Sunday, 31 May 2015

Ul. Mleczarska – pace of construction falters

While up at the top the citizens have voted to change the dweller of the presidential palace, down at the local front, things keep running their course, although recently the speed of works on the closely followed reconstruction of ul. Mleczarska has fallen back… Photo documentation dated 28 May 2015, early evening.

The southern-most section is nearly ready, only a lick of paint to mark out lanes is missing and had it not been for the finishing touches and lack of official usage permit, the section between ul. Syrenki and ul. Sękocińska could have been officially opened. Unofficially, there is even no ban for traffic…

As one moves north, the top layer of tarmac ends, bump, then another one and one more and then it turns out the level crossing with Siekierki coal line tracks has stayed intact. Curbs and heavy concrete slabs lie on the side of the road and most probably await some kind of green light from PGNiG Termika…

Further north newly laid pavement on the eastern side of the street and cycling path on the other side serve as the only evidence of progress. The very road, you just know it is in between, has the very bottom layer of hardened aggregates laid.

To the right – I look east from the intersection of ul. Mleczarska and the new road meant to run towards some new shopping mall envisaged to be erected on the premises of the former Piaseczno bus depot. Again, cart well before the horse, the high curbs will mark the end of this road for months to come. In the distance, intersection of ul. Puławska and ul. Energetyczna and beyond it a large post attracting customers to Outlet Fashion Centre in Piaseczno. The centre, opened 10 years ago has been going downhill for a few years now. Huge “down by even 90%” sales are organised twice a month, and even when price discounts are considerable, car park outside the Fashion House is half empty. Given shoddy quality of most stuff sold there, even after-discount prices seem steep enough to put off brainy consumers.

The roundabout where ul. Mleczarska and ul. Energetyczna cross has taken its shape. Still, a way to go before the piece of infrastructure is finished, not only passable for daredevils who risk suspensions of their cars by venturing there.

To the right – looking into ul. Energetyczna, which will enjoy the status of dual carriageway from the Fashion Centre up to ul. Mleczarska. In the foreground, Student SGH casting a shadow of doubt on the completion deadline of 30 June 2015 (out of reach unless road-building crews pull up their sleeves).

The north-most section remains least advanced. Old lamp posts, which suspend overhead electricity wires, occupy the middle of the new road (and remind where the former Mleczarska ran). Absurdity? Not necessarily, rather another proof of dismal lack of co-ordination. The day before yesterday electricians from the local branch of PGE were switching from old wires to new ones, put underground. The whole operation, which could have been done within an hour in a civilised manner (my father, electrician such works were better co-ordinated even in 1970s), lasted the whole day, including seven hours when locals were deprived of electricity…

And on the northern end of the development, a lion’s share of works is still ahead. I foresee ample traffic disruptions here, but when the works are done, maybe the intersection of ul. Mleczarska, ul. Raszyńska and ul. Krasickiego will not be the scene of prangs...

Also congratulations to waterworks crews. Despite having a map with all installations properly marked, their reckless excavator operator managed to burst a water pipe running beneath ul. Mleczarska. Upshot – interruptions in water supply and necessity to dig up the street to the unplanned extent, since when the pipe was burst, the chaps did not know which valve to use to turn off the water and literally broke down two valves, before reaching the correct one. For the time being the water supply is resumed, but in the coming week waterworks crews will need to mend it and cut off water for the time of repair.

Time to call this wonderful smiling guy who knows the solution to every problem, maybe he will get to grips with the bungling fachowcy…

Weather-wise, May 2015 has been perfect… for studying. So far everything indicates it was the coolest and wettest since memorable May 2010 when the last bigger flood haunted Poland. I’m more than half-way the pre-exam two-week wipe-out. In a week I will have dropped the burden off my neck…

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The run-off

The first round of the presidential election, bringing the unexpected victory of Mr Duda, was a rude awakening to Mr Komorowski and his supporters. The properly interpreted wake-up call, or yellow card from voters, somehow has perked up the incumbent president and has not taken wind out of Mr Duda’s sails.

The pace and lustre of the campaign also went up in the fortnight preceding the run-off. Two debates between the candidates were held. I finally returned to earth and watched both. My private impression is that in the first one, hosted by TVP and Polsat, Mr Duda outperformed Mr Komorowski and made a much better impression on the audience, while in the second, hosted by TVN24 (truth be told, biased towards Mr Komorowski), Mr Komorowski proved his superiority over Mr Duda and properly used the chance to underline where differences between him and Mr Duda lie, while the PiS candidate tried to shun answers to most difficult questions.

The last polls, published on Friday (before the silence came) pointed the candidates were running neck in neck (both could boast about support of more than 45% and less than 10% of voters were still hesitating who to vote for. On Thursday evening, right after the second TV debate, I posted on my facebook profile my own forecast of election results, foreseeing Mr Komorowski would win by garnering 51.17% of valid votes, while Mr Duda would get 48.83% of votes… Seems my guess was not that far from the actual results, only candidates' surnames have to be swapped.

The extended (due to a decease in one of the polling stations in Silesian region) silence brings back memories of October 2007, but then some polling stations in Warsaw ran out of ballot papers. Then we had to wait until after midnight to find out the results.

Today’s exit polls result quite clearly point at Mr Duda's victory (53%). The election office (PKW) declares the final result tomorrow before midnight at the latest.

Mr Komorowski worked hard to lose the election, Mr Duda worked even harder to fool Poles, yet crowds of voters (I am hereby taking pride in high turnout of approximately 56%) proved the efforts of both candidates have not been squandered. I turned my back on Mr Komorowski in the first round, but today I backed him. Many people have done so, yet not enough to tip the scales in his favour.

The will of the nation must not be disputed. If official results confirm Mr Duda is a winner, I wish him all the best after taking the office and hope he does not keep the costly promises he has made during the campaign.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Pendolino – first trip

No photos since the camera in Szajsung packed up and I had no room in my briefcase to squeeze there my regular compact camera.

Had some business duties to handle in Gdansk last Tuesday. While looking for alternatives for how to get there I considered: car (by A2 and A1 motorways more than 400 kilometres, i.e. some four-hour drive in each direction would be requisite), airplane (prices of in-country flights have dropped recently, yet getting to the airport in Warsaw and in Gdansk and having to turn up at the airport an hour before take-off are a bit of a nuisance, plus getting corpo-sign-offs for plane travel is an even bigger nuisance. So… a penny drops – let’s go there by train – the new Pendolino service should be in place. I checked the timetable to learn the journey from Warszawa Centralna lasts these days less than three hours! Plus the cost is quite modest!

My train departs from Warsaw at 6:34 a.m. Lots of people around and passengers are from all walks of life. In a carriage my colleague with who I travel and I are accosted by a pissed-off male in his thirties. Not well-dressed, yet silver-mouthed. He boasts about kicking the air and knocking it down, then ask whether we know Johnny and whether he is still alive. Then he walks off. I wonder whether he has a ticket and what the crew has done with him. A woman in her late sixties has a long phone call with her lawyer and discusses with him how to disinherit her son who plans to marry a wrong woman. Why washing dirty linen in public?

The very train passes muster. The smell of modernity lingers, seats are comfortable, plenty of room to stretch out legs for tall people. In second class carriages you get one beverage free of charge. Since displays in carriages do not show current speed of the train, I have no idea how fast the train moves, but passengers do not feel uneasy at speeds exceeding 150 kmph. Punctuality beyond approach – train pulls up to Gdansk Głowny exactly at 9:33 a.m.

Since our destination is mere two miles from the train station and the meeting is scheduled at 10:30, we spare the New Factory a taxi expense and take a walk. Having done what we were supposed we and having two free hours before our Warsaw-bound train departs, we head towards old town. On our way we spot a building resembling Warsaw’s Hala Mirowska and drop in there to Bar Dominikanski eatery. Lunch portions are huge and prices very modest (below 20 PLN for a meal which leaves you full up) – I recommend the eatery for the sake of superb price-to-quality trade-off, although they could do with less grease ;-).

The Warsaw-bound train, whose actual route is from Gdynia to Krakow, arrives on time (2:34 p.m.) and comes to Warsaw also exactly on time (5:30 p.m.). This time we do not come across naughty passengers, yet the train carries mostly the air – does not bode well for improvement is PKP Intercity’s profitability which needs to rely on state subsidies to break even…

In terms of comfort, I have no reservations. Reliability of Pendolino trains will be fully tested by proper Polish winter (heavy snowfalls, temperatures below –20C – as for the latter it was claimed in advance the Italian trains do not withstand such low temperatures). In terms of price per one person it beats flights and car journeys. If two people travel and have no chance to buy tickets more than two weeks before journey date, going by car from Warsaw to Gdansk appears more economical (300 – 350 PLN for petrol and motorway tolls) than by Pendolino (4 times 120 PLN per ticket gives 480 PLN). When going by train you sit back and do not care, or you can spend the three-hour journey reading or working. When going by car you are more flexible, but the journey lasts a bit longer, is more tiresome and statistically far more dangerous. I shall be visiting the same destination a few times a year in the future, so Pendolino will most probably become the preferable means of getting there.

PS. This is not the advertisement of PKP Intercity, nor the eulogy for how things are moving ahead when Bronisław Komorowski is the president. I will be voting for Mr Komorowski, as for the lesser of two evils. Time to reiterate my opinion of him was much higher five years ago and generally his presidency has let me down, though it has been mediocre, yet predictable. Frankly speaking, despite being fundamentally against vision of Poland by PiS, I cannot promise not to change my mind. Mr Komorowski is intent on losing in a run-off. Tonight I will be watching the debate between the two candidates and I can bet Mr Duda beats Mr Komorowski in terms of preparation for discussion and in terms of image. The incumbent president and his henchmen work very hard to help Mr Komorowski move out of Krakowskie Przedmiescie…

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Fever and fireworks

I’m experiencing another period of losing track of everything. Yesterday I learnt TVP had hosted a “debate” in which all candidates, except for the incumbent president, had taken part. Yesterday I found out the two candidates who will vie in the run-off had been grilled by TVN24 on Thursday and Friday. Yet I do not regret much missing out on the home straight of the campaign. Nothing that could have taken my breath away happened. This was the lull before the storm.

Today my parents and I strolled to the polling station later than usual, near midday. Timing affects the perception – coming to cast votes later meant we were not the only citizens fulfilling the civic duty, yet when I glimpsed at the list of registered voters from my streets, our signatures were put first.

Turnout of nearly 50% is quite decent, given the circumstances of general fatigue…

Exit polls results prove the adage “never say never” will never go outdated. Congratulations to Mr Duda for attaining what seemed almost impossible. A serious warning to Mr Komorowski – his poor score is the price paid for hubris. 20% of votes garnered by Mr Kukiz show either Poles ceased to treat politics seriously, or are so fed up with it that they yearn for radical change...

Curious to watch this story unfolding and see you in the run-off.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Polish presidential election in 2015…

The blog is a wonderful memory-refresher. It only takes to click “Polish presidential election in 2010” to bring back the sense of excitement with which I followed the run-up to the previous election, its course and ramifications. Five years ago I began blogging about the election several months in advance, a few weeks before Smolensk tragedy brought the election forward. Death of late president Lech Kaczynski and SLD-backed candidate, Jerzy Szmajdzinski, as well as sudden taking over as president-in-office by Mr Komorowski have left their mark on the campaign.

Five years ago politics at least brought about emotions. This year’s campaign is so lacklustre and bland that it can only exacerbate indifference of voters. The array of candidates and the way they run for presidency is a slap on the face to an educated voter. Prevalent weariness of politics among citizens should not come as a surprise then. Nevertheless, since minority of Poles entitled to vote will visit polling stations next Sunday (sadly, I fear turnout will not exceed 50%, nor even 40%), it is the last occasion to review the candidates…

1. Incumbent president, Bronislaw Komorowski. The style of his campaign closely resembles the style of his presidency. I recall in 2010 my opinion of Mr Komorowski was much better than today. As a head of state, he is just up-to-the-mark, predictable, yet mediocre, sagacious, yet committing one slip-up after another. Over the course of the campaign on top comatose and haughty. He holds his head up high and looks down on other candidates. Unreasonable statements, referring to other candidates’ competencies or calling the nation to settle the result in the first round, seemed out of place. Mr Komorowski is one of the most trusted politicians in Poland, yet on account of daft utterances, he has wasted much of the potential to win in the first round he had.

2. Andrzej Duda. Since Jarosław Kaczyński decided not to race for presidency, having in mind either ambitions to become a prime minister after parliamentary elections, or just fearing one more defeat by Mr Komorowski, Mr Duda was anointed as PiS’s candidate. Mr Duda builds his identity on heritage of late president Lech Kaczynski (he was a senior official in late president’s office). His image lacks the element of independent thinking, yet it will not be an obstacle for him in being the runner-up in the first round. Out of all candidates he has the biggest positive electorate of stalwart followers of PiS and the biggest negative electorate of other parties’ voters, who will never, ever put a cross against anyone affiliated with PiS. Oddly enough, Mr Duda does not strive to win over centrist voters. His hard-line stance on in-vitro, involvement in shielding credit unions from proper financial supervision and populist anti-Euro fear-mongering will rather put off moderate voters.

And now who stands a chance to get the third rank?

3. Janusz Korwin-Mikke. After swingeing victory in European Parliament last year, popularity of Mr JKM has only been on the rise. He ran for presidency in each single election after 1989, yet this is the first time he is quite likely to get support from voters higher than magnitude of statistical error. His advocates are mainly young males, yet many on account of not reaching the age of majority will not have the opportunity to vote…

4. Paweł Kukiz, a former rock-star, currently attempting to topple Polish politics. He declares he has no ambitions to be dubbed a politician and does much not to be treated as an actual politician. Unlike other candidates, who put on suits, he dons T-shirts during public appearances. He appeals to all Poles disillusioned with numbness of Polish political scene and calls on overthrowing the system. All in all, the essence of his agenda is to depose existing power-wielding gang, but what in return?

The two anti-systemic candidates above will conceivably garner some 15% of all votes; quite a lot if you keep in mind in mature democracies they would be both categorised as lunatics. Such high support for wacky candidates reflects on how much Poles are fed up with the never-ending battle between PO and PiS.

5. Adam Jarubas (the only one who lacks wikipedia entry in English). PSL was another party whose leader refused to run for presidency. The coalitional partner of PO decided to delegate the young, yet experienced marshal of Swietokrzyskie voivodeship for the presidential competition. Mr Jarubas emanates with energy and out of all party-backed candidates appears as the most independent-thinking. PSL has given him a lot of discretion in airing his views. He openly declares he would not sign Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, as the only meaningful candidate he is not eager to interfere in conflict between Russia and Ukraine and stresses Poland’s leading involvement in it has done us more harm than good, he stressed his scepticism towards Euro. Quite possibly Mr Jarubas might actually get a two-digit support and actually wish it on him, as he has potential to stand out in politics.

6. Magdalena Ogórek… Errr… There are several leftist politicians who have capacity to fulfil the role of president; Ryszard Kalisz and Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz just to mention two. But all sensible candidates have rejected proposals to run for presidency, SLD’s leader Leszek Miller also has not picked up the gauntlet and then out of blue, Mrs Ogórek emerged as an independent candidate, yet supported by SLD. I have no idea what the rationale behind that decision was and who masterminded this flop. Mrs Ogórek has set up her own way of running the campaign and apparently spiralled out of SLD’s control. Rumours about discord between Mrs Ogórek and her intendants from SLD have been denied, yet one can feel something is amiss. Mrs Ogórek, as the only woman running for presidency, is the prettiest candidate, yet I am not genuinely enchanted by her beauty. I actually can say little of her beauty, since I have not even seen her without make-up… Plus whenever I see her speaking, lack of naturalness is so eye-popping that I do not find her trustworthy.

7. Janusz Palikot. In 2011 he was a rising star of Polish politics. Nearly four years afterwards his value added seems questionable (unless as master of disaster). Most of his henchmen have turned their backs on him. His party was dissolved and Mr Palikot combats to survive in politics and tries to catch a straw. His core slogan is “I will do them justice”. As a president he promises to crack down on greedy priests, ill-run credit unions, squares named after late president Kaczynski and other things which often need to be brought into order, yet not by president, but through social change. I suppose 2015 will be a year of Palikot’s last gasp in politics.

Despite not having to, I have tried to make the content of this post possibly unbiased, not indicating my political preferences, nor dislikes. Frankly speaking, I have not made up my mind who to vote for next week. Back in March I seriously considered putting a cross against the incumbent president and sparing the public purse a run-off. Today I am sure Mr Komorowski does not deserve to celebrate the victory in the first round. He will have to take the extra effort and vie with Mr Duda. So time for tactical voting will come in the run-off, while next Sunday most probably I will put crosses against all candidates. I will be among a few percent of voters disgruntled with what the political class in Poland stand for, yet not totally indifferent… And such percentage of null votes will not prove any irregularities!