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Thursday, 27 December 2012

215:What a pen and ink!

We've had a major thaw; within 24 hours the temperature rose from -18°C to zero and the snow has melted and turned into slush and yuck. Nice! I think I preferred the cold weather.
Here in Russia it's work as usual on the days between Christmas and New Year (because according to the Russian religious calendar these aren't the days between Christmas and New Year). 
The metro this week has been even more crowded than usual as people come into town for their last minute New Year's presents. This afternoon I spied an empty seat at the far end of the carriage and made for it. It soon became obvious why it was an empty seat. The gentleman (of the road?) sitting opposite, gently snoozing, had obviously decided he would be more comfortable with his shoes off. He probably was but the rest of us weren't. I don't know where he'd been with those plates of meat but the smell was obnoxious. I'm normally able to withstand fairly malodorous pongs but not this time. I stopped only long enough to take the picture and then had to move to the other end of the carriage for some fresher air.

A glossary for my students today as there a few words you may be unfamiliar with:
pen and ink (cockney rhyming slang) = stink,pong запах, вонь
yuck [mass noun]
  • something messy or disgusting:
гадость ?
gentleman of the road = tramp бомж
plates of meat (cockney rhyming slang) = feet ноги
malodorous = foul smelling вонючий, зловонный

Just to finish off, here is a short video clip of a parody of the Queen's Speech, spoken in Cockney rhyming slang! Enjoy

Sunday, 23 December 2012

214:Lavrenti Beria

On this day, in 1953, Lavrenti Beria, one of Stalin's henchmen, was shot for treason. 
"And as you sow, so shall you reap" springs to mind.

Today's photo is another "leaning-out-of-the-window" shot. It is -21 degrees Celsius outside (and due to fall to -28 tomorrow) and I am lucky enough not to have to go out today. Did you know that the two temperature scales, Centigrade (Celsius) and Fahrenheit, converge at -40 before diverging again?
So here is a photo that looks like the sun trying to shine through what looks like some low cloud but I think it is some of the smoke that belches non-stop from chimneys here in Moscow.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

213:The KGB

As many people know, the KGB did not go away after the fall of Communism - and why would they. Every State needs a Secret or Security Service to help look after the internal and external security interests of the State, and the people. As for how much power each Secret Service should have, that is a matter for individual governments to decide. Anyway, as I said, the KGB didn't go away, they just re-branded themselves as the FSB (The Federal Security Service). 
What I'm leading up to is that on this day (20th December) in 1917, Felix Dzerzhinsky, aka* Iron Felix, founded the Cheka, which was the forerunner to the KGB. The square in front of the Lyubyanka (KGB/FSB headquarters), was named after him until 1990. There was a statue of him there but it was removed in 1991. 

To change the tone completely, and before I'm arrested, here is a photo I took the other day of some fur hats (shapkas) on sale just outside Red Square. The colours of some of the hats are very fetching**, don't you think?

*aka = also known as
** fetching, here, is an adjective that means attractive. Sometimes, as in this instance, it can be used sarcastically.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

212:English verb tenses

Sorry for the lack of a recent blog - I have been on holiday. It finishes in about an hour's time so back to the grindstone. I will fly back to Moscow tonight. 
Many thanks to Sasha for this helpful chart of English verb tenses. Hope you enjoy(ed) the pizza - whether you have already eaten it or will soon be eating it.

Couldn't resist this one - you can fool some of the people some of the time!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

211:Mince, mincemeat, mince pies & mincing

A short treatise on the different forms of mince. But first I wanted to say that with this strange weather we are currently experiencing in Moscow - rapid temperature drops followed by rapid rises followed by rapid drops the landscape can change several times in one day: lovely pristine white snow can quickly melt and change into giant puddles and then the temperature suddenly drops again and parts of Moscow turn into an ice rink.
The ice reminds me that it is the time of the year to start mincing again! We use the word to mean walking 'gingerly' but it has another meaning too ((of a man) affectedly dainty in manner or gait; effeminate:) If you don't tread carefully you could easily slip on the ice and there are no local councils here willing to shell out megabucks in compensation for one's lack of attention. Easy to fall head over heels or, for the less sophisticated of my readers, A over T. (No explanations - if you don't know it, you don't know it!)

Back to the mince. Mince pies are enjoyed all year round in UK, but particularly over Christmas. 

They are not made out of mince (фарш) but out of mincemeat (chiefly British a mixture of currants, raisins, sugar, apples, candied peel, spices, and suet, typically baked in pastry:) (начинка для пирога из изюма, яблок, миндаля, сахара, цукатов и пр.). Mincemeat doesn't have any meat in it, not these days anyway, but will often have alcohol - especially brandy.
Mince is minced meat and often used on it's own as mince and potatoes:

or perhaps in a shepherd's pie (minced lamb) or cottage pie (minced beef) (both known in Russian as запеканка):

or, my own favourite, in a spicy chilli con carne:


Monday, 3 December 2012


Not chewing gum (жвачка) but GUM the most famous shop in Moscow on one side of Red Square - the opposite side from Lenin's mausoleum and the Kremlin itself.
I don't normally visit GUM because these days it's full of shops selling designer labels and other things way out of the reach of a teacher's salary. It is currently decked out with decorations to celebrate the New Year.
On Saturday I went to a meeting there, to Stolovaya No.57. A stolovaya (or works  canteen) is a bit of a hangover from Soviet times but this one is rather more elaborate - as you can see from the you tube clip. Don't know when this guy made his video but on Saturday it was heaving with people and the queue was outside the door.

Finally, I just wanted to mention that on this day in 1989 Mikhail Gorbachev and George Bush officially declared the Cold War over! An historic day indeed.