Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Hygge and Happiness

PREFACE: When I wrote this post, I was still rather depressed, so I'm glad the grumpy wifi wouldn't let me publish. After a day's reflection, I saw what the central problem was. See Afterward for that.
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I spend forty hours of the week grappling with politics and scandals, civil and church, and at least seven hours reading Polish, so the rest of the time I try to read as widely as possible. This weekend I had a lot of reading opportunity as my parents were here, and when the adult members of my family are together in one room, we tend not to play board games. We tend to read. 

So yesterday I was greatly amused by Escape Everything, which is about escaping the rat race to do what you like, which I first did over fifteen years ago, albeit without thinking much about the economics of it all. Escape Everything delves into the economics, dancing a tarantella on consumerism while I applauded. It also forbids the reader from getting a mortgage, to which I could only sigh, having only just got one. Escape Everything enjoys the freedom of renting, as mobility is one of its primary values, and doesn't have much to say about old age.

When I had finished chortling over Escape Everything, which shored up my anti-consumerism beliefs and even inspired me to give up daily coffee (gradually),  I picked up The Little Book of Hygge: the Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking. 

I didn't buy the hygge (pron. 'hoo-geh') books when they first snowed down upon the bookshops, for they were expensive, and I settled down to The Little Book feeling smug and snug, for I had borrowed it for free from the library. To my dismay, as I read about Danish lamps, warming drinks, bonfires on the beach, December weather, etc., etc., I felt sadder and sadder.  Eventually I put the book down and burst into tears. 

I burst into tears becasue central to hygge--a north Germanic sense of hominess (as the book correctly says it is called in Canada)--is spending as much time as possible with family and friends. The top source of happiness, according to Copenhagen's Happiness Research Institute, is spending time with family and friends. People are particularly happy while playing with children. 

So even if you ignored everything in Escape Everything and bought expensive Danish lamps, woolly Danish jumpers, thick Danish socks, made Danish recipes and Christmas decorations and even imported a reindeer hide and had a fireplace put in, if you don't have friends and family around, you have missed the Happiness Nation in the World Express. 

Why this should so upset me after spending a (rare) weekend with my parents is strange. However, it's been a hard week of, e.g., "Humanae Vitae betrayed Casti Connubii by privileging the unitive end of marriage over the procreative end of marriage." It's easy to nod sagely over that if you're married and have kids.  

"Auntie, when you're not here, it's like you don't even exist," said my nephew Pirate, for which he is not to blame, for he was only seven. It was not even true, as I was still writing for his archdiocesan newspaper, and thus an out-of-date photograph of my smiling face appeared in his school library every two weeks. However, it hurt like hell. 

Sending presents can only go so far to maintain a relationship with children. When I was a child, American uncle and grandmother sent interesting brown paper parcels from time to him, but my Canadian grandmother, who lived a 30 minute stroll (if that) away, came to visit every Sunday. She brought cookies--my mother drew the line at candy--wrapped in paper kitchen towel that smelled faintly of cigarette smoke. She didn't play with us--and she rarely babysat ("My Nerves!")--but she was a genial presence in the kitchen, either smoking or washing the dishes and putting them away where my mother couldn't find them. (Or so said my mother.) As a result, my grandmother, who    went through the trouble only of having one child, was adored by five other children. 

I'm really not sure what to do about being thousands of miles away from my family and best friends almost all of the time, if spending as much time with family and friends is really the secret of happiness in earthly life. And when I think about it, I've never met any Danes--presumably because they stay with their family and friends in Denmark. 

However, I understand that there is a great deal of happiness to be found in gardening, and the mortgage will also get us a garden, so there is that.


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AFTERWORD: So the central problem, of course, is that I stopped thinking about what we DO have and started thinking about what we DON'T have and, indeed, may never have. Escape Everything is about giving up non-essentials to embrace what you really love. The Little Book of Hygge is about lives entirely unlike mine. I can't imagine what a cloistered nun or a bereaved Syrian refugee, for example, would think of The Little Book of Hygge.

The whole point of the Seraphic Singles blog was to find out, and celebrate, what Singleness had going for it without denigrating marriage or religious life. Now the ongoing challenge, I suppose, is to always appreciate what childlessness and voluntary exile have going for them, without making the mistake of denigrating parenthood, the primary calling of married people, children and family.

There's got to be a middle ground between the dour "Childless spouses are cursed by God" point of view and the imbecilic "Hooray for child-free me".   

One of the nicest things I do have, something that doesn't cost me any money at the moment, is the chance to see whole streets of Georgian architecture, with amazing gardens in ceramic pots down the stairwells to the lower flats. So I'm off now to look at them again. 



Sunday, 15 July 2018

Space and Hedgehogs

The downstairs neighbours, from whom we were subletting, have gone home to the Continent. Now we are renting directly from the owners, and we have emerged from our room. The New Town flat in which we have slept, washed, eaten and quarrelled for a over a month actually comprises two stories--and perhaps 2,000 square feet--of what was once a six storey townhouse, built before 1840. Now we are the sole inhabitants and can sit downstairs.

There is a garden, too, with a pile of sticks and leaves that may contain hedgehogs. I have been reading gardening books, and one was very enthusiastic about creating these hedgehog-friendly dens. 

I have moved my centre of morning operations to the kitchen. It is directly under the room of our refuge, and it has a twelve-light window looking into the street stairwell (the flat is "lower ground floor") with a cushioned window seat.  It is much more comfortable to study here than to study on the floor between the window and the drawn curtains in our room, which I did for weeks, as B.A. slept on. 

We used to say, when we lived in the Historical House, that we would never live anywhere so grand or comfortable again. This turned out not to be true, exactly, as now--thanks to our friends, the owners--we are living in a delightful two storey flat in the New Town. Temporarily. If a surveyor finds nothing seriously wrong with the New Flat, we will move there next Monday. 

Meanwhile, we live a New Town life, and I am too frightened to look at our bank account. B.A. bought two bottles of £10 wine at Margiotta's yesterday. What was he thinking?

"It was on sale," he said breezily, and as my parents are in town, and like good wine, I just repeated my stricture that once we move into the New Flat the party ends.  

The New Flat is in a much less exclusive neighbourhood, to put it mildly. It is in a row house built for such working-class Edinburgh people whose city centre slum was about to be knocked down. At the time, the river outside the row house was dirty, the ground was brown, and the air was full of noise.  Ninety years later, there is no more heavy industry in that part of town, and so the environment is actually liveable. But it is neither the Historical Estate nor the New Town, so I will have a very difficult time maintaining my delusions of grandeur. 

Comfort comes, however, in The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbary (translated into English by Alison Anderson), which is about a Parisian building superintendent, or concierge, who secretly lives for art, philosophy and fine food. She goes to extreme lengths not to allow anyone in her building--one of the most chic and luxurious apartment buildings in Paris--to find out she isn't the stereotypical Paris concierge: surly, uneducated, uncultured and dumb.   

I was not aware that there was a stereotype for Paris concierges. My friend the Economist lives in a new build in Krakow, and the management employs women to watch the door. One seemed very nice, and one seemed suspicious of my presence, much to the Economist's masculine joy. As I am 17 years older than the Economist, it seems unlikely that I could disturb the chaste soul of a Krakow concierge, but then you never know.  I am more familiar with the elderly Polish women who maintain the public loos, collecting coins in a little dish while (allegedly) listening to Radio Maria. 

But I digress. My point was that this concierge, while striving to live down to an awful stereotype, manages to have a rich interior life involving philosophy,  Russian literature (in translation) Japanese films (also in translation), and really delicious cheese and pastries. (I was concerned that she was not sharing her considerable gifts with anyone, but that is where character development came in.) 
So, although Madame Michel is an atheist French intellectual who gives phenomenology a good kicking,  The Elegance of the Hedgehog is a very inspiring book.  Madame M may tend to an architecturally and culturally snazzy building, but she herself lives in three pokey rooms.

Update: One critic pointed out that the central characters are rather nasty about others in the book. I noticed that. However, they are not nasty to these people, and personally I do not mind if incredibly rich left-wingers are trounced in fiction. I also enjoyed how the Catholic reactionaries are shown to be decent in times of crisis. I suspect many lefty French intellectuals enjoy freaking out other lefty French intellectuals by admiring (or pretending to admire) Catholic reactionaries. Look at Houellebecq. 

Monday, 9 July 2018

The Joy of Letting Go and Letting God (and Solicitors)

The best-case-scenario move-in date has come and gone because I found an interesting thing in the paperwork that everyone, including our solicitor, missed. Apparently third parties aren't supposed to know about it, so we'll leave it at that.

I may have saved B.A. and me £1,000 or more, so I am quite pleased instead of catastrophically depressed. I have even stopped whining about living in "ONE ROOM", as in, "Oh woe is me, what decisions have I made in life that have culminated in us living in ONE ROOM?" as if the one room were in debtors' prison instead of Edinburgh's ritzy New Town.

Meanwhile it is early July, so the chances of finding surveyors and (potentially) contractors who are not on the traditional two-week July holiday are slim, but that is not my business, but that of solicitors, so I have left them to get on with it, between their own July holidays, of course. No skin off my nose. I have transferred the equivalent of a year's pay (household) into my solicitor's client account and postponed Stage One of the move, and now all I have to do is wait.

All poor B.A. has to do is continue going to the hospital to have radiation shot into his brain tumour. That's why it is Mrs B.A. who is doing all the fine-print reading and dealing with banks, solicitors, mortgage brokers, and man-with-van, in case you were wondering. I have also met a future neighbour and signalled my willingness to put the garden to rights. But, really, all this is nothing to my decision just to let go and let God (and solicitors) work out when B.A. and I are actually going to move in.

Yay, me!

By the way, if I were still writing posts for Singles, I would point out that if you think you can avoid having to talk to bank managers, solicitors, mortgage brokers, and other intimidating people just by getting married to a traditional Catholic man, leaning upon his towering strength like a tender vine twined around a mighty oak tree, you can think again!

Husbands get sick. Sometimes they even die young. I knew a young woman whose husband dropped dead at 24 or so of a heart attack; she was a few months pregnant at the time. She was a model of faith and courage, and everyone admired her so much. But the tragedy was certainly a reminder that youth is no guarantee against death and widowhood.*

There are only so many things you can do about that, too. Top of the list is making sure your husband  goes to the doctor when something is clearly wrong with them, e.g. being overweight, being underweight, having a chronically sore neck. For some weird reason, in UK culture men don't go to the doctor unless their wives of kinswomen make them. If your husband is easily influenced by your own habits, don't smoke and don't drink too much. Serve him vegetables. Take him for walks, if that's the only exercise he'll take. If he is of a nervous disposition, try not to stress him out. Speak kindly to him as much as possible, as if he were your prize rose bush.

But really, that's it. With husbands' health, as with real estate, there needs to be a strong let-go-and-let-God (and professionals) philosophy at a certain point.

Meanwhile, as you can see, the two things uppermost on my mind are still the New Flat and B.A.'s Brain Tumour, despite my decision not to be stressed out about either. But I suppose that is not unusual.

*To be scrupulously fair to traditional Catholic men, I should add that some of them may have no taste for business and might actually be relieved if their hardheaded wives do this stuff instead.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Enforced Minimalism

Thank heavens for Marie Kondo, authoress of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Last summer I gave our flat in the Historical House a tremendous clear-out, little knowing that a pipe would burst, destroying our bathroom and leading to our exile. We have Kondo to thank for the fact that our flat, though much trodden upon by firefighters and workmen, is not a complete shambles.  

After a few short (thank heavens) stays in hotels, we were put in a one-bedroom "holiday let" flat with a kitchen for some months. Then, having received the bad news that we could never again live in our beloved Historical House, we were asked to vacate the holiday let. Now, thanks to a generous friend who has bought a country home, we are living in a room in the New Town.

This is downsizing to a whole new level, and I keep thinking about James Joyce's family's spiral down the property ladder. However, that is not fair, for the reason we have not just signed a year's lease on a £900/month flat in the New Town is that we have offered to BUY a flat and now we are just waiting for the solicitors to tell us where to send the money and to give us the keys. Unlike the great majority of flood victims, we have a choice here.

Meanwhile, I have been learning what is absolutely essential for comfortable living, and to my surprise, I only do need one pair of shoes although I admit a prettier pair for Sunday Mass would be an excellent addition. Strangely, my husband seems to need five or six pairs; occasionally I collect them from around the room and place them in two rows by the door.

Also essential (for summer): one raincoat, two skirts, a suit, four T-shirts, enough socks, tights and underclothes for a week, two nightgowns, a Sunday dress, bed-socks and a towel.

In terms of furnishings, one really does need a stove of her own. After a month of microwave meals, I  can safely say that when I have a stove again, I will never willingly eat a microwaved meal for the rest of my life. A hot plate would have saved us a lot of money, for we might not have been driven to eating out so often with a hot plate.

Then one needs a table, a chair, a fork, knife and spoon, a wide bowl that can also serve as a plate, a drinking glass, a mug for coffee, a kettle, a french press (for coffee), a tray on which to keep the morning coffee equipment, a shelf for books and papers, a bed with pillows that can double as cushions, two fitted sheets, two duvet covers, a duvet and a bathroom with plentiful hot water.  Oh, and a wardrobe for hiding all clothing. And a plastic bag for the rubbish which one must take out ASAP to the friendly bin on the street. And two dishtowels. And a dirty-laundry basket.

If you are B.A., you also need a radio and wi-fi. I admit I wish the building's wi-fi was strong enough to reach my computer, but after 8-9 hours online in my little office back in the Historical House, I am happy to be off while back in the One Room.

If we had a stove, naturally we would also want a sharp knife, a chopping board, a mixing bowl, a pot-holder, a pot and a frying pan.

I am thinking these thoughts because one day in the next two months we are going to have to pay movers a hefty sum to take all our belongings down three flights of stairs from the long Attic Flat in the Historical House and carry them up one flight to the short First-Storey Flat in the Riverside Row House. This means that we are going to have another massive clear-out, and I am stiffening my resolve with the thought that we need much less than we currently have.

This is going to be a serious exercise in being rooted in reality.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

The Already and the Not Yet

I have been sitting on the stairs to our new flat. We don't actually own the flat yet. We have had an offer accepted, and a genial bank has given us a mortgage, and there is a "Sorry, Sold" sign on one of the river-facing windows. Our solicitor is working with the seller's solicitor for an earlier move-in date. The seller lives out of town, so this shouldn't be a problem.

All the same, I have been sitting on the stairs to our new flat. It is on the second floor (i.e. on the first floor by European counting) of a two-storey row house built in 1930. It is accessible by a wide concrete staircase, which leads up to a west-facing front door. There are five windows facing west over the gardens (two in the kitchen, one in the bathroom, one over the front door, and one in the front bedroom) and three, I think, facing the river across the street (two in the sitting-room and one I the back bedroom). For some reason, the flat has been demarcated on the west side by a coat of reddish-ochre paint. B.A. likes this and says it is authentic.

This morning's was my third visit to the flat since we bought put in an offer for it. My purpose was to see where in the garden the sun falls in the morning. Yesterday I dropped by to see where the sun fell in the afternoon. The raised beds at the back of the garden, under the apple tree, seem to be always in shade.

Yes, we have (or will have) an apple tree, and the Lady Downstairs told us on our first visit that it gives good eating apples. The Lady Downstairs has a wider strip of garden than we do, but no fruit trees. The departed tenant of our flat used to give her apples, she hinted, and we promised that if our bid was successful, we would keep the apples coming.

The apple tree clinched the deal for me (does anyone ever say 'clinched 'anymore?), to be honest. My first surprise was that the two bedroom flat came with a private garden at all. For over a year, off and on, I have been looking at affordable flats in Edinburgh and environs, and it never dawned on me that one might conceivable come with a private garden. A shared concrete chessboard with laundry lines stretched across it, yes. A sad strip of grass covered in cigarette butts, certainly. But a private garden, no.

For the first time since my Mediaeval Herbal Phase, I have been reading gardening books.

Meanwhile, we are still living in one big room (with ensuite) in the New Town, loaned to us by a generous friend for a peppercorn rent, which goes to her proper tenants, who suddenly found themselves with both housemates and an income-stream. It is a beautifully proportioned room, an excellent shelter after an evening of admiring the architecture of the New Town.

However, the wi-fi connection is weak, which means I go to the Historical House to work, and we are shy of intruding upon the proper tenants in the kitchen, which means either cold food or the microwave. Then there is the problem of two married people who cannot politely get away from each other. B.A. sleeps lightly and late, so in the morning I make a chair out of two pillows on the other side of the closed floor-length drapes and there read five pages of Książe Kaspian.

If we were newlyweds in our twenties this would be sooooooo romantic. Sadly, we aren't.

So while sitting on the steps to our new flat, whose keys we do not yet have, I think about how nice it will be to go indoors and have a kitchen and sitting-room again. The irony, of course, is that the New Town is arguably the best place in all Edinburgh to live, and we will be much older and richer before we even have the opportunity to do so again. I think sadly of the violent assault that befell a young man on our new street, but then there was an actual murder in the New Town a year and a half ago, so You Never Know.

We have a new flat---and we don't have a new flat. It's like the Already and the Not Yet I was told about in theology school. Since the Incarnation, the Kingdom of God is already here. But on the other hand, it's not fully yet here. Since Christ's self-sacrifice, we get to go to heaven. But on the other hand, we haven't got to heaven yet.

So sitting on the steps to the new flat, looking at the garden, is a bit like contemplating the heaven we have been offered but can't get into yet--and might not get into, if we slip up egregiously. Still, we are pretty hopeful we will not slip up that egregiously, and that we will get the keys to both places.

The other thing about looking at the garden is that it reminds me of my childhood garden (or "backyard" as Canadians usually call the land behind a house). This is a little bit sad, for when I sat on the swings in my childhood garden, I wished with all my might to be grown-up and somewhere else---perhaps romantic Britain! And now I am grown-up and in romantic Britain, and I think about the old backyard, and my thirty-something mother climbing up the cellar steps with a basket of wet laundry to hang out.

Oh, aye. How young we all were once--and presumably will be again one day!

Monday, 18 June 2018

I Am Served a Stale Croissant

In a very few but nevertheless significant ways, I am a patient and long-suffering person.

For example, I have been slaving away at One of the Most Difficult Languages in the World (TM) for six and a half years.  

I can also put up with Continental argumentativeness from which the average  English- or Scotsman shrinks. 

Furthermore, I can stuff money in a wedding envelope with a cheerful shrug while about me fellow Anglo-Saxons quietly wail or simply refuse to do it.   

Even more impressively, when an extraordinarily rude Polish wedding guest twitted me on the plight of those in Canada whom she called "Indians", I did not name the ghastly pogrom that jumped immediately to mind. (Not that one; the 1946 one.)

But there is a limit. Yes, my friends, there is a limit to what I will put up with on the Continent, and a stale croissant is it. 

This morning  I decided I would go and visit my favourite Krakow art gallery, which is in Plac Szczepański. There is quite a nice French-style bakery-cafe named "Charlotte" nearby. I have happy memories of "Charlotte", having been there with my husband in January.  Then it was full of beautiful Polish young things with rucksacks, all looking hopeful and happy and full of potential. B.A. and I were clever enough to be at the doors when it opened for the day, so we were served promptly 

However, this time "Charlotte" was full of English-speaking middle-aged tourists clearly bored with their spouses/travelling partners, for they struck up conversations with complete strangers, and what was worse, the servers were not as interested in serving today as they were back in January. I stuck it out for awhile, but then decided I had wasted enough time and went across the square to "Tribeca u Sołayskich".

That was a mistake. 

This time I didn't mind the wait because I was outside under an umbrella this time, not in a humid building listening to Canadians starting friendly relationships that would last five minutes. However, when the young blond server brought me a stale croissant with chocolate sauce poured over it, I was outraged. 

I mean, it was stale. STALE. 

Stale. 

I'm not going to pretend Edinburgh is a croissant paradise. To my knowledge there are only three businesses in Edinburgh where the croissants are worth eating: Twelves Triangles (Portobello), The Wee Boulangerie (Clerk Street) and La Barantine (The Bow; Bruntsfield; Stockbridge). But however boring and unbuttery croissants are in other establishments in Edinburgh, they are not STALE. 

Without even pondering "What Would Polish Pretend Son Do?" I was suddenly possessed by the  combative spirit of Polish Pretend Son. Grabbing my handbag with one hand, and the plate in the other, I stormed into (remember this name for avoidance) Tribeca u Sołayskich.

"Excuse me," I said, in Polish. "This croissant is stale."

"What?" said the waitress and some other stuff I did not understand.

"Stale. This croissant is stale."

"I do not understand," said the waitress, so I repeated my complaint loudly in Canadian English, and now that I think about it, I wish I had added a whole lot more, so that she would have to contemplate her lack of  fluency in English and how it had led her to be shouted at by me instead of safe in a cushy job at a bank in London like her cousin Marysia. 

Scowling, she told me that I would have to wait for a fresh one, and I said that was fine although now I wish I had flung down the money for my cappuccino and informed her that at 10 AM there was no excuse for not having fresh croissants ready. 

I wish this for when the fresh or, I suspect, baked-from-frozen croissant appeared it had the overly sweet chocolate sauce poured on it, which I had forgotten to mention was disgusting. 

As a denouement, the museum bookstore was shut, and I suspect the museum was too, as it is Monday, but at the sight of the locked bookstore door, I quitted the Place Szczepański in a very bad humour indeed. Yes, it is June and, yes, Kraków is a tourist town, but trying to palm off stale croissants on foreigners is unforgivable, which is why I am indulging in internet revenge. 

I thought sadly of the Cranky Lady Cafe, and how the lady behind the counter may be cranky--and charge an extra 50 groszy for milk in the coffee--but at least she doesn't serve stale food.

It was particularly galling because I avoid tourist traps, but ended up at two yesterday, thanks to a Russian acquaintance who doesn't mind them. First we went to the Cafe Noworolski, which is actually in the Cloth Hall in the Main Market Square, and according to guide books Lenin loved it. Presumably the staff bothered to serve Lenin, whereas the server the Russian Lawyer approached inexplicably said he had already approached us and would be back in two minutes. 

The waiter lied on both counts, so after a quarter of an hour we abandoned Noworolski went to the "Sioux" steakhouse instead. This had a wooden representation of the face of a First Nations person over the front door, but the wait staff (wearing checked shirts) was kind and attentive and spoke English to the Russian Lawyer and Polish to me, and so as tourist traps went, it was okay. Besides, I cannot think of anything more Central European than a First Nations themed restaurant so un-PC it would kill a member of the Ontario English Catholic Teacher's Association to eat there. 

That said, in future I will avoid setting foot in the freaking Główny Rynek, to say nothing of (remember to avoid) Tribeca u Sołayskich.

To cheer myself up, I went browsing in "De Revolutionibus Books & Cafe", and when I found a  book in the children's section subverting the notions of "man" and "woman", I sought comfort in the Catholic "Logos" bookshop across the street. This had a smaller selection, but I was greatly cheered by the sight of Antonio Socci's Ostatnio Proroctwo: List do Papieża Franciszka

Your correspondent's spoken Polish is a complete mess this week, but at least she can still read.  

Update: Of course, having heard this amazing reflection by Matt Walsh, I now feel rather petty.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Postcard from Krakow

It's a warm and sunny morning in Krakow. I am in my friend the Giant Economist's* top-floor flat in Grzegorzki, a neighbourhood beside the more tourist-travelled Kazimierz. The three-storey block was built in 2006, but it has a nice old-fashioned balcony from which to watch the neighbours.

Many of the neighbours get up quite early and go to the bakery and other shops, returning home with plastic shopping bags. Presumably nobody is being charged extra for plastic bags yet. Because the sun rises at four AM, many of the older buildings are both Italianate and painted ochre, and church bells ring the hour, the neighbourhood resembles towns in Lazio. One of the shopping-bag ladies was stocky, wearing a black dress and sandals, which also added to the illusion that I am in Italy.

Naturally the biggest visual difference between Grzegorzki and Italy is the Polish names on the signs, and instead of celebrating various Italian Freemasons (at last my highly trad blog mentions the Freemasons), the streets are named in honour of various priests with very long names ending in -ski (or, since they are in the genitive case, -skiego).

Yesterday I woke up too early and too little rested to really appreciate the Główny Rynek, or main market square, which is really one of the most beautiful urban sights in Europe. It is even June, so my heart should have leapt like a lamb, but no. I surveyed the sunny square with jaded, baggy eyes and made straight for the Cranky Lady Cafe where Benedict Ambrose and I habitually go to be scowled at while I order coffee and cake.

After a good hour's note taking, I decided that I have too many unread Polish books to justify buying any new ones, and so after an aimless walk around the Planty (gardens encircling the Old Town), observing all the priests and nuns striding hither and thither, I walked back to Grzegorzki to read the Catholic news and start reporting on some myself. After that I could have been anywhere, except that almost all the books on the Economist's bookshelf are Polish and there is an ashtray on the balcony. Oh, and the internet, presumably mistaking me for the Economist, started feeding me adverts for Polish football betting sites.

Eventually the Economist came home, worn out from a day of helping keep the New Polish Economy going, and made supper while I transcribed Jordan Peterson's peppery lecture for PragerU. Conservative Poles love Jordan Peterson as much as Conservative Canadian (Brits, Americans, et alia) do. The difference is that these conservative Poles had to have splendid educations to understand Peterson's Canadian English in the first place, naturally.

This reminds me that my grasp of Polish has not been stellar this weekend. I hope I did not jinx myself by looking the celniczka (woman customs officer) square in the eye and saying "Hello" instead of "Dobry wieczór." For once, I was actually rather nervous of a grilling, since having to explain why I was returning to Poland (on a Canadian passport, too) after having left only a week ago would be complicated, as is this weekend's groom's surname, which after eight years I realised I didn't actually know. (I had to study the invitation on the plane). So I said "Hello" to the celniczka and she hurriedly sent me on my native anglophone way, and that was that.

The Economist went out to watch Spain v Portugal with friends, and I elected to stay behind and finish my JP transcript, not only out of duty but because I didn't want to stay out drinking until 3. Instead I watched episodes of "The Suite Life on Deck" over youtube and went to sleep on the Economist's pullout couch. Oh, the romance of life in Kraków.

This morning I did rather better as a travel writer: I went out in pursuit of coffee and buns at 7:15 AM, passing various Poles with their laden shopping bags. I found a cukiernia (bun shop) beside the famous Hala Targowa (covered market) and ordered a double espresso with milk and a yeast bun in idiomatically imperfect Polish. The word for yeast in Polish is outrageous: drożdże. This means a bun made with the creatures is a drożdżówka. Try saying that before your first coffee of the day.

But I managed and had a lifesaving coffee and a yeast bun with marmalade before returning to the Economist's flat to consult a map. The Economist was still asleep, so I merely plotted a route to Kazimierz, slapped on some sunscreen and went out again. The journey past lovely old houses, a disappointing new American-style mall, and the ivy-bedecked walls of the Old Jewish Cemetery was better than the arrival, as once I got to Kazimierz I realised that there was nothing I really wanted to do there. After an abortive attempt to buy hairpins/Kirby grips/spinki in "Jasmin", I walked back to the Economist's flat.

The Economist had awoken by this time and texted "Where are you?" just as I was climbing the stairs. He made us scrambled eggs, but I perceive that he has now fallen asleep again, so much did he enjoy yesterday's evening out with the boys. I shall have to make some noise so that he wakes up and drives me and my bag to the Market Square, where I am to meet this chap, who is also going to this wedding.

I am reminded of the duelling travel writers in Rose Macaulay's The Towers of Trebizond, since I suspect my escort may write about this wedding. Remember how I neglected to write about Polish Pretend Son's wedding so I could use the details later? The next thing I knew, it featured in this  piece in First Things. Fortunately Jozef was less interested in the details than he was in the politics. I see he used the expression "social cohesion." Every time I type "social cohesion," I lose another left-leaning reader.

When I was a young thing of twenty-two, I longed to belong to a "school" of writers, and now I perceive that I do, only it isn't strictly literary or artistic but more academic-journalistic, composed of people who go to the Traditional Latin Mass and write about it and other conservative/traditional/restorationist topics.

It's thanks to that, that I am safely housed in this nice Polish flat, but now I must stop pondering my social ties and go and put on a wedding guest dress.

*The Economist says he doesn't like being called the Giant, which suggests a miscommunication with Polish Pretend Son, who told me he liked it.

Update: I am now in a rustic hotel, suitably if warmly garbed.

*Update 2: I have returned to Grzegorzki, and the Economist says that there is a tax on plastic bags in Poland. This shakes my faith in the thrift of elderly Poles. Perhaps they are bringing old ones from home?