take my time and went back to the office. I stood in the sunlight. Then I got down on the grass and rolled onto my back. The ground was hard and cold under my raincoat. I watched the clouds pass above. Maybe I fell asleep. The next thing I knew, Simchik was standing above me. Nu? You'll take it?

plot - dziełka; tu: kwatera (na cmentarzu)
prematurely - przedwcześnie
a Mr. Simchik - "a" znaczy tu "niejaki"
a pamphlet - broszura
weeping willow - wierzba płacząca
was balding - przerzedzała się
hem and haw - jąkać się (przed daniem odpowiedzi)
pay in instalments - płacić w ratach

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

music's in the air

So. The 16th International Chopin Piano Competition almost finishing, today's the last day of final stage performances. It was strange, though, being submerged in listening for so many days, with all the possibilities offered by modern technology - live on-line broadcasting in HD - can you imagine that?!? When I couldn't be there watching, the cell phone radio and headset came in handy. Of course, the only place in which it was absolutely impossible to listen to the transmissions from Warsaw Philharmonic was the shopping precinct nearby; the aerial would get no signal at all. That's why I gave up shopping in October altogether, the Competition is only once in five years, many things can wait.

I hope to see favourite player, Ingolf Wunder, in the prize winners' concert. What an ethereal October it was.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

found elsewhere

With the school year beginning as soon as tomorrow (how come the holidays are already over?), I'm back to teacher-blogging as well. I don't hope to change the world or to bring education to far end of the world, and I hope I'm not a recent blog-writing fashion victim. I only bring together the two hobbies of teaching and writing and this is a good spot to accomplish that.

Following my recent discussions with my friends about tv news and why I don't watch it anymore (I think it is too much for a sane person to bear in just one evening), I'm posting this anecdote I've read only today. Really like it:)

“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.”

“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”

“Because I’m afraid He would ask me the same question.”

Sunday, 20 June 2010

my blueberry nights

My days have been strawberry and my nights have been sleepless due to my daughter's severe cough. Despite that cough, I managed to watch My Bleberry Nights - the film I'd planned to see a long time before.
The film was not a disappointment. I generally like films in which plot is secondary, and in which the plot is made, to a large extent, by pictures, by objects that make the inner points of reference and give rise to a new system of metaphors and symbols, which are meaningful not only to the characters, but also which the audience is invited to share. So, the film is like a chamber music concert, creating this closed-circle impression, when you get this feeling intimacy with the characters, and the film makers as well.

And it is Jude Law who steals the show, not the actor that I used to like much before. He shows a powerful array of simple expression tools, to start with his face and finish with his Mancunian accent ("me mommy told me"), pleasurable to listen to against the American English of the others. Rachel Weisz + uses her beauty, but it doesn't take long till you stop envying her that. Natalie Portman puts her cheekiness at stake, her youthful insolence, which is appealing, but I'd seen it in Closer already. And Nora Jones, unfortunately, must have been auditioned to the film by mistake. From the beginning to the end, her face remains dull, uninteresting, expressionless. Even though Jude Law makes up for this void, her inability to show emotions, except from the initial rage, gives the film a flaw.

But I can help it, I simply imagine Wong Kar Wai to have chosen Audrey Tatou instead. Her acting would have made a nice counterpart for Jude Law's nuances. But maybe then the film would be too cute to watch.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

trying my hand at system solutions

I've been to a seminar about system solutions today.
If I was to summarize what are system soultions and system thinking, I would say, this is big-picture thinking, looking at a problem from a distance, taking a panoramic view especially at the problems that seem too complex and to intertwined into one another ("messy" or "wicked" problems) that you feel you can no longer handle them in a simple cause&effect manner.
What I like most in it is not only, and not most, the kind of analysis - or meta-analysis - that you have to conduct, and then synthesise the effects into coprehensive graph or set of interrelated pictures. What I like most about system thinking that it demands cooperation. It is based on brainstorming and synergy. Everyone can contribute, and the rules result from, and aim at satisfying, everybody's needs.
During the seminar today we played strategic games and that was truly insightful. If I get the chance, I'll go again.

Friday, 4 June 2010

You can find my review of "The White Ribbon" - Michael Haneke's movie - here.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

the bright side

I'm trying to resist this rather natural inclination for complaining about the weather. After all, it is rather banal and even though you pour out a n umber of words that would somehow match the unusual amounts of rainwater, you're left as helpless as you were before. In short, complaning doesn't help.

I was ready to adopt another manner, of taking things as they are and making the best of them. So, I could buy myself colourful patterned wellingtones, or black stiletto wellingtones which should be available by now. I've already got a stylish large white umbrella, with "Paris" written on it in silver print, which some Italian delegation left at my husband's corporation.

But I feel that whatever I do, I don't think I'll be able to stand this omnipresent dampness much longer. Reminds me of my dear Frank McCourt and his memoirs, when he describes Ireland:

From October to April the walls of Limerick glisten with the damp. Clothes never dried: tweed and woolen coats housed living things, sometimes sprouted mysterious vegetations. In pubs, steam rose from our bodies and garments to be inhaled with cigarette and pipe smoke [...]

So there is some bright side to look up to - in Poland this amount of damp is only an anomaly. And with the dedication to all my students - minus the nihilist streaks (life's not a piece of shit, after all:)

Friday, 28 May 2010

i'm not a plastic bag

I like plastic bags, they're great to use in the rubbish bin. Besides, I tend to forget about taking any shopping bag with me, because I typically land at the grocer's or in a supermarket nearby bewteen the other items of schedule; it simply takes place when I notice that in the fridge there's nothing but the tiny lamp.

But probably this attitude results from my ignorance, and I should become a more organised and ecology-conscious shopper. Unfortunately, I hate those green bags available all around that make you look like a pensioneer. Maybe I simply haven't found the right bag yet.

And now this is the "i'm not a plastic bag" I've mentioned to you during our last class:

Friday, 21 May 2010

the script

And that's the script that I've prepared to the film from the previous entry:


With winds up to three hundred miles an hour and billion dollar pars of destruction, tornadoes are some of the least understood phenomena in nature. For years meteorologists and scientists have been trying to decipher how and when tornadoes form. That’s why electronics engineer, Tim Samaras and his team of storm chasers, hit straight for the action when everyone else is running away. Samaras travels with all sorts of low and high-tech tracking devices, whatever it gets to get closer than anyone has ever been.

In the back of Tim’s van are six 45-pound probes packed with instruments that measure barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, temperature and humidity. Any measurements these robes get from the center of the tornado will become the basis of a better understanding of how they form and how they maintain their strength.

Photo engineers at National Geographic designed a probe and stuffed full of still and video cameras with the hope it will survive the onslaught of these violent storms. If they can somehow manage to set down their probes directly into the tornado’s path, will the devices be able to record anything, or will they be smashed to smithereens?

First things first. Getting Mother Nature to cooperate.

In the spring when warm humid air rushing up form the south collides with cooler dry air, pushing down form Canada, severe storms or supercells are formed. When these masses collide, conditions are ripe for tornado formation. But scientists still are not sure exactly what in these conditions causes a tornado to form. And when you take a look, it’s obvious that although they generally form under the same conditions they come in all shapes and sizes.
More than one thousand tornadoes touch down every year in the US, the majority forming in the swath of the Central Plains, known as “Tornado Alley”.

The team pair sets out on May 3rd, towards the promising set of conditions in the Texas Panhandle*. Over the next six weeks they rack up over twenty five thousand miles, as they criss-cross the state hunting for that elusive perfect location. But when all goes well, the action is fast and furious. For Tim, he needs less than 10 seconds to flip the switch, make sure the probe is facing north and run back to the car. Then, back to waiting, hoping the tornado doesn’t swerve. For once, the storm chasers have luck on their side. They get their probes into position just minutes before the massive tornado hits.

[Samaras]:“This probe 3. You can actually tell, this side of the probe was actually the one facing the tornado, as you can see, there’s lots of debris packs where who knows what actually impacted the probe.”

With the new data form the probe, Tim made a surprising discovery. The barometric pressure inside the tornado drops further than anyone realized, helping to explain why tornadoes maintain their strength. The probe recorded images form the edge of the twister, but none form inside the tornado.

“The closer I come to that type of natural phenomens, the more you can detect them or discover them, the bigger is the fascination”. (Carsten Peter)

weather permitting

The other day we were wondering with my intermediate students why weather is such a good topic to talk about, and the answer came with a text from the coursebook. It seems that nobody may suffer from any sort of inferiority complex, as far as the "weather small talk" is concerned, because our knowledge in the field is based chiefly on experience and everybody shares some common knowledge in the area. In politics and tatstes in art people may disagree; with the weather - it is always safe to complain and always possible to find some kind of solidarity against natural misfortuness.

However, the text said something new about why weather forecasts belong to one of the most watched programms on TV. Leaving aside information, it offers you entertainment and excitement, like a good action movie, sometimes - even a thriller. Also before the potential flood.

I promised you the link to National Geographic movie about tornado hunters, so here it is.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

thank God I'm a woman

I used to think of myself as "quite a good driver". Of course, I'm careless about the car paint scratches and minor indentations; I need a kind of vehicle they drive in Paris - not an idol to worship, but a tool to move from place to place. The car I drive is four years old and red, bright red - how can you be seriously concerned about a car which looks so frivolous, flippant, almost like a joke in itself?
Maybe that's why I'm a relaxed driver, even though my experience is only 3 years of driving along the streets of Wrocław. I never care too much about parking, I can slide even into a mousehole, approaching the cars that are already there by just a few inches. I hurry up, drive past the yellow light and change the lane a couple of times. At least I used to do that till yesterday, when I crashed into another car, unable to brake on the wet cobblestone. The damage to a young boy's red audi was almost invsible, but I suppose, his car meant a lot to him, because the outrage that took place three seconds after the accident has been haunting me ever since. I'd never met anyone so furious and irrational until that very moment. There was calling the police, even though I said from the very start it was my fault and was ready to give my insurance number, my kids crying on the back seat at he fact that I'd be taken to jail, slamming the door in front of my face, and the like.
But I survived. With the help of a couple of people, who came to rescue. I'm looking at the separated spoiler of my red car. And I couldn't care less.

indentation - wgniecenie
idol - tu: bożek
flippant - niepoważny
cobblestone - kostka brukowa
outrage = anger, violence
haunt - prześladować
slam the door - trzasnąć drzwiami
and the like - i tym podobne

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

still thunderstruck, but (a)live

Second thoughts:
after all. it is a rock&roll masterpiece. The live version is just flawless - that's the quality that is typycally out of reach for the majority of the musicians. And when I look at the band's faces, I understand that you can only be good at something when you really love doing it.
Same with teaching:)

Monday, 17 May 2010

thunderstruck in the midday rain

It comes to me around noon, when I'm on my way back home, driving my car in heavy showers that are said not to stop pouring till the end of the week. In these gloomy, sleepy circumstances, I hear on the radio ("Trójka") the beginning of the song that I used to be crazy about as a teenager. It starts with that incredible guitar riff, listening to which I recall all the subsequent phrases. And I can't believe it was twenty years ago. So, I'm smiling to myself at the memory of singing the song feverishly along with the musicians, shouting it almost out together with my twin brother, jumping and all that stuff. It's not that I consider the song a masterpiece, it's not that I cherish this type of music anymore, it's just a childhood memory. So please, do forgive me.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

cinema goers 2

Unfortunaltely, the nearest DVD library went bankrupt. That's what I discover with dissapointment. I suppose it must have been a side effect of piracy and the women's magazines which enclose a dvd to every isuue.
I decide not to go to another DVD shop, with a more enterprising and energetic boss, as I imagine him to be. I suppose he might be a mafioso of some sort, as he holds a whole chain of such libraries which include a discreet room behind a drab curtain, with a large caption "for adults only". The library itself shares the room with a pawn shop, and as I resent both - pornography and money lending, I decide to wait until some idiotic women's magazine will offer "Sherlock Holmes" along with the photos of the newest hairstyle trends.

Fortunately, my friend and neighbour from the next block of flats says she's got The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler (the title thought to scare off the audience, I'm afraid) right from the Town Library, and she can lend it to us for the evening. Mentally, I've been in the WW 2 since the plane crash in Smolensk, when I started reading a thick book about Katyń, so I'm glad to watch this biographical movie. I'm also glad to watch Goran Visnjic (don't ask me how to pronounce his name), an old handsome acquaintace from the ER series (Dr Kovac) and Spartacus, here playing the part of Irena's fiance of Jewish origin. Not to mention Anna Paquin - yes, the one who played the litlle girl in The Piano. She makes an outstanding Irena, someone whose inner strength just takes you aback. As a mother, I'm torn to pieces by the scenes of parent-child farewells, but on the whole, I don't think ignorance is bliss, so I keep on watching.

In short, it was a good evening. And now, good night to all.

pawn shop - lombard
ignorance is bliss - niewiedza jest błogosławieństwem

Saturday, 15 May 2010

cinema goers

Our double free cinema ticket expires in September. We've got it since the end of Novemnber, but somehow we can't get to go to the cinema. It's not that I want to complain about family life, because it offers you lots of entertainment of other sort than visiting a crowded multiplex - even if it is for free. I'm just wondering if we can make it at all in the remaining 4 months.

I and my husband, Andy, were going to see "Robin Hood" tonight. The ancient "Robin Hood" series (now a bit obsolete?) with Michael Praed and Jason Connery belonged to my first learning English materials and I get sentimental whenever I hear the name of the English hero from The Sherwood Forest. Kevin Costner as Robin Hood was far too cute and melodramatic, and Russel seems to be a really gloomy one. I also believe that would be the first time (in the last 8 years) that we'd seen a film right after its cinema release. Typically it happens only after it becomes available on dvd in libraries.

Anyway, all that would have been or would be. Our plan failed as usual. But this time, Andy simply got a fever. But wait, I think Sherlock Holmes is already on dvd...

Friday, 7 May 2010

an expert

When you go to a job interview, you typically put on a freshly laundered and ironed shirt, rehearse in front of the mirror why you are applying for the job, and on the way to the event - mumble to yourself the list of your good points, point by point. That must have been the same for Guy Goma, a business studies graduate from the Republic of Congo, who applied for an IT job at the BBC.

But instead of being invited to a conversation with the manager, he fell victim to a mistake - and was taken right from the waiting room to the television studio. For what? To participate in a live interview. Then he was introduced by the interviewer to the audiences of the tv broadcast as an expert on information technology and was asked about his opionion on the issue of free music downloads, since a court case verdict regarding that subject came out that very day.

You can see here both: the terror and confusion on Guy Goma's face, but also - the poker face of the interviewer, who thought she was talking to Guy Kewney, the British technology expert.

Don't laugh your heads off:)

lovely day

It's not merely drizzly. It's not something we call "a small portion of cabbage soup", either.

It's pouring with rain, and the sky is the colour that toilet paper used to have in the old times when goods were rationed in shops, and in order to get your toilet roll you had to queue for an hour in a crowd of people. When "they threw it" (the paper) onto the shelves, of course, which did not happen all to often.

For these dramatic weather conditions, which undermine everybody's morale and make people think of moving southward, the only solution is to organize ourselves into some sort of support group, with "non-professional and non-material help".

So, here's to you

Thursday, 6 May 2010

lovely day

It's not merely drizzly. It's not something we call "a small portion of cabbage soup", either.

It's pouring with rain, and the sky is the colour that toilet paper used to have in the old times when goods were rationed in shops, and in order to get your toilet roll you had to queue for an hour in a crowd of people. When "they threw it" (the paper) onto the shelves, of course, which did not happen all to often.

For these dramatic weather conditions, which undermine everybody's morale and make people think of moving southward, the only solution is to organize ourselves into some sort of support group, with "non-professional and non-material help".

So, here's to you:

Thursday, 29 April 2010


The life of a teacher abounds in surprising events. I hope to read some account of that in Frank McCourt's Teacher Man, the third part of his memoirs that I read at a breathtaking speed last year and mourned the author's death right on my birthday, on 19 July 2009. But at the moment I'm reading three other books in slow motion, unable to find the so called "free" time bewteen family, work and household.
I don't know for what reasons the other people like their jobs, but I can't imagine NOT teaching, and not teaching groups. A course group is like a chemical compound, to which every element adds some unique feature. And some sparkle of inventiveness, too.
Take yesterday, for instance. That's how one of my students sent me her homework. In the jpg format. I was impressed by that combination of old paper&pen tradition with high-tech.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

TLT, or total lifestyle transformation

What seems to be a recurrent topic of the last few days is the issue of transformation of habits and lifestyle - the coursebooks are packed with fresh ideas that nicley match the spring, sun and the like. I myself have been an owner of a monthly fitness club ticket which I got from my husband for the International Women's Day. I guess I'd prefer a book or a 1500-piece jigsaw puzzle, like this one for example:

Which does not mean I'm not an active person; perhaps I'm just more keen on cerebral activity than swinging your limbs in all possible directions in slow motion (take Pilates classes, for example - not much is going on except for the fact that you feel your every single muscle stretch to what seems to be its ultimate limit).

Anyway, because of that gift ticket, which includes all sorts of physical exercise classes three times a week, I've fallen victim to a total lifestyle transformation. Do I feel refreshed? Hard to say. I need painkillers to be able to walk because of very painful muscle sores, not to mention getting into and out of the car, which takes me quite a few minutes accompanied by moaning and swearing. In a way, I remember I used to be quite a fit person before I started practising TBC and all the rest; now I can barely move, my eyes are bloodshot and I'd be glad to spend most of my free time sleeping after the huge effort of following the fitness instructor.

So, don't exaggerate with changing your lives; atfer all, couch potatoes can be nice people, too;)

recurrent - powracający
and the like - i tym podobne
cerebral = connected with the brain
limbs - kończyny, członki
in slow motion - w zwolnionym tempie
to fall victim (to sth) - paść ofiarą (czegoś)
painkiller - środek przeciwbólowy
muscle sores - zakwasy
moan - jęczeć
TBC = total body condition
bloodshot - przekrwione

Saturday, 20 March 2010

le sapeurs

To follow up our last meeting with my students, I'd like to ask you if you have heard about people who would sacrifice everything for designer labels and fashy clothes? I guess your answer will be yes, maybe you've even seen the Cofessions of a Shopaholic and you know that some fashion-lovers can't be warned even by the debt collector. But if I continue saying that these people may be found at the heart of the "Black Continent", in Congo, in shabby impoverished neighbourhoods - wouldn't you at least be a bit surprised? Take a look for example at this relaxed gentleman:

Or even a more relaxed gentleman:

Those people contrasting so strongly with their surroundings are called the spaeurs - form the French abbreviation SAPE - Societe des Ambienceurs et Personnes Elegantes (which may be transleted as the "society of atmosphere setters and elegant persons"). It wouldn't be at all strange for such society to exist, if not the fact that they often consist of the unemployed who spare on food or turn to crime in order to be able to afford getting the clothes.

You can view a slide show of photographs by Francesco Giusti and read an article about the sapeurs here.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

love your neighbour

With my brilliant intermediate students we've been lately meditating on the complexity of social issues in Great Britain, or - tu put it clear - on the problems with neighbours that you might encounter when living there. In order to fully realize why the British may freak out in relations with their neighbours, you should have a look at a typical street in Luton, near London:

What you see is a row of terraced houses, of a cookie-cutter type, where you might easily mistake somebody else's door for your own, as they do not differ much. When you look a bit closer, you'll find out in addition that the space between each two doors is really tiny. No wonder that when you come up with the idea to leave your garbage outside your door, your neighbour will treat it as a treacherous attempt on his life, or at least - as a health hazard.

Here the door is even more visible behind my back. Another striking fact is that the floor of a terraced house is on the level of the pavement, which gives the impression of actually living on the street.
Still, for me, those red Siamese houses have that wonderful air of the "Britishness" - provided that I can just walk along, disregarding the matters of noisy neighbouhood.
PS I request my students not to use my photo for the purpose of voo-doo practices - no matter how angry with me they might get:)
love your neighbour - miłuj bliźniego swego / kochaj swojego sąsiada (neighbour - 1. sąsiad, 2. bibl bliźni)
encounter - napotkać
terraced house - segment zabudowy szeregowej
cookie-cutter - foremka do ciastek; tu: sztampowy, na jedno kopyto
tiny=very little
treacherous - podstępny
attempt (on) - zamach na
pavement - chodnik
Siamese - syjamski
provided that - pod warunkiem, ze
disregard - nie zwazać na coś

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

tea or coffee?

Luckily for me, my chronobiogical devices comply with my lifestyle, which, in turn, is greatly affected by the circumstances of my job. In short, I work late. I start work when most of people have just finished. If you ask me about the good points, there are many. When I'm rushing to my language school downtown, I have no problems with traffic jams, because everybody is on their way home, just in the opposite direction. Also, my brain works better, the later it gets (within certain limits, of course - at midnight I'm a dead teacher and a dead person, anyway) and I don't need any additional stimulation (take, for instance, caffein) to be conscious in the afternoon or evening.
But what can I say about my mornings? First, I need a crane to lift me up from bed and arrange my numb limbs in some more or less vertical position. My kids play that role quite efficiently and effectively. Then, I need to hold my head with both hands in order not to drop it somewhere and then have difficulties searching it among toys and clothes. And then, when I've brought my kids to the kindergarten and my husband to work - and when the time is ripe to think of a breakfast, this crucial question arises: tea or coffee first? It's not Hamlet's "to be or not to be", but still, that is the question...

comply with - zgadzać się
downtown = in the city centre
conscious - przytomny
crane - dźwig
numb limbs - odrętwiałe członki
vertical - pionowy
ripe - dojrzały
crucial - kluczowe
arise - pojawiać się

Saturday, 27 February 2010

just following my nose

I have caught a bad cold. I wish it was a flu - something more obvious and easier to deal with. The treatment of flu is as plain as the nose in your head: more time in bed, more hot tea with lemon and honey, and some paracetamol to lower the temperature. But with the common cold the thing is not as easy. No fever, perhaps just the temperature increased by some minor quantity, no collapsing in the middle of the room; seemingly, you only have a running nose. But these are just the appearances. When your nose is blocked and you think that your head is about to explode, you're devoid of oxygen and nearly in danger of suffocation (at least that's what a hypohondriac would insist on). The whole world seems to have shrunk to the size of your nostrils, as this is the only subject you can really focus on. All the sane part of humanity is out, walking, bicycling and warming their faces up in the first and long awaited rays of sun - like my husband and kids, for example. But all that fun is not for you; anyway, you see no further than your nose.

follow one's nose - kierować się instynktem
as plain as the nose in your face = completely obious
(common) cold - przeziębienie
collapse - tu: zemdleć, osunąć się na ziemię
shrink-shrank-shrunk - skurczyć się
nostrils - nozdrza
sane - zdrowy (psychicznie)
see no further than one's nose - widzieć tylko czubek własnego nosa

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

and the winner is...

Since there were no right answers to the quiz question (in fact, there were no answers at all), the prize goes to me. Which means I'll keep it to myself plus I'll keep it secret. No use guessing what it was, too late, so to speak.

But I won't be so nasty to keep the right answer to my own self, therefore, if you haven't googled that one yet, El Chombo's song is in "gibberish" (here you'll find the full wikipedia definition). I can only summarize that this is a nonsense language, a category which my 6-year old daughter tends to use when she wants to sound foreign, with only that difference that she calls her self-made language "hamburgerski" (hamburegrian?). It doesn not derive from the word "hamburger", as she's never eaten one in her lifetime and hopefully, she never will. Although, on the other hand, it's likely she's seen a McD commercial on tv.

On our first and only, so far, class with the FCE students, the topic of old devices was mentioned - like walkmans, for example. So, to continue on that topic, I myself remember another antique equipment: a tape recorder by Kasprzak, on which, as a child, I recorded my own songs in gibberish. "Babuleebes blow" was one of them. But it's another story.

so to speak - rzec by można
derive - wywodzić się
it's likely = it's very probable
first and only - pierwsza i jedyna

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Quiz! Quiz! Multilingual Quiz!

On this last Saturday of carnival (from Latin "carnus" = body) I've prepared a really difiicult quiz, based on listening comprehension. Your task is to say what are the lirycs of this song about:

The winner will be offered an award prepared by the author of this blog. Good luck!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

we will dye for you

My intermediate Tue/Thu students found it funny, that there's a law in Kentucky saying that if you want to sell chicks or ducklings, you mustn't dye them a different colour*. The very idea od dying chicks seems weird, as it is more probable that you might wish to dye your hair blond or your clothes - violet, which the woman's wear brands try to make us believe is so fashionable these days. The issue of dying, in turn, made me remember one advert on the window display of a dry cleaner's in Baker Street, London, not far away from The Sherlock Holmes Museum:

Long live the copyrighters! Truly we live in the concptual age of creativity.

dye - farbować (pronounced the same way as "die" = umierać)

e.g. dye one's hair blond

woman's wear brands - marki odziezy damskiej


in turn - z kolei

dry cleaner's - pralnia chemiczna

*in the text from The English Result Intermediate, p. 48

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

time capsule

Each time I get in my car this winter, I feel as if I was boarding on a time vehicle. Due to some disruptions in the battery operation, I guess, the clock must have stopped and it shows the mysterious date of 1.1.1997 (not the year that the car had been manufactured; it's 2005, as I far as I remember) and the time of 00:00:00. That lasts during the whole journey, and not a single minute passes on the electronic display. Maybe it's a real moment when the time stops; maybe on my car I don't get any older and maybe - maybe I should think of making a business turning it into a "youth&beauty capsule", in which no signle wrinkle will show on your face. What's worse, on my tape recorder (yes, you've heard it right, an antique TAPE recorder, for tapes and not CDs) I play the audiobook by Maeve Binchy "Nights of Rain and Stars" (definitely not a literary Nobel Award candidate, but in English and it costed only 4 pln in a second hand clothes shop) from 2004, and the story is set in the middle of summer on a small Greek island. Which makes the whole matter of car driving even more fabulous.
My little refuge from -19 degrees Centigrade and less:)

board on - wsiadać (na statek, do samolotu, autokaru)
disruption - przerwa, zakłócenie
battery - tu: akumulator
display - wyświetlacz
wrinkle - zmarszczka
antique - zabytkowy
refuge - schronienie
degrees Centigrade - stopni Celsjusza

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

more postcards from ny

Radio Zet is definitely not my favourite radio station, but today it's so freezing cold that they can provide some heat with their lively music. So, tapping on my keyboard another translation of a lengthy text, I heard about some photos of the Big Apple from one of the radio's journalists. I liked two of them especially, the ones that somewhat remind of the Americans' mythical "no problem" attitude. And our last lesson with the OLC group. Enjoy.


Both photos by Marzena Chełminiak.

the Big Apple - nickname for New York

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

winter in 5th avenue

Moreover, I decided to check if my imagination of today and the 5th Avenue was probable, so I went elsewhere in the net. They don't seem t be down in the mouth, the Americans, but rather cheerful and attached to their national symbols as usual. Check the photo from today:

The original one is HERE.


Amazing how much you can learn from one single webpage. New York is cloudy today, but it's not raining. It takes a while to convert Farenheit to Celsius, but there's a separate website for that, too. So, it's about 4 degrees Centigrade in the 5th Avenue. Imagine that, people walking in nice overcoats and colourful headwear, some of them maybe even bicycling.
On that very same webpage I can also play hangman in search of new English words. Read the article of the day and improve my spelling. Afetrwards, check any word that pleases me. It'a all available HERE. I take the liberty to recommend it, although no one asked me for that.

That makes me wonder, of course, what teacher's or translator's life was like before the invention of the Internet. So, thank you, geniuses form CERN, who came up with that a few decades ago.

Don't know what the abbreviation CERN stands for? Simply google it. It's as simple as that:)

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

do teachers love tests?

I've been busy these days writing tests for my students. Intermediate, upper-intermediate and the like.

If you think that writing tests is a trifle, a pleasant free time activity, a little diversion from everyday routine - you're wrong. It is also not an act of vegneance, a way to expose your students imbecility or to punish them for not working hard enough during the term. There are so many objectives that a good test has to meet, I believe, that writing it is really time consuming and exhausting. Whenever I write a test, I have to ask myself this essential question: Have I succeeded? Am I sure the input was clear and practised long enough to be tested? So, that's the first thing I need to bear in mind.

Second thing - is the context I am providing in the exercises on the appropriate level of difficulty? In other words: is the topic of the exercise designed for practising present simple and continuous on an equally simple level? Because I could make sentences about silkworm cocoons and then, would my rookies understand anything of it?

Thirdly, the exercises must be composed in such a way, that an intelligent student will learn from them the things he/she doesn't know or knows only slightly. Even if he/she happens not to understand every single word or phrase - the test must expose enough clarity and logic so that the students can figure some things out by themselves.

So, it's all not just a piece of cake. I'll have a cake now, though, as a reward for doing this excellent job of writing tests. I need calories, for soon I'll have to be checking how my students did in the test. But that's another story...

a trifle - igraszka
diversion - odmiana
an act of vengeance - akt zemsty
objectives = goals
silkworm cocoons - kokony jedwabników
rookie - nowicjusz
a piece of cake (idiom) = bułka z masłem
bear in mind - mieć na uwadze

Friday, 8 January 2010

bad morning

I don't know how about your New Year's resolution, but I have made just one - a very simple and, say, technical one. To improve our mornings, whichalways take the shape of mad rush, because we are already late to everywhere when we open our eyes. So I set my alarm clock 10 minutes earlier each day, in order to gradually arrive at the desired timing (if I suddenly decided to get up one hour earlier than usual, I would surely die of a heart attack). And with all the winter freezing temperatures, getting ready to kindergarten and work is not easy: all those clothes, jackets, overalls, plus caps and scarfs and mufflers that get lost and can't be seen anywhere - it used to drive me crazy. Today, however, the morning was almost perfect. Except for that part in which me and my husband found out that our son had left his kindergarten slippers in his self-made rocket (out of a cardboard box) at home.
To cheer you up a notch, I'm including this hilarious short scene:

Monday, 4 January 2010

back to earth

One of my brilliant students a couple of years ago came up with the idea of "New Year's Depression" and we devoted some time to exlopring this notion. I guess it was supposed to be something quite opposite to before-Christmas excitement, a kind of recovery after the cheer and joy and jingle bells, or, you might say, a hard landing in the crude, down-to-earth reality. Plus the winter landscape.
So, we have to join forces fighting it back. Describing everyday of an E.T. (English Teacher) might be a way.

come up with - wymyslić, wpaść na coś
notion - pojecie
recovery - także: odzyskanie przytomności
hard landing - twarde lądowanie
crude - surowy
down-to-earth - przyziemny
E.T. = extraterrestrial - byt pozaziemski