Saturday, 18 November 2017

Coming Up for Air

Does anyone want to read about someone who works all the time?  Hot Fuzz, the famous British comedy about workaholic cop Nicholas Angel, was brilliantly funny. It is one of the few films that has literally made me weep with laughter. But in reality....

Perhaps not that interesting.

Nevertheless, my parents still read my blog, so this is what my weekday looks like:

6:50 AM --Wake up, thinking about work.

7:15 AM -- Check Facebook, thinking about work.

8:00 AM - 11:00 AM -- Language study/get groceries/laundry/housework.

11 AM - 7 (or 8) PM -- Work.

7 PM or 8 PM -- Make dinner and eat it with B.A. Think about work. Take breaks to check work. 

8 PM - 11 PM -- Try not to think about work. 

It's Saturday, and I don't want to think about work. Shortly I will close the computer and look up Polish words instead. One brilliant thing about language study is that it is all-absorbing, which means it prevents me from thinking about work. 
Of course, sometimes I translate something for work, which means I am doing language study and work at the same time. 

While I work, Benedict Ambrose sits in a chair between the radiator and the empty fireplace and convalesces. He is slowly gaining weight, but his eyes are still sunken in his lined face. He reads a lot of Catholic news, so when I ask him at supper what he's done today, the conversation becomes about work. 

The change from writing (tops) an article a week to writing up to three articles a day has been nerve-wracking. It's an entire different discipline. In fact, the first activity isn't really a discipline: it's just fun. Well, maybe not ENTIRELY fun.

When I wrote this article, I spent several hours in my guesthouse room or in a cafe reading and translating (with dictionaries) various Polish news articles. Since I had been at the Warsaw Independence March anyway, out of sheer curiosity, it made sense to write it all up the next day and send it to Catholic World Report. I was a year ahead of my time; the western media took more of an interest THIS year, when I wasn't there.

Not being there made it a bit frustrating to write THIS article, but it was morally necessary to write it because of all the fake news in the English-language press. This time I had to contact people who WERE there and would both talk to me and consent to their names appearing in LSN. And now, of course, I have set deadlines, so I usually need people to talk to (or message) me at once. 

Another frustration is that Poland (not just Polish) is hard for the English-speaking world to understand, and the English-speaking world is hard to explain to Poles who don't speak much English. It's like trying to explain the Second Amendment to the American Constitution to Swedes, and Swedish comfort with nudity to Americans. 

One of the problems papered over by the Agents of Diversity is that people--peoples--actually are really diverse. It's not just their foodstuffs, or their religious traditions, or what women wear. It's also their relationship to the physical environment in which they live, and their attitude towards politicians, and their concepts of manhood or womanhood, and their histories, and their borders. 

Diversity is not changing dresses on a Barbie Doll. Sometimes diversity is almost all people in a given area sharing a multi-generational experience of the same place, language and history. That's not how it is in my hometown Toronto, but as much as I love Toronto, I don't think the world is or should be a giant Toronto. 

With the exception of conquest of the Channel Islands by the Nazis (which is almost never spoken of), Britain hasn't been invaded since 1066. Perhaps that's why the English* allowed their borders--mental, religious, cultural, personal, sexual--to have become so porous, whereas the Poles--whose borders have been erased and redrawn dozens of times in the past thousand years--have firm and distinct borders regarding Poland and Polish life. 

Complicating this, are internal Polish battles over what these are or should be. From a conservative Polish point of view, a left-wing Pole (still absolutely furious that the conservative PiS party won the last election) would sell his grandmother on the streets of Brussels, let alone write a whiny article in the Guardian about how awful Poland is. 

Anyway, so much for my attempt not to think about work on a Saturday. Maybe I will flee the Historical House and take refuge in a hipster cafe.

*Update: Britishness, by the way, is by its very nature multi-national and multi-ethnic. Canada has never had colonies--being made up of former British colonies--but it too has always been dramatically multi-ethnic, starting with three major groups: First Nations peoples, French-speaking Canadians (mostly descended from the French) and English-speaking Canadians (mostly descended from, or born in, Britain). 


  1. Working all the time is certainly exhausting, but there is a kind of exhileration to it too, in knowing that you are using your time and energy at full capacity.

    On the subject of Canada's diversity: until well into the 19th century, the third-largest 'ethnic group' in Canada were the Gaels rather than the English. (Gaelic and French were once the most commonly-spoken languages in this country. Such a strange and exotic fact about us, in a way.) First Nations ethnic and language groups
    were so many that not one of them dominated.


  2. I did not know that about the Gaels! I shouldn't be surprised, of course, because of the huge numbers of poor Irish and Highland Scots cleared off their land and sent away to the Maritimes in the 18th century. Thank you for that interesting fact!

    I think that once I can have a near-fluent understanding of conversational and ecclesiastical Polish--in about three years, I think (that's the goal)--I will get down at last to reading and speaking French at a non-shameful level.

    It amazes me that for so long I thought that all one had to do to learn languages was "go to class," and if that didn't work, it meant one was either stupid, lazy or had "no talent." But really, it's all about DOING language as much as possible, plus constant (or at least daily) review.