Staying at Home 4: Two books on the go.

I’ve got a new book.
Mam nową książkę.
And if anybody (not of Polish extraction) can pronounce książka or any of its myriad declensions, you have my heartfelt and well deserved respect.

I sat out this morning and continued to read a book I’d started last week, “The Task and Other Poems”, a compilation of poems by William Cowper, that well known Berko Boy. William was born in Berkhamsted in 1731 where his father was the rector of St. Peter’s Church from 1722 to 1756. Being a Berko boy myself I’ve known of William Cowper for donkey’s years but I’ve never really read any of his work, apart from that one extract that goes:

ENGLAND, with all thy faults, I love thee still,
My country! and, while yet a nook is left
Where English minds and manners may be found,
Shall be constrained to love thee…

Which is taken from a much longer piece.

I decided to get to grips with some of this Cowper chappies work and so bought a book that contained the aforementioned longer piece. It’s called “The Task” and is “a blank verse poem in six books”. Not actual books you understand, six sections, so this morning I was sitting out reading Cowper with my copy of the Concise OED close at hand because 18th century English occasionally throws up the odd word that leaves you thinking, WTF?

The sun was (and as I write this, still is) blazing down from a cloudless sky. The book “The Task and Other Poems” is printed on high quality paper, very white and annoyingly reflective. After a while I gave up, the page with reflected sunlight being too bright, and I opened a second book, a book which I had read a review of and thought to myself that it sounded like a good read.

This new book is called; “A Chip Shop in Poznań: My Unlikely Year in Poland” and is written by Ben Aitken a freelance critic, playwright, author and travel writer. Ben, intrigued by the number of Poles wanting to move to and work in the UK decided to reverse the trend and in 2016 moved to Poland for a year to see what the Polish were leaving behind and the book is an account of his year there.

Mercifully the pages of this paperback were of a standard off-white and not nearly so reflective. I dived in and was immediately rewarded with a number of (wry smile on face) yep, that happened to me/I’ve done that/been there, anecdotes. So I’m currently reading “A Chip Shop in Poznań” and “The Task” is on the back burner.

It’s a sort of bittersweet affair, Since I’ve been travelling to Poland since 2014 I feel that I’ve come to know Poznań quite well, Poznań and a lot of other places and I sort of always hoped to do something similar, move to Poland for a while and really immerse myself in the Polish way of life. Some of my Polish friends have applauded me for thinking this way, others have been slightly puzzled and why I’d want to do such a thing.

In the preamble to his book, Ben Aitken writes:
“Warning: Contains an unlikely immigrant, an unsung country, a bumpy romance, several shattered preconceptions, traces of insight, a dozen nuns and a Referendum.”
It was those preconceptions that concerned my when I first flew to Poland (for various reasons that I have documented elsewhere) six years ago on 27th May 2014, I had many preconceptions handed me through “the system” that naturally assumes anything east of Germany is just Ex-Soviet wasteland. I really didn’t know much about Poland, at shall we say, street-level and my initial thoughts were indeed of grey concrete, tundra and permafrost. Happily, none of that is true and the Polish, or at least the Poles I’ve met, I can’t speak for them all, but the many Poles I’ve met over the past six years are some of the nicest, warm hearted and accommodating people I’ve ever met.

Were it not for COVID-19 I would have flown out to Poznań on 12th March 2020, and four days later I was due to take part in a week long English language school residential event as an English native speaker. But things being what they were and seeing how events were progressing I decided to cancel my flight the day before I was due to fly out. If I had flown out I’d probably have been marooned in Poland for several weeks, maybe I’d still be there; I had the offer of a roof over my head and you know, it may have been fun but I knew deep in my heart that it would probably be better for me to be locked down in England than in Poland.

And what when all this is over? When the pandemic has subsided and we return to “normal”, whatever “normal” is, what then?

In spite of Ryanair writing to me to tell me that they are opening up 1000 routes, or was it flights, but 1000 somethings and assuring me that the aircraft are disinfected every day and not to queue at the departure gates but magically appear there just in time to board and not to hang about in the stairwells… I’ve resigned myself to the fact that for me, 2020 is written-off as far as international travel is concerned.

But I still feel the call of Polonia; Łódź, Wrocław, Katowice, Ostrzeszów, Kraków, Inowrocław, Konin, Gdańsk, Warszawa, Toruń and Poznań and all those other places I have yet to visit, maybe even Włocławek. I suggested a day trip to Włocławek last year, from Łódź, not from the UK, and I was robustly lampooned for it. Why do you want to go there? Why? I’d never been before, but maybe one day.

Nerdy Wordy Addendum.

Declension of książka (book) in Polish

nominative singular: książka
nominative plural: książki

genitive singular: książki
genitive plural: książek

dative singular: książce
dative plural: książkom

accusative singular: książkę
accusative plural: książki

instrumental singular: książką
instrumental plural: książkami

locative singular: książce
locative plural: książkach

vocative singular: książko
vocative plural: książki

Don’t even get me started on książkowy.

Thankfully, in modern English we have only three grammatical cases so the declension of “book” in English is:
Or should that be the declensions are? Ah, grammar, I hate you sometimes…

nominative singular: book
nominative plural: books

accusative singular: book
accusative plural: books

genitive singular: book
genitive plural: books


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