We’re well past the halfway mark now, and I have a strong feeling that the year is moving too fast. There are still so many things I haven’t done.
The leaves are turning: you’re in danger of being conked on the head by a conker if you walk under a horse chestnut tree: the temperature is dropping: darkness is falling earlier and earlier. We join other Warsaw inhabitants picking up chestnuts with their irresistible gleamings and patterns and we delight in watching sycamore helicopters twirl down as they go about their business.
This month has been a month of visitors from the other side of the world: Sandy, who has been my friend for many years, in my old Moruya life, in my Broken Hill life, again in my south coast life and now in my Warsaw life: my beloved eldest daughter who has been in my life even longer; and Kate, a relatively new friend with whom I share books and movies and art and life in general. It’s been a feast of ease in English, and a chance to show off my Warsaw. It’s also brought home closer and given me home-dreams.
Jaś and Maja
Their agility increases as summer passes. Now they can both walk along the top rope in the fire engine playground, and hang upside down, folded-armed, like bats. Maja walks along the balance bar and turns round and walks back. Their arms are strong and they know the skills involved in climbing and hanging: they are no longer tentative. They are proud of their muscles: Maja carries her bike up three flights of stairs and a heavy chest full of animals from her house to ours.
Aunty Franki brooks no nonsense and proves to be a firm and skilled distractor when someone throws a horizontal. She supervises Maja as she cracks and scrambles her own egg (her own four eggs if truth be told). She mimes a variety of Australian bush animals crossing the road in front of the motorbike and sidecar we’re driving in the playground – “Look! look! A wombat.” She initiates lying on the ground to watch the leaves falling. She helps Maja form words from the magnetic letters on the frig. “Quoll”, her avatar, is the first one I see. She solves the problem of getting them dressed in the morning by doing it while they’re still asleep. She is the perfect aunt.
Dziadek sets up an aeroplane factory and produces rockets and paper planes and helicopters, which we fly in the park and the empty pond, and from the wall of the Palace. The boats aren’t so successful and become waterlogged too easily. He allows himself to be chalked all over, to the gentle amusement of one of the playground mums who exchanges a smile with me as he walks past, and he galumphs through parkland waving his arms in rough imitation of a cockatoo. He is the perfect grandfather.
Maja takes her first photos with my camera: the two portraits of my daughter are hers, and she also took one of the geometric patterns of a bench which made me believe in photographic DNA. She has begun to pose for photos instead of burying her head or disappearing offstage.
R is carrying Jaś, and he dangles heavily in her arms. “I red hot lover” he declares. We startle, wondering where on earth he’s heard the expression and what it means to him. We repeat what we think he’s said and he becomes agitated. We finally figure out he’s saying “I red hot lava”, after a lengthy morning conversation about volcanoes.
This month involves a lot of revisiting, as I show Warsaw to friends. I revisit the Palace on the Island in Łazienki in search of a botanical dinner service: climb the spiral staircase to the viewing terrace, twice: potter around the Old Town, also twice. But I also break a bit of new ground: hunting for kosher grape juice, I find the synagogue: I finally join the walking tour of Jewish Warsaw: I ramble along the refurbished riverfront three times, past the coolglobes, once on the only early morning walk of the month. I swelter as I search for very large spiders hiding in their glass cases in exhibition space in the very, very large Palace of Science and Culture, and admire the exhibits in the newly-opened Dollshouse Museum, also in the palace of science and culture. We return to the palace for a movie and discover a vast domed atrium, parquet-floored and chandeliered.
I spend a pleasant Sunday morning prowling amongst orchids.
A visit to the British Council Open Day to see my daughter in her workplace didn’t yield my daughter who was on her lunch break, but it did remind me of National Theatre Live in Warsaw, and so I went out on a chilly evening for three glorious hours of “Threepenny Opera”, a superb and challenging performance – in English. I’ve seen a number of Disney movies with the kids, but they’re all dubbed in Polish.
The Warsaw marathon runs past the apartment, a melange of sound: the slapping of feet, the clack as paper cups are discarded at a run, the crunch as they’re trodden on, shouts from the runners, cheers from the bystanders – a mesmerising rhythm of movement and sound. So mesmerising that I fail to identify my daughter amongst the five thousand + runners, coming past me in bursts. She was apparently behind the contingent in armour carrying spears, emulating the original Marathon runner. She finishes the 42 km feeling triumphant and unstrained, and I wonder yet again how I managed to birth such a daughter.
And I eat out nearly every meal while Kate is here.
My son continues taking great photos. Friends are building a state of the art outdoor bread oven. A waratah farm has opened its gates to raise funds to support indigenous literacy. One of my favourite local galleries has a calm and elegant ceramics exhibition. My Newcastle friend has booked our Airbnb for our Melbourne jaunt in May 2017.
Where on earth do I want to be?