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Sunday, 26 April 2015

338: Keep on running

I firmly believe that running is one of the keys to living healthily. I enjoy eating (they used to call me dustbin Des because I would eat anything and everything in sight) and drinking (who me?). I'm convinced that running, or jogging in my case, helps to keep the weight down. Of course it's not the only way to stay in shape. I could always try eating less or walking more often and further, or even take up smoking again! So this "motivational" poster is not really for me (these days I can spill my beer even when I'm just holding it) . But it's funny, nevertheless.

Today is the London Marathon. This is generally considered to be one of the best marathons in the world. I think this accolade has been awarded because of the organisation, the route, the rousing support given by the spectators, the goody bags, and the pre- and post-run activities.
I can speak from experience having run the London marathon twice, in my (slightly!) younger days. My first marathon was on my 44th birthday. Underneath the photos I have included (again) a video clip from Chariots of Fire. Probably my all-time favourite motivational music. I wonder how many times my Face Book friend Bryony Shabli will have heard it on her way round the course today.

Today there is also a 10KM run in Warsaw. I saw quite a few athletes on the metro this afternoon. Mostly they were still glowing from the endorphins. If only I'd known. But I am taking part in a 5KM run next Sunday to help Poland celebrate Constitution Day.

Friday, 24 April 2015

337: All hail the NHS

This is my week in UK. For the last couple of weeks in Warsaw I had been enduring slightly blurred vision in my right eye - it was almost as if there had been a windscreen wiper fitted internally! I took myself off to an optician on Tuesday and she referred me to the local hospital for a more comprehensive look. My appointment this morning was for 10.20 and as soon as I arrived I was given a piece of paper saying that my appointment could be bumped if patients requiring immediate attention came in. They said I might have to wait up to four hours. Fair enough - this was an emergency clinic after all. As it happened I had to wait ten whole minutes (!) before they called me in to dilate my pupils and then perhaps half an hour to wait while they dilated. An ophthalmologist called me in and gave both eyes a thorough examination. I awaited her diagnosis with a rather large degree of trepidation. I'm sure the sigh of relief I gave could have been heard over the whole county if not the whole country. Turns out I have Posterior Vitreous Detachment and in all probability this is benign. Around 10% of patients of patients go on to develop a retinal tear within 6 weeks as the vitreous gel tugs at the retina. This means that 90% don't! A retinal tear is much more serious and can lead to blindness if not treated immediately. Fingers crossed. Tremendous service and compassion from our oft derided National Health Service.

Yesterday I went to London. In between visiting my sister at lunchtime and a very good friend in the evening I went to the Imperial War museum in South London. I've been before but this is the first time I'd noticed the Russian/Soviet memorial in the grounds. I wonder how many Russian memorials there are in UK. I remember being present at the dedication of the memorial to the famous Russian ship Varyag, which was scuttled off the coast of Ayr.

I had a quick wander around the museum and was particularly struck by the Secret War display. There were information boards about MI5, MI6, GCHQ, SOE and Special Forces (спецназ) and, of course, video footage of the SAS action to end the Balcombe street siege. N.B. There is no need for any spies reading this blog to go dashing down to the Imperial War museum as there was no classified information being shown!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

336: Just curious....

335: Acrophobia

Acrophobia - a fear of acros? No,  it is an irrational fear of heights. From the Greek "acron" meaning peak, or summit, or edge. Wikipedia suggests that most people experience a degree of natural fear when exposed to heights. Unfortunately, with me it even happens thinking about being exposed to heights. I had a one-off lesson at the Inter-Continental hotel in Warsaw on Wednesday and as soon as I discovered it had 42 floors I broke into a sweat. I was more than a little worried that the classroom would be on a higher floor than I could cope with. It wouldn't have mattered if they had offered 100 times the pittance I get for teaching I still wouldn't have gone. Lady luck was looking after me and the lesson took place on the 7th floor. Even the knowledge that there were 42 floors caused me a degree of trepidation but I was able to cope. The lesson went well.

I'm in one of the business lounges at Warsaw Chopin airport waiting for a flight back to London. I have an annual subscription to designated business lounges in most airports of the world. Being such a frequent traveller it is money well-spent.
However, I'm often surprised by the differences in what is offered to the 'business traveller' across the various lounges. Some offer a hot meal and others, like this one here at Warsaw Chopin, only a meagre selection. But they have G&T so I keep coming back!
Must dash, I've just seen the "go to gate" warning.

Monday, 13 April 2015

334: "wet" Monday

I want to write a few words words about Wet Monday, a pagan custom in Poland that exists to this day whereby young girls are drenched or soaked on Easter Monday. The really lucky girls get spanked with pussy willow branches as well! You can read more about it here. And here is a reference to a Smygus-Dingus casserole which also sheds some light on the origins of this unusual tradition. Legend has it that if a girl receives a drenching or switching, she will marry within the year. This somewhat bizarre practice has at its core the pagan spring rite of pouring water and switching oneself with willows as a means of cleansing, purification, and making things right with dingen -- the god of nature. Good old dingen.
My hands are clean (and dry). I didn't drench a single dziewczyna (dyevchina). I didn't drench any married ones either.
Christian Easter was last weekend (3rd-6th April) and Orthodox Easter the weekend just gone (10th-13th April). 
I spent the weekend in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, and if I had forgotten that it was Orthodox Easter I would have been reminded when I saw the collection of decorated eggs on display at breakfast time in the hotel I was staying. It was an old hotel with lots of character and on the floor in my room there was a large hole covered with glass. In the hole were coins and banknotes of varying currencies and denominations. I could only speculate as to how they got there because there were no gaps in the glass. (To either put in or take out!)
In general a great weekend. I was surprised by how much Russian is still spoken there. There were lots of Russian tourists so the residents obviously need to keep their Russian language skills up to scratch so that they can persuade the tourists to part with their cash. I suspect it is a different story outside the capital. It's also advantageous for the Tallinners to speak Finnish as Helsinki is only a short ferry ride across the Gulf of Finland. There are many ferries per day plying between the two countries.
Restaurants and bars are everywhere in Tallinn - in the old town and the new. On Saturday evening I ended up in a restaurant called the Peppersack and after a very nice meal discovered they had laid on some entertainment for the punters - a mock sword fight. I was too slow to capture it on film as I had had too many honey beers by then. Here are a few of the weekend's photos that I did manage to take.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

333: A plague of locusts has descended! :)

The family has/have arrived (and since departed). I say has/have because grammatically either is correct.  Family is one of the so-called group nouns and can be either countable or non-countable. So we can say either "my family is very dear to me" or "I have a large family. They are very dear to me." In the second example family = the members of my family. More details, for any pedants reading this who want to know more, from the British Council 
The first thing I had to do was lay out the alcohol for inspection and subsequent consumption.

And the very next day the touristy program began:
Friday to Warsaw old town, courtesy of a tourist hop-on, hop-off bus. (I'm reminded of the term RORO meaning a roll-on,roll-off ferry or cargo carrying vehicle usually with openings at either end.)

and a very nice meal at restaurant Portretowa in the evening, having been press-ganged there by the giant on the right of the picture.

and Saturday on to Lodz (which is pronounced in Polish as Woodzh) by Polski bus and back by Regional Railways. 
On the return trip the train was stopped at some middle-of-nowhere station and the female guard/conductress announced that we were waiting for the arrival of the police. Those of us not carrying a passport were seen to be perspiring gently for fear of being hauled off for questioning. Eventually the train left before the police came. We arrived back in Warsaw only half an hour or so late. On to The British Bulldog for an evening meal and some British ale. I know, when in Rome....

And now I'm back on my own, and pleasantly surprised at how much alcohol is left. I would have liked to go shopping tomorrow to top up on food after the locusts cleaned me out but tomorrow is a public holiday and everywhere is closed. Never mind, I shan't starve.

Happy Easter everybody....