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Thursday, 29 November 2012

209:Walking in a Winter Wonderland

Well it's arrived. The snow is here with a vengeance. It could be with us right the way through to next April. At least the country won't grind to a halt as it does in UK with the first flurry of snow. Snow clearing trucks are already visible in the picture, which was taken from my window at 7.30. this morning. A sky full of snow casts an eerie light over everything.
Here is a song called "Walking in a Winter wonderland". It was written in 1934 and has been recorded by over 150 different artists (according to Wikipedia anyway!). I picked this particular version so that students could read the lyrics as they listen to the song.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

208:What a wonderful weld!

Took this picture this morning of some immigrant workers building something at the end of my block of flats. The guy perched precariously on the stepladder is doing some welding. Wonder what it's going to be when it's finished. 
I think in UK we have too much "elf and safety" and here in Russia they have too little. Somewhere between the two extremes would be nice.

In a typical for me play on words I thought I might include a you tube link to Louis Armstrong's rendition of "it's a wonderful weld (world)" 
Finally, I just wanted to mention that on this day in 1967, French President Charles de Gaulle vetoed Britain's membership of the European Union for a second time. Some might say it's a pity it wasn't vetoed a third time!!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

207:The London Underground

I'm back in Moscow, courtesy of First Capital Connect, the London Underground, the Paddington Express, British Airways, AeroExpress, the Moscow Metro and Moscow City Transport. 11 hours door-to-door.

I changed trains at Baker Street, one of the original stations on the metropolitan line, the world's first underground railway, opened in 1863. Because the system is so old much maintenance work is carried out at the weekends and great chunks of the network are closed to the travelling public. Yesterday, for example, the whole of the circle line was closed. Nice new trains on the Metropolitan Line. You can walk right through from end to end.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

206:Red Sky in the morning...

There is an old phrase in English:
Red sky at night - shepherd's delight,
Red sky in the morning - shepherd's warning.
You can read more about it here
I'm in UK this week. Here is a photo I took from my bedroom window yesterday morning just as dawn was breaking over the rooftops.
No need to worry though, the day turned out nice.

Here too is a link to an old hymn, first published in 1931, called "Morning has broken". This particular recording was made in 1971 by a British singer-songwriter who was called Cat Stevens at that time but has since changed his name to Yusuf Islam. Relax and enjoy!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

205:Sparrow Hills

This is Sparrow Hills metro station, conveniently located in the middle of the Moscow river - well, not literally in the middle of the water but in the middle of the rail bridge that carries the metro over the river. 
My photo but I "borrowed" the video clip.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012


Some pictures today from afimall or, afi mall. A large shopping complex adjoining the skyscrapers at Moscow City. I go there twice a week for lessons. The tower that I visit has a bank of new-fangled lifts where you enter the floor you want to go to and a display tells you which lift to go to. The lifts don't have buttons for individual floors, just for opening and closing doors and for raising the alarm. You get in and it takes you automatically to the floor you have previously requested.
Back to afi mall, there are six floors with lifts running between second and fifth. To get to first and sixth you need to use an escalator. the sixth is reserved for a display of enormous matrushkas. There are food halls on fourth and fifth floors with an enormous selection of restaurants and fast-food outlets catering for a variety of different tastes.
Anyway, here are the photos.

A funny thing happened to me on the way to my first lesson this morning, almost at the end of the morning rush hour. The metro train I was travelling on broke down at a station. There was an announcement by the driver that the train would go no further and everybody got off and, with difficulty, managed to squeeze onto the platform. I wondered how the train would clear the platform if it had broken down but I didn't have to wonder for long - the driver got out of the front carriage,  walked to the back of the train, and assumed control of the train form there. It then pulled out of the station in the direction it had just come in. I assume there was some kind of points crossover just beyond the platform so that the train could join the rails for trains travelling in the direction it was now headed. The next train which came in on our platform was already full with passengers and a platform-full tried to squeeze in too. I decided to wait for the next one. Even that was a bit of a squeeze and so I was ready with my standby phrase "Sorry madame, that's my mobile phone you can feel."

Saturday, 10 November 2012

203:On the Carpet*

For anybody following my blog regularly you will have noticed that recently I had a whinge* about cardboard being laid just inside the entrance to "my" stairwell to catch the dirt and slush as it comes in from outside. Well, perhaps somebody in authority is reading the blog because look:
I paid a return visit to the planetarium today. Much as I enjoyed the 40 minute screening, I'm afraid I nodded off once or twice. They've got comfortable chairs that tilt back and let you look at whichever night sky is being projected onto the dome. 
It must have taken almost as long to collect coats after the show. When they take your coat they give you a number and when you collect it and hand that number back in they have to rotate the whole system until your particular number heaves into view. So you spend half your time there watching your coat going round and round. There must be a better way!

I took the last photo because I was amused by the contrast between the grandiose and imposing "Stalin's Wedding Cake" building (also known as Stalin's Seven Sisters) in the background and modern Moscow in the foreground with Burger King, Subway,a Sport Bar etc. The large electronic billboard is advertising EF (English First) with a discount of 25%. I suspect I am still significantly cheaper, perhaps mostly because I don't have the overheads they do.
After the planetarium I went to chilis - and not just because it was -1 in Moscow today. The American chain opened its first restaurant in Moscow in February last year. Had a nice meal but not cheap by any means.

*on the carpet

informal being severely reprimanded by someone in authority:
(not me, at least not this time)
To whinge = British English informal. To complain.

Monday, 5 November 2012

202:Remember, Remember the 5th of November

Today, in UK, we celebrate Guy Fawkes day otherwise known as Bonfire Night. On this day, in 1605, the Catholic "gunpowder plot" to assassinate King James  I was discovered and Guy Fawkes was arrested and put on trial for treason. The conspirators had placed barrels of gunpowder in the cellars under the Houses of Parliament. Thankfully the barrels were discovered before they could be detonated. The gunpowder plot

Those conspirators who weren't killed on capture were put on trial, found guilty and then hung, drawn and quartered! This was a standard punishment for high treason.

Since then British people have lit bonfires every November 5th in celebration of the fact that Parliament and the King had been saved. There is usually an effigy (чучело) of Guy Fawkes atop the fire. I remember when I was young we would make a dummy and wheel it around in a pram, asking local residents for "a penny for the guy". Enough pennies meant we could buy fireworks to let off around the bonfire on November 5th. Potatoes, and sometimes sausages, were put into the fire on long sticks to roast and then eat.

Here are some more facts and figures about British traditions relating to November 5th.

Here is a game to test your knowledge of the gunpowder plot!

Here is a you tube clip showing the fireworks display at Battersea Park in London last year.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


According to the BBC (, on this day in 1956 "A massive Soviet force invaded Hungary, crushing the popular uprising that had begun in October".
Of course many of my Russian friends, students, and acquaintances won't like the word "invasion" and will suggest either that the event in question didn't happen at all, or else they will say that the troops went in at the request of the Hungarian people. I have no further comment.

I think I've mentioned before that my block of flats was being refurbished. The first picture is of work-in-progress outside the front door. They never did tile the whole step - maybe next year. The second picture is, to my mind, so Russian that I couldn't not show it. Inside the front door the new tiles are looking lovely and the entrance doors and the whole stairwell have been painted. It would be nice to have a doormat to wipe ones feet now that the streets are constantly wet and slushy. But no, doormats could get nicked. So some kind person lays some cardboard for us to wipe our feet. It's just such a paradox: lovely new tiles and a crappy old piece of cardboard. Wonder if my troll is still around - he'll be going his mile if he reads today's blog.

What a nightmare journey back from Sheremetovo yesterday. I had foolishly assumed that because it was Saturday evening the traffic would be light. Big mistake. It took almost an hour to get off the airport spur onto the Leningradka and even then the traffic was crawling. Was I glad to finally get home. Remind me to ALWAYS ALWAYS "let the train take the strain".

Friday, 2 November 2012


On this day in 1960 Penguin Books was cleared of obscenity for publishing D H Lawrence's "Lady Chatterley's Lover". Every schoolboy of my generation will have read it - if only because it was "forbidden fruit". 
Today, of course, it is freely available and considered as art? 
Here is a link to it on Amazon's website, together with the option of "peeking" inside.
How the world has changed in the last 50 years!
Today's photo is on the same subject. The "ad" says:
Intimate cosmetics
Erotic underwear
Sex toys

 This is my 200th blog! Shall I keep going?