April 10th 2006
Â Our little town as been subjected to an influx of Poles just recently. Not poles as in telegraph poles or flag poles or even the poles that nubile young ladies use in the performance of erotic dancing for the amusement of randy businessmen, but Poles as in natives of a large, cold East European country.
The attraction is of course cheap labour for British factory owners, and, for the Poles, the chance to earn a decent living without having their bollocks frozen off.
Â Weâ€™ve welcomed about a hundred of them thus far and all have been found jobs, a good proportion of them at the local sweet factory, Swizzels/Matlow. Swizzels are of course the manufacturers of the famous â€˜Love Heartsâ€™, the sweets that bear mottos such as â€˜I Love Youâ€™ and â€˜Be My Angelâ€™. Or at least they did when they were first introduced. Nowadays along with the original messages they also bear more risquÃ© legends such as â€˜Hello Big Boyâ€™ And â€˜Lovely Bumâ€™. No doubt with the addition of Poles to the workforce it wonâ€™t be long before we see the introduction of a â€˜Lick My Poleâ€™ Love Heart.
At least the Poles wonâ€™t be opening up restaurants like the Indians and Chinese and Italians, at least not unless the British public suddenly develop a taste for cabbage soup and lard sandwiches.
Â I came across my first Pole yesterday. He was half of the two man team at a recently opened hand car wash. I didnâ€™t realise he was a Pole at first, I found out after he and his mate had washed my car and his mate had gone off for change from the ten pound note Iâ€™d offered in payment. I didnâ€™t find out immediately, it took about a minute.
â€œWeatherâ€™s bucking up a bit at last,â€ I said, passing the time of day like you do.
Â He just smiled at me. I thought maybe he was a bit shy. Or a bit slow perhaps, brains not being a necessity for the job of car washing.
I tried again. â€œNot doing too well at the cricket, are we.â€
Â Nothing. Not even a smile this time. Not a cricket fan then. Or possibly a cricket fan with not much to smile about given the performance of our cricket team.
I tried a third time. â€œWhoâ€™s going to win the Cup this year then?â€
Â â€œNo spik English,â€ he said. â€œPole.â€
What could I say? The only word I know in Polish is Polish and Iâ€™m not at all sure that Polish is Polish in Poland, it could be Polszkygnkzch or some other such name with a dearth of vowels and lots of kâ€™s and zâ€™s.
Â I thought about and finally said: â€œMe no spik Polish. English.â€
Â He smiled and offered his hand. I shook it. Contact had been made. For some reason it made me happy. I must be getting soft in my old age.