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Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Three quite unrelated items for today's blog:
1.  I bought a bottle of beer yesterday evening on my way home after lessons. The assistant opened it for me and put it in a dinky little bag which, when I looked at it properly, encourages people to "drink in a more cultured way" by putting your bottle in this bag!!

2.   An amazing article in the Moscow Times by Marilyn Murray (she is an educator specializing in the treatment of trauma, abuse and deprivation, with more than 2,000 people attending her classes in Russia and other countries from the Commonwealth of Independent States over the past 10 years).
Read more:

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Choosing Joy Over Sorrow, Triumph Over Fear

When riding the metro or walking the streets in Moscow, one sees a variety of faces: stern and harsh, young and cocky, elegant and beautiful, stoic and resigned. Most are masks that cover a vast array of emotions. This reality becomes apparent during our Level I class concerning the treatment of trauma, abuse, neglect and addictions.

3.  The Copenhagen Philharmonic playing "The Morning Suite" by Peer Gynt in the Copenhagen metro.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

B161:In hot water again

I don't mean that really. In English "to be in hot water" means to have done something wrong and to be in trouble with somebody - maybe the law, maybe the wife!
What I wanted to say was that the hot water for the block of flats where I live has been turned on again after the annual cleaning/repair of the pipes. It's quite an inconvenience having no hot water for a shower for 10 days but better than losing it in the middle of a Russian Winter. (I remember a really old joke from a David Frost show in the 60s about a masochist who used to like cold showers - so he took hot ones! Think about it.)
Anyway, I went to visit a friend outside Moscow so that I could experience the luxury of a hot shower. Here our some pictures of the commuter train that brought me back to town. People selling almost anything appear regularly at either end of the coach. Sometimes there are buskers like those shown in picture 4. It was interesting that they brought their own amp and mikes with them, tied to a little trolley with a bungee/elasticator. It worked, as lots of people were giving them money as they passed down the carriage.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

B160:British Armed Forces in parade and flypast

The muster

I have no idea where we managed to find so many uncommitted military personnel (2,500) and aircraft (78) but find them we obviously did. This link is to the BBC video showing our troops, from all three Services, marching past Her Majesty as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. We are still extremely good at Pomp and Ceremony.

Crowds outside Windsor Castle

Monday, 14 May 2012

B159:Back from Berlin

Just back from a great weekend in Berlin with friends and family. Met some old friends I hadn't seen for over 25 years and had a mostly good nostalgic trip on the 21st anniversary journey of the old British Military Train, despite a breakdown in communications meaning the General ended up with no Russian interpreter! Never mind, he told me later that the Russians didn't turn up anyway! 
Here is the BBC video of the event and then a few of my photos from the weekend.

Above: The business end of the old Checkpoint Charlie border crossing point.
Right: The preserved (or reconstructed) U.S. military checkpoint where they would check documents were in order before allowing military personnel to enter the crossing point. 

N.B.1 - these are not real U.S. soldiers, just guys dressed up to make a fast buck being photographed with tourists.
N.B.2 - McDonalds! Ubiquitous! That wasn't there before!

The Brandenburg Gate. In my day the gate was sealed. What a difference today.
Brunch at the Hotel Adlow Kempinski 
99 Euros!!! Can you imagine!

The pipes and drums of the Black Kilts Pipe Band.
Berlin Tegel airport - about to be decommissioned as the new Berlin Brandenburg airport comes on stream.


Thursday, 10 May 2012

B158:ни пуха ни пера - Good Luck

Very quickly tonight as I have an early start tomorrow for my flight to Berlin. I noticed on my way to today's lesson that the pookh has started to fall. This word (пух) has two meanings - the down, or fluff, on a young bird, or the seeds of the poplar tree. In the second meaning, Moscow will soon endure the annual fall of poplar seeds - in places and at times it will almost look like snow as the white stuff blows about all over the city. It would be quite easy to collect a handful of the stuff, should one be so inclined.
In the first meaning there is a very old hunting idiom ни пуха ни пера which literally means neither feather nor down. It is used nowadays to mean "good luck" in a forthcoming endeavour.
My second photo is just something that took my fancy as I was going round the city. 

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

B157:To Berlin

I have seen "на Берлин" (to Berlin) on several cars over the last few days. It is yet another allusion to the victory over the fascists in 1945. 
But today I have a different scenario in mind. On Friday I will fly to Berlin to take part in the 21st anniversary journey of the former British Military Train. During the Cold War this train ran every day (except Christmas day) from West Berlin through East Germany to Braunschweig in West Germany (arriving back in Berlin in the evening). Once the train pulled out of Charlottenburg station in West Berlin the doors were chained on the inside to stop anybody boarding the train illegally. Between 1984 and 1986 I worked on the train as a Russian interpreter. (The British government did not recognise the government of East Germany so we dealt with Soviet officers). On both outward and return journeys the train stopped at Marienborn, close to the border between West/East Germany, and the documents of everybody on the train were checked. I was there to interpret in case any problems arose. Often on the way back we would share a beer with our Soviet counterparts. All in the cause of fostering international relations you understand. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


A nice touch of serendipity today. I was walking in park Dubki because the weather forecast said rain and storms and I didn't want to stray too far from home. There I came across a Victory Day concert which was just about to start. Russian people are so patriotic and every year, on Victory Day, from their hearts, they thank the veterans for their actions in saving the country and securing victory over the fascists during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945). You must remember that Russia lost millions and millions of people during this war. Here are some photos of the concert, and two short video clips.

Monday, 7 May 2012

B155:The (Northern) river station & strange bagpipes!

The river Moskva has two river termini: river station North and river station South. Here are two photos from river station North showing what a grandiose place it is (was). From here it is possible to book short river trips (1-2 hours), short cruises (1-2 days) and to see international cruise ships stop here to disembark passengers on guided tours of Moscow. I've travelled with Viking River cruises before, although not in Russia, and would recommend them. Here is a link to their web site and several well-produced videos about Russia.

A short walk from the river station terminus is the bus station and shopping centre. Here I saw a man busking and playing a most unusual set of bagpipes - they were powered by using a foot pump. Can anyone tell me more about them? I have included a short video clip to let you hear the sound they produce. 

Sunday, 6 May 2012

B154:Hurry up and wait

On my way to my lesson this evening I noticed that кутузовский проспект (Kutuzovskiy Prospect) was lined with baby policemen, every 10 yards or so, as far as the eye could see - in both directions. They were standing on the pavement at the side of the road and facing away from the road. They were there at 17.30 as I went to my lesson and still there at 19.00 as I was going home. I was tempted to wait and see what they were doing there, what they were protecting. I suspect it was something to do with the Red Square parade rehearsal that was carried out this morning. Perhaps some of the military hardware was about to re-locate back to barracks outside the city. Perhaps they had been standing there all day and been forgotten, poor things. Whatever they were doing, and however long they had been standing there, they have my sympathy. I have done my share of standing around in full uniform waiting for something to happen. We used to call it "hurry up and wait". 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

B153:Will power

How easy it is to say no when it is time to don the running kit and hit the streets or, in my case, the park. And how difficult to find the strength of character to get out and do it. Managed it this morning, somehow, and after half an hour of mixed running & walking I called it a day. All the good work has already been undone because since I got back I have scoffed a whole bar of chocolate. Pig. My body seems to crave calories after a run.
Two photos today. The first one is of the bandstand in park dubki. Flags similar to the ones flying next to it are fluttering all over Moscow as preparations for next week's Victory Day celebrations gather pace. 
The second photo shows a typical children's play area (not that there's such a thing as a typical child - ha ha). Maybe the surface isn't quite as forgiving as the special surfaces we use in our play parks but the general appearance shows how much Russians care for their children. Several times I've heard people saying "our children are our future". 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

B152:Alphabet soup

Yesterday the sun was still shining so I went to the park, along with 13,000,000 other people. I went to the All-Russia Exhibition Centre (VVTs or ВВЦ in Russian). This used to be known as the Exhibition of Economic Achievements (VDNKh or ВДНХ in Russian) but along with many other places it underwent a change of name in order to re-brand itself. It is an enormous park and always crowded with people on high days and holidays. Yesterday was no exception - people were whizzing about on bikes, roller blades, and scooters. Those of a less athletic disposition could be ferried around the park in small "trains". There seems to be more attractions and rides every time I go there. Here are a few photos to give you an idea of what it is like.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

B151:Back to the sunshine

It is nice to see the sun again after my few rainy days in UK. Probably the weather will buck up there now I am back in Moscow. Here are two photos I took yesterday on my way back to Moscow. The first is of the new concourse at King's Cross station, taken at 5 o'clock in the morning. The second is of a picture of a guardsman in the Foot Guards saying goodbye to people as they leave Heathrow. Did you know that there are 5 Regiments of Foot Guards in the British Army and you can tell which Regiment a soldier belongs to by looking at how the buttons on his tunic are grouped? In order of seniority on parade they are as follows: Grenadier guards (White plumes and evenly-spaced tunic buttons), Coldstream guards (red plumes and paired tunic buttons), Scots guards (no plumes and tunic buttons in threes), Irish guards (blue plumes and tunic buttons in fours) and Welsh guards (white-and-green plumes and tunic buttons in fives).