Before I moved to Poland the only Polish food I knew was a meal that my mother would make from time to time. She had been taught it years ago by her late Polish father and it consisted of mashed potato with bits of bacon and fried onion and covered with a sauce made from cucumber, cream, sugar and vinegar. My mum said she thought it was called ‘Mizeria’. It was known as ‘Polish Stuff’ in our Welsh house.
Let me tell you about a British wedding. The bride and groom meet at the church or registry office or hotel, they stand in front of the person marrying them and they tell each other how much they love each other and then they are married. This is normally late morning. Then they pose for photos. Then more photos. Then a few more photos. Then they go for the wedding reception.
At the British wedding reception everybody has a starter, then a dinner, then a dessert until they’re full and a little bit drunk. Then the bride and groom thank the bridesmaids, the parents, the ushers and anybody else they can think of. They give them flowers and tell them how great they are. Then there is the best man’s speech.
In 2005 I wanted to teach English in Poland. I chose Poland because my grandfather was from Mazury, but really it wasn’t important which part of the country I went to. I put my CV on the international teaching website and had job offers from places I had never even heard of, like Tarnowskie Gory. I played email tennis with Golden Gate owner Rafal Drewniak for a few weeks and we spoke on the phone once or twice and, after consideration, he convinced this Gorol to come to Silesia and work for him.
So this year I had my first traditional Polish Christmas Eve. It was in Wales. Due to various circumstances Pani Williams and I sadly weren’t able to get back to Ohio, TG to celebrate with her half of the family. Instead we decided to have the Polish Christmas Eve on the 24th for my family at our house and the traditional British Christmas Day on the 25th at my parents’ house. It would be the best of both worlds. Nothing could go wrong…
There are places I'll remember
All my life,
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I've loved them all
''You've never been to Gwarki? You're lucky!''
That's is what I heard many times from my friends and family in Tarnowskie Gory. Well, they didn't all say ''You're lucky'', some said ''You have a luck'', which is technically incorrect but had the same message – don't bother going.
In Galeria in May this year, that being 2015, current Golden Gate Native Speaker Ben Sixsmith and I performed a beautiful acoustic song by Green Day called Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life). We performed it acoustically. Did we perform it beautifully? I don’t really care. We played it as well as we could and we did so in honour of Alina Myszka – an English Native Speaker from 2005 to 2006 and, really, the last female Native Speaker who ever had an impact at Golden Gate. She unfortunately died in April but isn’t forgotten.
Alina Myszka was my colleague, flatmate and friend. She played a starring role in my first and most important year in Poland ten years ago and when I walk around Tarnowskie Gory she will be in my mind now and forever. As long as I have memories I’ll have Alina.
The way I remember it, I finished teaching in Golden Gate on Tuesday, flew back to Britain on Wednesday and by Monday I was a policeman. That was December 2007. On February 25th 2019, after more than ten years in the police, I’ll be a teacher at Golden Gate again. The school is very dear to my heart. Golden Gate brought me to Tarnowskie Gory, one night in TG I met the girl from Ohio who became Mrs Williams and now we have a little daughter, Zosia. I know I’m a Gorol but I feel like I’m coming home.
I always liked football, I was just never any good at it. It was, however, a useful hobby when I moved to Tarnowskie Gory in October 2005. On Sunday mornings I would meet my boss Rafal and I would play with him and his friends at the school pitch near Parkowa. Normally twelve-to-fifteen guys showed up and we played for about an hour. After the match we would go to the small pub in the woods and drink cheap beer for an hour or two. I think that was why I liked going to play football.
I don’t like Krakow. I think Tarnowskie Gory is better than Krakow. I wish I had a clever and witty way to write this opening paragraph but nothing else really has the impact of those first two sentences.
I have been a regular visitor to Krakow since autumn 2005. Between 2008 and 2011 my wife studied there and I visited and stayed with her in three different parts of town. I liked these different parts of town. In our home in Wales we even have a black and white framed picture of Krakow above the fireplace. We have stylish and artsy Krakow coasters on our coffee table for cups and glasses. In our spare bedroom we even have a toy dragon with ‘Krakow’ written across his belly! So why don’t I like Krakow?
If I ask a Pole a question and they answer ‘no’ I have to think – are they answering me ‘no’ in English, which means ‘no’, or are they answering me ‘no’ in Polish…which means ‘yes’? If they answer ‘nie’ I have to make sure I have heard them correctly because ‘nie’ sounds very much like ‘yeah’. Of course ‘nie’ means ‘no’ in Polish and ‘yeah’ means ‘yeah’ in English. Are you confused? I was. The title of this piece of writing is using ’No’ in the Polish way – Is Polish difficult? Too right it is. It is an absolute nightmare.
Whenever I am in Tarnowskie Gory I grab any opportunity to play live guitar. Starting from my first concert in Galeria in Christmas 2005 up until to the Golden Gate 25th Anniversary Party in the summer of 2016, I enjoy the thrill of being onstage with others and, more importantly, that first Tyskie after playing well. Back in Wales I work strange hours and my days are full with my family so visiting Poland is the only chance I get to play live anymore. When I knew my wife, daughter and I would be coming to TG for a wedding in September I knew I had to try and arrange some kind of concert.
The Golden Gators you can see and hear in the year 2011 are a superb band. I have seen them a few times on my visits back to Poland and they keep getting better and better. They play long gigs to big crowds and often get well rewarded for doing so. In January 2007 on a freezing hill in Bytom - surrounded by angry biker gangs, fire and a Nazi - it was a different story for The Golden Gators…The Original Golden Gators.