Gra o Tron.


As it was a school/work day, I went on another meandering adventure through Poznań.

I went to Stary Rynek again, this time to see the goat clock at the aforementioned/photographed/closed on Mondays Historical Museum, realising when I got there that I didn’t have my camera’s SD card. The detail on these camera phones shots? Not so great. And I had been so proud of not needing to consult a map and for taking a tram by myself. (For one stop, but it was a ten minute ride between them, okay?)

Anyway, check out this 17th century clock.
Goat Clock
Check out the goats that start creeping out after the bells at noon.

Goat peek
Then they have at it and butt heads twelve times.

Head butt!
Nice, huh?

I then wandered to Cathedral Island (again without a map, ’cause I knew it was East of Centrum and, y’know, had spires), which is where Poznan was founded in the 10th century. The Cathedral looks pretty shiny and new, because it, like so many churches, has been knocked down and rebuilt many times. There were a few wars here. A couple of them in the last century were pretty damned devastating.

St Peter and Paul

Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. As this is a Catholic church, Mary was there too.

Due to darkness and camera phoneness, photos from inside did not work so well. Adding to the problem? The lady selling tickets didn’t speak English (the only words she said to me were shouted (“KRYPTA! KRYPTA!” as she pointed downstairs)),  so I couldn’t ask about, y’know, being allowed to take photos. Sneaky photos on a camera phone are pretty awful.

Loungin'I I love a lounging tomb occupant, hanging out with the heavenly.

This ceiling was amazing and it's a bastard that I couldn't get a better shot.


JPII, looking like a superhero. (His face is, not terribly surprisingly, all over the place here. Me: "He's not even the Pope anymore!" Piotr: "Sssshhhh. Don't tell the locals.")

Then I wandered vaguely towards food, taking some time to look at my choices of international cuisine.


I don't know why I'm so fascinated by this. Why shouldn't there be souvlaki or won ton soup here?

Ultimately, though, I was getting frustrated about not being able to read most things, so I headed to Sweet Surrender, a cafe on a major road named after FDR that is frequented by students (many foreign) and runs an English club. More or less as soon as I looked around dazedly, they asked if I needed an English menu. I very nearly said “Well, DUH.” They make an awfully nice soup and an even better cheesecake. Also, they have something called a ‘winter coffee’, which is aeropressed coffee with dried orange and cloves. Good lord, it was delicious.

Chelsea called on my Polska phone (P&C keep an extra for out-of-country guests) and mentioned she was going to the downtown Empik after talking to a prof, so I headed vaguely in that direction, knowing it was near this Soviet-era building being turned into luxury flats, checking my phone to find out exactly where it was.  Still, for me to only have to consult a map once in a day is borderline miraculous.

I love taking photos in Empik. A Song of Ice and Fire books are frickin’ huge here.

Gra o Tron

George Martin's making a killing here. As is, apparently Bear Grylls. (Also in the top 20? Sophie Dahl's cookbook. WTF.)

As is Le Petit Nicholas. I mean, Przygody Mikołajka.


Some of the most fought over books at school (in French).

As I mentioned, we actually did go out for Chinese-Vietnamese food tonight at the Bar Orient Express. I don’t really have pictures of this (it was tasty and came with the apparently mandatory cabbage-dill salad (I can’t remember its name in Polish), but I did snap this one of a billboard advertising some kind of Canadian-developed Garnier miracle product.

O Kanada

If we have the secrets of beautiful skin, why do I look like the Crypt Keeper today?

Speaking of which, here are some more signs, graffiti, and other things you might enjoy.


Pastries shaped like hearts, people, and guns, among other things. 2 zloty = about 65 cents.


That's dirty!

Cleverly dirty poster for the No Women - No Art exhibition.


tram stop

This was taken before whipping around to get on the waiting tram.





YAY POZnań! Catch you on the flip side, and hopefully less blurrily!


Berlin tomorrow morning, so I should get some sleep. I might post some Polish vocab lessons am Morgen, though.



I went to see Tacita Dean’s Film at the Tate Modern today. It was pretty amazing. Doing that kind of work on celluloid is just…unfathomable. It would probably be semi-easily done digitally – which is part of the mystique of it. It did remind me of of Norman McLaren a bit (though the perforations are artifically visible – the film exists within a frame, er, framed by them) dialed up to eleven, though silent and, y’know, not animated. She played with moving images within still images within artificial frames to fascinating effect. And since it’s on a continual loop, I do wonder if it’s projected digital/hypocritically.

Yeah, I’m not very good at talking about art. It suffices to say that I liked it a great deal.

Speaking of the film v. digital debate (as well as the highbrow v. the not), I took some silly photos. Here are some of them.

Baker Street

Please arrange for these tiles to be delivered and installed in my bathroom.



'Tintindiana Jones'? Fuck you.



London is full of history, including the nerdy variety. (Seriously, I love these plaques, even though I usually only see ones for people I've never heard of.)


Manchester Square

I ain't afraid of no GH05Ts.


Another great street name.

Another great street name.


Battle Bridge

The HMS Belfast is at the end of this street, so the name is apt, but I love how the sign was on a modern building. Old and new, together at least! Er, again.


And again!

Etc., etc. (This turned out much better than it looked on my phone, thankfully.)



Cancon regulations extend to the BFI? (Answer? No. Interestingly(?), I first saw this movie in Edinburgh where I was the only one to get the Burton Cummings and Mel Lastman jokes.)


More London Please

I wish this said "More London Please" instead.



I took this photo for Richard, for whom this is a deeply held belief.



When your readers/viewers get bored, bring in the big guns: A dog on the Tube trying to get his sleep on.

Last night’s recording was very fun. I met fellow Ottawan, Sarah (who now lives in London), who led the Canadian fan hugs off before the show (as Mr Watson was trying to, y’know, get into the studio.)

If you want to listen to the mayhem, you can here. I started the applause after the charity mugger joke, so I made it on to Radio 4. FINALLY!

I had intended to go to a film tonight, but as I walked about 13 miles today, I sat down once I got to my hotel and more or less haven’t stood up since. Must try to wake up early tomorrow to do a bit of wandering/more photo-taking of billboards, which are generally awesome. My flight to Poznan (via Munich) is tomorrow at 11am. Wish me luck that my luggage makes it through (and me too, obviously).



Fear and loathing in Kensal Rise.


I really am a shit tourist. Example? I’m absolutely delighted to be back at my hotel with an M&S egg & cress sandwich (I splurged!) in time to watch Countdown. It’s the first time I’ve seen it in the post-Vorderman universe and I’m not sure what to think. I missed the beginning, so I literally have no idea who the host is. (I’m typing this up before I have internet in my room.)

I managed to check in at 10:30 (my room is nutso too – it has two single beds and a sofabed? I must have misunderstood the website), but despite having had only a couple of hours of sleep (seriously, fuckers, why are you serving dinner on a plane at 11pm? and why won’t you tell VERY LOUD PEOPLE CHATTING LOUDLY ABOUT LOUD THINGS to shut the hell up when everyone else is trying to sleep?), I headed straight out again. Instead of hitting the sights, I went to Costa, bought a coffee and muffin, and consumed them in Hyde Park while watching small, presumably minted, children ride ponies.

My usual M.O. in this town involves a lot of eating in parks and walking until I get lost, then either get found or at least get on public transit until I find my way back.

Today, instead, I decided to brave London’s bike share program since there’s a station about five minutes walk from my hotel. It cost me 11 quid to ride on the noisiest (seriously, I’ve been in quieter cars), creakiest, arse-numbingest, foot crampingest bicycle I’ve ever been on for two hours and change. It was harrowing, but in a way that I love.

Unfortunately, I have few photos since my phone and camera batteries were both uncharged! Way to plan, McLeod.

I have only been biking in the UK in one other locale: Kirkwall, Orkney. Which, being a town with a population in the quadruple digits, is really not a challenge. London’s a smidge different. Especially without an A-Z nor a functioning phone GPS.

Here are some random thoughts from along the way:

  • Well, I’ll turn right here. I think I’m turning West?
  • Right, Notting Hill. I wish I could remember the name of that nice pub I went to a while back. Like, four years ago. Eh, it’s probably not there anymore
  • GOOD GOD, my foot! Are these pedals made for the cloven-footed?
  • Ooo, Oxfam shop. I bet there are expensive things in that one.
  • Okay, I think I’m going too far West. Going to try switching it up and going North for a bit, maybe to Kilburn or Maida Vale.
  • I have literally no idea which way I’m going.
  • Huh, crossing a canal into where? That sign says this road goes to Hammersmith! Shit! TOO FAR TOO FAR TURN AROUND.
  • Isn’t Kensal Rise where that tornado was a few years ago? I think they mentioned it on the Big Fat Quiz of the Year?
  • Heh. Waldo Road. Good lord, they weren’t kidding about the property crisis here. Every house along here seems to be for sale.
  • Harlesden? What the fuck is Harlesden? WHERE AM I?! Willesden’s no better! Gah!
  • Lushington Road = best street name ever.
  • Okay, this road, whatever the hell it is, is scaring the crap out of me and I can’t figure out how to turn right. I’m hopping off to cross.
  • Huh, the trouble with these bikes is that they don’t come this far. No docking stations. I would kill for something to eat.
  • The locals are baffled. “Wot’s that? Does Barclay’s make bikes?” from one woman.
  • Hey, a crap doppelganger in the form of a British Tracy Morgan. Unless Tracy Morgan is in NW London for some reason.
  • That bus says it’s going to Kilburn High Street! I totally know how to get back to Paddington from there! I’m gonna follow it! As soon as I can figure out how to turn right.
  • Where the hell did that bus go? WHERE AM I?
  • Oh! I know that I am too far North and West. The sun sets in the West, so, I should try to keep the sun either to my right or behind me.
  • WTF?! I just did a perfect loop. I’m sure I’ve been at this intersection before. You don’t forgot a name like Uffington Road.
  • Okay, well, this sign says Kensington 4. I can find Paddington from there surely and it’s not far. Aw, crap, that’s miles, not kilometres.
  • I have no idea where I am. The sign only directs to Willesden. I WAS JUST THERE AND DON’T WANT TO GO BACK.
  • Holy shit, that sign says Paddington 1 1/4! Thank fuck! OH MY GOD A BICYCLE NETWORK PATH.
  • Wait, if Marylebone is right, doesn’t that mean Paddington is the other way? Or is it behind me? WTF is going on? Where did Paddington go? Crap.
  • Lord’s? What the fuck?
  • Hm, Paddington Green Cycle Network station. Close enough. I’ll walk the rest.

Tonight, I’m going to Broadcasting House, a place I’ve heard about a million times on Radio 4, to attend a recording of this. I really will need a nap, which is poor jetlag care, but I’m olde. Tomorrow’s for regrets. And lunch with a dapper Scot.

Edited to add my initial impression of my first viewing of Hollyoaks (as said to Richard on Google Talk):

3:36 PM
me: I am half-watching Hollywoaks
3:37 PM
Anger is always expressed as constipation.
Occasionally, really bad constipation.
There’s actually a character named Texas.
And another named India
Shittiest soap ever

3:38 PM
someone just got slapped and the foley was, like, a pringle being bitten.
3:41 PM
richard: hahaha

The “Actually, Do Mention the War” Tour Continues. (Not about gardening.)


(Written this morning)

Oh, hey, I’m in Paris now. Two hours in and I’m sitting in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower having just finished a religieuse. Mentioned to the woman at the bakery that I hadn’t had one in about 19 years. She smiled at me in a ‘don’t engage with the lunatic’ kind of way. As Orson Welles would say, “Aaaah, the French…”

Of course, yes, I probably do look like a lunatic. I just got in from Berlin on an overnight train and haven’t showered yet (hotel room’s not ready). On top of that, I have Scabface – I have blown my nose so much that the skin around it is raw and coming off in chunks. I also have a confusing accent and far-from-perfect-grammar. I wouldn’t have engaged me in conversation either.

By the way, the first notable thing I did in Paris wasn’t getting lost, but getting stuck in a turnstile in the Métro. Getting lost was the second thing.

I didn’t write about Berlin yet because I was exhausted, sick, and overwhelmed for much of it. I did rent a bike, which is BY FAR the best way to get around. Especially as cyclists fucking rule the roads, sidewalks, and every other horizontal surface in the city. It was great. Of course, on Monday, I walked and lived in fear of the cyclists instead. Fuck, they’re bastards, but it was fun to be one of them for a while.

Spent much of Sundays in museums and Monday meandering around Mitte. Here are some photos:

Fernsehturm at Alexanderplatz. One of the ugly-yet-admirable icons.

Fernsehturm at Alexanderplatz. One of the ugly-yet-admirable icons.

This is my sweet ride and the sweet bike rack I locked her to outside the DDR Museum.

This is my sweet ride and the sweet bike rack I locked her to outside the DDR Museum.

No, I didnt just see the stereotypical tourist stuff...

No, I didn't just see the stereotypical tourist stuff... (Brandenburg Gate)

...just mostly them. (Checkpoint Charlie)

...just mostly them. (Checkpoint Charlie)

Tried to take a sneaky pic inside the lobby of this tiny cinema. Not so successful.

Tried to take a sneaky pic inside the lobby of this tiny cinema (Kino Central). Not so successful.

Did watch a movie in the adjacent courtyard. Das Leben die Anderen. (I had seen it once before, but still!)

Did watch a movie in the adjacent courtyard. Das Leben die Anderen. (I had seen it once before, but still!)

Only a bit of The Wall remains (about 1.3km worth). This bit’s known as the East Side Gallery. The artwork was updated last year.

The Understanding of Ignorance

"The Understanding of Ignorance"

I apologise for the lousy quality of some of these. I was so smugly pleased to have remembered to charge my camera battery that I forgot to put it back in my camera before leaving the hotel. Brilliant.

It’s hard to write or think about Berlin without resorting to being trite or thinking in clichés about ‘massive change’ and ‘coming to terms with its past’. It’s an amazing place. You should go.

A note for anyone visiting: If you ask “Sprechen Sie Englisch?” of hotel, restaurant, or shop staff and they reply ‘a little’, chances are that they speak it better than you do. Just sayin’.

“Espresso doppio, proszę.” “Yes, anything else?”


(Written in the Old Town this afternoon, between rainstorms)

I kinda feel like I’m on that school trip to Quebec City in grade 7; even when I try to use a word in the local language, I get a reply in English.

Sitting in a café (my second of the day) listening to seemingly the only accordion-playing busker who isn’t a) a 14-year-old girl, b) sour-faced, and c) in possession of a tiny, apparently dead (but actually just exhausted) puppy.

After a couple of days spent primarily sitting on patios, enjoying local brews (although, I did make it to the EXCELLENT Solidarity Museum yesterday), I decided to make use of my Karta Turysty and hit up some more educational haunts, which, it turns out, is quite tricky. The archaeology museum was great, but several exhibits/displays offered no English descriptions at all. (This is fine, really. I am not so arrogant as to be think that there should be English everywhere, but, yeah, bewilderment was at maximum a few times when facing endless pots of who-knows-what origin.)

Ditto at the Maritime Museum (though English descriptions were more available there), which had the additional complication of being one way only. So, despite being exhausted (have I mentioned the sinus-y, mucous situation I have going on in my head?) and wanting to head out early, I had to go through ALL of the exhibitions since I got shouted at in Polish by little old ladies if I tried to turn around. Everything on the third floor and above got pretty cursory glances, I’m afraid. Apologies to 20th century shipbuilders.
As I can’t drink vodka, my souvenirs so far are the nearly-as-stereotypical mead (which is more like wine than liqueur here) and amber.

I am really digging Poland. I hope I can make it back before Piotr and Chelsea leave (Euro 2012, maybe?). Tomorrow, I embark on my journey West to Berlin, then on to Paris. It will be sweet relief to have at least a primary school reading level (in Germany). Still haven’t made a single decision on what to see there yet, though. The dream of renting a bike and exploring has been quashed by five days of torrential rain in the forecast. Ack. Must buy an umbrella. OK, jetzt habe ich einen Plan für Berlin.

(Photos of Gdansk will be posted here am Morgen, or maybe the day after.)

Sopot. (Also not about gardening.)


So I didn’t write about London. Here are a few words:

1. Annelouise, Joe, the other Jo, Alan, and Mark Watson are great.

2. Paul Merton touched my leg when making his way through the Comedy Store with a tray of drinks. This is slightly better than making an arse of myself by babbling in his face in Edinburgh a couple of years ago.

3. Greenwich is lovely and highly recommended, but don’t have a giant lunch before climbing that hill.

4. Churchill’s War Rooms are definitely worth a visit, but do not count as one of the free museums for some reason.

5. Curly Wurly was unfindable. This is terribly upsetting.

As for Sopot, we went there yesterday and met up with Piotr’s de facto aunt (one of those older relatives who you know you have some kind of DNA relationship too, but aren’t 100% sure how), her partner, and her mother. The three people we met live in/around Ottawa too and it turns out Teresa delivered my friend’s kids (she’s a midwife). Ottawa: A Small Town of a Million People.

In actuality, we spent the afternoon drinking and eating and wandering (a bit). Here are some photos:

Sopot lunch. Sturgeon with mushroom sauce, potatoes, and salad.

Sopot lunch. Sturgeon with mushroom sauce, potatoes, and salad. Oh, and beer. So good.

Sitting, chatting, drinking near the sea.

Sitting, chatting, drinking near the sea.

This is quite near the station and the church where Piotrs parents got married.

This is quite near the station and the church where Piotr's parents got married.

This is where Chelsea, and later Piotr, lived when they first moved to Poland. This is a pretty swanky area of the Tri-Cities, but ultimately too loud and too expensive.

This is where Chelsea, and later Piotr, lived when they first moved to Poland. This is a pretty swanky area of the Tri-Cities, but ultimately too loud and too expensive. (Western European prices have invaded, mostly on stuff like clothing, electronics, and real estate.)

Manscaping and being mahogony-coloured are all the rage on the Baltic coast.

Manscaping and being mahogony-coloured are all the rage on the Baltic coast.

You can rent this stilts on the beach. We did not.

You can rent these stilts on the beach. We did not.

It was a grand day out.  Today, I’m going to learn something, though. We’re going to the old city of Gdańsk (which, of course, was mostly razed in the Second World War since, y’know, the conflict started here and all) and going to the Solidarity Museum. Will report back soon.

Polská. (Not about gardening.)


Poland so far.

I’m in Poland. Here’s some stuff I wrote yesterday in my French school notebook:


So, Poland. A land that makes fools of us all. At least of me, anyway.

The last  few weeks of work have made me extremely stupid and deeply unprepared for this much-needed holiday. A key thing that I should have done, for example, is learn some Polish.

Instead, I have thus far been a near-mute asshole, saying ‘Cześć’ and ‘Dziękuję’ once in a while, but generally just standing there like a fool, pointing at things on menus (in touristy places in Kraków, these are bilingual even when the staff aren’t, though), and hoping that I’m pronouncing Okocim correctly.

Unfortunately, aside from my tendency to gap at ancient churches and taking photos of graffiti I enjoy, I don’t look like a typical tourist. How do I know this? I get asked for directions frequently. Three people had stopped me to ask me for advice before I even got on a train to Kraków Główny from the airport. I have a Polish face (or a British one or an Icelandic one) or an air that I know what the fuck I’m doing. I don’t, I assure you. I’m generally, if possible, more lost than you are. Do not trust this face.

Anyway, here’s a list of some of the things that I did and saw in Kraków:

1. Watched a really keen (is there any other kind?) British trainspotter who took dozens of photos and extensive notes on the airport shuttle, then inserting his papers into a book on “Key Phrases for European Rail Travel” (or similar).

2. Saw/heard the bugler of Kościół Mariacki in the town square (more than once).

3. Ate pierogi ruskie (yeah, I don’t know either).

4. Went to a chamber music concert in an ancient (well, to Canadian standards) church. The first violinist looked like Burton Cummings and was clearly fighting off the flu or something. Still brilliant, though.

5. Went to bed early-ish (10:30) and was awoken an hour later by a shouting couple in the street, then by several more people over the course of the night.

6. Queued for almost an hour for a ticket to Wawel Castle. Then said ticket blew away (I think – it vanished, anyway) while I was eating lunch. As a result, no state rooms for me, but I did see the archaeological bits and the Dragon’s Den (no investors there, though).

7. Found out that Kraków Głowny makes Birmingham New Street look like the Taj Mahal.

8. Visited the Galicia Holocaust Museum (no, didn’t make it to Auschwitz this time), which was excellent, and walked around Kazimierz (the old Jewish Quarter) for ages.

9. Forgot to take a photo of the Bonerowski Hotel (sorry, Jovana).

As I write this, I’m on my very long train journey to Gdansk to stay with Piotr and Chelsea. I’m hoping to have a lazy few days with them (ed. note – day one a total success) and let my finances recover after the money-sucking, yet lovely, stay in the UK before heading on to Germany on Saturday morning.

Do widzenia!