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Monday, 25 June 2012

170:Русская смекалка - improvisation?

In Russia nothing is wasted. things are re-used wherever possible and often, as here, the second usage of an item has nothing to do with the original use.
I think this adaptation of a pallet* is an example of русская смекалка but if any of my Russian friends disagree then do please tell me and suggest a better translation, in Russian, for what they can see in the picture.
It puts me in mind of the old story where in Space it was discovered that ball-point pens wouldn't work in conditions of weightlessness. The Americans spent millions on research to develop a pen that could write upside down. The Russians used a pencil. Maybe it's apocryphal, and maybe not.
I guess the thinking is that if the children go home with a splinter in the bottom (осколок в попе) it will toughen them up.

*Do not confuse pallet with palate or palette. A pallet is 'a platform for moving goods' or 'a makeshift bed'; palate means 'the roof of the mouth' or 'a person’s ability to distinguish between different flavours' ( flavours that appeal to the palate); a palette is 'an artist’s board for mixing colours'.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

169:the week in pictures

Time, as ever, is pressing in on me (this morning mainly due to spending too much time in bed), so I thought I would simply present a few pictures taken around and about during the week and add a few comments where appropriate.
This guy was parked, nose and tail, on a zebra crossing. The sticker, dripping with irony, had obviously been placed there by an irate citizen and says something like "I spit on everybody, I will park where I want." Lovely. I hope it takes a lot of "elbow grease"* to remove. I know parking is a problem in Moscow but it doesn't give drivers carte-blanche to park "willy-nilly*". A little consideration for others might be nice. 

*elbow grease - an idiom for hard work.
*willy-nilly - in an unplanned, haphazard fashion
The delightful and enchanting pipe music of the Andes, right here in Moscow. An impromptu, unscheduled, concert right next to the portaloos at Paveletskiy. I saw two policemen walking past, probably wondering whether to move them on or not. The musicians I mean, not the portaloos! Just off camera there were, of course, people selling CDs of the group performing.
Cherries and strawberries are in season. They are being sold from stalls all over town and what a beautiful aroma of fresh cherries as you walk past them.
The beautification of the city continues apace. Here, on the pavements around Victory Park, are piles and piles of "instant grass" waiting for gangs of labourers to arrive and unroll them.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

168:No smoke without fire..

This is my second recent blog about smoke and fire but that's the way life is. This is the view that I get when I leave my flat, on the 10th floor, and wait for the lift to arrive. Except that there is not usually the pall of smoke and one of the helicopters being used to help douse the fire with an under-slung bucket of water. Such was the view last night, when I came home. Thankfully, we don't see too many fires here. I know the flats in the foreground look as though they have been fire-damaged but as far as I can remember they are always that attractive!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


I've just turned down a request from an American company to teach English to a Spaniard who lives in the International residential complex at Rosinka (to the North West of Moscow) because it is too far for me to go (without a car).
It took an hour and 10 minutes to get from my house to the end of the line metro at Mitino. After that I would have had to wait goodness knows how long for a bus and then sit on it for 15 minutes, or so I was told. 1.5 hours plus to get there, a 1.5 hour lesson, and 1.5 hours plus to get back. A big chunk out of the day, twice a week. Too big a chunk given current commitments.
Unless anybody knows a quicker way to get to Rosinka...........
At least I was able to improve myself culturally on the way back from my recce as the metro train was one of those that have been kitted out as a rolling art gallery.

Monday, 11 June 2012

166:Where's my glass?

I absolutely don't mean to be disparaging to either the sculptor or to Mr Dragunskiy himself but it does look to me as though there should be a glass or a tankard of beer in his open, uplifted, right-hand.
My second offering today has been lifted from Facebook and shows His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, looking admiringly at his wife, Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II. There's a difference of about 60 years between the two photos but look how similar the poses are. Amazing. Long Live the Queen. Prince Philip's birthday is today. He is 91 years old! Hope I look that good when I'm 91. He is well known for making sometimes inappropriate quips and gaffes. For example as he was leaving hospital yesterday he was asked if he was feeling better. He retorted "well, I wouldn't be coming out if I wasn't."

Friday, 8 June 2012

165:No smoke without fire!

In English the expression "there is no smoke without fire" means that If unpleasant things are said about someone or something, there is probably a good reason for it. The saying is the same in Russian "нет дыма без огня".
But today I'm using the expression in its literal meaning. The photograph shows an ordinary rubbish bin. There are thousands and thousands like it in the capital, often placed near to bus stops, park benches etc. The trouble is that many thoughtless Russians just chuck their still burning fag ends into the bin without putting them out first. After a few minutes the lit cigarette causes combustion and other things in the bin begin to smoulder and burn. The smell is usually acrid. They say that two years ago, when we had that awful smog that blanketed the city for weeks on end, discarded cigarettes were a contributory factor. 

How can people be so thoughtless? Is there nothing at all between their ears? If my troll is still around, let me add that I'm not just targeting Russians - there are thoughtless people in every nationality, a liberal sprinkling of them all over the planet. 

The second photo is a coded message to my daughter advising her which hat to wear!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

164:Money rules in Russia

“Money rules in Russia,” a super wealthy businessman acquaintance told me not so long ago. “If you have cash, you can do anything. Your every desire will be fulfilled and the law is no obstacle to your wishes.”
This is a quote from an article by Marc Bennetts who lives and works in Moscow and writes about things Russian. Here is a link to the article:
RIA NovostiMarс BennettsDeeper Than Oil: The Pages of Wealth
23:51 04/06/2012 At first, I thought the price tag was a mistake; that some inattentive shop assistant in the downtown Moscow bookstore had added a couple of extra zeros and no one had noticed. After all, there was no way 500,000 rubles ($15,000) could be right for a collection of twenty books of children’s stories. Even if they were bound in what was described as “high-quality” leather. But the error was mine – the price was genuine.>>
'If you've got it, flaunt it' seems to be the attitude of the "New Russians". They lift ostentatiousness to a new level. I hasten to add that teachers, as far as I know, don't fall into this "super wealthy" category. This one certainly doesn't!
My own, meagre, contribution to today's blog is a photo I took recently which I have called "instant Summer". One minute the parks and gardens are bare and the next they are filled with flowers, thanks to the toil of an army of (usually immigrant) workers. It brightens up the city enormously. All we need now is some sunshine! I'm told Summer will arrive in the second half of June.

Monday, 4 June 2012

163:'Ealth and, like, safety and the Diamond Jubilee pageant

I can't believe I haven't blogged since 22nd May - almost two weeks with nary a peep out of me. I was, and still am, bereft of inspiration. 
Today´s blog has three topics. The first is meant to draw attention to some of the differences between Health and Safety issues in UK and Russia. In UK there would be about half a mile of safety cones between traffic and anybody working in the road. Here, two will do nicely. And in UK ear defenders would be de rigeur. I haven´t seen anybody here working in a noisy environment wearing them. Still, I'm sure their employer will compensate them in later life when they report hearing loss problems. Or perhaps not.

My second topic is, like, a straight lift from the Moscow News. Grammar goes out of the window when young people speak a language as can be read in this article from Mark Teeter. I guess it helps language, like, evolve.

Finally, here is a link to some footage of the magnificent pageant on the Thames yesterday as the nation helped the Queen to celebrate her Diamond Anniversary as our monarch. The BBC have used a time-lapse camera to show all 1,000+ vessels passing in just over 3 minutes.