Tales From The Chalkface: Walking Away

Summer days make me more inclined to take a stroll home rather than jump on the tram, so last week, with the sun shining, that’s what I did. A change of routine is always a tonic.

Heading for the Rynek, I pretend I’m a tourist and indulge myself by eating out. I head for The Dorsz because what self-respecting Brit wouldn’t want fish and chips, even if it hadn’t been a week since she went to her very own local chippy? Besides, this is my local chippy when I’m in Krakow.

The first thing I see as I come through the door is an ex-student in the company of two workmates, all heartily tucking in. He greets me warmly and I remember he’s shy, so I smile and move on. Good to know he’s still around.

After some fabulous fish, I leave, mouth tingling from the taste of malt vinegar (why can’t you buy that here?) then saunter to an outdoor café to do a bit of people watching. Everywhere is full. In this weather, the waiters are really working up a sweat. I spot another ex-student. She’s too busy to notice me, intent instead on getting beers and plates on her tables. I admire her energy and move on.

Further on in the Mały Rynek it feels like party time, a crowd has gathered to enjoy a salsa band. Among all this festivity I find I’ve walked into a current student from my class. Smartly dressed and with a group of Polish friends from his previous school, he seems to be showing them the sights. We make eye contact and although we’re both smiling, I can’t help but wonder why he’s here.

He’d been absent that morning when I checked the register, nor did he sign in at any time later. He’s certainly an unlucky truant to bump into me on the only day I decide to walk. After exchanging pleasantries, he introduces me to his friends (they’re amazed I can speak even minimal Polish). It’s then I ask the uncomfortable question.

“Why weren’t you at school today?”

He shifts uncomfortably, wishing himself elsewhere. His friends titter. He mutters something about a doctor’s appointment. No one, least of all me, believes him. I leave, suggesting we’ll pursue the matter tomorrow. Roars of laughter erupt from the unfortunate lad’s friends.

Finally, I find a quiet table and sit down for a coffee. A woman stops by my table.

“Oh, you were Anna’s teacher, weren’t you? I must tell you how well she’s been doing since she left school. She’s just got a place at Guildford to train as a stage manager. She loves it. I thought you’d like to know.”

I sip my coffee, delighted I decided to walk home today.

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