I am watching the movie Pretty Woman with Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. Gere is so stereotypically leading man material. However his tendency not to look directly at his interlocutor, this shy downward glance followed by his knowing smile is a little irritatingly condescending. That being said, his acting skills and his commanding presence overcomes this. Here he is looking his usual dashing self in this eighties film about a yuppie who is so focused on money and power that he hires a beautiful prostitute to be his companion for a difficult series of business negotiations simply because it looks so much better for him to have a date on his arm during the time he makes more millions. the bonus for this deal is here he with Robers’ character he has someone he can control like everything else, using money. Anyway the annoying thing is the entire movie is overdubbed in Polish, and my Polish is non existent. I promised myself I would learn the language, but circumstances and a little laziness on my part prevented me from doing my homework. I keep watching the movie. They don’t use multiple voices for the various characters in the film. Just the same slightly basso translator. But I can still make out bits of dialogue. This room is old and the television takes about ten minutes to warm up. You switch it on and the screen turns a fuzzy blue and yellow and then after a while you see bits of a picture and then eventually Julia and Richard appears in all their opulent Lear Jet Stretch Limo glory. I keep thinking about the name of the film. Pretty woman. The room I am in is wooden. They build houses, houses that last lifetimes upon lifetimes, out of the wood from around here. The forests surrounding are vast. The room is warm and warmly coloured and varnished wood. The ceiling is wooden. There are two sets of windows as I am in a corner room, an inner and and outer, to keep the cold, the freezing cold, out. Its insulated here. its well below zero here. and I am in a t-shirt. I sometimes go hunting in the presses and the drawers in the room. This is because I am immensely nosy man. I find pictures of beautiful women, far prettier than the very attractive Roberts, who lived their entire lives without ever becoming iconic. One must embrace the absurdity of things, I suppose.
The thing is the camera loves Julia Roberts. Thats her gift. And the fact she is an excellent actor. She completely steals the entire movie, and I imagine that was unexpected on the part of the producers, despite the giveaway name of the film.
Christmas in Poland, especially here in the south of Poland is immensely quiet. The forests that go on for miles act as a huge sound barrier. Add to this the circling mountains, a slight blanket of icy snow and you get an impression of the kind of soft quiet I am talking about. The odd car passes, but the noisiest thing I saw earlier was a snow truck that rumbled past as I went out on a night walk. With its flashing yellow warning lights, its frontal yellow rubberized snow scoop and its tail spewing vast quantities of salt, it looked like a huge mutant grumbling bumble bee hovering over the mountain roads. I passed dogs either chained or in their little houses and see many signs inpolish that say “angry dog”. No wonder the dogs were angry, I think. Its five degrees below zero on Christmas night. One wouldn’t put a milk bottle out in this weather. I passed the Hermann Goering Hill in the nearby distance. There the legendary Nazi supposedly had a domain in South Poland during the Second World War. There are arc lights and lasers reflecting from the forests onto the sky. Surreal stuff. Like a landing signal for an alien craft. I feel my ears freeze a little and wonder if the hat I have on is warm enough. Its half ten at night. I walk back, afraid I might slip despite the ministrations of the bumble bee salt spreader.
Families gather on Christmas Eve and eat carp and herring dishes and pirogi and drink borscht and wine and beer and play games. I got a game of Monopoly as a Christmas gift. I looked skeptically at the game and somewhere remembered the game was originally designed as a moral tool to teach people the dangers of greed and the pointless accumulation of money. I don’t think that intention worked out so well – mainly because Monopoly is awesome. Also I should point out that till then I had never played Monopoly before. The problem with this game was it was in Polish and I was the banker. These two factors made for the perfect storm of hilarity where the rules of Monopoly were to say the least not strictly observed and there were many lengthy pauses where I was asked to read out certain phrases for my education and have them explained back to me in English, much to the mirth of everyone present at my appalling Polish pronunciations. I went to bed about two AM. What a great Christmas Day. I go from Karpach (where I write this) to Wroclaw in a few days. Then I fly back. I will miss here when I go. oh heres a picture of the Polish monopoly set. (awesome, isn’t it?)
2014 is a year I will very gladly put behind me. It was without question the worst year of my life. Sarah Lundberg (1968-2014) died under the most tragic and awful circumstances and I and so many others are still reeling from the shock of her death which was so unexpected and so traumatic. There is a strong argument that this is the kind of experience that one does not so much recover from, but is something one learns to live with. I think there are arguments on both sides for and against someone recovering from a trauma like this, but for the most part, right now, it is simply too early to say. I think its very much down to the individual. Right now I still hear her voice and her comments and her jokes in my mind. Sarah had a rather dry sense of humour, a kind of understated wit that could be devastatingly funny. I still see her sometimes in crowds, or think I see her, which is a common experience of the bereaved known as ‘completion’ in which the mind ‘completes’ a picture or an image from residua from the memory in order to fulfill a desire. I hear music she liked or loved and remember concerts we attended. I find it hard to watch television shows we both liked. I have a library of thousands of her books and equally thousands of pages of her writing are on hard disks, folders and pages all over the house. I also have a formidable selection of cuddly teddy bears, each of whom have a name, a specific personality and a lengthy back story. What a child’s author she would have made! These, and countless notebooks, still unread, are in our house. I still think of the many conversations we had over our two decades together. I wish, like so many others, that she was still here with us, still doing all the things she used do, still filled with the idealisms that were so uniquely hers and that she pursued with so much passion and so much love. She left much undone, and one wonders what else she might have achieved were she still with us. I miss her terribly. I know how many others miss her too and loved her so much. Thanks to everyone who helped at a time I was simply too shattered to do anything, who helped with re housing pets, who made arrangements, and more than anything were friends and support during the aforementioned annus horribilis. Now that Christmas approaches we should take gentle care of ourselves and each other. Sarah was above all a very loving and forgiving person. She was, despite her highly logical argumentative personality, was devoid of bitterness and never knew how to hate. I think it was because of her utter straightforwardness. It meant one always knew where one stood with her. I for the most part loathe Christmas as a dull time of meaningless excess. I on the other hand do like how this is a time of peace, healing and renewal. Sarah would have wanted that. I am sure of it.
(Image by Antonio Joachim)