Rear Krakow Window

I never regarded voyeurism as a vocation, I just kind of drifted into it. Having a designated smoking window that looks directly onto a dozen brightly illuminated flats on the other side of the street didn’t help. I’m sure you’ve seen Hitchcock’s Rear Window as many times as I have. The difference in my case is that most of the people in the flats opposite are clearly up to no good. Also I don’t have a broken leg. What follows is my report on the suspicious behavior I have accidentally observed through my binoculars over the past two years. If I don’t turn up next week call the police or something.

rear window1

1. The “Dead” Flat
In two and a half years I have never seen anybody at these windows. I’ve never seen anybody on the balcony, never seen a window opened or a curtain twitched. Nothing. I would have concluded the place was just empty if it wasn’t for the fact that, very occasionally, I see a dim light from somewhere deep inside.

I think it’s only reasonable to assume these rooms are stacked floor to ceiling with dead bodies, sacks of cocaine, or CIA counterintelligence gear. I wasn’t born yesterday.

2. The Newspaper Lady
Notable as the home of one of my street’s battier residents the windows of the Newspaper Lady’s flat are, as the name suggests, liable to open at any moment and disgorge quantities of newsprint. Two or three times a week Newspaper Lady disposes of her broadsheet dailies by simply tossing them out of the window. Multiple copies of Gazeta Wyborca descending from a fourth floor window can represent a not inconsiderable hazard to passing pedestrians. Small dogs have been severely injured. On one memorable occasion an elderly gentleman on his way home from an appointment with Doctor vodka was battered to the ground by a rare double volley of Rzeczpospolita supplements. He sat for some minutes contemplating their sudden and inexplicable arrival before getting slowly to his feet and heading back the way he’d come.

Few theories have been advanced for this extraordinary behavior, beyond the suggestion that Newspaper Lady is simply as mad as a box of frogs. There is a certain amount of other supporting evidence for this, such as her habit of repeatedly and loudly slamming her window in time to the chorus of the Polish national anthem, but I’m inclined to believe there’s more to it than straightforward raving lunacy. Whatever the truth, she bears watching.

3. The Brothel
I call it “the brothel” just because my mum concluded that’s what it was after five minutes of careful observation. Admittedly she appeared to have based this conclusion on the fact that there were two young women on the balcony talking to some guy on the street rather than any kind of hard evidence but, apparently, mothers know these things. Having received this interesting intelligence I devoted considerable time to studying the place, which was probably the opposite effect to what had been intended. It’s certainly very odd whatever is going on over there. Female residents seem to come and go more often than a startled gorilla in a revolving door and most of them spend an inordinate amount of time smoking cigarettes in their dressing gowns on the balcony. The fact that all of them are remarkably unattractive may count against the brothel theory or may just mean I’ve watched Pretty Women too many times; i.e. more that once.

4. The Newlyweds
When the newlyweds moved in a few weeks ago I devoted considerable time to staring into their flat as they went about the business of decorating and turning it into a home. Since they hadn’t gotten around to buying curtains I was often able to give them a cheery goodnight wave as they made their way from the bathroom to bed. Either they didn’t recognize the brooding silhouetted figure across the street as a famous Polandian writer or they were just shy, but they never waved back. A few days ago they inexplicably and rather hurriedly plastered big sheets of brown paper over their windows. I don’t know what’s going on behind there but I find it highly suspicious.

5. The Posh Place
The Posh Place is the only flat on the street with a paved balcony. It also has state-of-the-art PVC windows, clean white net curtains, and one of those digital thermometer thingies. Everybody hates them. The other thing the Posh Place has is its own security camera. Every evening Mrs Posh Place comes out onto the balcony and twists the camera round so that it points at their giant white SUV parked on the street below. Presumably they then spend the rest of the night watching the feed with a finger poised over the police speed dial. I don’t know why they bother really. It would be impossible to start the thing up without waking half of Krakow and reversing it onto the street invariably involves demolishing the odd building or crushing the occasional screaming pedestrian beneath its wheels.

6. The Front
First it was a second-hand clothes shop with a sideline in German translation (no, I don’t know how that worked either), then it was am estate agents for about five minutes, and now it’s a personal finance shop (read ‘loan shark’). Can you say “mafia front?”


I just took a closer look at the photo I took for this post and found this:

newspaper lady

Tell me that isn’t a mad septuagenarian taking a photo of me as I take a photo of her building

You know that thing I said about calling the police; seriously, if I suddenly stop writing tell the British Embassy about Newspaper Lady. Must go now. Doorbell at 1:30 in the morning… that’s odd

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32 thoughts on “Rear Krakow Window

  1. Perhaps Newspaper Lady has her own blog?

  2. boattown_guest says:

    Nice font Island1:)
    And she’s not taking a picture! That’s a special anti-wrinkle device, which ‘irons’ the wrinkles.
    You men know nothing about life!

  3. aga says:

    Island, I think you are in danger now :))

  4. ania says:

    Or maybe she is just drinking tea? Still – I prefer the version with taking picture:)

  5. island1 says:

    It’s an alarming possibility that I cannot ignore.

  6. island1 says:

    Your wish is my command.

    Nonsense, I have my own face-ironing device. It’s called an iron.

  7. island1 says:

    I fear you may be right.

  8. island1 says:

    Drinking tea out of the window? I don’t buy it.

  9. expateek says:

    Wow, that is creeeeeepy! As usual, though, Polandian is there first with all the breaking news. I applaud your bravery and investigative skills. Bravo.

    Please check back in with us, though. Those little old ladies can be tricky. Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.

  10. Scatts says:

    I think she’s adjusting her gas mask. Not sure if the smell would be hers or drifting from Island’s place?

  11. zarazek says:

    The author is British? What a joke.

  12. guest says:

    BTW do you know this island ?

    The Warsaw Concerto

  13. Bartek says:

    Island1, be prepared for severe punishment for your curiosity…

    You’d better find yourself busy with sth else, if you have such nosy neighbours (the good question is “why the hell are you using AmE?”).

    Mine in turn are totally boring and ordinary.
    The guy from the opposite is doing his time for the third time fir theft, the one behind the fence doesn’t work (and so his wife and adult children do) but owns three houses (including one unfinished) and a BMW. Another behind the wall has a stressful job of sales rep and to let off steam sings karaoke (disco polo, alas) each Sunday evening. There’s also a former landowner whose family owned a half of the village, but then divided it into building plots and sold it – he lost all earned money on the stock exchange and went mad – now he lives in a small hut adapted from a pigsty.

  14. MaterialGirl says:

    That’s me in my routine spying Polandian work! :D

  15. boattown_guest says:

    When you’re taking a photo, your elbows are in a different position.
    Drinking makes sense.
    I think that the tea was too hot and she needed some air to cool it.
    Or she’s pretending to be Darth Vader (she left the helmet somewhere) to scare you off.
    Now, that really makes sense

  16. island1 says:

    The commenter is Polish? How hilarious.

  17. island1 says:

    Yes, I’m familiar with this part of the cemetery. I wish more people were.

  18. island1 says:

    You realize you’re going to have to explain that remark to my wife at some point.

  19. Bartek says:

    The reader is in stitches? How come.

  20. kika says:

    Island,what can I say, you are turning into old ciotka,not the Observer :)) Why spend your time watching all this? At least you have located the brothel, may come in handy one day, but the rest?
    They really must play dull films in these cinemas in Cracow…:))

    I love “The rear window ” by Hitchcock by the way

  21. Malaysian says:


  22. island1 says:

    It wasn’t a conscious decision. I work at home and, therefore, spend as much time as possible staring out of the window.

  23. I fear you are turning into one of us, with that level of suspiciousness.
    Sing along:

    ‘wsiadł do autobusu
    człowiek z liściem na głowie
    nikt go nie poratuje
    nikt mu nic nie powie
    tylko się każdy gapi
    tylko się każdy gapi
    i nic!’

    ‘a man got on a bus
    with a leave in his hair
    nobody’s helping him,
    nobody’s telling
    they’re all just watching
    they’re all just watching
    that’s all’

    Elektryczne gitary, Człowiek z liściem 1992

  24. Kiki says:

    What is it what you do then?
    (apart from staring ?:)

    I’m probably quite an odd one..My first flat in Berlin, exactly the same type of house ,and we lived at the back of it in so called “studnia”, so my only view was at
    the rear windows of other people. When I was leaving after being there 5 years I could only recognize the immediate neighbour from above my flat. Never was interested in any others.
    And imagine – my aunt from Poland came around for a week, and after 3 days spent there, she would tell me the same story as yours – all details included. Who,what, when, with whom and what for… for goodness sake I admired her :))
    Still don’t know much about my neighbours being in England, after 3 years the woman from across the road finally couldn’t stand it any more and came around to us – now we are friends :)) She knows everything about everybody in the street though , scary :))
    I wonder what’s wrong with me, but I just do not want to impose ….

  25. Kiki says:

    Love that song! It’s brilliant!
    We are exactly like this…not good:)

  26. Remind me not to invite you.

  27. Jamie – this is the funniest post I’ve read in ages (and I read a lot of blogs). Tell me that “madder than a box of frogs” and “on his way home from an appointment with Dr Vodka” are both your inventions and the Beachcomber prize for contemporary humourous prose will be winging its way southwards from Jeziorki.

    Photo-interpretation of the Woman with Teacup must rate alongside the Face on Mars as one of the great tromp d’oeils of all time!

  28. Bartek says:

    beware then. Two kilometres south from Jeziorki lives a nutter who may be trying to shoot it down!

  29. island1 says:

    I am guilty of using AmE. It’s because the WordPress spellchecker is set to AmE and I’m psychologically unable to leave words along when they’re underlined in red. It’s an occupational hazard. Plus I write a lot in AmE for my job.

  30. island1 says:

    I initially thought the madness of boxes of frogs was my own observation, but I recall it was a phrase I heard long ago.

    Thanks by the way.

  31. island1 says:

    I’m a professional assassin who occasionally writes books.

    Does your aunt undertake private contracts? I could do with some of her insights.

  32. Bartek says:

    Alright, in the eve of Santa Claus day I’ll acquit you…

    My Mozilla spellcheck is also configured into AmE and I ignore it, although it sometimes winds me up.

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