When did the deck chair become an acceptable form of seating? Thinking back to the early summer, which seems frighteningly recent, I don’t remember ever seeing one in the fragrant beer gardens of our fair city. Now, as the thoughts of alfresco drinkers turn increasingly to cardigans and maybe popping indoors, they seem to be everywhere.
Like agents of a covert alien invasion, they began appearing in ones and twos at first. Blink, and there are suddenly twelve of them. I am The Doctor on this one and I’m telling you, the deck chair is a creeping menace we ignore at our peril.
The culprit, the wellspring of all things folding and canvasy, is, of course, Forum Przestrzenie. There’s something uncanny about that place. It emerged, fully formed, in the consciousness of Cracovians at some indeterminate point in early summer. Nobody remembers it opening. One day you’d never heard of it and the next, everyone was going there. It’s not natural.
I visited the place with cynicism dialled up to eleven. As I suspected – deck chairs everywhere. Don’t you people have any idea how old I am? Even assuming I was able to lower myself into one without precipitating a hilarious collapsing debacle, I’d never get out again. It’s almost as if the pub world has turned its back on catastrophically unfit dudes in their 40s, which is a touch unfair since the catastrophic unfitness is largely a result of 20 years spent in pubs.
There is nothing conducive to relaxation in the makeup of the standard deck chair. If I wanted to hover a few centimetres above the ground on a dangerous contraption with no lumbar support, I would do it on the Rynek in expectation of some appreciative gasps and spare change from passers by.
It’s only a matter of time
It was as I was fuming over these injustices that I overheard the conversation that was supposed to form the basis of this column before I transformed into a ranting geriatric. It was about a disturbing news story that gained almost no attention when it broke last month. On August 14, the National Broadcast Council imposed a 5,000 złoty fine on national broadcaster TVP because it had aired a show in which reference was made to the Pope farting.
Note that this wasn’t an hour-long special on papal flatulence through the ages, it was a line in a stand up routine by Abelard Giza. The show, buffered with warnings to ward off religiously sensitive people, had offended some religiously sensitive people who are apparently warning impaired.
The Polish law on this is a corker, mostly because it is actually two completely contradictory laws. Article 196 of the Polish Penal Code reads: “Anyone found guilty of offending religious feelings through public defamation of an object or place of worship is liable to a fine, restriction of liberty or a maximum two-year prison sentence.” Without a hint of irony, article 25(2) of the Polish Constitution says: “Public authorities in the Republic of Poland shall be impartial in matters of personal conviction, whether religious or philosophical, or in relation to outlooks on life, and shall ensure their freedom of expression within public life.” In other words, the constitution protects your right to call the Pope a gassy old wafer-fumbler, right up to the point the court throws you in pokey.
This is not the first the time the faithful have had their pound of fashionable flesh. In 2006, the frontman of Death Metal band Behemoth got into hot water for hassling a bible on stage. The court reasonably concluded that, if you’re down with the Lord, listening to Death Metal probably isn’t going to make you feel all warm and non-righteous, until the second appeal persuaded them: ‘what the hell, convict him.’
There was also something about Doda (remember her?) but I can’t reach my Google thingy from this damn chair.
Jamie Stokes is the Managing Editor of the Krakow Post. You can contact / disparage him at: firstname.lastname@example.org