This is the halfway mark: we’ve changed our return flight to March 8th, 2017. I’m feeling a bit of pressure because there are so many things I haven’t done, and I seem to have acquired the idea that winter wipes out adventuring.
The summer holidays have been quite intense: a lot more time with the twins. All day in a playground is surprisingly fatiguing, despite its pleasures. In the middle of the month, a lacuna while I indulged a cold, and pitifully asked my daughter to go with me to the bootmaker. At the end of the month a family holiday and the arrival of F, my Australian daughter, who wastes no time seeking out companion statues.
There seem to have been monumental developments in the course of this month. Physically they can hang nonchalantly upside down, “like a bat” Maja says; turn speedy somersaults; slide down a pole using feet and hands immaculately as brakes; and run round and round tirelessly. They can also carry their bikes up and down three flights of stairs.
Mainly they’ve been speaking English, although they occasionally break into Polish when they’re deeply involved in a game together. They continue to be linguistically inventive. They generate poems: “ruff ruff says the giraffe” and “Nanny Meg’s belly / wobbles like jelly (my contribution) / it went up a tree / and never came down (Jaś’ contribution.) They play with phrases they hear: my favourite is “I’m going to do a blimey charlie”. They recognise letters; pick out cards that start with “b”; know how books work and point at words. A few days ago Maja began writing words on her magnetic board, beginning with her name.
“Let’s play Little Cockatoos” is still a frequent request, although the cast of characters has evolved. It now includes Yabby and a rocket ship. I suspect the game is a request for attention, since often cockatoos no longer feature.
We spend a lot of time in a variety of playgrounds within easy reach of home, each with their own special delights: at the moment the favourite is the fire engine playground. One has diggers in the sandpit, a fountain for dancing around in and a vertical xylophone; another has deep shade; and in the one nearest home we watch an agile squirrel bouncing across the grass, whisking up a tree, and dropping his nut leavings onto the path before he leaps from tree to tree across an impossible distance.
We head off to the lake a couple of times when the temperature is in the high 20s and frolic in water and sand – me too. On less salubrious days there is the library, the movies and the zoo. There are also a series of plays in parks: following time-honoured family tradition we manage to miss all but one, a rhyming story about a flea where the puppets and props are kitchen utensils.
The twins spend a night at our place. Jaś falls asleep first and Maja immediately begins to whisper. He has happy dreams about all the family. She talks about two Nanny Megs, a different one with curly hair whom she meets in the park and brings home.
On holidays Maja actually eats, not just the inside of bread rolls, and the night when J cooks Jaś says “Grandpa J, that was delicious!” It becomes easy to make Maja smile her wonderful smile: I touch her nose, she touches mine, and we grin at each other. When we arrived six months ago I didn’t think she’d ever smile at me, or crawl onto my knee, or give me most-favoured-person treatment. Both of them often say “I like you Nanny Meg” and I, the early riser, stay in bed when they’re around for the sheer joy of them crawling in with me .
They both collect things: acorns, leaves, sticks, dead lizards prised out of the sandy road surface, rocks, and in the case of Jaś, sticks.
If I were a dragonfly I too would land on Maja’s beloved toe: if I were a wasp I would never sting Jaś!
And just in case it seems that everything is always smiley in the world of children …
Most of the highlights have already appeared in the previous sections, and in the post on the holiday at Grójec Wielki which features mushrooms, kayaks and food. Beyond these, I am moved by the commemoration of the Warsaw Uprising 72 years on, and find unexpected pleasures in the exhibition of Renaissance art and a courtyard where I shelter from rain. I manage two morning walks – one past Ujadowskie Palace, and through Agrykola to the stanchion murals: and one to Pole Mokotowskie with my Australian daughter – and two lots of music; Chopin and Asian zithers. I find vegemite and tahini; buy a pair of joggers; and acquire another haircut and lipwax. I win approval from Maja and Jaś for my pronunciation of the odd Polish word: Jaś was so excited at my achievement that he ran to Dziadek and said “Grandpa J, Grandpa J. Nanny Meg can say Jezioro Czerniakowskie!”
At the other home
All is not well with friends in Australia: three have been in hospital. I know my presence would make no difference, but I hate being on the other side of the world. The political scene shows no sign of improvement, and I am still shamed by Australia’s treatment of indigenous Australians and refugees.