Tuesday, 19 February 2008

An Ode to Woad

Winter has returned to Kraków. On Thursday morning the yard behind our building was coated in white, while itsy little fluffy flakes were floating down past the window.

It's tights under trousers weather again.*

Which brings us nicely round to the subject of clothes. Specifically, extra clothes. The ones you don't need in England. The ones I've been shedding in a woolly trail around Kraków since October.

Let's take a break for some vocabulary, since this is a linguist's blog and since I have some avid English readers back home who are both dying to know more about Poland and the Polish language.

czapka: a hat (of the knitted winter sort). Warning. Do not confuse with czopek. Consequences may be painful, and Poles will laugh at you.

szalik: scarf. Sounds like 'little shawl', so is easy to remember. From October to May, do not even think about leaving the house without one. Some days you may need one just to get out of bed.

rękawice/czke: gloves. Not easy to remember. I very rarely go back to look for gloves without a dictionary handy.

At first I enjoyed wrapping up against the cold. It's sort of satisfying- after years of permeating damp and biting wind on the east coast of Scotland- to be able to shuffle through the Planty swathed in layer upon cosy layer and resembling the Michelin man's metabolically-challenged cousin.
However it quickly becomes apparent that once you've put all these layers on you're going to have to take them off again sooner or later.
And once you've taken them off, at some point you'll have to put them back on again so you can leave the pub and go outside. Yes, I did say leave the pub.
It began at the tandem evening: I was so intent on improving my Italian** that I left hat no. 1 under the table. No amount of searching could help me locate the thing. It had clearly decided to make a linguistic journey of its own. My money's on the Swedish table.

Then I had a brief flirtation with mohair which ended in tragedy on the no. 132 bus. In my haste to alight before ending up in Nowa Huta I contrived to leave the thing on my seat (my theory is it recognised its natural habitat and made a break for freedom). I haven't given up hope though: from time to time I embark on reconnaisance missions in and out of the stalls at Stary Kleparz, in the hope of spotting the suspiciously snug-looking babcia to whose sartorial elegance I have inadvertently contributed.

Hat no. 3 was borrowed and left on top of the television at my parents' house over Christmas (replacing the star that was too heavy for the top of the tree). Hat no. 4 I don't remember losing at all, but it's certainly not where it was. I think the Starowiślna fairies took it. Hat 5 is still with me- for now- but there have been several near misses, notably when I had to wait around for someone to unlock the language lab so I could retrieve the thing, not to mention the time I left it under the seat in Pod Baranami and had to shimmy to the middle of the row and grope around between everyone's knees while the trailers for the next film rolled somewhere above my head.

As for gloves, I've given up and started buying the so-cheap-they're-virtually-disposable-knitted-by-leprous-infants-in-Cambodia variety from H&M.
And I've learnt to curb my naturally violent reaction to any male voice calling out after me. Generally they are letting me know that I've shed some stray item of knitwear...

But it's only since my arrival in Poland that I've been experiencing this involuntary striptease. In Britain we don't need all these fripperies! Wool is for sheep! We have WOAD***.

Woad's the stuff to show men!
Woad to scare your foe men!
Boil it to a brill-yant hue,
And rub it on your chest and your abdomen!

Ancient Britain never hit on
Anything so good as Woad to fit on
Neck or knees or where you sit on...

We interrupt this transmission with a warning that if you should happen to come across a raving feminist with Boudicca delusions sitting peacefully on the tram wearing only blue paint, it is probably the blogger formerly known as Pinolona. Please deliver her home and give her something hot to drink...

*NB: now, unfortunately, those pretty white flakes have become slushy damp rain. And it's still freezing. Gah I hate Poland!
** Hussy.
*** As modelled by Angelina Jolie in the new 'Beowulf' film.


Anonymous said...

Hey what's so bad about ending up In Nowa Huta? Some of us have been exiled there.

pinolona said...

Oh good, you can show me round. I've been meaning to get off the beaten track in Kraków for a while now: getting a bit tired of Pauza and Singer and being trodden on by drunk stags...

Anonymous said...

I think I'd fail the tour guide exam. Have yet to find Plac Centralny :/. However when I do, I will show you around if you like

artur said...

a how to remember rękawiczka crash course.
ręka -hand
rękaw- sleeve
rękawica -gauntlet
rękawiczka- glove
it is in fact a portmanteau word, a fivepack.

pinolona said...

Anonymous- keep me posted on your tour guide skills

Artur- What's the fifth element? Unless you use a plural? Oooh, talk morphology to me...

artur said...

the fifth element ,my dear ,is rękodzieło ,but out of sheer decency I wouldn't mention it.but it is linked to other ,trust me .

Shaunj said...

My tour guide skills are still rubbish. Do you think I began a TG course since we last spoke? :D
Who's the least worst Doctor you can recommend in Krakow? Your posts fill me with dread...

pinolona said...

Shaunj... I know you!
Damn it yes in that case you are going to show me round Nowa Huta! I have your girlfriend's telephone number...

Oooh-err. Sudden rush of omniscience to the head.

Artur: 'Decency'? Does that mean it's dirty? My very swishy dictionary says 'handicrafts'. Does that have some kind of cheeky double meaning in Polish??