I haven’t blogged for a bit and some of you will have been wondering if I’m still in Poland. Some of you, on the other hand, may very well have not.
Well, I am, although not long after Christmas, I came very close to leaving for reasons I won’t go into because you never know who reads this thing.
Quite a lot’s happened since my last blog; some of it I can’t write about for personal and legal reasons, but if I know you well, I will have told you. If I don’t know you well, then you’ll just have to wait until I have the opportunity to tell you in person. And if I don’t know you at all, then this will mean absolutely nothing to you.
Let’s just say I’ve had a change of circumstances, and leave it at that.
All very mysterious, I hear you say; well, I’m afraid amigo, it certainly was.
But I’m still living in the unloved and unlovable Brzeg. That circumstance, unfortunately, hasn’t changed.
Now I’m sorry if you are from Brzeg but, quite frankly, if NASA wanted to prepare their astronauts to live in an environment without atmosphere, Brzeg would be the perfect place.
I will accept that the good people of Brzeg are generous with their warmth of welcome. I have coffee in the Ambrosia every weekday and now, in addition to greeting my fellow Ambrosians with a cheery nod, I also feel the need to shake their hands. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say.
It’s not so much what Brzeg has but what Brzeg hasn’t, and my essential requirement at this very special time of year is a bar that screens the 6 Nations (that’s Rugby Union, ladies, and soccer lovers). Whoops… just offended two more demographies.
Brzeg, as you will know if you’ve read my previous blogs, is not a town where you are spoilt for choice as to where you drink or where you dine. Not only does it lack a bar that has a television, but by logical extension, it also lacks anywhere either capable or willing of screening the rugby.
This means that if I want to sate my rugby craving I must make the journey into Wroclaw.
But this is no great hardship; for one thing, I love Wroclaw as much as I dislike Brzeg, and for another, it is a mere twenty-seven minutes away by train and there is a regular service (more about this later).
And so on Saturday, I make the trek into the city and rock up at the Pub Felicita, a buzzing little bar with a good selection of beers which is the meeting place for members and supporters of Wroclaw Rugby Club.
It has a great atmosphere, terrific beer and if I lived in Wroclaw I imagine I would spend most of my earnings here.
The Felicita’s ‘mine host’ is a friendly fellow called Fabio who, due to my inability to remember names — particularly then beer is involved — I usually call Mario.
So I arrive in plenty of time for the Ireland V Italy game. I’ll interrupt this blog for an instant to ask you the question: does anybody actually know why Italy hasn’t been hoofed out of this tournament ages ago? They simply go from bad to worse, irrespective of who coaches them. And once Sergio Parisse retires from International Rugby, heaven help them.
England against Wales follows the Ireland game, so I try to slow the rate of beer consumption as I managed to leave a bag containing some very expensive headphones and underwear here last week, and that was the last I saw of it.
So when I leave the Pub after two games, four pints and some very good social/work/rugby networking later, I am still reasonably sober. Certainly more sober than I was last Saturday.
I arrive at Wroclaw Glowny station to find that there is a train for Brzeg leaving in two minutes. I sprint to the platform, board the train — which is packed — and eventually manage to find a seat. I sit down, put my headphones on and promptly fall asleep. I should add at this point that I had only managed to get three nights’ sleep — for reasons I won’t go into — on Friday night so fatigue combined with beer is now becoming a formidable force of evil.
I think you can see where this is going.
I wake up and it feels like I’ve been asleep for maybe five minutes? I ask the guy sitting opposite me if he speaks English and he does; very good English, he says. I’ll be the judge of that, smart-ass.
I ask him if we’re approaching Brzeg yet and he bursts out laughing, which, on reflection, is a bit uncharitable given the situation.
‘We went through Brzeg,’ he goes, ‘around two and a half hours ago.’
‘So where are we now?’ I ask.
‘Oh… coming into Katowice,’ he says. ‘But don’t worry, it’s a big city and there are many hotels (for stupid people, he may as well have added) and you may even be able to get a train back tonight.’
Leaving the train, my first stop is the ticket counter and, praise be, I’m informed that there will be a train going to Wroclaw at 12.30… so that’s around an hour and a half later. Result.
It gets even better when I find a welcoming little Italian bistro still open and serving food.
So an hour and a half later I’m back at Katowice station, where I board the Wroclaw train when it arrives half an hour late. I set the alarm on my mobile for 4.30 so that I don’t end up back where I started. The plan works and I finally get to bed at 5 am… for the second night running.
So I can recommend a very acceptable Italian restaurant in Katowice, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to try it.
In other news… I’ve started starting teaching the new batch of students from the Polish
army. They’re a delightful bunch and although they are almost entirely absolute beginners, their enthusiasm has yet to be blunted by my teaching.
Lesson one they learned that: ‘If you pronounce the ‘W’ in the word ‘answer’ again, it’ll be hit the floor and give me 50!’ We also worked through some basic usages of the verb ‘to be’ and associated vocabulary — see the picture.
And Valentines Day has come and gone — if the removal of the Christmas decorations was anything to go by all hearts and other associated nonsense will have been removed by the middle of April.
Finally, one of my corporate students owes me big-time, as I suggested that use of the phrase ‘… my current wife’ within the good lady’s earshot may not be such a good idea unless he wants to combine it with ‘my future ex-wife.
And so amigos, all is well in the land of dumplings and the fifty pence pint.
Hasta pronto, chicos!