Tag Archives: Poland housing

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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The New Poland: Part 1

Property ownership is the new toilet paper. Thirty years ago Poles queued for days to get their hands on a few rolls of industrial grade bottom wiping material (grey please), today they’re tripping over themselves to dive neck deep into mortgage debt (Swiss Francs please). There’s a property development revolution going on in this country that makes the Bolsheviks’ 1917 shindig look like small beer.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the average Pole imagines himself or herself ideally living in a isolated hut in the forest hunting things with dogs and roasting hunks of venison over an open fire. In reality they live in overcrowded blocks and the only thing the big dogs are used for is annoying the neighbors. It’s deeply weird that a race with such a deep seated reverence and longing for the rural should be almost exclusively penned up in industrial rabbit hutches while 90 percent of the country is utterly empty. But that’s the way it is. Fifty years of not really having control over their own destiny (or is it a hundred, or two hundred) produced a pattern of habitation that seems completely alien to the Polish psyche.

Stand back baby, things are changing, my how they’re changing.

Let’s consider Jan Kowalski (John Smith to you) an ambitious young man just out of technical university. His ideal life plan looks like this:

1. Get married and live with the parents for a while.

2. Buy a nice new flat in Warsaw/Krakow/Poznan/Wherever and work for a high tech company with shiny new offices on some godforsaken industrial estate.

3. Build a house.

Note steps 2 and 3 in particular, they’re the important ones.

Coming, as I do, from the overcrowded isles of Britain they’re both something of a revelation.

Buy a nice new flat

Note is should be a NEW flat. Stay away from the old town with its 200-year-old tenements (Brits would kill to live in those) or the communist era osiedle (housing estate) with its shoddy workmanship. It’s got to be new, pastel colored, and bedecked with shiny aluminium balcony rails. There are millions of them springing up all over the place to meet this demand. Here’s one now:

In my opinion the new estates that are cropping up like acne rashes around all of Poland’s major cities are far inferior to the communist variety. Unlike in the UK, where high-rise housing estates are generally the dumping ground for hopeless immigrants and indolent chavs, the old Polish housing estates are a pretty close approximation to what the idealistic architects of the 60’s had in mind. In a Polish block of flats you can still find a doctor living next to a coal miner next to a university lecturer next to a factory worker and everybody behaves with consideration and the minimum of drug dealing. The open spaces are green, well tended, and free of burned out joyridden wrecks. The new estates are crammed, have almost no green space, and are irredeemably smug. Compare:


A 1970s Polish housing estate. Very nice, I know it well.

A 2000s Polish housing estate. A car park with blockhouses stuffed to the gills with ‘young professionals.’ I’d sooner die.

Build a house

It’s practically impossible to build a new house in England, there just isn’t any empty space that you’re allowed to build on. Poland is 90 percent empty space and restrictions seem to be non existent. Honestly, it’s incredible—travel across Poland and all you’ll see for hour after hour is primordial forest or primitive strip farming punctuated by the very occasional village. It’s not hard to imagine you’re in the wilds of Canada rather than in the heart of Europe. Faced with all this emptiness I used to ask “What have you people been doing for the past thousand years?” but I’ve given that up now after too many boxed ears.

The combination of massive demand for new houses, out in the wilds with the boar and the big dogs, coupled with the vast amount of space available and its woeful agricultural productivity means that almost anyone can build a house almost anywhere. Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly, but the contrast between the heavily protected ‘green areas’ of the UK that I’m used to and the free range of Poland makes it look like a 19th century Oklahoma land grab. Huge numbers of people in the countryside have just given up farming and gotten jobs in the local town instead, very sensibly. They’ve got lots and lots of empty land to sell.

Hundreds and hundreds of new houses. Twenty years ago this would have been a scene of two villages snuggled in their valleys.

Or buy a new house

Can’t be bothered to build your own new house? Got sackful of bank credit? How about living in Teletubby land? The surreal lengths to which property developers have gone with their enticements to live in ‘unspoiled rural bliss’ beggar belief. I invite you to consider the following ‘perfect’ homesteads–persons suffering from diabetes are warned to look away now:

Paradise on Earth 1

Paradise on Earth 2

Exactly what kind of life could you possibly have here? Jan drives to work every day and eventually goes completely insane, Mrs Kowalski eventually has an affair with the gardener and turns the children into mincemeat for the evening meal. Have you people not seen any suburban distopia movies? Get the hell back to the osiedle while you still can!

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