Friday 29 February
Easyballoon journey to Warsaw sees myself and Bateman inexplicably chosen to man the emergency exits. With his suspiciously well-sculpted hair conspicuously limp and hungover this is no time to begin trusting my traveling companion and sure enough his gilt-edged ‘lucky’ wing is soon plummeting towards some unfortunate Belgian. ‘To be on holiday, is to be invincible!’ I declared in the pub last night, as workmates looked on nervously and Bateman narrowed his eyes.
Warsaw is dominated by its monstrous Ministry of Culture, previously the Ministry of Information, previously the place they shot arrows at you if you met for coffee within a five-mile radius and chose to speak in sotto tones due to a sore throat or rash of subversive ideas. Fortunately times have changed and the only people left unimpressed by our late-night singing in a backstreet bar are two terminally surly barmaids. Having belted out a medley of Manchester anthems, Bateman valiantly attempts a five-part Californian-style harmony, yet still the clientele refuse to head for the hills. As I compare moustaches with an amiable gent in an off-the-shoulder string vest, Bateman hurries me over to the bar for more ‘wodka’. Assuring me that he has a killer line I am astounded to hear him asking the young blonde for the return of five zloty. It transpires that this charge was levied earlier in the evening when my companion had refused to queue for the toilet in our previous haunt (how un-English he has become already – terrifying). Dashing for the exit this muscular beauty had blocked his path, threatening him with chefs and all sorts. Now, cheekily, he asks for a refund. I make eyes at my brunette. She undresses me with her eyes, then re-clothes me hurriedly, almost throttling me with my own silk scarf. The blonde leans over to Bateman.
‘I never seen you before in my life.’
So we have our first experience of Polish customer service. Such exquisite pain, such relief from the creeping, ‘have a jolly day’ Americanisms to be found back home. We relax and prepare for a pounding.