(Started writing this on Sunday night, but didn't get the chance to finish it yesterday.)
Sitting in the crappy bit of Warsaw airport – Terminal Etiude, where EasyJet fly from – waiting for our flight home. The trip has been just great, excepting a slight bout of sunstroke on Saturday (I'm a fragile little thing), and I'm sad to be going home. Lovely food, good company, nice hotel.
T'Other and I were in Poland for the European Broadcast Union's Radio News Specialised Meeting, which I'll talk more about on Strange Attractor, and decided to stay a couple of extra days to see a bit more of the city than simply the interior of Polskie Radio. The EBU and Polskie Radio put on a guided tour for us on Friday afternoon, which was great. Really good guide who gave us a lot of information about the city that we would have had to dig for online otherwise.
Sadly, I didn't have either my Poland guide book nor my Polish phrase book, both of which ended up getting left in Dorset when I moved to London, just because of a lack of space. We looked for one at Luton Airport, but although the book store there had loads of Swedish guides they had nothing Polish at all. We ended up getting a pan-European phrase book, which covered about a dozen languages in precisely no detail whatsoever. Luckily for us, we stayed mainly in the tourist area, where everyone spoke English and the menus were bilingual.
Warsaw itself is a divided city, with many ugly blocks of flats and office buildings built since the war, and then the charming Old Town, built, as it happens, since the war. Ages ago, I was talking to Maciej Cegłowski and he was talking about how Warsaw has the newest Old Town in the world, and now I see what he means. According to our guide, 84% of Warsaw was flattened by the Nazis, and in the years afterwards, the Poles painstakingly recreated their original Old Town, or at least the building façades.
The Old Town itself takes up quite a bit of the town centre and, after a while, knowing that the vast majority of it is a facsimile, you end up trying to spot which bits are truly old and which bits aren't. In the Royal Castle, you can quite easily tell – the old bits are the dark bits. Elsewhere it's harder to tell. It felt a bit like being in that sci-fi short story (I forget what it was called or who wrote it) where a whole town is re-created on an advertising company's tabletop after a catastrophic disaster kills all the inhabitants. I started to look about me for signs that we were on a tabletop…
They have some pretty cool new buildings in Warsaw too, with various newly built skyscrapers that bring the centre of town bang up to date. The best one was still being built, and we're guessing it's an atrium. Looked hellish cool, either way, particularly from our hotel window, where you could see it sort of ooze down between the other buildings. Nice bit of architecture, that.
We stayed at the Novotel Warszawa Centrum, with a fantastic view of the Palace of Culture and Science, which is a pretty impressive building. With 3000 rooms, it would take a long while to go round, although we couldn't figure out which bits of it were open to the public and which weren't so we never made it past the foyer.
We ate in the hotel once, primarily because of the bizarre menu, which included things like 'cannelloni loves those porky cheeks'. The best one was on the dessert menu, where not only could I figure out what the dessert was, but also figured out the pun in the Polish version ('gin dobry' = dzien dobry = good morning).
T'Other and I had a really good time looking round Warsaw. It was a shame we weren't there longer, and that I didn't have my proper phrase book. It would have been nice to go into a few museums and explore the city a bit more, not to mention get out of the city into the countryside. Maybe next time. Photos are all on Flickr.
polsku! tak! tak! tak!
(Started writing this on Sunday night, but didn't get the chance to finish it yesterday.)
More for my own benefit than anything, a link to Tamizdat, a website selling music from central and eastern Europe, including Poland. Hoping it will become a source of good Polish music, once I get the time to sit down and look through it.
It's been a long whilst since I've done any work learning Polish. I've been so busy that it's been months since I last looked at my books. That does, unfortunately, mean I've forgotten much of what I learnt earlier in the year. Not so useful.
Part of this lapse has been technology related. I had been working in notebooks, writing everything out by hand, but that was slow and I wanted to get my work on to the computer. The problem was that my desktop runs Win2K and therefore is not particularly good at dealing with diacritics such as ę or ł. Although I had located the alt-codes for the various Polish letters I now required, half of them didn't print out properly and I gave up.
Of course, Macs have great language support, but by the time I'd got my PowerBook I simply didn't have the wherewithal to play with Polish anymore. In the last week, though, I have had the pleasure of talking to Marek on IRC and between us we have managed to sort out Polish language support on both our Macs, (thanks to Kevin for helping!), and we can now talk in Polish in IRC with the correct diacritics.
Setting up the language support itself was easy, but it took Kevin to point out the existence of the keyboard viewer before Marek and I figured out how to actually get at all the letters we need (the alt key provides most of them). We then struggled for a while with IRC, our clients alternately displaying the correct diacritics then showing ?s instead, but eventually we got that fixed too.
So I started faffing about with the various text editors I have installed on the Mac, and it was then that I discovered that iText doesn't support Polish, so that went straight in the trash. I'm trying Tex-Edit Plus now instead, which supports Polish, but not Welsh. Gah. Can't win 'em all. (For more details of my quest for a decent text editor, see Strange Attractor.)
Anyway, rewind a bit. A month or so ago I was talking to crw about outlining and note-taking, which is a whole post in its own right, and he suggested that I use a note-taking app called Notational Velocity. So I downloaded it, installed it and sat looking at it in a puzzled manner, knowing it should be useful, but not really quite sure precisely how.
Having now sorted out the whole typing in Polish thing, I wanted a way to create a record of words and phrases as I learn them. With crw being my one stop shop for all geek advice these days, I asked him how he would do something like that on a Mac and he immediately told me to use Notational Velocity.
As Merlin says on 43 Folders, 'All Notational Velocity does is record little notes, but it does that in a way that is completely elegant, intuitive, and incrementally searchable'. All you do is type in the beginning of a word, and NV immediately starts to search for that strong of characters. If you keep typing beyond the point where NV can match the string, then you go from searching to creating a new entry. All you need do is hit return and your new entry is saved. You can also add extended notes to each entry which are similarly searchable.
For example, if I type in 'mo' then it returns 'matka – mother', 'mogę – I can' and 'potrzebuję pomocy – I need help'. It doesn't matter where the 'mo' is, it will find it. If I keep on typing 'może' then it realises that it can't match that string and I have a new entry ('może – perhaps'). I then clear the search box and start again. In practice, this means that amongst its other uses, Notational Velocity is perfect for the creation of an ad hoc Polish/English dictionary which is very easily and instantaneously searchable.
I am hoping that this will help motivate me to spend even a little bit of time working on my Polish each week. Of course, having Marek and James around on IRC helps enormously too, as would finding the time to actually read the emails that come in from the Polish Language Study Group. And it will still take me forever to get my head round Polish grammar, but maybe I can get at least a wee bit beyond 'hello, how are you?'.
I happened to pop into a newsagents on my way home today which I don't normally go into. There, sitting on the shelf behind the counter was a range of vodkas wider than one usually sees. They had Wyborowa, but more importantly, they had Żubrówka.
I first tasted Żubrówka nearly two years ago at my friend Mike's 40th birthday party. Our mutal friend Heidi had brought some over with her from Poland, and I was immediately smitten. What makes it special is that it's infused with bison grass, an 'aromatic grass which grows wild in the eastern part of Poland'. This gives it an unusual aroma and taste. I'd say 'herby' but that doesn't accurately describe it. It really is more grassy than herby, a bit like newly mown hay, yet also nothing like it. It's a really smooth vodka, with a nice burn going down and a lovely aftertaste.
I've been a vodka lover for a while now, although circumstances have meant that I've not been in the position to really develop my knowledge of vodkas as much as I would like. Maybe now I'm in London I should invest a wee bit more time and effort.
A new-to-me Polish teaching website and a new Easyjet route to Krakow have both been brought to my attention today. It's a sign.
I have promised myself that when I do move back to London, whenever that happens, I will find myself some Polish classes to go to. Still, it'd be nice to get a bit further by myself, but it's just a matter of time. *sigh*
Actually, IRC seems to be more coming than going, but that's a whole nother post.
Thought it was about time I just updated you as to the various and assorted projects I have going on. I don't think they each deserve a post to themselves, so they get to share.
Nothing Travels Faster Than Bad News
After a long while of doing nothing whilst Vince finished of the eightpointoneth draft of the script, we're now back on track. We have a production meeting scheduled for April and we hope to start shooting sometime after that. The latest draft has cut down my part quite considerably, which is good because hopefully that means I'll get to spend more time behind the camera. Expect to hear much more about this over the coming months.
I had a sudden burst of energy last night and rifled about in the filing cabinet, looking for the last version of SP1. Found it, and started an edit (third draft) this evening. It's much better than I had expected, although I've only read the first 30 pages so far. I think I need to get it back up on to Zoe and get some feedback. It is, after all, radically different from the first draft. Then I need to figure out what on earth to do with it.
The Polish is coming along ok, actually. As usual, I'm a bit sporadic with time spent learning, but I am managing to keep a degree of enthusiasm and consistency going. What is frustrating me is that I can't make my own sentences yet and conversations with my Polish speaking friends on IRC seem to be limited to 'Hi, how are you?' 'I'm fine thanks'. I am not yet able to progress beyond pleasantries, and it's starting to get on my wick. I mean, Welsh was so much easier than this! Still, persistence will win through where talent falls short, as Neil Finn once said.
The search for gainful employment
Still ongoing, although I have today discovered that I've got work worth a grand coming my way soon, which is a bloody relief, I can tell you. One phone call next week should seal that just nicely, and then I can relax for an bit.
I must admit, I had worried about mixing my search for work and my blog, but I've decided that a 9-5 would be akin to having my eyes put out so freelance is the only way to go and this blog may as well be a part of the process. Having followed Hugh's own search for cold hard cash over at gapingvoid, and after the wonderful ad he drew for me, I figured why not? If I'm going to advertise my services in what is frankly a rather bdj-ian way, a few blog posts aren't going to dent my chances of landing some work.
So, if you need a writer, email me. Or I'll send the cat round to moult on you.
One feature that I'm writing that I can't yet really tell you about – or rather, I don't want to tell you about til the deadlines whooshed past and it's published. Plus something else which I'll be able to elaborate on very soon.