Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I shall be back!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Melting pot

Melting pot. This very name was given to Birmingham by somebody with a specific sense of humour. But it fits. It fits so well that once you've learned it, you cannot think of this city in any other way.

Because Birmingham is all about "Proper Black People, who would never ski", as I learned from one of them at the gym today. It's also about Indian girls who try to be career driven but they cannot get rid of the social pressure which forces them to get married and have children before they reach 22, and get desperate in the age of 25 if single. It's about Muslim men who think they can charm you through giving you orders. "Dance for me"! was a sentence I heard some time ago when a young man wanted to make friends with me. It's also about pretty Poles who are good at salsa dancing and may like you until they get suspicious when you say you work in an office, instead of cleaning or selling sandwiches. And finally, it's about the potato addicted natives who try to embrace the whole thing and keep failing miserably.

It's fascinating how much you can learn during one day. One day, I will miss this immensely.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Amsterdam, wintertime

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sevilla, 19 November 2009

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mystery of the Balsamic Vinegar Bottle

I am a rebel. More. I am a drunk. Or at least this is how I am perceived by a cleaning lady at my office.
She is always very well hidden behind her hijab, and at the beginning I was fascinated and maybe a bit too interested in how she could work in these clothes. Apparently, she can.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting by my desk and trying to summon all my intellectual power to write a very complicated report. I was so focused on my screen that I didn't notice that somebody entered the room. Suddenly, a cold voice from behind me asked: "What is THIS?" I jumped on my chair scared to death! A mysterious figure, all covered in black was standing right behind me holding triumphantly an empty bottle I left in my bin after lunch.
"Is this ALCOHOL?" - she asked with the same cold voice.
Finally, I recognised our cleaning lady!
"No, it's balsamic vinegar" - I said with a big smile.
"What?" A complete lack of understanding in her eyes made me realise that she wasn't joking. A quick analysis of the situation helped me realise that I was being investigated after daring to commit a horrible crime.
"This is balsamic vinegar... [same condemning face] eee, salad dressing". Nothing. She stopped listening, placed the bottle on my desk and left my room.

For the next week, I couldn't stop thinking about it, but then as it always happens, I just forgot about it. Until last Friday:

I was in the bathroom brushing my hair and the same woman was cleaning sinks behind me. Suddenly, she asked: "Is this soap with ALCOHOL?" pointing at the plastic providers with super-strong alcohol-based gel. This time she was clearly worried and her voice was really sad.
She didn't know that on that day, we had all received an email explaining that swine flue had become a pandemic in Birmingham, and from now on we were all supposed to use this gel to limit the spread of the virus.
I made an enormous effort, stopped all my face muscles and... with a very serious face explained the situation to the poor woman who (to my surprise) listened carefully and nodded. When I finished, she took the provider and moved it into the far corner and came back to cleaning with a very sad face.


In June newspapers reported that a Taliban fighter was found with an Aston Vila tattoo on his arm.

This Taliban fighter could have been her husband. Maybe somebody couldn't explain to him the mystery of a balsamic vinegar bottle? Maybe it's impossible to explain that?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Jelly jazz

There was a jazz festival in our city last week.

There was a Latin-American Festival as well, and as much as we both like Latin-American stuff, this festival was crap. It had one hilarious moment though, when my poor husband was forced to dance bachata with hundreds of other women. The hilarity of our failure lies in the fact that the idea was to go for a romantic night out and dance dance dance to make up for my non-dancing knee recovery period. We only managed to dance together once. Very Machiavellian of me, so to say.
Not that we suffered that night, we had our laugh after the party! and... we know how to dance bachata now! Priceless :P

Anyway. The jazz festival is what I wanted to share with you, as its phenomenon doesn't cease to amaze me. This could be one of the best events in the city, providing... that there were good music played.
The idea for the event is great, namely to put bands in unexpected places, like train stations, city buses, shopping centres, farmers' markets, pubs etc. and let them play for as long as they want. What a genius approach. And all that for free all week long!
Perfection, isn't it? Except that the jazz bands are of average quality. And if there is someone good (by pure luck), they are usually playing in the most obscure places and at outrageous hours, like the Shuffling Hungarians who made my day walking along just outside my office windows on Tuesday morning.

I didn't manage to take too many pictures, but one of my favourites was taken during the first concert we went to:

It's not a good picture (I don't think I have to flag it up) but it was such a sweet scene that I couldn't imagine a sweeter one. Becky Brine was standing surrounded by candy and observed by a big statue of a bull built out of jelly beans. She has a good voice, and Ella songs didn't make me scream (as for Ella covers, it's rare). So I had my sweet moment of joy, and I really mean it.
If I can't have The Lounge Lizards, The Cinematic Orchestra or Skalpel playing for free under my window, I can always focus on jellies (which I love with a dark love that leads to sickness and sweet, sweet suffering).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I never liked Brussels. In my head it was a city for desperate career seekers and divorcees or divorcees to be.
To do it justice I must say, it is a beautiful city, a jigsaw of old and new.