Eleventh month in Warsaw: 1st January – 7th February

Return to Potato Point is horrifyingly close. It’s hard to believe I’m launching (have launched, since this post is running late) into the last of my twelve months in Warsaw. It’s been a cold month, although I was bed-bound for the coldest of the days. I only see -20° out the window, and the ice floes on the Wisła through J’s lens, and I feel vaguely deprived. A good fall of snow lingers enough for plenty of sledding for the bold-hearted (and slipping for this geriatric: my snow boots are only good for so much, although they are still one of my favourite Warsaw acquisitions.) The other geriatric defies death, riding his apple down a steep slope in a way that has his children shutting their eyes in horror. 

An unexpected pleasure is a brief return to my professional life. I write a short piece about blokes and reading to kids for a friend who has a webpage directed at men who want to get more involved with their children. This writing is hardly academic, but it requires some of the pleasureable disciplines of the past. I have a brief fling with note-making as I read about lyrebird dance, the emotional life of birds, listicles,and Lady Ryder of Warsaw: a desperate attempt to glue what I read into my memory.

On a far more somber note, American tanks return to Poland: J sees a couple on the back of monstrous trucks when he is out walking. And we finally register the fact that Warsaw is suffering from extreme air pollution, to the point where you can smell the toxicity and often end the day with a sore throat.

Visits from family

Mid-month, my son arrives from Australia, wearing board shorts as promised. He’s a great uncle, reading and sledding with the 4 year olds, and relishing after school apple-riding.

He’s just in time to welcome my granddaughter who also arrives underclad, but flings on a pink dressing-gown for the taxi ride home.

On her second night here, en route to see the Christmas lights, I manage to lose her on the bus. She doesn’t get off when I do: I get back on and walk up and down the aisle with increasing anxiety and no sign of her. I retrace our journey frantically. I know she doesn’t have a Warsaw phone yet, but I have given her our address and she has our phone numbers. This reassures me. My daughter joins me for the search, and we are beginning to panic when we get a phone call saying she’s back home. 

When we hear her full account we realise how resourceless she in fact was: she loses her phone and therefore has no contact numbers, no addresses: she also left her wallet at home, so no money. How does she deal with this? Miraculous ingenuity! She manages to leap the language barrier somehow and gets a taxi driver as far as the Christmas decoration bus. At that point, the pair of them look at Google earth and she recognises a Starbucks, and then the facade of our apartment block. She races upstairs for money to pay the taxi and feels triumphant. I am awed by her enterprise and wrung out by the thought of what could have been.


On New Year’s Eve, I stay with Maja and Jaś while their parents celebrate. I read them the requisite stories and then switch the light out for story-telling. I begin with Jason and the Golden Fleece, and as we develop the storyline together we accumulate volcanos, lush tropical jungle, the building of a raft to accommodate the golden sheep, a paddock full of golden sheep to be his friends, and goodness knows what else. They fall happily asleep and later I have a grandstand view of street fireworks. 

It’s not only babcia who is housebound this month: Maja and Jaś get chicken pox, first her and then him, so we have a few weeks of their company. They don’t see a doctor: all the doctors at their practice are sick too. My addiction to Netflix is justified when we discover “Puffin Rock“, a beautiful and informative series with good characters and plenty of non-scary action. We watch it together in afternoon downtime, although I do doze sometimes. 

For most of the month there is snow for sledding in Park Morskie Oko. The twins ride the sled to preschool, with J the willing engine. After school it’s time for apples, which Maja drives like a natural. Often we stay out till dark, now around 5 pm. One afternoon the cousins build a snowman.

Grandparents day is celebrated with a performance at preschool. I watch in delight as Jaś and Maja dance and recite with the rest of their group: at other performances they’ve scowled (her) and gazed around in a daze (him), but they’re full participants this time. I join them for morning tea where I try to distract Maja from crawling round between grandparental legs being a dog, and struggle to communicate with their other grandparents.

Encounters with their developing language are a real pleasure. Jaś is a particular fan of rhyme, and recognises its absence in Grandpa J’s toothbrushing song. Maja loves sounding out words and writing them down with her very individual phonetic spelling. My favourite is “ELefant klosd” on her zoo sheet, when I ask if you can ride an elephant at the Warsaw zoo. We envisage a queue waiting and she writes the sign so people will go away and look at something else.

On a freezing day my daughter suggests I take Maja to Grycan for an ice cream while she takes Jaś to the doctor. I treasure this first outing alone with my most beloved junior granddaughter, although she’s cold before we’ve even left home and the thought of an ice cream seems like insanity. Jaś and mummy join us on the way home from the doctor.

Out and about

I make a few attempts to photograph the Christmas lights, but the plan to document every street in the heart of Warsaw flounders when I succumb to yet another northern hemisphere cold. It also causes me to miss “Persona”, a dance performance for which I’d booked, and National Theatre Live “King Lear”, also pre-booked. I do manage to see the Met perform “Romeo and Juliet”, a rare outing with my daughter.

I manage finally to visit the 18th century theatre in Łazienki’s old Orangery and spend an enjoyable time with modern art in Ujadowskie Palace. To my huge delight my son and granddaughter accompany me to Chopin in the old kitchen of the castle, and my granddaughter surprises me by saying she knows and likes Chopin’s music. So we visit his heart, and one of his musical benches. We spend an afternoon in the Jewish cemetery, a highlight till later experiences nudge it down the list. We weekend in Kraków and, finally, brave Auschwitz.

Small triumphs

I buy very satisfactory snow boots; organise a lipwax; get keys cut for the visitors; sort out a pension dilemma with the help of a virtual receptionist; register my phone; and find Kraków accommodation.

Back home

There is a death: J’s Auntie Lorna, a feisty 95. There is a birth, my great niece Hannah Katherine.

My Mt Tamborine family take up residence at Potato Point for the summer holidays. My grandson finds mates there: my daughter-in-law and my resident son paint the deck. There is plenty of surfing. My son arrives with a long list of necessary home maintenance, an unwelcome reminder of the responsibilities of home ownership.

My beloved workmate and friend retires from a toxic workplace and I’m excited at the prospect of her future: travel; contract work; painting; and who knows what else?

Once again I miss a Bodalla exhibition of one of my favourite local artists, and an Australia Day concert at the Four Winds site, an afternoon of surf rock, pop, traditional and indie folk, blues, tango, samba, Americana, reggae, alternative country, and African rhythms: both of these are part of ongoing programs. There are things to go home for, apart from clean air.

About morselsandscraps

A retired Australian who spends a lot of time in Warsaw, and blogs as a way of life.
This entry was posted in photos, twins and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

29 Responses to Eleventh month in Warsaw: 1st January – 7th February

  1. Sue says:

    Whew! What a busy month, Meg! I am intrigued by the Apple riding…is an apple the name for the sled? And love the picture of Maja with her unwell book….bless! You must be in some trepidation about the journey home


  2. Tish Farrell says:

    I feel embraced by your family life, Meg, and already feel the wrench of leaving. What a star your granddaughter is – the dressing gown and having so much presence of mind, and in a situation where most of us would just PANIC. Lovely piece. Lovely family.


  3. Suzanne says:

    It sounds like you have had an incredibly exciting and rewarding time in Warsaw. Oz will seem a bit mundane when you return I expect. Maybe your foray into writing a bout a subject dear to your heart will lead to further projects. Staying engaged and finding creative projects are so essential for those of us living away from the big cities.


    • I don’t know that I’ll find Australia mundane! But the wrench will be torturous. I’m beginning to get myself into gear for the return: my car will be just out of rego for a start, and I had trouble remembering it’s rego number this morning. J could remember the number of my 1967 car. Between us we finally got there. As for creative projects, I have a few ideas.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the lovely summary. Glad you’ve had a good time with the littlies getting bigger.


  5. Heyjude says:

    You manage to pack soooo much into each month Meg, no wonder you are exhausted! Sorry to hear about being poorly, that’s one thing you might be glad to turn your back on, the relentless cold and associated illnesses. Thanks for explaining what an Apple is to Sue. I didn’t think J would be daft enough to sit on his phone! So why won’t he be returning to Poland? I’m sure they won’t be able to keep you away for long 🙂 Twinlets will soon be starting school I guess, so life will begin a new chapter. They grow so quickly.


    • I bet your month would look like this too if you essentialised it. Being poorly? It’s struck again and I AM FED UP! As a bushman and homebody, J’s found the year very hard, despite it’s being his idea. Twinlets don’t start school till they’re 6, but you’re right about the growing quickly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heyjude says:

        I sympathise with J. I’m no bushman, but I think I would also find it hard living in a big city. And I think 6 is a sensible age to start full-time school. My eldest didn’t start until that age – they were in a nursery school prior to that and in the last year were taught to read and write properly. My youngest, however, was only 4yrs 4mths and he found it very tiring. And a lot of children are very demanding and clingy!


  6. Lucid Gypsy says:

    I wondered what an apple was as well, looks like a good idea as there’s not far to fall. What a busy month you ‘ve had considering all the germs about. I don’t know where the year has gone, but I’d really hoped to get over there to see you and it just didn’t work out.
    There will be sadness mixed with joy on your departure, but you ‘ll be back!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. What a wonderful year you’re having, it’s been magical tagging along vicariously.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. restlessjo says:

    Life with you and your family is so absorbing, Meg! What a lovely and enterprising bunch they are! My favourite photo is the early one of your son reading to the twins and Jas leaning in, intent 🙂 Is the padding on his glasses an eye patch or a treatment for something? Nice news about your feature writing but a bit horrifying about the air pollution. Are they taking any steps to help? Short of banning traffic I don’t know what the answers are. You still have 2 and a bit weeks to relish. Make the most of all those cuddles! It will be hard for them (and you) when you’ve gone but the distractions of school aren’t far away. And you’ll be back!!! 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jaś has vision problems that require a patch which he hates and resists. The air pollution is partly location in a river valley I think, and maybe coal burning. Beata’s family are coal magnates, so my Australian son tells me, so surprise, surprise! vested interests.

      I’ve succumbed to germs again, so I’m holing up trying to get better. Degermed hugs on the way to you.


      • restlessjo says:

        Oh dear sweetheart! Your immune system needs a boost of Australian sunshine. Take good care and enjoy the opportunity to be idle. Off now to t’ai chi. Sending a bath tub full of hugs xxx


  9. restlessjo says:

    You’re commenting but not posting so I popped in with a few more hugs. 🙂 Perish the packing!


  10. You managed to pack so many things into one month, Meg, even with a cold! It must be hard to be counting down the last month already in so many ways, although I’m sure you miss home as well. I will miss your Warsaw adventures, but looking forward to reading about your life back in Australia when you get home. (I assume you will still blog?)


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