Wednesday 7 April 2021

Two Days (Mostly) Off the Internet

I stayed off the internet Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, checking only social media on my phone once an evening to see if there were messages from family and work. I read a bit of a Polish textbook and a couple of Agatha Christies I hadn't read in some years. Benedict Ambrose and I went on a long walk in the countryside with friends. We ate hearty Easter foods, like roast lamb and chocolate cake studded with bright candy-coated chocolate eggs. We had gone to Easter Vigil and, to our amusement, our priest sent us emails asking us not to come to Easter morning Mass, too: the demand was outstripping the places on the reservation list.

The great thing about being off the internet was knowing, really knowing, that there wasn't really anything I could do about World News or the Stock Market and that my only real responsibility, besides being nice to be around, was active resting. On Saturday I felt that if I didn't report the profanation by police of a Polish Catholic Good Friday service in London, it would not be sufficiently well-known and I would have betrayed (1) fellow Catholics in Britain (2) Poles in general (3) my employers (4) their readers. When B.A. came into my office/our dining-room to tell me that CNA had just published something, I began to cry. Until that moment I had not been worried about being scooped by CNA or anyone. In fact, I was delighted when Spiked got something out first. But suddenly I felt that I Had FAILED.  In fact, my brain was just being utterly overloaded.   

One of my colleagues had assumed that I would easily understand the Polish priest's address to his congregation, but hearing recordings has always been very hard for me. Thus, I listened to that recording over and over, and over and over the celebrant said, "Quickly leave the church" while his congregation looked and sounded reluctant to do so, and I longed for him to tell them to stay and risk paying the stupid £200 each/each child. (Not a small sum in pricey Britain, I admit.) But the way recordings work for me is that the more often I listen to them, the more often words pop out. (The interesting thing about listening to my Polish tutor is that he uses words that normally I never hear but only see written down. ) The sounds inspire printed words to appear before my mind's eye. But it's a long process and a gazillion times more difficult than reading. What an utter relief when I discovered wPolityce had a transcript and the priests' actual names. 

Anyway, I needed two days of no responsibilities and no internet to remind me of them, and that's what I had, so I'm happy. I'm also happy that I was advised to take a whole 10 days off  and go away with B.A. somewhere soon so as to have a total break. As foreign travel is forbidden, we are going somewhere where I will have no opportunity to stress out over declensions, conjugations and forced train route diversions in Lower Silesia.  Beforehand, I will take the computer to the repair shop. Amusingly, the seaside (Firthside) town where we are going could be likened to a Dorothy repair shop. 

I suppose we all need to go to a repair shop eventually, and the state of our computers may say something about our own inner states. 

I don't recall going anywhere for "March Break" or "Spring Break" as a child or teenager, except for epic hikes through Toronto's Don Valley ravines behind my mother, who sometimes led this expedition with a baby on her back. We scrambled along river banks, climbed over fences, looked up at soaring bridges, thought about what the now-gelded river had done in 1954 during Hurricane Hazel and how Toronto had been revenged upon it. 

Summers were different, for I was sent for a week or two to Girl Guide camp in somewhat wilder wilderness. And some years my family also went to a cottage by a lake for a week or two. This was sometimes in Ontario, and sometimes in the American Midwest, not far from our American relations. The beaches of the Ontario lakes were not particularly sandy, although I seem to recall the American beaches were. I had high expectations of beaches, thanks to comic books, so these beaches were a bit disappointing. (I must write about my new discovery of the Law of Low Expectations.) However, a beach is a beach, so there was swimming and looking at tadpoles. In addition, we were in the country, so sometimes there was getting candy at a country store (besides being frightened by snakes, stung by wasps, and checked for leeches). There was also sitting around for hours reading books and unfamiliar magazines (like Redbook) and playing such board games as Monopoly. There was badminton and writing letters and, in the USA, visiting relatives who might give us interesting presents--and I must say Aunt Jeanette covered herself with glory by giving me a wooly walrus one year. 

In the USA, there were exotic shops with unfamiliar brand names--and foodstuffs only seen on TV, but in both countries there was Junk Cereal. For one week (or were there two?) of the year, only at The Cottage (whichever cottage it was that year), we children were allowed the sugary, processed garbage so important to Saturday morning television advertising: Frosted Flakes, Sugar Corn Pops, Kellogg's Sugar Smacks, Fruit Loops and possibly Cocoa Puffs--although my mother may have drawn the line at Cocoa Puffs. (Or Count Chocula, as I now see Cocoa Puffs was in the Kellogg's Variety Pack.)

Although Junk Cereal was most definitely the sign that chaos and carnival now (temporarily) reigned and we were all on holiday, I was not totally dead to the beauties of nature. The most beautiful cottage in which we ever stayed was on the shores of Georgian Bay and had a wall that was almost entirely glass (I think) looking out at the water and the islands in the middle.* My family shared it with a Polish family--this is where it all gets exciting and amateur shrinks can take notes--consisting of my father's Polish work colleague, his Canadian wife, his very glamorous sister (who wore a BIKINI!!!!), his brother-in-law, and his nephew Paweł (whom we called Pavel, as ł was beyond the Canadians' ability to pronounce). This was the 1970s so goodness knows how and why Paweł and his parents were allowed to come to Canada on holiday. 

Paweł was a year younger than me, and was rather frustrated that I couldn't understand him. He was fond of me all the same, however, and was not only the first but the only boy to take any interest me for the next several years. I was very distressed later to discover that I was unlikely ever to see Paweł again and that he and his family lived in what we would consider grinding poverty (i.e. he lived in a Communist country). 

As a matter of fact, I did see Paweł again forty years later when it occurred to me to find him on Facebook. He had emigrated to Canada, was married and (with some reasonable accommodation for age) looked exactly the same.  

Thanks to the third person to order something from Papier in my name. Now I have enough credits to buy my next-to-next wellness journal, which is awesome, as it is a tad pricey. Fancy paper products are my financial achilles' heel--along with good coffee. If you are in the UK and also have a weakness for good stationary and beautiful notebooks--and would like to toss me some credits--just click here

*I rejoice that my brother Nulli's in-laws have a similar cottage, only on the shores of a lake in Quebec. The Canadian Dream.

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