Over The Hedge

Added on 04 November 2008

The kids went back to school yesterday. TPCKAM took the day off work and we went to see a hedge. It was shut.

A hedge, you’re thinking, that sounds intriguing. I’m just going to stop what I’m doing for the next five minutes to read about the hedge.

Three winters ago we went to the spa town of Ciechocinek a couple of hours north of Warsaw. One of Ciechocinek’s attractions - among many - is its salt graduation tower. Now you’re thinking, a salt graduation tower, this is getting even more interesting. What in the name of Sarah Palin is a salt graduation tower?

Well, it’s a big hedge. Or, at least, it looks like a big hedge. An enormous wooden frame filled with thorny brushwood, which is then washed with brine so that it accumulates salt crystals. When it’s in operation, the water runs constantly through the brushwood; meanwhile a spray is released into the air containing all sort of minerals and, well, stuff, that’s good for you. You walk through the centre of the hedge breathing it all on, and then.... well, I’m not sure really. If you’re Polish, you leave feeling invigorated and healthy, and then smoke a packet of cigarettes, drink beer and drive your car at a hundred and fifty miles an hour.

When we went to Ciechocinek the hedge was shut. The temperature was around minus fifteen degrees Celsius. We, like everybody else, wandered up to look at the hedge - actually there are three hedges, all of them 1.7km long, so they are the kind of thing that people go and look at even when it’s minus fifteen - and then quickly ran back inside before we died.

Recently we discovered that there’s such a hedge not so far from Warsaw, in the town of Konstancin. It’s about ten miles along the road, but the way Warsaw is expanding in that direction it’ll soon be swallowed up.

We took the kids a few weeks ago. It’s much smaller. It’s kind of the San Marino of hedges to the China of Ciechocinek’s hedge. This hedge is about thirty feet high, maybe thirty yards long. The water was running through it. We walked in. At one end there was the pipe spraying water and minerals into the air. A family of four was walking in a circle round the pipe. We joined them. Together the eight of us walked round and round, through the spray. We kept doing it because they were, and we presumed it was what you did. Maybe they were only going to do it once, but then when we started they thought, hmm, maybe you’re supposed to walk endlessly through the spray.

We walked through the spray, two families of four bound by their common stupidity, for about three hours. Next to us an old guy lay slumped on a bench, chin on his chest, drooling, breathing in the spray. Old women came and went. The kids complained a lot, because obviously they couldn’t feel just how good it is for you to walk through mineral-enriched spray for three hours.

Eventually we left. We ate doughnuts and drank coffee.

Yesterday we went back so that we could have the whole hedge experience without the kids complaining about it. But as I said at the start, it was shut.