Lounge. Lying on a sofa bed. Oh yes, girlfriends brother's lounge. Holiday in Poland. First time meeting the family. Still in socks, but ones without holes in them. Lucky! All the facts of my current situation begin to re-register themselves in my brain. The only thing that I can't work out is why my girlfriend is shaking her head at me.
I flex my cortex ? or at least that's what I think I do ? and attempt to take my mind back further than three minutes ago. Nope, blank. Nothing.
Something obscure, and dog shaped? Trees? Another man in his underpants, I think. Oh dear. All so very vague. Elusive strands of memory dangling precariously in my mind. Just the slightest waft of distraction could blow them away forever. Must focus. Wait, there I am, sitting at the dinner table.
A man of fine repute
I've just finished dinner and I'm smiling cheerfully. I can't participate in conversation which is in full Polish flow, but my disposition let's everyone know that I am grateful for the feast of Polish sausages, potatoes with dill and several other tasty meat based snacks.
It's been three days into the holiday and I've done well as ?the new guy' in town which actually hasn't been very hard at all. Polish people seem to me to be very kind, warm and hospitable. I've done my bit though, and not let the language barrier get the better of communication. I now have a growing non-verbal repertoire of facial expressions, gesturers and even some humorous anecdotes.
You would be surprised how much one can convey about London life with physical expression, such as the classic chasing after bus only to have its doors slammed in your face and having a cigarette outside, pressed up against the wall, whilst the horizontal rain slams into your face.
But is it art?
This is not to say that English language communication is non-existent. The brother's English is excellent considering he learnt it all from watching and listening to Western movies and music.
During the Soviet Communist period which spanned 1945 to 1989, Russian was the prescribed second language. Actually, Russian was pretty much prescribed for everything, including arts and culture. I'm told of school trips where children were taken to art galleries with dreadful art created by Soviet appointed artists, and of art lessons at school where the children, day after day, had to colour in the Soviet flag.
Russia had attempted to quash the Polish spirit and creativity, but as I look at the three generations of families sitting around the table, I see a strength of community and values which may have been strengthened by surviving such a terrible regime.
Strong like bull
"Na Zdrowie!" Says the father to me and we chink our beer glasses. The father, I'm told, once knocked a bull out with a single punch.
"Na Zdrowie!" I reply with gusto.
He stands up and gestures for me to sit and wait. I look around the table and see my girlfriend look at her sister and share a sympathetic glance. I look at the brother who gives me a Cheshire cat smile and says, "It's time to drink some Vodka."
I smile back but inside I'm pensive as this is the moment I've been most concerned about.
The last time I drank a large quantity of Vodka was on the Circle Line Challenge in London, where you travel the entire line ? 28 stops in total ? and have a drink at each stop. My chosen drink was Vodka and orange juice as I naively thought I'd be okay with a ladies drink. I've never fallen down the same set of stairs three times or lost my shoe on a night out but on that occasion, I did.
A large, unlabelled bottle of Vodka lands heavily on the dinner table.
"This is my father's home made Vodka," says the brother, "It is very good."
Again, I see my girlfriend and her sister exchange glances. Sympathy has been replaced by concern.
"How strong is it?" I ask, feigning clinical interest.
"About 60 percent proof," says the brother. "But don't worry; we won't only be drinking this vodka."
I breathe a sigh of relief
"We have other bottles of vodka to drink too." And with another grin the shot glasses are filled to the brim and consumed with an apple juice chaser.
"Na Zdrowie!" I say and the father's vodka sears its way down my gullet and leaves a warm glow deep inside my belly. After a brief respite, the glasses are filled again, and again I dispatch the liquid.
My memory starts to fade and I bring myself back to the present. My girlfriend is still looking at me waiting for some kind of reaction.
"What happened last night?" I ask.
"You don't remember?" she asks, and shakes her head once more.