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Thursday, October 12, 2006

True Temperance?

It was seven thirty am when I stumbled out of the shower. I dressed and entered a large room which had a panoramic view from the balcony .
“Good morning,” my Auntie greeted me in English, ushering me towards the dining table, which was laid for breakfast. “Minerala?” She asked, pouring the fizzy water into a large glass anyway, and urging me to drink.
I had only taken one sip of the carbonated beverage when my Auntie reappeared with a big jug of orange juice, she poured an amount into a glass and watched me to make sure I drank it. As soon as I started, she presented me with a pot of tea.
“Herbassa?” she asked, and started to fill a china cup.

I was in Poland to visit my dad’s sisters and my cousins. I had done some research on my family history and had found out that nearly all of the Sewina family had lived in a handful of villages near Namyslow, for the best part of four hundred years.
I gulped most of the rest of the bottle of fizzy water down, I needed something to re-hydrate me after all the Vodka and Beer I had consumed the previous day. I picked the tea cup up and started to raise it towards my lips. I could see my Auntie watching me, she had a big smile on her face, she was holding a slice of lemon with a pair of sugar tongs.
"Citrona?" she enquired, releasing the lemon into my tea cup with a little splash!
“Thank you” I nodded, taking a sip of the hot liquid. “Thank you, it’s good!” I said.
Now that I was drinking the lemon tea, my Auntie disappeared into the kitchen again. She soon reappeared with a glass jug of strong coffee, which she placed on a mat on the table in front of me. From somewhere she produced another cup and began to pour the nutty brown coloured liquid into it, she then added two heaped teaspoons of sugar and started to stir. The coffee smelt really good, so I swapped cups and took a slurp of the strong brown stuff, my Auntie, attentive as ever, hurried back to the kitchen and fetched a small jug of milk. “Mileko?” She asked, pouring a little into my coffee and stirring it. I now had five drinks in front of me including the milk. Oh yes, and a table full of good things to eat. There were cold meats, farmers cheese, yoghurts, bread rolls, hard boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, cold sausages, gherkins, jam and pickled mushrooms. I didn’t really want anything to eat, so I played a kind of musical chairs with the array of drinks. I had a bit of a hangover and I remembered that my cousin’s husband had told me that a good cure was to drink the gherkin water. I looked at the gherkin jar on the table but I couldn’t face the contents. My Auntie, as ever saved the day by opening a bottle of the local beer and pushing it into my hand. It wasn’t quite eight am yet, “Peever, peever!” she said, insisting that I took a sip of ‘The hair of the dog!’ Of course, the moment that the beer touched my lips, she unscrewed the seal from a bottle of luxury potato vodka and threw the cap away, she produced two shot glasses and opened another bottle for herself. I didn’t eat much of the food that morning but my Polish breakfast was one experience that I’ll never forget! Ok, Joe?

We went to visit a friend at the weekend and he told us that he was having his fortieth birthday bash at the Kro bar on Oxford Road, opposite Manchester University. I told him that my mate told me that, the building used to be the headquarters of The Manchester Temperance Society. I drove past the University yesterday and I took another look at the location, I'm fairly sure that my mate was right, I remember the building myself and if it wasn’t where the Kro bar is now, it must have been right next door. Anyway, years ago me and my mate used to go in the Yates' Wine Lodge on Oldham Street, it was better known as The Blob Shop! In those days and it had spittoons and sawdust on the floor, it also had suicide toilets, they were downstairs and many a time someone would trip and fall down them after one too many Blobs! The bar is still there in Manchester’s re-branded Northern Quarter, today it is called Matt and Phred's Jazz Club. Getting back to Yates', there used to be a little notice behind the bar, it read: TRUE TEMPERANCE IS MODERATION! Ok, Joe?

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