In my life I’ve only really had one super, super best friend, that I couldn’t have lived without. Though I’m quite social, my transient nature probably comes from spending a lot of time ‘away’ from friends during the summer holidays. We’d spend a big chunk of the break in Poland — or should I say — getting to and from it. Here are my takeaways from being a British kid in 90s Europe.
Numb Bum Travel
These are the days before Ryanair took us to Poland in under 2 hours. There wasn’t a way around the ridiculous coach ride (excluding ferry, we’re before EuroTunnel too here). I spy with my little eye: the sodding Autobahn for the 12th hour. Who knew Germany was so… ongoing? Does this service station accept Francs, Guilders or Deutschmarks? But I got to eat those huge prezels that would always somehow appear from a Babcia’s handbag, drank vodka and coke on the P&O to stave off tired shivers, have people nod off on my shoulder, the occasional exhaustion nosebleed, and learn to hold my bladder for considerable amounts of time.
2. All the tapes
As a kid with her walkman glued to her hip, I used to save up my pocket money to spend seriously Zloty, like, a quid’s worth, per bootleg cassette. Who cares if the inserts were a flimsy photocopy, with the worst spelling? Ace of Base, Right Said Fred, Salt n Pepa and a tonne of Eurotrash. It shaped me into the woman with the refined music taste that I am today.
Squared exercise books
Just really exciting to a kid used to writing on boring old lines. My Polish cousins don’t understand this. I’d bring them home and be like ‘who, me? Oh, I’m just writing in my squared exercise book, like the seasoned continental kid that I am’. It taught me to do those cute, loopy French ‘h’s, that even now as a woman in her mid 30s, I can’t not do.
When you get a cornetto from a street vendor called a 4×4, and it true to name, it’s 4 times larger than the ones at home. You feel silly, you look silly, but it’s hard to go back to the ice cream vans on your road after one of those.
Cif and Daim
Coming back from the Continent, sometime round the mid 90s, to find that Britain had adopted the European Cif and Daim. Then yelling at your friends ARGHH I TOLD YOU SO! And them not really sharing your release. (Below is Czech, but the Ben E.King spin off music is too good not to share).
I got to drink vodka, and not just any shit. Wisinowka, Wyborowa, Krupnik and Zubrowka, though you see that in every Tom, Dick and Revolution Bar these days. And it’s sipped correctly – ice cold, out of beautiful crystal glasses.
English-speaking Goggleboxers… we are all so damn lucky; lucky that we get to watch our programmes, without ONE GUY just reading a script for every woman, man and child part. It was hilarious for the first thirty seconds, but after that, less so.