Tables they turn sometimes.

I’m in Poland again for Christmas. For many reasons, this Christmas might have been a little subdued and difficult.
But it hasn’t. As always, the hospitality has been amazing. Since we arrived, I haven’t gone more that an hour without being offered food and/or drink. 
I miss the English Christmas traditions but have got used to the idea of Christmas being over on the in Poland, the main meal of the period is eaten once the first star is visible on Christmas Eve. I have my suspicions that there is no basis for this other than impatience to get on with the presents…
My Polish isn’t yet good enough to watch TV here (a Christmas tradition the world over). Almost everything is British or American, but rather than subtitles, each film or program has the same, monotone voice speaking over it. No attempt at acting or any kindvariation in delivery, regardless of the sex or humour of the character. I’m told that natives get used to it, but how people can tell how well a film is acted or understand the subtleties of delivery I don’t know.
So instead, I use my mother-in-law’s old laptop and flaky wireless internet connection to catch up on the Google Reader backlog. It is the only time all year that it gets cleared. I actually started this blog on Christmas day, 3 years ago as little else was happening given that everyone had exchanged gifts and wishes and was too full to move.
I’ve taken a stack of photos while I’ve been here, but there’s no chance of this machine handling the RAW files from my digital camera. The other cameras all use film, so they’ll have to wait too.
That just leaves the iPhone pictures to post:
Christmas present to self.
This is my Christmas present to myself. I bought it on the Polish version of eBay ( for about 35 quid and had it sent here to the In-Laws’. It is new (although made in 1987) and unused and came in the box with the Russian instructions and the original handwritten service card.
I’ve already fed it a roll of EliteChrome…
I can see an opportunity in buying these on this side of the Iron Curtain and flogging them back home. Lomography want 250 quid for Chinese copies of these!
Waiting for Grandma outside her Christmas day church service. Yet another picture of Gosia that she hates.

Lucky chap

My present from Gosia and her family. A 1966 Nikon F with early Photomic finder. It is in great condition and has already consumed half a roll of TMax. By Christmas day, I’d already bought a 50mm of similar vintage on eBay. Anyone want to by a Praktica collection?

Despite all the cameras, films, photoshop, developing scanning etc, I’m not sure I’ll produce a picture on this trip that I like more than this one of my wonderful Mother in Law.
Happy holidays everyone.

Sit right down my wicked son and let me tell you a story…

My first ride of 2011 was another adventure through the snow and ice of Central Poland. It was a beautiful, crisp morning with a solar eclipse to see me off. Compared to last week’s ride in -8 Celsius, today’s -3 was positively balmy…

wioska - ice ride
wioska - ice ride

The roads are suffering from a couple of months of a snow, thaw, freeze cycle that just builds up layer upon layer of ice. Imagine this in the UK? People would be writing to their MP.

wioska - ice ride

There seem to be plenty of marked cycle routes in the area. I just need to find a map showing where they go…

wioska - ice ride

Time to get off and walk…

wioska - ice ride

Most of the pictures that have been taken for this blog and a few I’ve had published in magazines have been taken with my Panasonic Lumix FX-35. I knew carrying it in my hip pocket was a bad a idea and sure enough, when I came off on the ice a few miles into the ride, I landed full on it. The case and screen are scratched and the Crumpler case has yet more battle scars, but the camera still seems to work. In fact, all of the picture in this post (apart from the last one obviously) were taken after I dropped 85 kilos onto it.
The route on

Linger on your pale blue eyes…

After New Year’s eve in Wrocław we spent the first few days of the New Year in Janské Lázně in the Czech Republic.
New Year - Janské Lázně

It was one hell of a party with 10,000 people in the beautiful square to see the best in Polish pop before Ace Of Base finished things off (apparently. We’d already found sanctuary from the remorseless drivel a bar in a side street).
What no-one could complain about were the fireworks. Without doubt, the best I ever saw…

And so to Janské Lázně in the Krkonoše Mountains. It is a beautiful region. Nothing too steep or high, just rolling wooded hill-sides with pretty villages dotted around the valleys. It has cycle routes for both tourers and MTBs everywhere. I’d love to go back in the summer and explore.
New Year - Janské Lázně

The skiing on Černá Hora is nothing too difficult, even for an Englishman (as I can stand up on skis, I may be close to the British olympic team), but enough to keep us entertained for a couple of days.
New Year - Janské Lázně

The food is great. I could live (in fact I did) on two of the specialities, garlic soup with fried bread followed by Smažený sýr washed down with Gambrinus, all for a couple of quid. You’ve got to love countries who still don’t have the Euro…

My favourite photograph of the trip was this one. It was taken next to the TV mast on top of Černá Hora. All civil works built in the Czech, such as this or an new motorway junction must have a portion of their budget set aside for a piece of art. This one is a mother and child shivering in the elements…
New Year - Janské Lázně

Stawy Morka, Kępno

Stawy Morka, Kępno
I really struggle with landscape photography.
If my friend Andy had been with me when I took these, he would somehow have got things just right and produced something that you’d happily hang on your wall. 
But even using his lens and taking 50-odd pictures, I’m still not really happy with any of what I took.Maybe if I’d stood a bike against that bench…
I must practice…
Stawy Morka, Kępno
These were taken at the Morka fishing lakes, about 500m from my in-laws’ flat.

christmas done

well, that’s about it – christmas is done.
we’ve just had the final, massive meal in poland before we head home tomorrow, leaving at 7am to catch the 10pm ferry from calais. i dread the drive but if the weather stays good and the roads clear, it will be fine. the worst bit will be between dover and home.

i’m very much looking forward to a ride on sunday. i have 270km to do this year to complete my target of 10,000km for the year. i plan to do about 130 on sunday and the rest between work and home next week.
i’ll do it whatever happens but may have a very long ride on new year’s eve!