The pressure

Recently a lot of Polish people have been complaining to me about pressure. At first I assumed they were talking about career stress but then I remembered none of the people I know have proper jobs. They meant atmospheric pressure. I’ve never heard another human being comment on the dearth or abundance of air molecules above their head before. “I feel terrible and I couldn’t sleep; the pressure is so low” said one. I boggled. A whole new world of undreamed of and slightly unsettling possibilities opened up before me. “You can actually feel that?” I gaped. “What’s it like? Does it hurt and, more importantly, is it going to start hurting me?”

Earth's atmosphere

The atmosphere. It’s there all the time and probably up to something.

I’ve become a bit paranoid about it now. I lay awake in bed trying to sense the behaviour of the trillions of tons of gasses pressing down on me. It’s all a little unnerving but, so far, I seem to be completely insensitive to barometric variation. As far as I can make out it’s a talent unique to Poles. I’ve certainly never heard a British person comment on the pressure and we spend at least 65 percent of our time discussing weather. This could be my big break. If I take the idea back to the UK and start a blog about pressure I could add a whole new dimension to British weather conversation. I’ll be up there with Darwin and the guy who invented the phrase “It’s too cold to snow.”


Darwin – quite bright but failed to add anything meaningful to the discussion of weather

The only trouble is that I have a sneaking suspicion it’s all a load of bunkum. Surely if it was a real ailment there would be a pill or a powder for it. Actresses pretending to be the mothers of small boys would be hawking the stuff every five minutes while I’m trying to watch Sniper for the nine hundredth time: “When it come to protecting my Tomek from pressure I don’t experiment; Press-o-stop was good enough for my grandmother and it’s good enough for us.” – small boy jumps out of airplane followed by beaming mother and grandmother in wheelchair.


Tom Berenger and some other bloke in Sniper. This film is on more often than the news in Poland.

I’m intrigued and a little afraid of what other hidden talents I may uncover the more Polish I understand. “Cholera jasna these fluctuations in zero-point energy count are playing havoc with my bowels this morning!” “I know, and I still haven’t gotten over that dreadful gauge boson storm yesterday.” “Oh I’m a martyr to it…” etc. It may turn out that Copernican cosmology was simply an elaborate explanation for a throbbing headache.


A 16th-century Polish pamphlet on nagging headaches and their cause

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36 thoughts on “The pressure

  1. Brad Zimmerman says:

    Gauge boson storms, damn them straight to hell!

  2. guest says:

    all i can say is

  3. bob says:

    island – this is a pernicious health problem as I am see you have been told.

    One thing to be cognizant of is that during times of high pressure the added weight of the trillions of gaseous molecules causes you to shrink in height. Conversely the low pressure allows you to return to your normal dwarfish height (not that it makes sense to throw stones when one lives in a glass house)

    The longer you stay in Poland you will gleefully discover additional ‘homeopathic and natural’ diseases to be paranoid about…. such as the dreaded ice cube flu – caused by either having a drink with lots of ice in it or the equally dangerous – ‘ice cream in winter’ malady – fortunately neither are communicable but are usually found in foreigners. (Poles for generations have known to stay away from these)

  4. Decoy says:

    The first thing that came to mind for me also (as for Guest) was the Queen/Bowie collaboration, going something like “Doon doon doon diddle doon doon – Under pressure”.

    Can’t say I’ve noticed the pressure changes my self, but my wife did ask me if I could ‘feel’ the change as spring is on it’s way, so it’s possible that the pressure plays a part for Polish people when the weather goes to a few more extremes than the temperate climate I would be used to.

  5. Alicja says:

    Oh, as a child I was sure eating ice-cream in winter would cause AT LEAST a slow, painful death.

    Also, every Polish grandma will tell you: “don’t sit on the ground or you’ll catch a wolf”. This “wolf” is PROBABLY some some kind of UTI – I don’t even know – but it sounds much more dramatic this way, and people repeat this wisdom without actually knowing what it means. But if it’s called “wolf” it must be dangerous, right? So it’s better not to sit on the ground, just in case…

  6. Alicja says:

    Hah! Actually, there IS a pill for people suffering from “weather-related ailments” caused by “sudden changes of atmospheric pressure, the autumn and winter time, rain and heavy wind”. According to their ad, 60% of Poles are “over-sensitive to weather”, which is not surprising. LOL.

    In Poland, the weather kills you.

  7. news says:

    ¨I’ve certainly never heard a British person comment on the pressure and we spend at least 65 percent of our time discussing weather.¨

    ¨In Poland, the weather kills you.¨

    The British talk about the weather all the time simply as a conversation filler. The weather doesn’t really change their lifestyle, apart mayve from carrying an umbrella or sunglases.

    In Poland, as one poster noted, the weather can kill you, so everyone takes it very seriously, not merly as social chit chat.

    Families have animated conversations each morning about how to dress. Generations clash over weather to wear a winter coat for a start of spring coat. Granny refuses to speak to grandson all day because he wore shoes instead of heavy boots.

    How many foreigners receive puzzled looksbecuase they are the only man/woman at an outdoor summer event wearing a long-sleeved shirt. Didn’t they check on their home thermomter that it was 25 degress. Everyone else has a short sleeve shirt on.

  8. island1 says:

    Not drinking cold water after eating soup – that’s one I discovered recently.

  9. island1 says:

    Excellent find!

    “The results show that over 70% of all diagnosed meteoropatów complain of discomfort more than a few times a month, almost 30% felt it more than a few times a week. “

  10. MikeM says:

    I had a similar conversation last week. Whatever about air pressure, humidity over 70 gives me mild migraine and fatigue, nothing aspirin won’t sort, but last summer was tough going, and for a few days last week, until Friday it was really messing with my circadian rhythm.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t high humidity equate to low air pressure and if the air is less dense and the temperature is low, doesn’t this affect vascular density, causing headache? Anyone? I find weather and it’s effects on health and behaviour very interesting.

    Re Alicja’s comments
    My girlfriend’s mother swears by homeopathic medicine, even if it isn’t recognised by homeopaths, but her mother and her mother’s mother and…you get the idea.

    So last October when I caught my first cold of the winter, she swiftly brought me a dandelion syrup in a Kubus bottle. I figured it was a homemade health drink and took a big swig to be polite. It was in fact a homemade cough bottle. The horror. I owe my haste to acute social anxiety because it was my first lunch with ‘the family’ and I didn’t speak Polish. I still don’t speak Polish.

  11. Alicja says:

    WHY? I drink cold water all the time… I must have done it after eating soup numerous times as well. There must be something I don’t know…

    Oh, another one: don’t ever swallow apple seeds if you don’t want to wake up with an apple tree sprouting in your stomach.

    Folk wisdom is so awesome.

  12. Lee says:

    Well now I can tell all my USian friends whose arthritis flares up in windy, high-pressure weather, and those whose migraines are triggered by low pressure, that it’s all in their heads (pun intended) because you said so.

  13. Bartek says:

    The only detail in the post above that has surprised me is that the author is Island1, not Scatts. This looks like Scatts’ post.

  14. Bartek says:

    It’s all about the style. But after teh second read I’ve changed my mind.

    What the hell has happened to your avatar? Is this you or Dan Aykroyd 25 years ago?

  15. island1 says:

    Definitely me, unless Dan Aykroyd has been hacking my account again… you’ve got to watch him you know.

  16. Scatts says:

    Actually it was me but then I took ill with ‘pressure sickness’ and Jamie sneaked in and changed the author.

    Agreed, spooky avatar. Looks like you’re trying to hypnotise us!

  17. Pistefka says:

    “As far as I can make out it’s a talent unique to Poles. I’ve certainly never heard a British person comment on the pressure”

    Nope – I can avow that Romanians and Hungarians often ascribe feelings of exhaustion, depression, listlessness etc to the wrong kind of pressure.

    There are lots of other “unique” cultural differences which are actually common to several countries, but which I often hear called “uniquely Polish/Hungarian/Romanian etc etc.”

    Sorry to be tiresome about this, but it is my self-appointed mission to point this out, so there.

    By the way, chicken broth with vermicelli noodles, stuffed cabbage rolls (aka gołabki), strangers ordering you to wear a hat in winter, kotlet schabowy, saucepans with stupid little heat conducting handles and many divers and varied other phenomena are found across a broad swathe of those lands which are commonly known as eastern Europe, but stubbornly referred to as Central Europe by their inhabitants.

    That WAS a long sentence.

  18. Pioro says:

    Sorry to be Debby Downer here but atmospheric pressure can have an acute effect on peoples mood and even health. My fiancee has rheumatoid arthritis and when the pressure drops she is in serious pain to the point that she needs to take prescription pain killers. We have been researching much about this disease and came across a study showing that people exposed to drier and higher pressure climates like Spain or Maghreb had much lower levels of suffering. Poland because of its wide open plains is prone to severe changes in pressure.

  19. Stefan says:

    Do you know George Mikes’s How to be a Brit? and How to be an Alien? The guy presented several stereotypes about the British, one of them being not believing in anything other British people don’t talk about. Island1 seems to confirm this cliché. If his fellow countrymen don’t know about something it has no right to exist ;) :D

  20. Stefan says:

    Pistefka, if Poland, Hungary, Romania or Bulgaria are eestern Europe, what about Russia? Is it Asia? The Ural is a geographically recognised eastern border of Europe.

    By the way, why do British and American journalists call Palestine, Lebanon and Syria Middle East? Historians (both British and American) refer to this region as Near East. If it’s ‘middle’, where’s ‘near’? In Italy?

    Some things don’t matter to Brits and I don’t mind. The situation becomes a bit embarassing when one wants to riducule something he/she doesn’t understand.

  21. Pistefka says:

    “How to be Alien” is great. I think he milked the idea a bit later on, but that is one funny book. So much of what he writes about the British (well, the English really) is still true today, even though he wrote it in the 1940s.

    I like the part in the introduction where he is bemused that so many English people enjoyed the book, when he had expected us all to be terribly offended.
    I also liked his observations about the prejudice we have against people using a rich vocabulary in conversations, when monosyllables will do just as well.

    I’m still not particulalry convinced about the effects of atmospheric pressure, except maybe on very sensitive individiuals, but may be that’s because growing up in England I was probably subjected to more changes in atmospheric pressure in a day than they get on the continent in a month, so I don’t notice it.

  22. island1 says:

    I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, just that I never heard anybody mention it until I came here.

  23. island1 says:

    Never heard of George Mikes and, therefore, I refuse to believe that he exists.

  24. That’s just the weather getting on your nerves…

  25. Ata says:

    This was hilarious! I always have headaches and blame it on the pressure. I am and American- born Pole by the way. Also, my parents once told me, when I wanted to go swim at a boy’s house, that it is too hot to swim! Hahaha!

  26. Pistefka says:

    Stefan: Which part of my part of my earlier post was “ridiculing something I don’t understand”?

    I agree that the “middle East” is a wierd label. I always quite liked the name “Asia Minor” to refer to Anatolia though.

    Maybe I was having a knock at those saucepans with the little handles (are they designed to be used by squirrels with asbestos hands?) – but surely that’s a fair target.
    The other things I mentioned just as examples of stuff which is not actually unique to one country, but exists in various versions across Central Europe…and Eastern Europe too.

  27. Jeannie says:

    I can relate, because I am prone to migraines. I have never blamed it on the weather, though, since I don’t notice “pressure.” I just must feel the after-affects (lucky me). If it’s not hormonal or something I ate or drank, it must be pressure, because something has to explain it. They don’t just arrive for no reason–there is a cause and effect of some sort. And I have had an MRI and there is nothing out of the ordinary.

    On the label-confusion front, Americans call orientals “Asians,” whereas Indians from India are called “Asians” in the UK. In America, we call American Indians “Indians” just to confuse ourselves even more. Since we are already ignorant about geography, we might as well have terms to match.

  28. island1 says:

    There are few things you haven’t written about. BTW, the link doesn’t work.

  29. news says:

    When the Ottoman Empire existed, Constantinople and the surrounding area was known to the British as the Near East(hence the fate of the Ottoman Empire in was known as the Eastern Question in 19th century politics). Jerusalem and the surrounding area was the Middle EAst.

  30. Justine says:

    That was hilarious. It’s a good observation – I hear about pressure-related illnesses from my parents, I never really noticed people around me (Canadians) don’t do it.

    Have you already heard about the “gole plecy” (uncovered back)? It’s when your top does not neatly cover your lower back – another source of dreadful ailments. Though I guess today’s fashionable teenagers don’t think much about it judging on how some of them dress.

  31. Lech says:

    havent you heard Blur song?


    Im sure that Damond felt exactly the same:)

  32. Magda says:

    If I may be so rude and join the conversation…

    Unfortunatelly, it’s all true. I have the doubtful pleasure of being meteoropathic. It does give me something to talk about with my grandmother, but it makes life a real pain.

    In fact, most people sense change in air pressure or humidity, but simply are unable to recognise these to be the cause of them feeling like crap.

    A fact you might find amusing – Polish TV weather reports often include a map showing areas of the country where air pressure will have a favourable, unfavourable, or indifferent effect. Also, no weather report, in any form of press, is complete without an atmospheric pressure forecast – defined in hPa (hectopascals – a term any Polish pre-schooler can explain)

  33. me says:

    I’ll agree air pressure often has an impact as far as low energy is concerned. I always get insanely tired when it starts to rain, even if I’m nowhere near a window. It’s positively spooky, I’ve done experiments a number of times and it has always borne out.

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