Archive for November, 2009

Infamy Infamy, They’ve All Got It In For Me!

November 30, 2009

Ok, so it’s not quite the storm that Thomas Kohnstamm brewed up with his rather droll expose of the life of a guidebook writer in ‘Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?‘ (I’ll post a review sometime), but – by accident of course – I’ve ruffled a few feathers in the last couple of weeks.

By first brush with controversy was a result of my monthly 2-minute country guide to Poland which I pen for Ryanair Magazine. A fun little piece it mainly involves a few bar and restaurant recommendations for Ryanair’s Polish destinations, however a regular feature of this one page article is the ‘say this, not this’ section where I have to come up with two phrases in Polish. One decent and correct, the other humorously off the mark. As a resolutely monolingual idiot this is by far the trickiest element of the piece which routinely causes me a lot of grief as I badger various Polish friends and spam Facebook for ideas. Anyhow for the month in question I went with a suggestion of a respected English/Polish journalist I know from Krakow who gave me the following. Jestesmy chorem wujow… We are a choir of uncles, and Jestesmy worem chujow… We are a bag of penises. (See here). Except apparently the word chuj is much more rude than the word penis. Now I knew perfectly well it was slang, but having heard it bandied around the streets of Poland by everyone from builders to schoolgirls and even the odd nun (kidding!) I figured how rude can it be??? Well rude enough for a journalist from Radio Zet to throw a wobbly and give Ryanair an earful (article in Gazeta Wyborcza here)… he tried to get in contact with me, but without knowing what it was about I fobbed him off as I was f@cking busy at the time. It proved to be a lucky decision because he was obviously in quite a strop, and I’ve since been told to tone it down by the Deputy Ed. and Editor. Fair enough really… but how was I to know that this in-joke of the saintly Wawel Choir was so dirty!

My second brush with a Polish journalist happened just days later when a lady from Gazeta took exception to me as describing the Hala Ludowa as the world’s ugliest Unesco-listed building. Having escaped an ear-drubbing once I wisely declined the offer to pass on my telephone number and she sent me a couple of narky emails instead full of points I didn’t really agree with… anyhow rather than absolve myself of blame I’ll let you judge for yourselves on this one. I give you Wroclaw’s Centennial Hall.

Mad Dogs & Englishmen

November 16, 2009

There are not many people who can say they drink vodka for a living, but I’m happy to report that this particular session on the sauce paid my bed and board for a week or two at least! An article on Polish vodka is probably not the most original pitch in the world (in fact I’d already written one for Wizzair Magazine in when I was working for Cracow Life), but it’s the type editors love because a) it’s a local product with lots of history and cultural impact b) it gives the writer plenty of scope for having fun!

I pitched this article with the headline ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ as a vodka tasting article centred around a night out in Krakow in which a bunch of English guys try, amongst other things, the famous Mad Dog (Wsciekly Pies) shot. In the end I went out with just one English guy and his girlfriend (who got cut out of the piece, as – although her company was very charming! – she didn’t have any quotes I wanted to use). Thankfully Simon proved to be not only a bit of a vodka connoisseur but came up with some brilliantly expressive tasting reactions (‘I’m getting burnt plastic’ and much more!)… Good man!

I nearly cried when the commissioning editor, Lucille from Jetaway magazine (who had raved about how much she loved the piece!) emailled me to say Jet2 had cancelled their Krakow route and she couldn’t run it (in these cases incidentally I would have been paid a kill fee – just half the original commission, but been free to sell the article elsewhere). However luckily Ryanair Magazine (published by the same company) also liked it and gave it a new home! Weyhey! Although the Editor did change the title to Sharp Shooters… which I’m not at all upset about if only because I love the Gangsta Cru.

So without further ado, here is the super Sharp Shooters/Mad Dogs & Englishmen… and I’d just like any editors out there know that I’m available for more vodka-related commissions…