Probably better to listen to it with earphones.
The backyard of which we will tell, is the place where ‘Pan dozorca’, ‘Pan frajer’, ‘Pan Anglik’, ‘Pan Francuz’, ‘Pani Diana’, ‘Pan Bialorusin’ and some other people gaze at each other, get to know each other, control each other and are becoming neighbours. It is a backyard in the Warsaw neighbourhood Old Praga, full of pre-war buildings and dark archways. Usually, archways in Old Praga are ‘guarded’ by the local guys, whose most productive time is probably spent in gyms. When it is particularly a bad day for them they drink beer from cans, when it is a good and sunny day they eat ice-cream. Arch guarding seems to be a very important function. Once ‘Pan Bialorusin’ was guarding an arch in Praga without having an idea that he was doing so, and within 5 minutes was interrogated by two men: “What are you doing here? We are the kings of this archway” – “Hmm… just waiting for a friend… But I can go.” – “So, go!” The backyard on the crossing of Zabkowska and Brzeska is remarkable because its archway is guarded by ‘Pan dozorca’. It takes time to realize how lucky you are to live in such a house – when you are entering it you do not have to cast your eyes down and sometimes can even have a nice conversation.
Like any other archway guard ‘Pan dozorca’ prefers to break the law and to drink his beer or wine right in the backyard. When there are no friends around to keep him company, then his dog is the company. He hangs out in the new layer of Old Praga, i.e. in the new fashionable pubs, only when some of the local old ladies invite him there. Once he was taken for a beer by a kiosk keeper from our street and after half a litre was already whispering in ‘Pan Bialorusin’s’ ear: “Should I change my wife for this blond beauty, who just bought me a drink?” ‘Pan Bialorusin’ understood that it was probably a joke, but still was very proud that his archway guard was sharing such important concerns with him.
When ‘Pan dozorca’ comes to borrow money from ‘Pani Diana’ and she says that she cannot, he asks if ‘Pan Anglik’, ‘Pan Francuz’ or ‘Pan Bialorusin’ is around. “Because they are always ready to lend money to him”. When he comes to lend money from ‘Pan Bialorusin’ and he says that he cannot, ‘Pan dozorca’ asks if ‘Pan Anglik’ or ‘Pan Francuz’ are around. “Because they are always ready to lend money to him”. When he comes to lend money from ‘Pan Francuz’ and he says that he cannot, ‘Pan dozorca’ asks if ‘Pan Anglik’ is around. “Because he is always ready to lend money to him”. If ‘Pan dozorca’ managed to lend 33 zloty from ‘Pan Anglik’, he would come in two weeks to give 3 zloty back and to say that he will bring another 30 later.
Once ‘Pan dozorca’ came to ‘Pani Diana’ to give her a pair of jeans he found somewhere. “Hey! They are at least twice my size!” – ‘Pani Diana’ exclaimed. “Aahh, it’s a pity. Then maybe just give me a cigarette”. ‘Pani Diana’ is still expecting ‘Pan dozorca’ to also bring her boots for cross-country skiing, a kilt, and miner’s helmet. It is pretty common that ‘Pan dozorca’ has nothing to smoke.
‘Pan dozorca’ is very well temporally situated in Old Praga, whose social space is split in at least two parts – a 9-hour Old Praga of trade and small workshops and 24-hour Old Praga of clubs and parties. Once he said to ‘Pan Anglik’: “I saw you dancing yesterday” – “You were at that folk concert in Ethnographic Museum!?” – “No, it was right here, at 5 in the morning. I was walking my dog and you were dancing with your girlfriend near that pub”. When we are coming back home at 5 in the morning, it is difficult not to meet ‘Pan dozorca’. And when we meet several hours later, he always asks how we feel. It seems he lives our hangovers too and totally likes it. Apparently typical Old Praga archway guards are not capable of such empathy.
When ‘Pan Bialorusin’ meets ‘Pan dozorca’ in the archway, ‘Pan dozorca’ always has the same three questions, which always go in the same order:
-Did you manage to pick up a partner for sex recently?
-Do you have money to lend?
-What is new in Belarus?
‘Pan Bialorusin’ has always the same three answers:
-No, did not really have time for it.
-No, not really, I am out of money myself.
-Aaah, it is always the same there.
‘Pan Bialorusin’ is wondering whether his answers would be different if ‘Pan dozorca’ would change the order of his questions.
When ‘Pan dozorca’ meets ‘Pan Francuz’, he never asks him about sex – just about the weather. Does he think that a Frenchman would better understand Polish vocabulary connected with the climate, than vocabulary connected with sex?
‘Pan dozorca’, who knows more than others about what is going on in the building and likes to play with these information asymmetries, is perfect for smoothing out backyard conflicts. Once ‘Pan Bialorusin’ came back to Warsaw early in the morning and was about to have a cup of tea, when two policemen and another neighbour ‘Pan frajer’ knocked at the door. ‘Pan frajer’ was complaining about a mini-bus with Russian registration parked on his spot in the backyard. At that point ‘Pan Bialorusin’ did not know that it was our friends’ car and that the friends were still sleeping in one of our bedrooms. “You hear his accent? Can you believe he is not involved in it?” – ‘Pan frajer’ appealed to the policemen. ‘Pan Bialorusin’ was sorting out words to say before shutting the door, but luckily ‘Pan dozorca’ was around and apparently was the only one aware of where the car is from and why it is in our backyard. Thanks just to him, Pan Bialorusin’ did not have to open the door after more insistent knocking, ‘Pan frajer’ relaxed with the car parked in his favourite safe spot, and the Russians were not fined.
Currently moustaches bit by bit wither in Old Praga backyards, being squeezed by plain Deutsche Bank on the right and plain sexy young “co tam?” bastards, coming from gym and solarium, on the left. ‘Pan dozorca’ says that he is already too weak to have dozorca’s duties. At least for ‘Pan Bialorusin’ it is not a big deal if ‘Pan dozorca’ does not sweep the floor and does not look after the backyard anymore. You are the real ‘dozorca’ if you start greeting people, who enter or leave the building from 5 in the morning; if you walk your dog for half of the day and if it takes you 40 minutes to buy radish in the local shop and another 40 minutes to buy eggs in the next shop; if you owe 33 zloty to ‘Pan Anglik’; and know in whose apartments there were guests staying overnight.