Wednesday 6 February 2019

Dixit and Buka

Polish Pretend Son playing Dixit
Today is the feast day of my patron saint, and so I got up early to catch the 7:13 AM train to Edinburgh and go to morning traditional Latin Mass. When I checked which vestments were being laid out for Father (white for St. Titus or red for my girl), the altar server promised Father would at least say the Collect for St. D.  What a delightful surprise when Father appeared fully decked out in red. Happy Saint's Day to me!

For a Saint's Day treat, I will blog instead of doing yet another load of laundry. I still have the Spa Day story to tell.

I do not go to Poland to relax. It is probably possible to relax in Poland.  If you are with Polish friends, and they do all the talking to necessary strangers--beautiful, 100% accurate Polish falling effortlessly from their lips--then you can sit back and float on a gentle wave of Polish hospitality. If you are with me, however, you have to put up with my cat-like leaps upon the valiant beast of the Polish language, my smugness when I bring you a treat (the cappuccino, the train ticket, the RyanAir printout), and my despair when the beast proves too slippery for me.

However, it is nice to take a day off from linguistic striving, and B.A. and I very much enjoyed a glorious day in a rural Polish spa hotel. We woke up in a spacious, modern, somewhat Danish-looking suite under the eaves of the restored Prussian palace. We ate cold meats and cheese in one of the palace's elegant dining rooms. We admired Polish Pretend Son and Polish Pretend-Daughter-in-Law when they finally came downstairs themselves, and we drank a lot of coffee.

We all had massage treatments scheduled for the early afternoon, so we whiled away the time by going for a walk in the post-Soviet countryside. As it was January, there wasn't much to see except the village shop, the village hall, a roadside shrine, a few dogs, a good many backyard chickens and a few roosters. As we approached a frozen field edged by a distant forest, we saw some deer emerge.

"What do the hotel guests do when they want to leave the hotel?" I asked.

"They don't," said Polish Pretend Son.

Once I was wrapped in towels in the spa in the palace's extensive cellars, I didn't want to leave the hotel either. First I had a massage, and then I sent B.A. to the masseur and sat in a salt air chamber until I was cold. Then I sat in an infra -red sauna. Then I had a shower. Then I sat in the super-hot-rocks sauna. Then I went back to the salt air chamber until I was cold again. Repeat. This went on for a couple of hours.  (PPS mostly sat in the salt air chamber reading articles about Jordan Peterson on his phone and drinking champagne.)

Afterwards PPS drove us all to the nearest town for an early supper. PPS brought white wine along for us to drink, and we ate the best pierogis in history. They were stuffed with duck meat and daubed with quince jelly, and I would order them for my last meal. It might be worthwhile spending a whole week in that town, just to eat in that restaurant every day. One could look at churches in the surrounding villages in between meals, if one could drive. (Bicycle?)

Afterwards we went back to the hotel spa to have beer baths. We sat in large beer barrels filled with hot beer with hops floating very obviously in it. This is apparently very good for one's health, and it was also good fun. We drank mead left over from the PPS&PPDL wedding as we sat in the hot beer in our bathing suits, quarrelling amiably and getting sleepy.

However, there was one last task to accomplish, and it was a board game called Dixit. PPDL was very excited by the prospect of playing Dixit, for she thought it a good way into delving into the psychology of your friends and loved ones. B.A. was not excited at the prospect, and went to bed at 10. However, the remaining three met again in a dining room to play this psychological game.

The rules weren't too difficult. To sum up, everyone has cards with surreal drawings on them. Whoever is "Storyteller" for that round, chooses one of his own cards, pronounces a verbal clue to what it means to him  (like "Act of Contrition" or "Minimal State"). Then the other players look at their cards, determine which cards might conceivably inspire that concept, and hand them over to the Storyteller.  The Storyteller looks at them and places all the chosen cards face-up on the table. Then the others have to guess which card was the Storyteller's card. Players get points if they chose correctly, and the Storyteller gets points if only one player chose correctly. If all the players guessed, the Storyteller gets no points.

"This is a stupid game," said PPS because he was losing. "This is a game for women."

Eventually PPS figured out a strategy based on trying to think of verbal clues that PPDL would understand and I wouldn't. Sometimes I was able to thwart this, and so I was ahead and winning until PPS looked at his cards and pronounced "Muminek."

Muminek is the Polish for Moomin, as in the Moomin Trolls. For some reason, I never read the Moomin Troll books, but all Polish children all read about the Muminki. Thus, when we all put down our cards, and PPDL saw a sort of gobbling ghost figure on one of them, she divined that PPS saw it as Buka, a terrible monster from the Muminki books. Expecting something more troll-like, I didn't.

"Buka is my favourite of all the Muminki characters," said PPS smugly and eventually won the game.

When B.A. and I went back to PoznaƄ I bought two Muminki books from the cool bookshop in the Imperial Palace. Clearly I have to fill in the Muminki gap in my Polish studies.

This reminds me of spies, by the way. I often wonder how British and American spies in Cold War Poland perfected their cover. I think they would haven been easy to catch because, even it their accent was perfect, all you would have to do is ask them about a children's book every Polish child would have read at school. Maybe, though, MI5 and the CIA were well aware of this and so grilled their spies on the funny poems of Elementarz and the monsters in Muminki.

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