Tag Archives: winter

The journey begins again


Days will start getting longer again after this Sunday, which is when this year’s winter solstice is taking place. The light at the end of the winter’s tunnel has finally emerged and I’m a little beyond myself this morning. I sometimes re-notice how strictly environment-programmed we are. As I was waking this morning and then gliding through the city and it’s seemingly springtime air this morning on my bicycle, I couldn’t help feeling that very basic genre of happiness. Have a good day, everyone.

Winnipeg, my Winnipeg

Guy Maddin‘s ‘My Winnipeg’ is one of the most touching and absorbing films I have ever seen. The film is a surrealist revisitation of the director’s childhood seen through a lens of his early life succumbed to his controlling mother and the overwhelming, sedating effect of the forever-winterly Winnipeg lying the very heart of the American continent. The genre of the film was quite rightfully branded as ‘docu-fantasia’. ‘Winnipeg, my Winnipeg’ is a repetitive cry of Guy Maddin’s reminiscences as he attempts to escape the city of sleepwalking and sleepliving, where the homeless sleep on the roofs of skyscrapers, buildings are torn, and life itself seems to disappear in the almost hypnotic spell of the city.


This is Guy Maddin’s director statement for ‘My Winnipeg’:

In 1888, William Cornelius Van Horne, the great railway man who against long odds built the Canadian Pacific Railroad across our vast nation, established in Winnipeg a tradition that survives to this day. That year, on the first day of winter, Van Horne held a city-wide scavenger hunt. Every one of the young town’s residents was given a treasure map and invited to participate. First prize was a one-way ticket on the next train out of town. The secret hope behind this contest was that after a long day spent combing through the city’s nooks and crannies, Winnipeggers would discover that the real treasure was here all along, that it was Winnipeg itself. And for the longest time, Horne’s trick worked – especially on me.

As a filmmaker who has spent his entire fifty years in Winnipeg, I’ve been enchanted, intoxicated and benighted by the city of my birth – it’s been my muse since long before I ever picked up a camera. I’ve fallen in love with the place, not only for what it was while I loved it, but for what it used to be and for what it could be again!!! Like a heedless, irrational suitor I have invested all my hopes for the future in it, only to be left heartbroken by the cold-bloodedly “progressive” course it insists on taking as it navigates itself inexorably away from the enchantment I once knew into the bland oblivion and mediocrity it craves for itself. With my hopes mutinied I have grown bitterly disillusioned with my home town.

But before I flee, I must review for my own nostalgic delectation all that has so sweetly mattered to me about this once-beguiling wonderland, for no more curious a place exists in all of North America, or anywhere else! I will revisit for one last time the streets of Winnipeg – my Winnipeg – and locate for the viewer the magic spots that I cherish, where one can merely point a finger and the past will come springing up like so much artesian well water. There’s something strange, something dreamy going on here, where pedestrians would rather use back lanes than front streets; where our homeless hide en masse on the rooftops of abandoned skyscrapers; and where a strange civic law requires you to admit for a night any former owner or resident of your current home.

By winding my way though the very birthplaces of my personal mythologies, by attempting to understand the very nature of memory even while it fabricates what turns out to be an illusory Winnipeg for itself, and by facing down, in a series of singular domestic experiments, the possessive power of my own family, perhaps I can unlock the mysterious forces which occultly bind many a human heart to the past. Perhaps I can finally define for myself the true meaning of “home” and make the shackles which bind me here simply fall away.


Many-a-qualities attract me in this film. The dream-like reality of the stretched days and seasons reminds me of my final days in the snowy Krakow and the endless dark journeys I used to take on the city’s tramlines. The cold skies, the chronic lack of sunlight and the white city lights are just about all I can remember from that overly long winter that drove me away. ‘My Winnipeg’ is a semi-silent film, but the moments of Guy Maddin’s monologue are a great treat – the language falls somewhere close to Bruno Schulz’s writings and their hyper-poetic descriptiveness.

Down with Greenwich Really Mean Time!

Why oh why does the UK remain the single country in this part of the world to use GMT during the winter months? I’ve lived in this country for a while and just do not see the point of changing the clocks. I mean honestly – is anyone happy with the daylight being gone before 4pm in the dead of winter? I’d happily get up with the sky a little darker and get an extra hour of daylight in the afternoon. If I get enough support, I promise I shall be writing to the GMT offices in Greenwich!
Check out and sign the petition for the PM’s office here.

You can even join a Fb group for this here! Grr! Fight time!

The Cane of Cold

I’m in Krakow. Everything is frozen and walking in the evenings feels like gliding through a thick mass of a cold white substance. Breathing has become a whole new activity where you have to be careful not to give away too much of yourself to the outside. It’s as though everything has become a whole new game of math: you carefully measure how much warmth inside you need to the next destination and try to foresee how cold your destination may be. It’s constantly taking measurements of temperature, steps, surface slipping risks, and of the ever decreasing range of colors you get to see. Perhaps this is the underlying cause for Christmas lights and the undecided liking for the strangely colored socks and sweaters we all seem to agree to wear at this time of year?

I see the increasing hunger in people’s faces as I ride the tram over the steel gray slopes of the city’s curves. They all rush to shop, to see, to catch the sun, even if all it offers are the white canes of its winter rays. The hunger of warmth and light combines with the implicit requirement for the Christmas joy, which is to be felt despite the biting cold and the sly drafts inside the city walls. Waking up has become a race of its own, with the first thought – how much longer before the sun goes down? Will I have enough time to get dressed; how much time do I have this morning? Lured outside to feed your lungs and eyes, you still get hit at the back of your neck with the cane of cold. ‘Ah, yes,’ we sigh as we breathe out. We stand relieved, fooled again, and still amazed with the small offering of light we all long for.

Oh Budapest…

Budapest is a lovely city, but as every city, it has its little things that can drive an average expat crazy.

  • The sun goes down too soon, just way too soon and it’s not just a matter of the season – I believe that we’re actually in the wrong time zone. I mean, it really doesn’t make much sense for Budapest to be in the same time zone as Paris, all it takes is a look at the map. We’re so much closer to Romania, but I guess their time zone wouldn’t be centrally european enough for Hungary, would it?
  • People don’t move in this city. One of the most frustrating things in this city is getting through the metro system, not only during rush hours. People do not move or stand on one side of the escalators – they all just seem to semi-willingly subscribe to what spot fate gives them as they get on the escalators. All you can do is stand there like a sardine and wait until it’s your turn to wait for the train – yes, wait – since the one you could have made if you walked down the escalators – is long gone. Am I just impatient? Maybe, but I just can’t think why people would want to spend any extra time on the public transport.
  • People smoke almost everywhere. Some places are better, some worse, but there are virtually no non-smoking places in the cafe/restaurant range I like. As I’m sitting here, writing this post, the man sitting about a meter from me is smoking his fifth or sixth cigarette in the last hour. Results? No matter if you like it or not, you breathe with it, you smell like it, your head hurts by the time you get your drink.
  • I don’t know what the noise pollution regulations are here, but whatever they are, they are not in place. The city if full of construction, which means not just noise, but dust and scaffoldings wherever you look. Good for the city, but not so much fun for the residents. Every morning I wake up to some noise – whether it’s the trash being taken out or a wall being knocked down 3 floors down – it’s got to be something. Sometimes this starts as early as 5 am in the morning. Who comes to work that early and then cannot keep himself from making all the noise until at least 8am, I fail to understand. This is not just my block – I’ve heard it all before from friends who are lucky to live in old beauties of Budapest.

All in all, Budapest is great – just not perfect this time of the year, I suppose.