Friday, May 30, 2008

Blog, one year on

Dear readers, this blog is now one year old. Thanks for those that have stuck with it and are regular readers and/or corresponders - hopefully our rambling postings interspersed with snapshots of Audrey have brightened the odd day or two.

Over the last year, we've had over 3,000 visitors, which never ceases to amaze me. Ok, it's not exactly e-bay or Amazon but I guess at least it shows we have 'sticky content' other than that found in Audrey's nappies. Here's a chart showing the number of hits the page has had over the last 12 months.

I've also recently found that there are a number of sites offering to give you valuations as to what your website is worth. It works by looking at numerous variables; the number of visitors, content, cash flow, domain name etc etc. As an illustration YouTube was sold recently for $1.65 billion.

I entered my details on a site offering free valuations, and was calculated to have a worth of $43

Professional Link Building
My site is worth:
Professional Link Building

Oh well, I'll have to find another way to make that million!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Audrey poses as Hannibal

Audrey and her elephant, taken yesterday

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

5 Second Science

If, after making a cup of tea you're in the mood to see an illustration of aerodynamics, rather than tossing your tea spoon in the sink for someone else to wash up, place the back of the tea spoon in the edge of a running tap.

You'll see that the water deflects from the vertical and runs over the back of the spoon. The spoon pulls towards, and is attracted by, the water flow.

If you then reverse the spoon you'll see that it actually pushes the water away from the vertical. Both demonstrations provides five seconds of wonder while at the same time handily serving to wash your spoon.

The phenomenon is called the Coandă effect, named after a Romanian tea drinker who was the first person to identify it. The application has been used in both planes and air conditioning systems. To learn more click here

* Thanks to Mark for providing a demonstration of this at Patrick's party!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Corpus Christi in Łowicz

Łowicz is a little town about an hours train ride from Warsaw. Despite the town's small size, it has a whopping big cathedral in the town square and is famous for the Corpus Christi procession, that takes place at this time every year. It is apparently the biggest such procession in Poland. It is also significant as the locals dress in traditional costume - with the ladies wearing brightly coloured dresses, and the men donning dazzlingly coloured trousers and flowery hats!

Ignoring the drizzly weather, the three of us caught a train to watch the parade. (It's so much fun lifting a heavily laden pram up 6 precarious steps onto a train!)

We arrived about an hour before things were due to start and so sat and enjoyed a pot of tea (milk for Audrey!) and two pieces of very scrummy cake, in cafe Bordo overlooking the main square.

The square was soon filled with the sound of worship coming from the cathedral which was being blasted out by strategically placed speakers positioned around the town - there was really no escaping it.

When we ventured back outside, the cathedral was full to the rafters. Hundreds of worshippers had gathered by the entrance to the cathedral, no doubt welcoming the fact that they could follow what was going on inside the building via the town's extensive sound system. We took our spot on a curb, and waited for the procession to emerge from the cathedral and walk past us. The air was heavy with the smell of incense.

After a while the procession emerged from the cathedral, and turned right - the opposite way to where we'd positioned ourselves. Fortunately after a circuitous route around the town (they visit 4 Alters) the procession arrived by where we were stood.

It was great to see the brightly coloured costumes, worn by people of all ages from tiny flower girls to wizened old men. People were playing instruments waving banners and carrying yet more public address speakers! The procession passed us at a very leisurely pace before arriving at the main square, where after a bit more singing/playing it dissolved. It was a really excellent sight, and the town, which is probably usually a sleepy back-water, was absolutely filled with people.

We headed back to Warsaw, purchasing a few Gwiozdy (paper cut outs), for which the town is also famous for(!) on our journey back to the station.

me, looking decidedly under-dressed

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Trip to the Cinema!

It was a rainy day in Warsaw today and so me and Audrey went to the cinema (in Ursynow, 4 metro stops from where we live)

It was Audrey's first outing to Multi-baby-kino, a performance especially laid on for babies and their mums (and dads!). It was only a couple of quid (10 PLN) to get in, and was really well organised with little seats for the babies, toys at the front of the theatre and a couple of change tables. There was a wide range of ages there... some tiny babies who were probably only a few weeks old, up to toddlers who spent 90 minutes dashing up (and occasionally falling down) the stairs.

Despite the chaos that was going on around me it was an enjoyable way to spend a wet afternoon. I wish I could say the film was enjoyable. "Over Her Dead Body" was certainly no cinematic masterpiece, though I guess I couldn't have expected a film with car chases in it. Still, Audrey seemed to like it and sat enthralled throughout. Certainly the plot-line would not have been too hard for her to keep up with.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Torun - the 7th State of Australia!

There is some corner of a foreign city, that is forever Australia!

We were lucky enough on Friday and Saturday to be invited to an Australian Festival that was held in the medieval city of Torun (200km/130m west of Warsaw). It was our second trip to the city, which is the celebrated birthplace of Nicolas Copernicus. It's a beautiful old town as it was pretty much undamaged during World War II.

Amy was there in an official capacity and during her busy schedule had to conduct a lecture to a group of trainee teachers, open a photo exhibition and be on the panel of an Australian based quiz!

The people who we met over the two days were both incredibly warm, friendly and welcoming, but what amazed and impressed us was their passionate (and sometimes fanatical) love for all things Antipodean!

We were treated like royalty during our stay, being met at the station, shown to our hotel and then generally escorted round the beautiful city like guests of honour.

The photo exhibition was wonderful, with over 200 photos taken throughout Australia. The opening of the show was really well attended and it was clear how much everyone loved the pictures.

We spent a lot of time during our stay with a lovely guy called Waldemar, who teaches at the University. He showed us the extensive Australian Centre that they have in the University as well as treating us to a delicious lunch on Saturday.

On Saturday afternoon we watched a Polish trio playing digeridoos and other indiginous Australian instruments - Audrey absolutely loved it!

Our only regret was that we didn't have longer there. We were made so welcome - I'm sure at some point when Audrey is older we'll be back!

Robert and Edyta

Audrey, Amy and Waldemar

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Audrey in the Garden

I took this picture of Audrey in the garden of our apartment block the other day. Both Amy and I agreed that she looked a lot more beautiful than this other baby whose picture appeared on here last month...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In Memory of Irena Sendler - Life in a Jar

I'm always amazed by the incredible acts of heroism that occurred in Poland during World War II that seem to have gone pretty much un-noticed by the West. One such story is Irena Sendler a lady we hadn't heard of (despite living in Warsaw) until the announcement of her death on Monday aged 98.

Irena and her team organised the rescue of 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto between 1940 and 1943, children who would have otherwise probably died at the hands of the Nazis.

It is an incredible story, and one that also has to be put in the context of the fact that during the period of German occupation anyone in Poland assisting a Jew would have been executed along with their family.

Sendler smuggled young children and babies out of the Jewish ghetto and placed them with families, orphanages, hospitals and convents. They were given a chance of survival by being raised as Catholics. In the hope of one day re-uniting the children with their parents Sendler wrote the children's names on slips of paper which were later buried in a jar to avoid being found by the Gestapo.

She was captured imprisoned, tortured and remarkably escaped execution. After the war she tried to reunite children with any living parent. Sadly almost all of the saved children's parents had died in the Treblinka death camp.

Please read more about Irena Sendler here or here

What I find amazing is that Irena Sendler did not think of herself as a hero. She claimed no credit for her actions. "I could have done more" she once said.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day* spent in Zoliborz

Sunday was Mother's Day* (Amy's first!). As it was really lovely and sunny, after our morning swim the three of us hopped on the metro and went to the park in Zoliborz, north of the city.

Here's a picture of Amy and Audrey enjoying an ice cream outside of Kalimba one of our favourite shops/cafes.

* in Australia (there are actually 31 different days across the World including Mothering Sunday in the UK and Ireland)

Patrick's 40th Birthday Celebrations

On Saturday evening we were guests at our friend Patrick's 40th birthday celebrations. Audrey used the opportunity to venture out in her posh party dress. It was really nice to catch up with some faces we hadn't seen for a while, particularly Sarah who was over for the weekend on a whistle-stop trip from London.

As well as lorry loads of fine food and drink Patrick had organised a karaoke machine for his party, which went down really well, Douglas pulling off an especially creditable Elvis, 'All shook up' rendition.

Fortunately for everyone Audrey got really tired and so we left around 10.30pm. This saved the other guests, as by that stage I hadn't had chance to drink too many cans of Tyskie and start singing/shouting New York, New York or fancying myself as Noddy Holder.
Despite getting to bed so late Audrey still managed to wake up at 5.15am the next morning - ouch!

Sarah and Audrey

Patrick's cake causes a fire hazard

Sarah and Audrey enjoy "Tickle, tickle, tickle!"

Europe Day

In case you missed it, Friday was 'Europe Day' a day celebrating the creation in 1950 of what is now known as the European Union.

On Saturday the three of us stumbled across a huge procession on Marszałkowska celebrating 'Spring Day in Europe'. The procession was made up mostly of children marching and playing music on floats. The march stretched a long way down the road making it quite a noisy and colourful spectacle.

Warsaw's mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz (above!)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Separated at Birth?

....The question is can we fix it?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Tennis Action in Warsaw

I was feeling a bit glum earlier this year when the annual WTA tennis tournament in Warsaw was cancelled when the sponsors J&S pulled out. Luckily there was a hastily arranged replacement event in the form of the Suzuki Warsaw Masters to take its place.

Less fortunute was the fact that we hadn't seen the event advertised so we didn't hear about it until its fouth day, and by then the biggest name in the event, Lindsay Davenport, had been knocked out.

Still, Sunday was finals day, it was a nice sunny day in Warsaw, and with the courts only a ten minute stroll from where we live, I went along to watch both the 3rd/4th game and the final.

We discussed for a while going along as a family, but decided that it might get a bit much for Audrey, as at 8 months old the tennis might be lost on her. We imagined her calling out 'Dadada' at a vital duece point. As a result I went along, while Amy had 'girl time' at home with Audrey.

The final was an excellent game between two Russians - Svetlana Kuznetsova (ranked no.4 in the World) and the considerably more glamourous Maria Kirilenko (ranked only 27 in the World, but with her own fashion range!). In the end Kuznetsova was much the stronger player, and had both a faster serve and better ground strokes. She won at a canter (6-2 6-3).

Kirileko serves

Kuznetsova collects her cheque

Then signs some autrographs

Amy and Audrey enjoyed their time together - Audrey is just started to move around the floor - so we're going to have to be careful from now on about leaving things on the carpet within reach of tiny hands.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Over and Out

Wolves beat Plymouth 1-0 in the final game of the season, but the win wasn't enough to make the Championship play-offs and they were denied on goal difference (of +2 goals) losing out to Watford who drew 1-1 at Blackpool.

Wolves manager Mick McCarthy in his typical positive spin-style said that the result wasn't the end but the beginning. Perhaps he should give beleaguered Gordon Brown some advice. The league doesn't lie and Wolves were simply not good enough over the course of the season.

It comes at the same time as a barmy plan to expand the ground to 40,000 capacity. Sounds great, but I'm not sure where the extra 20,000 supporters are going to come from?

Meanwhile pesky Albi*n get promoted and Dave Jones, a manager deemed not good enough for Wolves takes his Cardiff team to an FA Cup final. Oh well, there's always next season (grumble grumble)

The Best Metro Station in the World!

Despite being the shortest metro line in Europe (there is only a single north-south line) Warsaw's metro boasts the most functional and beautiful new metro station as well as the world's best metro driver! Things are clearly on the right track (geddit?)

At a recent MetroRail annual conference (can you imagine how thrilling it must have been?) Plac Wilsona collected the Metro gong for best station and lucky old Robert Jaryczewski was adjudged best driver. Quite how they judged the category of best driver I've really no idea (it's not like they can take the wrong turn) but congratulations to Robert anyway - I'll be hoping he's the driver on every journey I take on the metro from now on!

If you want to know more(!?) click here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Picnic in the Park

Thursday was a public holiday in Poland, and so the three of us headed off to Pole Mokotowskie park to enjoy a picnic.
It was only as we laid the rug on the grass that I realised that the carefully prepared sandwiches were packed in a backpack sitting at that very moment on our kitchen floor in the apartment.

Fortunately Audrey still had a bottle of milk in her change-bag, so we sat by the lake in the sun for a while (sans-sandwiches) before heading off to one of our favourite spots in Warsaw - Pub Lolek, where the BBQ was raging, and the service was at its usual Basil Fawltyesque best. The three of us enjoyed chicken, salmon and salad then a welcome ice cream before returning home to our somewhat forlorn and forgotten picnic.

Audrey gets her first taste of chocolate ice cream!