The Majowka dla Kobiet (May retreat for women) in Krakow must be entirely booked up, for lo the registration is closed.
It is amazing to me that women would come from all over Poland to a retreat featuring four talks by English-speaking me, but there will be a translator and, as continental Europeans often tell me, continental Europeans are used to coping with English and each others' languages anyway. Meanwhile, I am terribly pleased, as you can imagine, as I have slaving away at my talks and also at basic Polish. Yesterday I sort of collapsed in a dinner party.
It was sad, really. Imagine a beautiful Georgian room with a 12 pane window with a view of a Scottish garden, and by this window a round dark wood table, mostly surrounded by men in tweed jackets, plus one girl of 22 in a very smart V-neck Laura Ashley frock and a women got up in Edwardian black. That was me. Incidentally, my lace shawl fell off at the table, revealing a vast expanse of strap-free shoulder. Sensation, not to say sweeping Marx Brothers-style hilarity, among the men.
Anyway, I was fine for the champagne, and the simply delicious, French restaurant quality soup, and the rich cassoulet, and even the fruitcake, but I was starting to flag when the '55 port made its second round and then my head began to hurt and sitting up seemed too much of a chore and I began sending silent distress signals to B.A., who (being a man) wasn't getting them, so I gave them voice and then almost fainted in the host's hallway.
I am not sure why my body suddenly decided to pack it in after the port came around. I don't think it was a protest against the modern habit of women sticking around for the port. It was very good port, a beautiful colour, and anyway there was no hostess. No hostess, no leaving the table. And actually as far as I know I am the last hostess in Edinburgh to segregate the sexes anyway.
Could it have been the strain of learning Polish on top of everything else? I use the word "learning" in the most general sense. I try to stuff Polish into my brain at odd moments during the day--especially during bus rides--and then it leaks out. I travel about with a fat stack of cue cards with Polish words on them, and stare at the English side like a psychic trying to get a mental glimpse of the underside of a playing card. It has taken me six months to manage to glue the names of the twelve months of the year into my inelastic brain, and I'm still shaky on June.
"Listopad" (November) is my favourite month-name, and it is the discovery of such amusing words that makes the effort worth it, although B.A. would point out it isn't worth collapsing during dinner parties. Not quite the thing. Darling.*
Another subtle reward is watching Polish men speak Polish at parties, and incidentally DON'T DO THAT if you're Single. It is very odd behaviour, and I am sure I only get away with it (if I do) because I am married. Anyway, it is like watching furry water creatures (i.e. the Poles) waddle along the shore (i.e. speak English) and then slip into the water where they glide with astonishing grace (i.e. speak Polish).
After six months of me listening very hard, normal spoken Polish no longer sounds like "blah-BLAH-blah-blah-BLAH-blah-PRAV-da?" but like "I am [something]-ty and kricky kricka smoosh living in Warsaw is kricka it smoosh my flat kricky kricka smoosh thirty-three smoosh kricka shishbit in my opinion krick smoosh kricka Glasgow szbit smoosh krikety twice as expensive."
One of the parish Poles, the one who didn't like school and came to Britain to work at 17, says he learned English by listening and watching people and eventually something happened in his brain and he could understand. It sounds like magic, although I remember a similar sensation when I decided to lose 20 pounds and after a year of thrice-weekly workouts plus strict calorie counting, I suddenly fit into a Club Monaco Size 2.
Anyway, poppets, I don't think this has much to do with being Single, except that I am so happy I am going to Poland to talk to Polish Singles that I work hard every day to learn a little Polish. And I suppose it is also evidence that I believe you can achieve some things, perhaps MOST things, by hard work. You can't stop being Single, if that's what you're after, by hard work.
That said, if your fundamental difficulty is that you are not rooted in reality or you have almost despaired of understanding men (never mind Polish), those are things you can work on. You can do this by paying strict attention to reality and forcing yourself not to confuse your own hopes and fears with the actual data before you. It might help you to read the work of Bernard Lonergan to this end, but let me tell you, THAT is certainly work.
*To be fair, B.A. hailed a cab and was all hand-holding and solicitude.