Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A Peculiar Polish Day Off

What does a bus driver do on his/her day off?

As you already know by now, having read enough of my ramblings, I have had a mixed and varied life, both on and off the buses. So it will not surprise you to know that I have strong past connections with Poland. I have been there thirty-two times. My mother started a charity in 1980 and I used to go with her, driving trucks full of medical supplies and aid for children's hospitals.

So, today is a peculiarly Polish day.

The Consul General in Edinburgh has kindly asked me to a concert in St Giles Cathedral to launch the Chopin Anniversary celebrations. I get up and put on my suit, a twenty year old Polish suit I had had made by the Military tailor in Gdynia. I attach a Black Madonna of Czestochowa badge to my lapel, in memory of my mother who always wore it. She was not a Roman Catholic, but it always made her feel safe in a then, volatile country going through uncertain times.

I stop at Lidl in Carlisle for something to take onto the train. I buy Pretzels and Polish tomato juice. The stewardess on the Trans Pennine Express is Polish and comes from Tarnow. The bus driver outside Waverley Station is Polish too. The concert is Chopin, played by musicians from Krakow and Przemysl. The audience is predominately Polish. The reception in the City Chambers after the concert continues along the same theme. I meet Polish diplomats, lawyers, doctors and a priest who is an avid Newcastle United supporter. Many people are drinking Zywiec beer.

The atmosphere in the room is warm. The Poles and the Scots are similar in their outlook. The Vice Provost and the Consul General speak of the strong links between Edinburgh and Krakow. The reception goes on well into the night. It is a typically Polish affair. They like a party.

For me, it is paradise. Poland is one of my second homes. My Scottish side of me warms to the relaxed gathering and brutal honesty from the guests:

"Chopin is nice. He is Polish, of course. But I don't like this kind of music," said one lady, taking another sip of her wine.

It reminds me of some of the comments I hear on the buses.

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