All the world loves a party. In Iceland they splash around in hot springs eating whale-blubber-on-a-stick and getting giggly on Viking vodka, the Igbo people of Nigeria chow down on antelope haunches and wave sanity goodbye through the bottom of a bottle of palm wine, while the Falkland Islanders get through the long cold nights with bottles of Argentinian wine and left over British Army general service ration packs. The Poles have their own way, as is right and proper, but it’s not the way I grew up with.
When I was a young whippersnapper living in London more years ago than I care to count the procedure for organizing a partly went something like this.
1. Mention casually to friends in the pub that you’re having a party. In extreme cases phone people (and dealers). Try to avoid inviting ex-girlfriends, current girlfriends, and possible future girlfriends to the same event, unless bored with life.
2. Do nothing in particular until designated party night.
3. Buy sack of beer on the way home and have party. Phone pizza / Indian takeaway or nip out to the local garage for barbeque charcoal as required. Wake up next morning in Barons Court with a vague sense of foreboding.
If this is your memory of what ‘party’ means and you’ve not been in Poland long, beware, this probably isn’t the kind of thing Polish people mean when they say they’re having a party. Every Polish party I’ve been to has resembled a wedding feast far more than a proper sit-around-talking-crap-and-getting-wasted English style party. I won’t say Polish people don’t know how to have fun, but it does seem to take an inordinate amount of effort to get to the fun part:
1. Badger people senseless by phone, fax, email, sms, and carrier pigeon message until they agree to come to your party.
2. Buy a new house / flat to have the party in, or at least produce a baby or two.
3. Raid local branch of Ikea for 64 new wine glasses, 104 candles, three and a half thousand new matching plates, and enough doilies and tablecloths to outfit a royal garden party.
4. Start cooking at least six months before party is due to begin.
5. Acquire two bottles of Cinzano, one bottle of vodka, and 64 liters of Sprite, no matter how many people are coming. You know it’s not enough alcohol, but Jesus would be angry if you bought the right amount of alcohol beforehand rather than rushing out mid-party to buy more as god intended.
6. Have a nervous breakdown in your kitchen about an hour after the first guests arrive.
7. Wake up in Poland with a vague sense of foreboding.
Of course it’s all down to the Polish obsession with ‘hospitality.’ It’s not enough to invite people round to your house and get them too Michael Fished to drive home (which they do anyway) you’ve also got to feed the buggers fit to bust.
When I arrive at a party I like to hang out in the kitchen, maybe slump in the odd chair, take the girlfriend upstairs for a quick snog (is that word still allowed), or fiddle around with the host’s hi-fi until I break something. Arrive at a Polish party and you’re sat down at a table groaning with sliced meats, mayonnaise-drowned salads and cake… yes, cake and salad at the same time. The booze is well hidden. Immediately I feel like I’m at an ‘event’ not a party and my entire store of bonhomie drains away to be replaced by a tension headache.
And while we’re on the subject I was under the impression that cheese-and-pineapple on a stick had been banned by international treaty, along with prawn cocktails, early in the 1980s. Apparently not.
This rant has been brought to you by the Association of Sour Twisted Old Expats “Enjoy, soon you’ll be dead!“