Tree growth

I was looking at the trees outside the office earlier and there is a very noticeable difference in their timing of foliation. As far as I can tell they are all the same species and as you can see they are all located in the same place, same soil, same light and I guess pretty much the same age.

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Closer inspection suggests each one started at slightly different times, or have grown leaves at very different rates. Most advanced, as you look at the photo above, is front left, then back left, then back right then front right.

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I’ve tried Googling for an answer but nearly all the hits concentrate on trees losing their leaves, or changing colours, rather than growing them.

My #1 theory is that they all talk to each other and have developed a survival strategy. They stagger their leafiness just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse. So, if the first one goes and then there’s a cold snap only one tree will be affected and the others can hold off. If there’s no cold snap another tree can go and so on. It’s all controlled by the Emilii Plater tree fairy, Leafabella.

Without any more scientific explanation we have to conclude that trees are are all individuals and that generalising about trees is as inaccurate as it is about cats or Ukrainians.

Easter photos

A selection of shots from our traditional tour of nine churches and one cathedral in the old town. Our itinerary remains the same; go to babcia’s, find a parking place, get babcia, walk to the church and do the Easter Basket thing, pick up some holy water, go to babcia’s and eat, go for a walk around the old town. It covers most of the area on this map:

Easter walking map

Easter walking map

The weather was great. Sunshine, very warm but with a fairly strong breeze as you can see from the balloon lady photo!

Łowicz

By way of wishing everyone a very HAPPY EASTER here’s a long post with lots of pictures. (Pictures are way better if you click on them, by the way)

In September 2009 a guy called Radek commented on a post where I was complaining that Warsaw is poorly situated in terms of options for a day-out. His suggestion was to go to Łowicz (wovich). I ignored his comment for the best part of five years but finally a few weekends ago I decided the time was right. My excuse for inaction is that I was waiting for them to build a motorway out in that direction and finally they did, they built the A2 just for me!

How to get to Łowicz using my motorway

How to get to Łowicz using my motorway

Handy road for us, the A2. We can get onto it very easily, 5 minutes, and it allows us to get to Poznan in 3hrs, Berlin in 5hrs as well as being a fast route to Chopin Airport and to any direction south, such as heading for Katowice or Italy. No need to muck around in town whatsoever. The only problem now is that they are completely rebuilding our easiest entrance to the A2, which is at the Grota-Roweckiego bridge junction (Trasa Toruńska) on our side of the river. As this forms part of the major Warsaw ring-road they are replacing the dangerously old slip roads as well as upgrading the main road sections in both directions. It’s a hell of a mess but will be far better when its finally finished.

Sooooo, getting to Łowicz was easy the question was what to do when we got there. As it happens the choice is so extensive that we didn’t actually do Łowicz at all! We’ll save that for next time. What we did do was this:

Skansen

Just the other side of Łowicz is a small place called Maurzyce and there you will find a Skansen. Hard to explain in English what a Skansen is but it’s a collection of old buildings that show how people lived in the old days, a kind of open air folk museum I suppose. Poland has plenty of them, I suspect all part of communist propaganda – “You may live in a shoe box but at least it’s better than this!”. I’m not actually sure it is.

Looking forward to ploughing season

Looking forward to ploughing season

The schoolroom

The schoolroom

Living room with holy stuff

Living room with holy stuff

Living room with folk art

Living room with folk art

More folksy stuff

More folksy stuff

A more 'minimalist' decor

A more ‘minimalist’ decor

It is quite an extensive Skansen compared to some we’ve seen and has a decent range of buildings from homes to farm buildings and even a very nice church.

Church outside

Church outside

Church inside

Church inside

We were there on the 29th of March and they didn’t officially open until April but as they had visitors anyway they let us wander around, which was nice. There’s a small charge, maybe 5 zlots a head.

Maurzyce Bridge

Who can resist a nice bit of welding? According to Wiki the Maurzyce Bridge over the Słudwia River (tributary of Bzura) is the first entirely welded road bridge and the second welded bridge of any category in the world. Well hurrah for Stefan Bryła who designed it and K. Rudzki i S-ka who built it along with about 20% of the bridges in the Russian Empire AND the Poniatowski bridge here in Warsaw!

Side view

Side view

Road view

Road view

Under the old bridge looking at the new one

Under the old bridge looking at the new one

Nieborów Palace

One of a long list of palaces at one time owned by the Radzwiłł family, who were doing alright for themselves with 23 palaces, 426 large and small towns, 2032 estates, and 10,053 villages until Janusz made a few bad decisions involving Swedes and Russians and it was all downhill from there. Henryk Sienkiewicz wrote of Janusz Radzwiłł “Earthly ruin, a fallen soul, darkness, nothingness-that is all he managed to attain as a reward for service to himself”.

Well he’s gone but the palace remains.

Front view

Front view

Back view

Back view

It’s a nice place for a wander both inside and out. Inside they have numerous rooms to see all in good condition and outside the gardens are pretty good too and include the first Plane tree every planted in Poland, back in in 1770.

Poland's first Plane tree

Poland’s first Plane tree

Nieborów

After the palace we stopped for a lunch-dinner at the Dworek Biała Dama which is just across the street. It was decent enough but followed the regular pattern for such places, very similar to the restaurant we ate in across from the entrance to Chopin’s birthplace. They start great and then get worse with each successive course. The soup was magnificent, the main course was huge but lacking any flair and by the time we got to dessert the chef had given up completely. It’s not like there’s a big choice out there and we’d go again but don’t expect miracles when the menu runs to 20 pages. Whatever you order is unlikely to be freshly cooked and the only reason the soup is great is because it keeps well.

Our last visit before heading home was….

Muzeum Ludowe w Sromowie

Peek-a-Boo

Peek-a-Boo

This museum is a family affair. It was opened in 1972 by Julian Brzozowski (1925-2002) who is clearly a man who enjoyed a bit of whittling. For years without end he carved wooden figures and placed them into animated scenes which are still working today. Again we were lucky to get in as we’d arrived 10 minutes before closing time and there was nobody there. There was a phone number pasted on a tree though so Marta called and the guy, son of Julian, said he’d be happy to come over and show us around anyway although we’d have to pay 30 zlots a head because we weren’t a group.

Entrance

Entrance

He walked us through the various outbuildings each with a different collection of scenes and one with a lot of old horse and cart type equipment. He was clearly and justifiably proud of his families achievements. Not only was Julian a busy man, farmer, whittler extraordinaire, musician, village elder, but his mother, sister, everyone had contributed something.

Wooden dancers

Wooden dancers

Wedding feast

Wedding feast

Are you turning into your father?

According to a survey by the TV channel Gold, age 38 is when men start turning into their fathers. That seems incredibly young to me and for sure I was nowhere near my father at that age. Heavens! I should have passed my father and be turning into one of my grandfathers by now, which by all accounts wouldn’t necessarily be a step in the right direction! The good news is that, whilst my father does display some of the behaviours listed (1, 2, 5, 6, 8), I don’t appear to be following in his slippered footsteps just yet.

Top ten signs you could be turning into your father:

1. Fall asleep in the front room -
can’t blame my dad as he’s over 80 and in my case this has been known to happen but very rarely and only after poisoning myself with vodka.

2. They have ‘a chair’ - My dad’s chair is looking a bit tattered recently but still going strong. It’s like the captain’s chair from the Starship Enterprise and everything he needs is within easy reach. I have no place that is strictly speaking mine although there’s a crater in the sofa that matches the size of my arse pretty well.

3. Dad dancing – neither of us do silly dancing and I was awarded a prize for Greek dancing, by Greeks, I’ll have you know!

4. Spend time in the shed – neither of us have a shed. Well, dad does have a shed but he spends no time there. Uncle Eric was the nearest we got a shed guy.

5. Making awful jokes that only they find funny. – dad can stray into this territory but in his defence they are occasionally funny. I can’t remember jokes thanks to my highly selective memory. I guess I just don’t think they are important enough.

6. Don’t know any artists in the top 40 – as far as I know dad’s musical bleeding edge moment peaked around the time of Adam Faith. I’d say I’m doing much better. I just checked the charts and I know 10 of the top 40 singles artists and 20 of the top 40 album artists.

7. Spending longer on the toilet – can’t say I understand this one, certainly doesn’t apply to me nor my father.

8. Keeping an eye on the thermostat – mum is the thermostat and dad just deals with the mechanics. In our place I set the thermostat and then don’t play with it more than twice a year.

9. Excited about appliance sales
– we are both more excited by travel brochures, dad the paper version and me online.

10. Embarrassing younger members of the family or children and thinking it’s funny – thankfully not a family trait.

All that said, there have been times recently when I pay attention to myself and realise that I already have turned into my father. Hardly surprising and something to do with a new fangled thing called genetic engineering.

The full Independent article.

Orco to sell Złota 44

From Poland Today weekly newsletter “Business Review +”.

The ailing European developer Orco Property Group has finally admitted what most market observers have known already for quite a while – what a spectacular fiasco the Złota 44 residential high-rise has been for the company. In the full year financial report, published last week, Orco said it would sell the project, leaving its completion to the new owner. “The luxury residential project Zlota 44 was exposed as a major financial failure for the Group in the fall of 2013. There are many causes of this situation, including lack of bank financing due to covenants default, termination of the general contractor, unsuccessful sales re-launch on the local Warsaw residential market. Therefore, late in 2013 the Board of Directors decided to terminate this strategy, suspend the works and later to sell the entire project as is and not to complete the development. On 26 March 2014, a short term option was granted to OTT Properties (an entity related to the former management) to acquire the project; no new losses would be generated for the Group in case of exercise of that short term option,” Orco said.

Designed by the Polish-born celebrity architect Daniels Liebeskind, Złota 44 were meant to become Warsaw’s new landmark, but so far it has been nothing but a disappointment, both for the developer, as well as most Varsovians, as the final look of the sail shaped edifice only remotely resembles the sleek glass structure they remember from the drawings Orco distributed prior to obtaining the residence permit back in 2007.

Złota 44 aimed to be the most luxurious apartment building in Poland, offering a wide range of additional services and facilities available exclusively to its residents, including a 25m indoor swimming pool, sauna, and spa. Located between the Palace of Culture and the Central Railway Station, the 192m high tower were to become Europe’s second-tallest all-residential skyscraper, with 54 storeys and 251 apartments. However, its completion has been delayed several times and sales of apartments have been rather disappointing.

Meanwhile, Orco ended up on the verge of bankruptcy with Czech billionaire Radovan Vitek rescuing the collapsing business with an equity boost. Last year, its revenue decreased to EUR 146m from EUR 245m in 2012. The loss in fair value adjustments on investment properties and the impairments of development assets recognized in the income statement amounted to EUR 193m over 2013 with the Złota 44 project alone being responsible for EUR 121m worth of impairments. Orco’s net loss amounted to EUR 227m last year, compared to EUR 42m in 2012. Its gross asset value stood at EUR 1.035bn last year, down by EUR 313m from the prior year, largely due to a like-for-like drop in assets’ value.

Let’s hope the sale is more than just a financial engineering exercise and results in a new owner with the right ideas and enough money to get the place finished. This farce has gone on long enough.

A fresh approach to recycling

We have a communal trash collection area up by the entrance gate. It’s a sort of extension to the blind security guy’s cabin but whilst the insecurity guys live inside Strangely Park the rubbish lives outside because it’s smelly and because the garbage collectors need to get at it without having to negotiate for an hour with Laurel & Hardy. Inside the collection area we have three large rubbish bins. This kind of thing:

Recycle_bin

There are two green ones and a red one. The green are for general rubbish and the red one is for recycling and has a lot writing to that effect on the outside. Most of the time people stick to the rules and the red one is full of cardboard while the green are full of everything else.

In my imagination the contents of the green bins are sent to garbage hell, some giant anonymous land fill site, while the red one goes to garbage heaven where the contents are lovingly turned into biodegradable spanners.

Yesterday I was trying to leave at exactly the same time as the rubbish collection truck was reversing down the street. The street is so small that there’s no way they can turn the truck around, nor for me to get around it unless they go out of their way to be helpful, which these guys did not so I was stuck for a while. It was one of those trucks that lifts up the plastic bin, tips it into the back and then compresses it.

They lifted the first green bin, then the second, then the red one and off they drove. Unless this is a *magic truck* our recycling system has room for improvement.

Family

Of course the main reason for popping back to the UK from time to time is to see the family and I shouldn’t deny them a blog post, even if it is a short one.

Zosia loves her grandma (and grandpa too!) and she always seems very excited about visiting England – as you can see.

Zosia and grandma

Zosia and grandma

We got bits of time with the family during the week and were particularly lucky that everyone was available, especially Robert who now lives and works in Brighton. The main event though was a group dinner at Mr Man’s Chinese restaurant in Wollaton Park near Nottingham.

Table for ten, clockwise from the smiling white haired man – dad, nephew, niece, sister, sister’s partner, mum, aunt (mum’s sister), empty chair (me), wife, daughter.

Average age of this table is 48.6

Average age of this table is 48.6

That is our entire family around that table, without starting to extend into cousins and stuff. Would normally be bigger but two brothers (dad and uncle) married two sisters (mum and aunt) so that immediately limited the numbers and then aunt and uncle had no children so that limited it even more. Bit like a game of chess and we are approaching check mate.

From the table debris it looks like we had just finished the crispy duck pancakes. The food was okay but I think we’ve decided to try Italian next time, whenever next time is.