Monday, June 30, 2008

Farewell to Pene and Mike

We said our sad farewells to Pene and Mike Grace from the New Zealand Embassy last night. They are off to set up a new Kiwi Embassy in Stockholm. As a result they've have had a whirl-wind last couple of months sorting out arrangements both in Sweden and Poland (not to mention New Zealand and Australia!).

They've been good friends to have in Warsaw, and it's been great knowing that they were (literally) living just down the road from us. We wish them the best of luck with their new venture and hopefully we'll catch up with them again before too long.

Who needs Pythagoras?

This was courtesy of 'Have I Got News for You' (amongst other sources). Made me laugh

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bob comes to visit

Bob, a friend and fellow blogger, visited us from the UK for a few days this week. It was nice to show him the bright lights of Warsaw!

He arrived on Tuesday night via Easyjet. Amusingly one of the passengers on Bob's flight mistook him for English referee Howard Webb (there is an uncanny resemblance). It was the worst possible case of mistaken identity, as after Poland's Euro 2008 debacle Howard Webb is currently No.1 on the country's 'most-wanted' list.

A few days earlier even usually level-headed Polish Premier Donald Tusk, issued a death threat against Mr Webb.

There are currently 588 'Kill Howard Webb' movies on You Tube.

As a result it put a bit of an edge on his visit as we were always watching for knife brandishing football thugs to jump out at every corner and slaughter Bob by mistake. I guess it didn't help that I took to calling him 'Howard' whenever there were groups of likely assassins around. Remarkably he managed to survive the trip without having to buy funny glasses and a fake moustache.

We went to Wilanow Palace on Tuesday and then walked down Nowy Swiat and the Old Town on Wednesday. The weather has been lovely in Warsaw for the past few days, so it made being outside even nicer.

We even took in the Euro 2008 semi-final between Germany and Turkey at the "Belfast", our local pub. Given the Howard Webb confusion, I thought it was brave of Bob to take up a seat at the front of the bar, but fortunately the place was quite dark so I don't think anyone really noticed us. The Poles were enthusiastically supporting Turkey and everyone trudged home sadly when Germany scored a last minute winner to win 3-2.

Bob headed back to the UK on Thursday morning - Audrey was especially sad to see him go as she had taken to giving him big smiles whenever she saw him. We all enjoyed seeing him and we hope he enjoyed his trip (despite the potential death threats hanging over him during his stay!)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Trip to England

Last week we were in England, which will be our last trip there for a while.

We travelled quite a bit of distance in our week there - visiting Newbury, Farnham Royal as well as Oxford and Wolverhampton.

We said a few farewells to some friends, and also had a family get together which was the first chance for Audrey to meet many of her cousins. Sadly time ran away with us in the end and there were a few people who we didn't get to catch up with who we would have loved to have seen before we headed 'down-under'.

We stayed with Garry and Kath in Newbury - whose kindness allowed us to stay in the posh surrounds of Donnington Square. We also said a sad farewell to Robin, Shan and their lovely family.

On Tuesday we journeyed up to Oxford to see Jon and Emma and their beautiful little boy Ben.

We spent the last part of the (somewhat's supposed to be summer!!?!) week with Trevor's parents in Wolverhampton. While we were there we visited the Black Country Museum in Dudley which is definitely recommended if you ever find yourself in that part of the World.

Audrey also took part in a photo shoot for the forthcoming Wolves Merchandise Catalogue - which was very exciting - more of this in another post!

Unfortunately Audrey has returned from her holiday with a nasty cold and so we have been trying to comfort her and wipe her nose regularly (nice). We've been pretty lucky though really as it's the first cold she's had since she was a very little girl.

Here are some pics from our trip

The Hickman clan

David and Sam play Uncle Trevor's scalextric!

Alessio and Audrey enjoy a pasty!

Joe, Sam and Robin

Patrick, Shan and Audrey admire themselves on film

Garry and Kath in Kath's lovely flat

Trev's dad and mom with Amy enjoy a trolley bus ride in the Blackcountry museum

Audrey poses in the Molineux boardroom for the Wolves catalogueTrevor and his mom at Himley Hall

Audrey and her Grandma

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Croatia 1 Poland 0

Poland slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Croatia, with only Artur Boruc the Polish goalkeeper saving them a heavier loss. It means that the Polish team return home with only one point from three games - a very poor outcome after they had qualified so easily for Euro 2008.

In the absence of any 'home-nations' taking part in the tournament Poland's campaign bore characteristic English hallmarks - they lost to the Germans, drew against a team they should have thrashed (Austria), found a fall-guy for their own shortcomings (in the shape of referee Howard Webb) and ultimately got dumped out by Croatia. All it lacked was some Baddeil and Skinner Polish anthem about 'Football coming home' (futbol wrocki do domu?) and it would have been complete.

Slaven Bilic, the Croatian manager again did his credentials no harm at all, and no doubt will appear as a well paid Premiership manager before too long. Poland are the hosts for the Euro 2012 tournament (once they get their act together and start building roads, hotels, stadiums etc)!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Austria 1 Poland 1

Poland suffered heartache in Euro 2008 when they conceded a 93rd minute equaliser against hosts Austria. Combined with Croatia's shock defeat of Germany the same evening, Poland will probably come home after just 3 games.

I watched the match in our nearby Multi-Kino cinema. It was packed with fans who provided a really good atmosphere. It was made especially pleasant as the cinema (unlike the bars and pubs) was no smoking and you could still drink (cheap) beer at your seat.

Austria dominated the early exchanges and Celtic's goalkeeper Artur Boruc kept them in the game until Poland's (Brazilian born) Guerreiro gave the Poles an unlikely lead.

In the second half Poland were much the stronger side and pressed hard for a second goal. It looked sewn up by Poland until the 93rd minute when the referee harshly awarded Austria a penalty. The fans despaired and hurled insults at the screen, then watched as (Croation born) Vastic scored past Boruc. It had been a confusing game with a Brazillian and Croation scoring for Poland and Austria respecively.

I crept out of the cinema along with the disappointed fans - anxious to make sure nobody realised I was English (the nationality of stupid referee Howard Webb)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Magiczny Koszyk

Carrefour our local supermarket are running a promotion at the moment where you receive a 'Magical Shopping Basket' ticket for every 20 złoty you spend.

This gives you the chance to win up to 100 zl by checking your numbers against a huge pillar displayed outside the shop.

I was excited (perhaps a little bit too much) by the promotion - especially given I didn't win anything. Audrey was excited as the tickets gave her something to chew on (with her now 5, teeth) during the walk back home from the shops. Amy was excited as she was impressively able to translate the word 'Koszyk' as shopping basket.

Here's a picture of Audrey with our (losing) ticket

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Janusz Korczak

Another brave and courageous individual whose story is often overlooked by the West is that of Janusz Korczak. (I put a quote of his on this blog a couple of months ago). He was born in Warsaw in 1878 as Henryk Goldszmit and grew up in a Jewish family before studying medicine.

From 1911 he ran an orphanage in the City, and was always fighting for better conditions and education for children. As well as running the orphanage he was an author of both children's stories and medical books. Throughout the early 30's he also became well known for a radio show which he hosted until it was taken off the air following complaints by anti-semites.

When World War II began he was forced to move the orphanage to the Jewish Ghetto. Although he had several chances to save himself from the captivity of the ghetto he refused the opportunities, preferring instead to stay and protect the children, suffering along with them in inhumane conditions.

On August 5 1942, the Nazis rounded up nearly two hundred children in his care and lead them to to trains going to the Treblinka death camp. Despite further opportunities to save himself Korczak stayed with the children and helped them march with dignity through the city while they held hands and carried their belongings.

This is an eyewitness account of the procession;

... A miracle occurred. Two hundred children did not cry out. Two hundred pure souls, condemned to death, did not weep. Not one of them ran away. None tried to hide. Like stricken swallows they clung to their teacher and mentor, to their father and brother, Janusz Korczak, so that he might protect and preserve them. Janusz Korczak was marching, his head bent forward, holding the hand of a child, without a hat, a leather belt around his waist, and wearing high boots. A few nurses were followed by two hundred children, dressed in clean and meticulously cared for clothes, as they were being carried to the altar. (...) On all sides the children were surrounded by Germans, Ukrainians, and this time also Jewish policemen. They whipped and fired shots at them. The very stones of the street wept at the sight of the procession.

Korczak and the children boarded the trains to Treblinka at Umschlagplatz and were never heard from again.

There is a nice statue to the memory of Korczak in the gardens of the Palace of Science and Culture, which was inaugurated in 2006. I passed by the statue yesterday. Do take a visit if you're in the centre of Warsaw, (it's about 2 minutes walk from Swietokrzyska metro stop).

If you want to read more about Janusz Korczak and his work then click here

Monday, June 9, 2008

Germany 2 Poland 0

Poland's opening game in Euro 2008 proved to be a big disappointment, they were easily beaten by a much stronger German side. The game was slightly controversial as the German's fielded two strikers who had been born in Poland, with one of them scoring both of the goals. This was the reaction of some - which made us laugh!

Poland's next game is on Thursday, so we'll be hoping they have more luck against Austria (Austria have no Polish born players)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Today's joke

I gave some money to charity today thinking that I was helping a freedom movement. The next thing I knew, a weird looking animal with a long neck turned up on my doorstep and I realised I had mistakenly pledged money to the "Dial-a-Lama" organisation.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Kazimierz Dolny

About two months before Audrey was born we visited a small town to the south of Warsaw called Kazimierz Dolny. It's a lovely little town, populated by artists and mobbed by (mostly) Polish tourists in the summer months.

When we last visited the town we had travelled down by train, but this time we risked the journey by hire-car.

Driving in Poland is a lot like being on the road with everyone around you playing the computer game, Grand Theft Auto. In case you've never played it, basically you drive a car by forgetting any road-sense, trying to overtake people at the most ludicrous situations and never ever decelerating. Incredibly we got there and back in one-piece despite a number of near-death experiences(!)

Anyway...Kazimierz is a beautiful town, and we were lucky that we were there in really lovely weather. It was hard work at times pushing Audrey's pushchair along the cobbled streets and we were grateful to have our new back-pack that enabled her to travel in absolute luxury on our backs(see pic).

Last time we had been to Kazimierz we had managed to see and do a lot in a short amount of time, but, with the addition of Audrey our venturing around the town was a bit more restricted.

We did manage to visit a small gallery (Galeria Autorska) in the town and buy a lovely pastel picture and met the artist who was a charming lady.

There is also a really nice tea shop which we had frequented last time, and once again we sat and relaxed drinking 'Chopin' and cranberry tea in the sunshine.

We returned to Warsaw on Sunday evening our hire car intact, but our nerves in shatters after the drive!

The quiet streets of Kazimierz - a sight only ever seen by insomniacs or families with small children who wake up before the crowds!

More Buskers in Metro Centrum

These guys are often in the underground by Centrum in Warsaw and I like hearing their tunes as I pass by on the way to meet Amy for lunch. Although they're an all-male line up I don't think they could be classified as a boy band as none of their members can be much under 80 years old.