Tag Archives: cities

In Defence of The Fence

Every time a bird locks my new neighbour’s chimney as its poo-goo target, the house’s newfangled alarm system makes me rise to arms. And feet. Construction work in progress, the neighbour has not yet inhabited the building – the system boos and hoots for a few minutes and then gets silent by itself. Nothing to write home about.

Every time a larger fly – or was it a backlash of rain – would happen through any of my car’s windows open for some nightly freshness, the alarm would be set off. In order not to wake up the locals, I would have had to leave the vehicle’s alarm off. But in doing so I would have shown recklessness – no dog of violent breed watched my sleep.

Yes, no dogs. Dogs poo and bark. They’re worse than cats. Cats like my car. My car doesn’t like cats – mainly their urine. Neither does my car like my neighbour’s car. Cars like parking spots they hate to share. Hardly anyone likes mail carriers. Mail carriers don’t like dogs. They like mailboxes. We don’t like mailboxes. Mailboxes, filled up with unclaimed leaflets, are liked by thieves. We don’t like thieves. Cops don’t like thieves. Cops like undisturbed peace. Thieves don’t like dogs. Nobody likes noises. Nobody likes birds. They poo and portend rainy weather. Birds like everyone, and so do mosquitoes. We live fenced, alarmed and stiff–aired (car windows up tight). Whenever I see a fence felled, I know it is going to go up, renovated and possibly stronger.

I read once: “The higher your fence needs be – the further you’re away from fellow humans”. That’s absurd. Were you a recluse in an uninhabited area, would your walls climb highest?

Who are the ‘fellow humans’ anyway? An anonymous crowd of high-rise dwellers? Some dog-in-home-owning rabble? Miscreants who block your parking lot? Certainly not. (BTDT.) Did we notice lists of occupants at our entryphones go blanker, blessed be the Personal Data Protection Act? Of course we did. Some experts will stress the word “community” then. It is not enough, they will insist, to have a neighbour. You’ve got to know your neighbour.

Experts are wrong. Knowledge means nothing, you need to love your neighbour – and be requited. A neighbour who hates your birds, brats, cats, cars, dogs, gods or guts – will not watch over your property, mailbox included.

Taken in by “trust thy neighbour” slogans, I did not invest in proper fencing – and guess what. (The photo shows but the tip of the trashberg, yet I can’t reveal more – ‘more’ could feature my neighbours happy face, one probably protected by the Personal Data Protection Act, a thousand blessings.) I can muse whether those who shared the fruit of their bins with me were charitable passers-by unperturbed by my benevolent neighbours, or were there the neighbours who did the dumping and the bystanders who did the watching?

Anynow on, whenever wherever I own anything, I shall enrich it with fences. They shall stand with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, they shall stand on my beaches, they shall stand on my hunting grounds, they shall stand in the fields, and at the streets, they shall stand high as hills, they shall never surrender. Bold and in observance of the law. Which says: You do not need a building permission to erect an enclosure lower than 2.20m. [Good!] Enclosures +1.80m tall can be embelllished with broken glass, barbed wire and other proper deterrents. [Goooood!]

And then let’s put balconies behind bars.
And turn our tailpipes against someone’s beloved flowers.
And buy more mohair berettas.

And a dog.
[I know – a dog. Some sacrifice is required.]

My heart crater rejoices every time I see new ideas for residential dwellings – that include barriers, moats, surroundings, shields to mean “back off! back off! yes, you too!”. It’s comforting to know that even when the designer can’t think of enclosures, life eliminates that engineering flaw and erects many a lock, stop and barrier. It’s reassuring to hum: “old villas do it, new villas do it, even educated folks do it, let’s do it: the fencing-off”. And may our only worry be – what to choose:

– Classic standard fairness…

– Modernity in style…

– A touch of elegant luxury

Or something more aggressive?

And don’t let some Polish sources confuse you. Don’t let some foreigners pervert your mind with de-fenced visions. They don’t have fences but they do secure their homes (that are their castles) in other ways.

Always bear in mind the nobler patterns the West bestowed upon us. Remember the ancient wisdom. Renounce the native errors.

Oh, by the way, whenever you see an unlocked car in the West, think of its owner “He / she is so lazy.” — Or “He / she is naive (read: dumb)”. — Or “He / she earns 4-8 times more than I do, so can afford any loss of a car”. — Or “His / her nanny state pays for his / her car theft insurance.”

Or simply: “He / she could be my neighbour”.

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United Poledom, or Welcome Home

When other reliable sources tell you where to go in Poland – I’ll tell you where to find some familiar spots you probably haven’t expected to find.

A map below (click to enlarge) is supposed to make you feel more at home. [Note: It’s made for people from the UK. Our other readers are asked to state their locations. Our US readers will be aware that Poland used to be divided into 49 states. With Chicago being quite Polish – one might say: we’re even.]

United Poledom

Drafting the map, I followed these simplifications, labels, pigeonholes, dead-end streets. (Suggestions for revisions, exclusions or inclusions are welcome.)

= London

The capital city. During WW2 bombed by Germans. HM the Queen (or King) resides here. In Poland, the name is Warszawa. (Well, duh.)

= Belfast

For Belfast we need a town in Poland that’s Irish. Now, the phrase “lucky load to Lublin” written by one Irishman here seems to be a muddy but acceptable indication. It’s Lublin then. (Not Dublin though, as Dublin has grown too expensive – so it would be, eh, Moscow?)

= Birmingham

I heard it: “For years Birmingham had a reputation as the ugliest and most boring city in the UK. In fact, it’s got a lot better recently and is probably livable in. Brummies have one of the silliest and most mocked accents.”
An ugly place growing livable in? – A conurbation with a dialect? – Must be

= Brighton (and Hove)

Thinking Brighton we’d be looking for a famous sea-sided health resort. The first thing that comes to my map-making mind is Sopot. To get the numbers of inhabitants more in place, Brighton and Hove would be Sopot and Gdynia (two of the Tricity, but Gdańsk taken, being Glasgow). By the way, Sopot herself thinks being the right match for Southend on Sea.

= Bristol

Trip-hop, the sound city. Read: Myslowice. Hear: Myslowitz (youtube).
Flow with Avon, flow with Przemsza.

= Coventry

Britain made Rovers in Coventry. Poland makes cars in Tychy. (And rower in Polish means a bicycle. Close enough.)

= Edinburgh

Former capital. Her cultural guns and some sneer may be directed toward the present capital. With pride and sophistication, Krakow calling.

= Glasgow

Merchants, traders. Shipbuilders. Scotsmen. The place is called Gdansk here: a large city, of trade and shipbuilding. And of Scotsmen, why not.

= Inverness

Highland boys will be Highland boys, wherever they are. In Poland, their centre is called Nowy Targ.

= Isle of Wight

Old, respectable place. The musical capital, one would say, hosting fine festivals. It’s Opole. That is not an isle, technically speaking, but has an isle inside the boundaries. (A nice set of relevant pictures here.)

= Kingston upon Hull

A harbour town, with a long page of history, heavily damaged during WW2.
In other word —

= Leeds

I’m sure Leeds would like to stand on her own, incomparable, not mated, rich in its own time and space. But so would Wrocław! And 700.000 dwellers can’t be wrong. If there’s Leeds, it’s there.

= Liverpool

There, it’s the Beatles (hail Merseybeat), and media or football stars. This side of the Channel, it’s the Radio (Hail Mary-beat), and the star of Copernicus. — Toruń.

= Manchester

The centre of British cottons and textiles. The UK’s third largest conurbation. Would you guess: Łódź? Once the heart of the textile district. Poland’s third largest city. (A tiny youtube: Manchester United vs Widzew Lodz. Not to worry, anyone, the game ended 1:1.)

= Nottinghamshire

Yes, it’s the whole county — twinned with Poznań. Citizens of Poznan are supposedly hard working and thrifty. They don’t steal from the rich as they don’t steal from themselves. Not that they should find the poor enough to grant them the loot, either. So, with Robin Hood twinned with them, this could be the beginning of a beautiful symbiosis.

= Westminster

The Roman Catholic centre of the country. Częstochowa then.


Well, that’s it. I omitted many a place, I know. (Sheffield, for instance, closed its Polish consulate and no one’s able to ask there where they are in Poland.) With the map, however, you are expected to draw some parallels yourself.

[post re-edited on 24 Feb 2008]

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