Thursday, February 28, 2013

ONTHAASTEN it is, then

I am indebted to Claudia for giving me the Dutch original of the verb we translated as "unhasten". In 1997, the Dutch government issued a ukase telling its citizens to unhasten their lives, ie, slow down, relax more, reduce stress and so reduce all the illnesses that follow from stress. Good advice, but if I unhasten my life any more, I'll start going backwards. It's a chill-out being retired!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's a goner!

I'm sorry, but this can't wait till Friday. Do you have one of those gizmos called a PinSENTRY or something like that? You put your bank card in it in order to get a code which gives you access to your money and banking services. A great device, totally secure and, in the case of my Barclay's PinSENTRY, very pretty too in fetching periwinkle blue and white. It's a great idea. Until it stops working for no reason that you can see. And it's a sealed unit, so you can't open it up and poke its innards with a toothpick.
Quoi faire, mes potes? I sent a polite email to the bank explaining my problem and asking for help. The robotic reply tells me they will respond to my email within five working days.Why does it take them up to five working days to deal with a request? What are they doing that is keeping them from providing the service that they so often boast about? I can only speculate:
1 They're all on holiday
2 They're taking a long coffee break
3 They're taking it in turns to stay awake
4 There's a war on somewhere and they're all hiding under the counter
5 They're richer than the rest of us, so they don't give a monkey's wossname
6 Their system is so crap that they can't cope with the flood of requests for help.
Never mind, while my gizmo is hors de combat, at least I can't get or spend any money. 
And it is Lent, so maybe this was meant to be.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A delicate matter of the innards

Have you noticed how often the medical profession need to examine your body's waste products (I am trying to be delicate here) to help them determine the state of your health. I have no problem with this, providing I'm given due warning of what is needed, so that I can provide it in good time and commodiously, if that's the word I am looking for.
When I last saw my Turkish doctor, a fine and handsome fellow in whom I have total trust, he asked me about my bowel movements. The medication I am on at the moment plays strange tricks with my innards, so I wasn't quite sure how to answer his question. His English is pretty good, but occasionally startling. When I tried to answer his question descriptively, he said “You mean, you shit like a goat”, and wrote that, or something similar, on his notepad.
You know, in a way, that was most refreshing, it made a change from all that Greek-derived polysyllabic mumbo-jumbo with which the medicos try to bamboozle us. It might be called timpanites or meteorism in the books, but for me and the good doctor Ahmed, it's shitting like a goat. 
I'll let you know when I'm better.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Spiritual comfort from the Principality

A word of encouragement from Mrs Trellis:

Dear Holy Benedict, she writes, I don't blame you for packing it in, what with everybody going on at you, and no wife to rub your feet of an evening. Enjoy your retirement, I say, and don't worry about you being a Catholic and all, it's probably not your fault.
Your spirituously
Blodwen Trellis, Mrs, widow, retd, Primitive Methodist

Polish lunch

I know very little about Poland, despite having visited it a number of times during the bad old days. Then, I ate forgettable meals in cold hotels in dreary towns like Wroclaw and the unspeakable Brzeg Dolny. A feature of the food was “the State chicken”, the rumour being that the same bird, possibly a chicken, was used over and over again, and was finally suspended by a string in bowls of warm water to provide the soup course. I can remember many other negative experiences, best forgotten.. In fact the only positive memory I have is of the amazing Old Town in Warsaw, rebuilt, brick by brick, after the War. Oh yes, and the spectacular bosoms of many Polish women, but then I would notice that, wouldn't I?
So, lunch today was a wonderful experience. The Polish ladies in our congregation put on a “Polish lunch”. I went mainly because it was a fundraising event (The church roof is in need of repair, what church roof isn't?), but the food turned out to be a revelation. I gorged and eventually staggered out, carrying my stomach in a wheelbarrow.
I tried to get down the names of the dishes, both main and dessert, and it goes something like this (I had to google for some of the ingredients):
Main course: Pierogi – dumplings; Gołąbki - type of cabbage roll; Chłodnik - cold beet soup; Barszcz - dumplings with mushroom filling; Flaczki - meat stew (?); Żurek – potatoes with Polish sausage and egg; Bigos - stew of sauerkraut and meat; Kiełbasa - sausage 
Desserts: Makowiec - sweet poppy seed-swirl cake, with raisins and walnut; Pączek - closed donut filled with rose petal jam; Sernik – cheesecake; Kutia – a pastry with wheat, poppy seeds, nuts, raisins and honey.

Envoi:the Polish ladies there were as attractive as the food. They brought back memories too, but I will say no more than that....

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Shriven at last

I come late to most things. This year it was Shrove Tuesday, a day for confession and pancakes. This year, it was the Tuesday which I would call Froze Tuesday, the day when I nearly died of cold putting up Swift boxes on the Maltings in Ely. So I didn't do the pancake thing.
Never mind, my good friend Johanna came the next day with a jar of pancake mix and a recipe. This morning I finally got round to making a batch. They were almost as good as the ones my mother used to make, which is another way of saying that I haven't had pancakes since I was about 14. What pleases me too is that it's the first time I have made pancakes.
Oh frabjous joy! You know how smells, sounds and tastes can bring back memories so intense that your eye moistens and your bottom lip starts to tremble. Well, that was my pancake experience this morning.
Some people might call me a tosser, but I didn't toss. Lacked the courage, I turned them with a spatula.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ukrainian snail

This is a Ukrainian snail, not that that explains how it learned to shelter from the rain under an umbrella. My thanks to Rowena B for this superb photograph.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Like this

You know the Hotel Gellert in Budapest of course. Its Imperial splendour was reflected in the junoesque lady who ran the little side bar in the foyer. When my colleague Arthur and I went to her for a drink after a heavy night, she said “I know what you boys need: a palinka vodka. It will restore you. I give my husband a glass of it every night and he is like this...” The meaning of the gesture that accompanied the words was unmistakeable. She formed a fist and brought her forearm up sharply several times to bang the underside of the bar. Wow.

We left Hungary and eventually got to Germany, where we had to report to a man called Schubert, whose training programme we were supervising. Over lunch, desperate as always to keep the conversation going – poor Schubert was a man with no social skills worth talking about - I related the incident of the junoesque lady with the vigorous forearm, concluding the anecdote with “her husband is .... like this”, banging the underside of the table in the prescribed manner. The movement and the noise seemed to jerk our host into life. He looked round, silent for a moment, and then said in a voice devoid of all expression: “Oh, he must break a lot of tables.”