Posted by: anglopole | April 1, 2011

Long time no see!

Hello hello! In case you have been wondering, I am alive and well, very well actually. I am very very sorry I have neglected my blog, but life has been very hectic for me ever since I learnt I passed my DPSI exams. Yes, you have read well, I have passed my exams and now am registered with NRPSI (National Register of Public Service Interpreters). I get more and more busy with my work, as a result of being fully qualified, which is good news. Somewhere along the way last year I also started engaging in photography more seriously and hopefully you will see some of the results of this very pleasant obsession of mine! 🙂 Surely, my family is in the very centre of my very busy life and anyone who has young kids will appreciate how much attention they need…

Anyway, enough of all these excuses, however sound and true they are, and they are so, indeed!

I am pulling myself together and shall start posting here again!

Thank you for waiting patiently for news about Anglopole’s life in the UK! 🙂

Aren’t you glad the longest winter in the century so far has come to an end????? 🙂 I sure am!

photo taken last week in RSPB The Lodge Reserve near Sandy

 

Posted by: anglopole | July 2, 2010

Exams on the Prime Meridian

I have recently finished my DPSI course and two weeks ago I sat my oral exams in Greenwich University. It was a beautiful day, clouded only by an enormous stress I was feeling. I had not realized that Greenwich was such a lovely part of London! It is not straightforward to get there from King’s Cross but even the journey to Cuttty Sark station was interesting.

Here are some photos to illustrate my big day in June:

my train to Bow Church is arriving

I'm on that train heading to Canary Wharf to change again...

Canary Wharf, a station nott very far from the O2 Arena

Cutty Sark, Greenwich - I'm heading to the university

Greenwich University - the whole area around it is a lovely

close to the university there is the famous Maritime Museum

Greenwich park and on the hill the observatory and the Prime Meridian itself – you can stand on it if you’re ready to part with £20!

the university again, as seen from the premises of the museum

After the exam I kept on strolling in the area to chill down and enjoy the rest of the afternoon before going back to Bedfordshire. There were a lot of tourists, students and even a film crew working on a picture of some sort:

it looked like an Asian soap was being filmed there

opposite the river bank there's the Greenwich Museum

the Thames and the City of London on the other side

Cutty Sark market

on my way back to King's Cross

Needless to say I came back home pretty exhausted. I do hope I passed the exam, but even if I failed, the day in Greenwich was definitely enjoyable and I will surely go there again.

Posted by: anglopole | April 20, 2010

What has happened with my New Year’s wishes?!

At the beginning of April I finally started getting better after three months of battling bronchitis and sinusitis. The most horrible winter was reluctantly giving way to the long awaited spring and you could sense a deep relief everyone felt as temperatures were increasing and spring flowers began popping up here and there. Having lost the cover of snow, all the nasty pot holes were exposed in every road around. Still, I thought I’d rather do a slalom drive than put up with the cold I thought I had left back in Poland!

However difficult for me and my family, harsh winter and nasty infections, I feel, have not been the greatest disasters that happened in the first quarter of this year. The earthquake in Haiti was the cataclysm that really shook the whole Earth a few months ago. Horrible as it was, it did melt many hearts and the humanitarian relief has been pouring in there ever since. Like many other nations, the British too got involved in helping Haiti recover after the disaster.

Almost every day we hear about a British soldier being killed in Afghanistan and I do not think I am the only one questioning the justification for the Western armies being kept in this country. I may be wrong, but from all the reports we are fed with, it really does not look like the war in Afghanistan is going to end any time soon.

What happened on 10th April just blew my mind and the minds of most Poles back in Poland and here in the UK. What is now known as The Smolensk Tragedy has touched the whole nation of Poland, her rather disliked neighbour, Russia and millions of people around the world individually.  Also last week was marked by another black cloud, not in figurative terms this time – the volcanic ash coming from one of the Icelandic volcanoes that came back to life has covered the whole Europe, which had an impact on the state funeral of the late President of Poland and his wife, as many foreign delegations gave in to fear of the volcanic ash and decided not to come to Krakow, where the funeral was held on the 18th of April. Interestingly enough, the dignitaries from Central and Eastern Europe and also countries like Morocco, Azerbaijan somehow managed to make their way to the celebrations in Krakow. Ironically, it was in the British media that we could hear explanations that only military and government planes are equipped to fly in conditions like the ones caused by the volcanic ash – It is, therefore, hard to believe that Prince Charles was unable to make his way to Poland in order to personally express his condolences over the loss of so many leaders in the fatal plane crash.

Well, as the English proverb says: a friend in need is a friend indeed. I was enormously inspired by Mikheil Saakashvili’s attitude as he made a truly epic journey in order to be present at the funeral of his friend Lech Kaczynski – he governs a country with far far fewer resources than the USA or EU leading countries and still he wasn’t fazed by the notorious ash cloud. Where there is a will there is a way, right?

Oh, I must not forget about the earthquake in China – 2000 dead! :-O

What’s going on with this world of ours?!

Anyway, I want to believe that the remaining 3 quarters of the year 2010 will be better that what we have seen so far.

Posted by: anglopole | January 3, 2010

Happy New Decade Everyone!

The New Year has already started and with it a new decade. I wonder if it is just me, but this fact does make me reflect on the past 10 years, half of which I lived away from my homeland. It was a pretty turbulent decade, I must say and not just on personal level but in the in the international arena too.

Here are a few of  the events, gadgets, , institutions, people, etc. in the UK that I will always associate this first decade of the 21st century with:

1. 2004 Poland and other countries from the Central and Eastern Europe entered the EU:

One of the many results of this event was that a visa-free movement became a reality for Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, etc. AND doors for legal employment were opened in the UK, not surprisingly to a great delight of hundreds of thousands of migrants tired of poverty. I had always wanted to live in the UK as you may remember from the introductory posts of my blog, and so I too welcomed the whole EU thing and all that it meant for its new members.

2. Terrorism threats coming closer and closer.

I can’t say I feel totally comfortable in the tube whenever I visit London…. Also, I wasn’t at all happy for our family to be searched when travelling to Poland on a few occasions after the 7/7 bombings. Baby food jars being opened in search of suspicious substances, nappies being opened, the buggy being carefully scanned…. all accompanied by a cry of two tots not knowing what’s going on…. such a total nuisance. I just wish the customs officers used some common sense in applying all the security measures… but hey, it’s a bit better now, so I shall stop moaning about it now. The terrorists, however, did achieve their goal in a way – many freedoms of common citizens have been limited due to all these threats..

3.  Year by year Britain was (and still is) becoming a real ‘nanny state’.

It can be very very annoying and just makes one wonder what the modern definitions of democracy and freedom of speech or expression are. Only a few weeks ago during a nativity play in my son’s school I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of him as I might also capture the other children in them and I might just be one of those sickos who publish photos of kids on various wend sites :-O Where’s the common sense? I will ask again. We will get a DVD from the performance which was made by the school and it looks like the authorities of the school forgot such a DVD too can be abused or misused just like pretty much anything in life… I can’t stop myself from buying a nice gadget, for example, only because it may be stolen…. and such logic seems to be behind many ‘nanny-like’ decisions made by the British government. Here are more examples: The New UK Census.

4. Reality shows dominate the British TV.

– Big Brother

– X-Factor

– I’m a celebrity get me out of here

– Britain’s got talent

– Strictly come dancing

…. that’s to name just a few shows that are broadcast here pretty much every year, simply because they are popular. I am not going to attempt concluding why they are popular – they just are and I watch some myself.

5. Recssion = filthy rich bankers + filthy rich MPs taking a LOT of money from what really belongs to the public. Shall I comment on that one? Nah, you’re right. No explanation necessary! 😉

6. iPhone – it’s probably THE gadget I will associate with the past decade. I still remember the day they were introducing it in the British market. Hundreds of people were queuing for hours to get one and, as you probably know, it wasn’t exactly the cheapest electronic toy then (still isn’t really).

pure beauty, isn’t it?

7. Slumdon Millionaire is my favourite British film of the 00’s, though the list of others that I should mention is longer.

8. Christians being mocked and Muslims feared – it’s probably one of the signs of times. Inasmuch as Britain is still a country where there’s a freedom of speech and expression, it does seem that Islam is a lot more privileged than Christianity or at least I see it this way.

9. ‘Snow disaster’  paralysing Britain in winter 😉 I’ve never seen a few inches of snow causing so much havoc all around the country…. Btw. the global warming was (and is) one of the hottest subjects discussed by the politicians in the past 10 years BUT winters in the UK get colder and colder…..

10. Tony Blair was probably a person most spoken of here in the 00’s, especially that he made at least a few controversial, and costly for Britain, decisions

There were much much more people, events, items, media productions, etc. that shaped the last decade in Britain. I just mentioned a few.

Let me round off by saying, what I should have said last week really:

and

HAPPY NEW DECADE!!!

Posted by: anglopole | November 15, 2009

Back to uni!

Yes, I am still alive and kicking! However, finding time to write something controversial in my fantastic blog has become quite a challenge, to be honest. Family life combined with work, plus all the nasty infections…. doesn’t leave much time to pour one’s thoughts in a blog. On top of everything, I am back at uni to do a DPSI course which I should have done a long time ago as that opens many doors for professional intepreters, the main one being NRPSI.

In mid-October, then, I went to Bedford University Campus to start my part-time, post-graduate studies. Since then I have had 4 sessions and I like the course itself. Having done most of my studying at Wroclaw University, Poland, I was a tad disappointed with the location and the Bedford University Campus buildings. I had used to pass by the place many times and never realized it was a uni as it just looks as a complex of office buildings – doesn’t have this… erm, university atmosphere, if you know what I mean.

This is where I study now:

bedford uni
Bedford University Campus

and this is where I did my degree:

univerek
English Institute of University in Wroclaw, Poland

I am sure this is just another example of a known cliché that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. I find all the old or having a more classic look buildings far more attractive to study in, as opposed to the modern, character-less architectural monstrosities. It’s not just the building of the uni in Bedford that distracted my attention from the course. Yes, I am going to treat you with a little more moaning. 😉 We were all a little surprised that, despite paying for the course we have a limited access to basic facilities such as toilets, refreshment bar or a shop, library or information desk where someone is actually there to assist with any queries that students might have, let alone technical support for the tutors who sometimes get confused about the configuration of laptops and projectors.

Because I’d gained my education in a country considered as less developed than the UK, I expected the local uni to be of a much higher standard in every way than what I’d experienced before…..

At least, letters of complaint addressed to institutions are often taken seriously here, so things are likely improve in Bedford Campus. I hope this is not wishful thinking, though! Anyway, I intend to make most of the course despite all the hiccups and pass the exam run by IoL.

Posted by: anglopole | September 18, 2009

So, who are the racists in the UK?

Yes, it does look like it’s a follow-up to a post I wrote some time ago about ‘This is England‘, a film I had watched and found thought-provoking, indeed. For the past few weeks I have been stumbling on the subject of racism in the UK either  on  internet forums I visited, or when watching news, or listening to real-life stories told be people I met here and there.

Racism has been in the world forever…. that is a fact. Also, one might think that everyone would know what it means to be a racist since the problem is as old as the world itself. It seems to me, however, that the whole notion begins to be more and more blurred, mis- or over-interpreted. I’d say, often people are simply tactless or stupid rather than racist.

Racism is the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.[1] In the case of institutional racism, certain racial groups may be denied rights or benefits, or get preferential treatment, while Reverse discrimination favours members of a historically disadvantaged group at the expense of those of a historically advantaged group. Racial discrimination typically points out taxonomic differences between different groups of people, even though anybody can be racialised, independently of their somatic differences. According to the United Nations conventions, there is no distinction between the term racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination.” (Wikipedia)

A good example of this definition of racism is, of course, the nazi movement both the original one from the last century and its current continuations under many different names and in various countries. Only last week we could see an English Nazi movement in action; “Anti-Islamists target Palestinian rally in central London“. Such riots start more or less like this:

Luton riotNow, I know of a few Englishmen who claim it’s only the immigrants in the UK that are racist, but, somehow what we can witness in various towns in the UK, both as eyewitnesses and viewers of various news channels, is angry Englishmen tired of being politically correct about what they truly think of equal opportunities, ethinc minorities or their own superiority over everyone who happens not to be a white British.

I too was accused of being racist after sharing my thoughts on how I perceive various things here in the UK – it is rather stupid and ignorant not to see the difference between a criticism of things you don’t like in places you visit and an irrational,  patronizing attitude making you feel better than people of other cultures!

Inasmuch as I am not in favour of cherishing prejudices or stereotypes, I am sure nobody is free from possessing prejudiced opinions about other nations. Yet, the fact that consciously or not we hold onto silly stereotypes, doesn’t have to mean we are racists, or does it?

It amazes me how words, sentences, or comments get taken out of context and misinterpreted here; Recently, I have read a conversation between a few Poles and some Brits. One of the Poles quoted another person who allegedly had said that ‘Asians smell or do not pay much attention to personal hygene’ or some such. Taken out of context such a statement is not just an unfair, prejudiced opinion but indeed could well be perceived as racist. Quoting what someone else has said for the sake of a argument doesn’t prove that the person using the quote agrees with the message of the cited sentence….

Let’s have a look at something else. Not long ago BBC reported that British property agents are keeping out East European tenants (funny enough, in Poland the English, the French, the Germans are never referred to as Western Europeans…. after all each nation has its own identity!) . Favouring one nationality over another in letting houses for rent is an obvious display or racism and prejudice. Nevertheless, some people say it is the landlords right to choose who they let their property for rent to….

Racism exists in the UK and, even though many migrants are racists as well, the real problem is with some attitudes manifested by the citizens of GB. Pointing fingers at ethnic minorities and accusing them of being racist not only doesn’t solve the problem, but makes it even worse….

Posted by: anglopole | September 3, 2009

London Luton Airport

Luton airport is the closest on to where I live (about 18 miles away) and getting there is pretty straightforward, which is convenient. The thing I am not impressed with is the prices for long-stay parking! 😦 Last time I travelled from Luton was two weeks ago and I chose to get a lift from a friend rather than leave the car in the airport car park as the price for it was higher than my return ticket to Poland! What a rip-off! On my way back I caught a bus going to Hitchin and then a local bus to my town. It was an experiment really and I would never recommend relying on public transport in the UK and I mean the local one mainly. I was coming back on a Sunday which meant that buses from Hitchin to Bedford were going every 2 hours! :-O

Anyway, Luton airport is fairly big but nothing compared to the main UK airports, for sure. When I was travelling the gate I was supposed to check in was shown 5 minutes before boarding time, which meant everyone had to rush through the long corridors to get to the gate. That was a new procedure which I found ridiculous as large crowds were swarming around the few monitors in the waiting lounge and then hurrying to their gates…. informing the passengers which gates their airplanes would be at earlier would allow the people to choose when they want to stroll to the particular gate rather than be kept in suspence, so to say!

Another ‘interesting’ change at Luton airport is the charge for drop-off! Now, I understand this is supposed to reduce the traffic at the airport itself. But then, one has to ask, what the purpose of building new roads leading to the airport was? The two seem to contradict one another…

Anyway, it’s the budget airlines mainly that fly from Luton and so, one shouldn’t perhaps expect luxuries for free at this airport. I will keep on flying from Luton as I just couldn’t be bothered to go anywhere further just to experience more comfort during my journey!

Posted by: anglopole | August 7, 2009

Staycation 2009 (Part 2)

On last Tuesday, I took my oldest son to London for a day out. We went there despite a rather gloomy weather. I must say, I am gradually getting used to the unpredictability of the British weather. The thing I will never get used to is the headaches that I suffer whenever the pressure outside is down and it’s down all too often… Anyway, I decided to have a good time with junior on Tuesday despite the drizzle accompanying us most of the day. We took a train from Arlesey, a village 3 miles away from our town. It’s much more convenient than driving to and in London. Besides, travelling on a train is always a great fun for kids! 🙂 So, after a 40 minutes journey we ended up at King’s cross station in London. Our destination on that day was the Natural History Museum. The fastest way to get there would have been on the tube, but, again, for the sake of the kiddo having a blast we took a red double decker. Unfortunately, however, we listened to a guy at the information desk and we hopped on the number 10 which took us through, probably, the busiest street in Europe, and that is Oxford Street.

When we finally got to the museum we were shocked to see hundreds of people queuing to enter the place through all doors available there (there are no fees for entering the museum, which probably causes such queues)! So, we had plenty of time to admire the surrounding houses and the magnificent building of the museum itself.

natural history museum

Natural History Museum (side view)

Natural History Museum (side view)

Natural History Museum (the main hall)

Natural History Museum (the main hall)

Natural History Museum (the main hall from another angle)

Natural History Museum (the main hall from another angle)

Well, frankly speaking, I am not a fan of crowds of people, especially disorganized and insensitive ones. Yet, the museum itself is an absolutely amazing source of 3D information about the world of nature. My little man enjoyed seeing all the animals, dinosaurs, and wondering around the butterfly jungle, especially the playground created next to it for kids. All this is a perfect environment for educational explorations!

the best way to learn is through fun, isn't it? :-)

the best way to learn is through fun, isn't it? 🙂

On our way back we took a bus again, but via a different route. It was a lot less jammed with cars and buses!

looking down on everything and everyone!

looking down on everything and everyone!

After lunch we did quite a lot of walking in the less known streets of London where you can spot interesting landmarks, like this one:

cafe in London

As it appeared we couldn’t get on a train back before 7 pm (Ididn’t realize I had bought a return off-peak ticket and would have to upgrade it to an in-peak one for £13, and it was not worth it) and so we popped in a local Starbucks for a coffee (for me and a friend of mine) and pudding for my little offspring.

starbucks-london-727085Before getting on the train to Peterborough, which would take us back to Arseley, we could relax in an airconditioned waiting lounge, which was nice on the horribly muggy day!

Needless to say I was knackered when we got home, but my son was still full of beans and excited after having seen all the many attractions in London and we only saw a tiny fraction of what one can visit in the capital of the UK.

Posted by: anglopole | August 3, 2009

Staycation 2009 (part 1)

Even though I am travelling to Poland in a couple of weeks, most of the summer hols is a staycation for me and my family. It’s not a boring option, however, as there are plenty of attractions for both kids and adults in towns and villages within 30 miles radius from our town. I’m not a great fan of the usual rainy weather in England, but even it is raining there is plenty to do with kids that go bananas! 😉

Let’s start with what we can do on a sunny day. Here are some options:

1 If I don’t want to drive, I can take the kids to one of 5 parks in our little town. Two of them are part of big play/sport fields and so the kids are not limitted to the enclosed playgrounds.

2. In the outskirts of our town there is a forest with footpaths and bike routes. What I like about it is that the two are separated from each other and so the walkers are not disturbed by the bikers and vice versa. At least, one doesn’t have to worry about the littleuns being hit by a motor or a bike. The downside is the dog walkers who, naturally, come to the woods to let their beloved pets loose. So, there are times your kids may have a close encounter with a bull terrier or some such and make you feel like you’re about to have a heart attack. So, going to the woods, even though nice, is more of an extreme option for an outing! 😉

3. About 15 miles from Shefford there’s Woburn Safari Park which is a great place to visit every now and again. A visit there is more of a treat, though, as it will cost a family of 4 about 50 quid to go there.

4. In neighbouring Hertfortshire, close to Letchworth Garden City, there is Stand Alone Farm – a place where kids can see and pet farm animals, play in a big playground, go mini-karting, picnic with their familes or walk around the farm. It’s a fun place to visit.

5. There are plenty of walks, playgrounds and even a few lakes in Bedford, which is just 9 miles up north from us.

6. Another good place for families who like being active is Danish Camp, where I hope to take my kids this week.

7. The famous Milton Keynes is just another mecca of fun places to go to, like: Gulliver’s Theme Park or 360 Club

8. Last Sunday we went to the Swiss Garden next to a gorgeous village of Old Warden where they were holding an air display, which is always interesting for little boys.

9. All the dinosaur lovers, young and old will have a blast visiting Knebworth House and Gardens which is situated between Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City, both of which are towns in Hertfortshire.

10. A little further south from Knebworth, there’s Stanborough Park, one of the land marks in Welwyn G.C. and a fantastic desination for some family quality time on a sunny day!

Once all the above options have been exhausted, or if one desires a proper city break, they can also hop on a train and visit London, which is just 35 miles away from the nearest railway station. I am going to do just that tomorrow, if all goes well and later on this week, I will tell you how my day out with junior went in the mighty British metropolis.

Posted by: anglopole | July 16, 2009

Panic or flu pandemic?

According to official stastistics, seasonal flu kills around 250,000 people around the world every year. It does sound serious, doesn’t it? Yet, from what I remember everytime we call the NHS direct or go to our local health centre with flu like symptoms, we hear ‘oh, it’s just a flu! take some paracetamol, drink a lot, rest and all will be fine‘… Now, with this swine flu in the air there is a general panic and fear of this virus that is said to be just a form of the known seasonal illness. Everyday we are fed with scary reports about the growing numbers of those suffering from swine flu and those who’ve died from it. On one news channel you hear how unprepared NHS is for the spreading pandemic of the swine flu, and on others you’d hear there’s no better prepared health serivce in Europe…. When you enter health centres in England you are bound to bump into big notices asking patients who show flu like symptoms not to come to the clinic. Hmm…. it’s all very confusing, isn’t it? People die of this virus, as we are reminded every 15 mins, but it can be treated via a phone call, as this is the way we are expected to seek help… Yes, there’s a chance the paramedics will come over to you at some point but how will this point be determined? How high will your fever have to be for the NHS staff member talking with you on the phone to decide you are now ready to receive some practical medical help?! Do you have to cough 10 or 20 times per minute to start worrying about the flu you might have contracted? There are the so called higher risk groups who will receive the vaccination in the first place, once the jabs are actually ready. These are the elderly, the under fives, pregnant women, and people suffering from some underlying conditions. Now, what if someone doesn’t know they actually have some ‘underlying conditions‘?

The whole situation with the fast spreading swine flu virus is far from being clear. Is it that the flu is infecting means and ways of communication as well? 😉

edit.: there’s some development as I am listening to the latest news – a special helpline has been set up and a remote antiviral drugs prescribing will be done beginning with the next week. So, at last there’s some good news amidst all the anxiety about the pandemic.

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