Thursday, 28 June 2007

Misia's First Holy Communion

Misia (pron: Meesha), my daughter, had her first holy communion in May. Some pictures of her and the family - including myself - are on my picassa web site.

The first holy communion is a very important occasion. The children - Misia is nine - dress up in their beautiful white dresses and smart suits. Their families get together to celebrate both at the ceremony and at a dinner afterwards. Many of these dinners are very large affairs, which usually take place in restaurants and halls, like weddings, but unlike most other family celebrations, which take place at home. It is the most important occasion for giving personal presents - wedding presents being less for the individual. Misia's special present was a trip to Paris to visit the Disney and Asterix theme sites - we leave on saturday.

Poland is heavily Roman Catholic and in most places there is no obvious alternative, although Orthodox churches become more frequent closer to the eastern border. Catholicism is fully integrated into the educational and social system here - hence Misia's involvment, so I can only find it amusing when the Minister for Education (who unfortuantely looks like a frankenstein monster) tries to integrate religion into the educational system. One can only admire the energy he expended trying to get the constituition change to ensure that non-existent abortions don't happen.

Democracy here is so strong - unlike the UK or US - that the weird workings of such politicians are fascinating. The Polish President, telling the Germans that they are mass murders that should be paying for their crimes, may not go down well in European Union negotiations, but it is the view of most Polish people, a large proportion of tradtional English people and try getting into conversation with local people working in European and North African tourist resorts about the merits of German tourists. Is it so unfortunate that democracy creates leaders that say what their people think? It is certainly a great deal more entertaining.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Polish Music on the Internet

I was sitting in Bar Lidia, watching VH1 – international music - on the TV and thinking how old I am: all the KAT pop videos just seem repulsive. Surely, thirty years ago, seeing a girl with her legs wide apart showing her knickers would have turned me on. Pop music remains dull and formulaic, but nothing much changes. Suddenly on came Kazik's “Cztery Pokoje” at,790739,teledyski.html

The main Polish “upload you own music" site is and the most popular downloads are listed at . Its in Polish, but all pretty obvious. The download icon is a little yellow square with a downpointing arrow. In some cases you have to click on “Ściągaj” to download.

DiscoPolo is light, inconsequential music designed to hop around to. A delight for Polish country weddings where you just want to get up and dance with , after several vodkas, that incredibly sexy girl/boy next to you. Its recent comeback is marred by rap but give it a try at or, for the latest tracks: where “Ściągnij wszytkie mp3 w jednym archiwum” means download all the mp3s in one archive.

All tracks are with the agreement of the artist or downloaded from their websites. Sceptical? Try or for output by groups Focus and Skaner.

Rather different is This is a site specialising in Polish Punk and related music. I came across it in a CD magazine, where the music was provided by the company. Some of the music is really good. Again, they do seem to be a legitimate promotional site.

Back in 2003/4, a new pub opened in Kielce and I decided to try it out. I went into the Galeon, as it is called. Suddenly, from the backroom came the tune “What do we do with the drunken sailor”, although the words were in Polish. The Polish folk music site is

I was staying in a spa resort in Southern Poland where there was a local festival. Onto the stage came a gypsy family troupe (aged about 7 to 70) of musicians, singers and dancers. Good fun music. The next day I passed them in the car some 5 kilometres away walking to the next town. For wider interest in “New-Europe” folk music, try and For those of you who remember English Folk music of the sixties and seventies, but never really thought it was “folk”, discover the roots we never had.

There are, of course, many Polish artist sites with music. I recommend Incrowd's music from the Sidney Polak site Sidney Polak's current music is at is a site promoting Polish and Portuguese music. It is in English and picks up downloads from the labels' or artists' own internet published works. Largely progressive electronic, although I recommend Pink Freud, which has had some international blogspot exposure Their music is on the WP site, although I can no longer find Pink Freud in the catalogue. There used to be a lot there. Electronic avantgarde is also celebrated in 40 Years of Polish Experimental Radio Studio Warsaw

Piotr K has a musicblog with Polish rock music.

Finally, if you have an interest in World music generally, try Nothing particularly Polish, but some fun music anyway. Belly dancing anybody?

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Kompas English Polish Translator and Dictionary

Kompas's website is in Polish ( , but “Tłumacz i słownik języka angielskiego”'s installer and interface can both be in English. It is less well distributed than Techland's “English Translator”, but is normally available in Empik stores. Electronic translation is never perfect, but comparing the two in the past, they were pretty much the same with different advantages and shortcomings. However, the Kompas product sells at half the price. I have not tried the new versions 4 (Kompas) and XT (Techland), but I'd be surprised if much has changed.

If you are seriously interested in translation, DO NOT BUY Techland's cheap version – they are very limited and only seem to exist to compete with Kompas's price. A cynic would have thought that it was primarily introduced to confuse customers into thinking that low price means low quality (ie do not buy Kompas, but buy Techland). Personally, I had bought Techland's translator (after Kompas) because I thought high price might mean high quality, but found I was wrong.

There is also a third competitor (“Transatlanica”, I think.) I tried it once, but found nothing special that inspired me to try to get used to a new programme.

PS Kompas's programme works fine on Vista.

Everyday life from the outskirts

The outskirts being Jelonki - “Young Stags” in English according to Kompas's PC translator programme. This is part of Bemowo (pronounced: bemovo) on/near the Western border of Warsaw, facing the fields, just above the Poznan road. Jelonki (pron: yelonki) is basically blocks of flats, areas of houses, a park and services. Nothing fancy, except people.

As a family man with a wife and young daughter (aged 9) here; a Polish family in Warsaw (my wife's); and with a limited early retirement income, my life is very home oriented. I tend not to get involved in the tourist or Arty/Party life in the information sites on the Web.

So all in all, I can only talk about the mundane elements of a life that I am quite happy to live as a bemused and, normally, amused participant. Life as it is lived to the half-full.

Take yesterday and you will see, although it was exceptional for me. I woke up early, listened to music, read a little, drank tea/coffee and smoked on the balcony. Got tea for my wife, helped dress my daughter and was alone when they left for their schools at 7:30. Messed around on the computer, ate and other functional activities plus music, reading, etc as before. Had to go out for cigarettes and popped into Bar Lidia for a couple of poli (pron poo-lee – half litres) and popped back. Welcomed the family home about 2:30, functional activities again and then sat down to be sociable in front of the television. Our resident neighbour had five minutes laughing over my bad Polish pronunciation, which persuaded me to go out again – a roughly once a month manoeuvred freedom. It had been a long time since I went to Patrick's (Irish Pub) in the centre, so jumped on the tram and then off and then in. Had a limited chat to an Irish guy – not standard in Patrick's, had a few and “got rotten”. A few? What can you do in an hour? I really must try and raise my tolerance – three poli of Polish beer and I start to waver and stagger. Add vodka and ... tram, home, collapsed on bed.

Wild excitement, hey? Mind you, I should really have gone down to (I think) Drzeworytników (pron: roughly dshev-or–utnikoov – wood engravers) a road in Jelonki where there a couple of reasonable looking bars on each side of the road. I have only been to each once, but one had an air conditioning unit (but will it work) and the other (opening in the evening) had a friendly barmaid. Such are life's major mistakes.