Title

A Christmas Heartwarmer

Christopher Fowler
In Barcelona I had a wonderful Polish friend call Joanna, one of those friendly people you instantly click with. If you think my life is full of incident, you should hear about hers; buses going over cliffs, trapped on sinking boats, caught up in terrorist attacks etc. When I met her she was working for a large, successful property agents. The men running it only seemed to hire tanned, leggy blondes from Eastern Europe. One day her team mates came to her for advice; a client had been sexually harassing them. Could she speak to her boss about the matter? She talked to her boss, who seemed sympathetic at first, then shut down the conversation and fired her. Joanna is made of stronger stuff. They ended up in a court case which she won. She decided to leave Barcelona and go to Kyiv, where she processed refugees. She found the work rewarding but harrowing. The teams were working in three month tranches to reduce trauma. She came back subtly changed. She still plans to go back. Meanwhile she went back home to Poland. Her home town makes a specific, unique kind of blue glass, 'Blue Ceramic Boleslawiec', but the factory was being closed down and the skilled workers lost. She had grown up with these glasswares and ceramic pots around her, so she rehired its key workers and restarted the kilns so that the locals were able to return to the craft they knew best. Now she's opened a little Christmas shop on the site selling their wares. Proof that you can transform your life in a hundred different ways. Merry Christmas.

Comments

Paul c (not verified) Sat, 24/12/2022 - 14:09

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Merry XMas, Chris and all here

Many thanks again for all of your fabulous books and blog which mean more than you know.

Martin Tolley (not verified) Sat, 24/12/2022 - 14:52

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

What Paul c said.

Ace (not verified) Sat, 24/12/2022 - 15:38

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

'To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.'
― Mark Twain

Thank you for sharing these many years. There is no greater gift.

Stephen (not verified) Sat, 24/12/2022 - 17:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Merry Christmas Chris.

Roger (not verified) Sat, 24/12/2022 - 18:32

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Could you get Joanna to move to Stoke-on-Trent?
Merry Whatever-term -you-use, everyone, unless you refuse to be merry or refuse to mention the time of year as a matter of principle.

Ace (not verified) Sat, 24/12/2022 - 18:47

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Worried that their twin boys had developed extreme personalities – one was a total pessimist, the other a total optimist – their parents took them to a psychiatrist.

First the psychiatrist treated the pessimist. Trying to brighten his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with brand-new toys. But instead of yelping with delight, the little boy burst into tears. 'What's the matter?' the psychiatrist asked, baffled. 'Don't you want to play with any of the toys?' 'Yes,' the little boy bawled, 'but if I did I'd only break them.'

“Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his outlook, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. 'What do you think you're doing?' the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. 'With all this manure,' the little boy replied, beaming, 'there must be a pony in here somewhere!'

I have it on good authority that there is indeed a pony under it all. Let us keep digging, each in their own way. To all --- a peaceful (if that's possible) holiday and a better 2023.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Sat, 24/12/2022 - 19:38

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Here's hoping for more Joannas in our lives, people who don't just look at bad events and cry but dig in and act so as to change things. Here's to a positive new year for everyone.

Peter T (not verified) Sat, 24/12/2022 - 20:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Keep digging. Merry Yuletide!

Gary Hart (not verified) Sat, 24/12/2022 - 22:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Merry Christmas, Chris. Thank you for giving your time and imagination so freely for all these years, and for using them to improve ours.

Richard (not verified) Sun, 25/12/2022 - 02:18

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thank you, Chris and Joanna. Merry Christmas!

J (not verified) Sun, 25/12/2022 - 02:34

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Merry Christmas to you, Chris, and to this merry band of Peculiars.
From some Peculiars in California.

Mike (not verified) Sun, 25/12/2022 - 09:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

All the very best to all at Fowler Tower. Have a great holiday and lets all hope for more for you.

Cornelia Appleyard (not verified) Sun, 25/12/2022 - 10:53

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Jo W (not verified) Sun, 25/12/2022 - 14:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Festive greetings to all within this blog!
Peace and love and all that stuff to all peculiar readers and commenters. Have as great a time as you can! ;-)

Joan (not verified) Sun, 25/12/2022 - 14:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Best wishes to all, may we all have a little of Arthur and John in our lives!

roxanne g reynolds (not verified) Sun, 25/12/2022 - 14:38

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

it's 0830 CST here in normally balmy Houston TX. 29⁰ F feels like 18⁰. it's colder here at the moment than it is in London. according to the interwebs, the high last year on this date was 83⁰. i second Jo W's greetings to you all.

Rich (not verified) Sun, 25/12/2022 - 15:25

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Merry Christmas Christopher, Peter and everyone here. Joanna sounds fantastic, best wishes to her.

Mish (not verified) Mon, 26/12/2022 - 01:26

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Can you link to her site? (Please)

Jackie (not verified) Mon, 26/12/2022 - 03:34

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

That’s one special lady. Warm wishes to you for Christmas

John Griffin (not verified) Mon, 26/12/2022 - 08:38

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Merry Christmas to both of you.

Anna-Maria Covich (not verified) Mon, 26/12/2022 - 10:46

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

You seem to find all the best and most interesting people.

Christopher Fowler Mon, 26/12/2022 - 12:14

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Miss - I've emailed her about her site but I don't think she has one yet...

Chris Adams (not verified) Mon, 26/12/2022 - 12:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

If only there were more like her.Merry Christmas to everyone.
Merry Christmas to you Chris,and to Pete.

Christopher Fowler Mon, 26/12/2022 - 13:30

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks Brooke, you're right. And they're based in the old ceramics factory that had to close...

Christopher Fowler Mon, 26/12/2022 - 14:54

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The Blue Ceramic link is correct and they'll launch fully in January, delivering all over Europe.

Ace (not verified) Mon, 26/12/2022 - 18:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I assume you have all duly presented boxed gifts to your servants by now. And no --- spouses or significant others don't technically count.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Mon, 26/12/2022 - 19:44

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Those pictures on Joanna's site are truly great. Since the trade mark says "Blue Ceramic" I can only assume that they are planning on selling to the English speaking world. I hope it works out for them. What they need, though, is agents, people willing to cold call on retailers - or wholesalers for that matter - to build a market. Polish speaking a definite asset. Anyone out there?

Ace (not verified) Mon, 26/12/2022 - 20:24

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

For those of you now suffering from the usual post-Christmas letdown at not being able to name even one famous Belgian or place in after dinner charades, apparently there is still time to redeem yourself by guessing which one of the estimated 32 million possible combinations is the solution to the fiendish 'Cain's Jawbone' mystery and pocket a monetary reward. You have five days to become only the fifth reader of the mystery originally published in 1934 with it's pages purposely out of sequence.

Granny (not verified) Mon, 26/12/2022 - 22:22

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Lovely pottery and your friend
Happy new year, well in advance and thank you for enriching lives

Brooke (not verified) Mon, 26/12/2022 - 22:27

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

@Helen. I've been thinking about Blue Ceramic since I looked at the website. Unfortunately, Joanna and her team missed the US holiday season; Otherwise several of the museum shops (small batch) would have been ideal, as well as holiday pop -up shops and craft fairs in the high net worth neighborhoods. For the tiles, it's a different channel; designers who work for the contractors are the influencers (different supply chain requirements).

If I were in Joanna's shoes, I would get some free labor, like a graduate business school student, to do a marketing plan, including e-commerce, and evaluating several channels. And then there are tariffs.

Peter T (not verified) Tue, 27/12/2022 - 12:17

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

As someone who grew up in the English West Midlands, the loss of artisan based industries is something that I know only too well. In ceramics, the close of Royal Worcester was one of the tragedies. The consolation is that a few brilliant artists and small scale entrepreneurs manage to keep some of the activity alive. We have to applaud and support what Joanna is doing with Blue Ceramic and someone that I've recently discovered, Steve Smith (Worcestershire) who is continuing the work and tradition of the Royal Worcester fruit and nature painters.

Ace (not verified) Tue, 27/12/2022 - 15:02

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

As a member of a collecting family (although not a collector myself), I'm told Boleslawiec as thc Polish pottery centre, in terms of influence and reputation, is much like Staffordshire was in its heyday for British ceramics (and to an extent, still is). It has always been centralised in one town as opposed to the famous original six towns of Staffordshire --- long ago incorporated into the municipality of Stoke-on-Trent -- now being grandly promoted as the 'Ceramics Capital of the World.' (and home of the Staffordshire oatcake).

With renewed interest in craft or artisanal goods increasing significantly, I'm also told, (Millennials themselves are entering craft businesses at a noticeable clip), it may be a good time for Joanna to reopen the factory. There are a number of European and UK international ceramic art competitions, festivals and trade shows which would be excellent places to get the word out. An important consideration, if she wants to grow the business beyond the domestic and regional markets, since a quick check tells me she will be competing for attention and sales with at least four or five established makers in town. Something someone as resourceful as Joanna appears to be has probably already thought about.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Tue, 27/12/2022 - 19:33

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I wish I were twenty years younger and could reasonably offer Joanna a Canadian agent. There are some good suggestions in the posts, but Ace is probably correct in saying that she has most likely already thought of them. Good luck to her.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Tue, 27/12/2022 - 19:44

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Have discovered that there are a number of firms importing to Canada so J. will have an uphill task but the product is certainly interesting and attractive.

Jan (not verified) Wed, 28/12/2022 - 11:13

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Hiya Chris + Pete r! Hope it was a lovely Christmas and all the best for 2023!

Wayne Mook (not verified) Wed, 28/12/2022 - 13:46

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Good luck to Joanna, and I applaud her for what she did to help the refugees in Ukraine.

Coming back from my brother in laws last night one of the M6 motorway signs read Toke-on-Trent, maybe they are branching out in other areas.

Wayne.

Sharon (not verified) Wed, 28/12/2022 - 16:57

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Merry Christmas! And thank you for your wonderful books. Through your writings of London history and custom you inspired my family to order a box of thoughtfully selected British treats in the form of biscuits and crisps. We’ve had so much fun trying and enjoying the new foods! Our best you you and thank you for the joy you give us in the delight of a Bryant and May book.

A Holme (not verified) Wed, 28/12/2022 - 21:01

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Toke-on-Trent. Isn't that twinned with High Wycombe?

Ace (not verified) Wed, 28/12/2022 - 22:53

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A Holme --- Not to forget Giggleswick (Yorks) and Weedon Lois (Northants).

Tim Lees (not verified) Thu, 29/12/2022 - 20:35

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

There are some wonderful people in the world.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Sat, 31/12/2022 - 16:38

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

My wife especially enjoyed the twin towns, now what about the outside world, how about Yum Yum in Tennessee.

Wayne.