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Sunday, 22 December 2013

279: White Square

Went to visit Red White Square yesterday to help get myself in the mood for Christmas & New Year.
Here are a few photos to show how Red Square is looking at the moment all dolled up for the festive season. 

This week was worthy of note. Not only because yesterday (21st December) was the shortest day and we will start to get more daylight, but also because it was the anniversary of Joseph Stalin's birth. Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili was born on 18 December 1879 in Gori, Georgia. Here is what the BBC History page has to say about him. (I mean the hyperlink, not the video)

Friday, 13 December 2013

278 - Turn right at the didgeridoo!

My well-earned break in Malaga is almost at an end. It has been great to slow down the pace of life and simply potter about, tinkering with my I.T. systems (how sad is that!) and going for slow runs along the beach as the waves from the Mediterranean lap against the sand.
Back to Moscow, via Gatwick and Heathrow, tomorrow night. The temperature has ranged from a slightly chilly +9 in the early morning and late evening up to a very pleasant +20 in the afternoon. Sunshine!
Why the strange title? On the way to the hotel room there is a collection of bamboo on display and it reminded me of a didgeridoo - the instrument made famous by Rolf Harris before he too became tainted by the fall-out from being an entertainer in the 60s.

All these people turned out to welcome us to Malaga!

A reminder of President Kennedy's speech in Berlin when he called himself a doughnut! The joys of language!

Note the beggars at the gates.

My video clip is from 1969 and shows Rolf Harris "singing" Jake the peg. Enjoy.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

277: flight delayed, but so what

Anyone who has ever travelled anywhere by train in Russia will be able to identify with these photos. Looking out of the window, there are trees everywhere, mile after mile after mile. This was just on the 45 minute journey from Moscow out to Domodedovo airport but I've been on longer journeys (20 hours+) where trees begin to bore you. Russia could exist for ever making and selling matches!

This next photo is the wintry view through the window of the S7 business lounge at Domodedovo airport. I dithered for ages and ages about treating myself to a card to give me access to business lounges so I can relax before the flight (Domodedovo at the weekend is like Wembley stadium on cup final day). Already I am pleased I decided to "waste" the money because today's flight to UK has been delayed due to a software "glitch" at Swanwick Air Traffic Control centre. Have to take care not to drink too many free beers though - must save myself for the G&T on the plane, and wine with dinner. I've picked a seat right at the back of the 747 jumbo jet and, with luck, perhaps there'll be nobody else there and I can stretch out across several seats. A well-seasoned, and sometimes half-pickled, traveller.

The video clip could only be "leaving on a jet plane"from John Denver. Apologies if I've posted it already. One day, I'll catalogue the photos and videos on the blog. One day!

Word perfect? Marvellous, I haven't drunk too much then! Nice weekend everybody.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

276: Relationship difficulties!

The daughter of my sister (i.e. my niece) has just given birth to a 7lb 5oz girl, who they will call Emily. Congratulations to Sarah, and to Rob of course, as he obviously had some input into the proceedings.
In English I am now a great-uncle. Great.
In Russian I am now a двоюродный grandfather! I shall be having a few conversations with my Russian students over the next day or so in order to try and get my head around that concept.

The temperature here in Moscow is going up and down more often than a tart's drawers. Can I use slang like that on a blog?  Yesterday the temperature was -7 to -10 and every was slippery. I had to walk like David Suchet's Poirrot. Today there has been a big thaw and the temperature has risen to +1. There is slush (слякать) everywhere. Almost needed a boat.
I'm really looking forward to next week when I will be in Malaga and the sun should be shining and the temperature should be in the region of +15. Not enough for a sun tan but enough to lift the spirits.
For my song I have chosen Barbara Streisand singing, of course, Emily. Couldn't find lyrics - sorry.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

275: What a difference a day makes...

Winter, at last.
Yesterday +2, today -6 and snow.

Notice the birds and the bird feeder in the picture on the right ->

Monday, 25 November 2013

274: Bletchley Park and Alan Turing

I'm back in Moscow, nose to the grindstone.
Last week, in UK, I visited Bletchley Park with some of my family. A very interesting place, I've been there several times, it is where our brightest mathematicians worked, in great secrecy, during the Second World War breaking the codes produced by the German enigma machine. It is said that the war would have gone on a lot longer without their efforts. 
I heard one of the guides there saying that any military action taken as a result of a successful decoding had to be corroborated by other means in order to ensure that the Germans remained unaware that their codes were being deciphered. For example, if there was a message about naval movements in such and such a location on such and such a date then aerial reconnaissance would take place to suggest to the Germans that a chance finding by the Royal Air Force was the reason for their fleet being found and attacked.
Probably the brightest mathematician of all was a guy called Alan Turing. Unfortunately for him, he was a gay as well as a guy and homosexuality at that time was illegal. After the war he was put on trial for "gross indecency" and offered a punishment of either prison or chemical castration. He accepted treatment of female hormones but less than two years later, in 1954, he died as a result of cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined that his death was suicide but others suggested it was an accident. (Oh-oh, whoops, I've just swallowed the wrong tablet!)

For my video clip today I've included a very moving "flashmob" performance of Beethoven's 9th, better known as "ode to joy". 

Monday, 11 November 2013

273: Remembrance. 11th hour on 11th day of 11th month.

Yesterday was Remembrance Sunday. There was a military parade at the cenotaph in Whitehall and the Queen and many many others laid wreaths to remember those who gave their lives in the service of the country. The video clip comes first in today's blog. The nation was silent for 2 minutes at 11.00.

Next, a few more photos showing graffiti - to re-emphasize that there is 'good' graffiti in Russia as well as 'bad' These photos show some of the work of Nikita Nomerz in Nizhniy Novgorod.

Artists, though, can sometimes be 'unusual' people. Compare and contrast these pictures which, in my view, are quite magnificent, with the 'artist' who yesterday nailed himself by the scrotum !! to the cobblestones on Red Square. By the scrotum! Ouch!

To finish for today, two pictures of lifts: Schindler's lift (list) and one of the lifts in my block of flats.

Monday, 4 November 2013

272: Solnechnogorsk

Solnechnogorsk is a medium sized town on the "Leningradka", the main road from Moscow to St Petersburg. Traffic flows through it day and night. I say flows but the sheer volume means it is often just crawling. I spent last weekend there with a friend, who I met when I was at the military academy taking part in a United Nations Monitoring Officer's (UNMO) course in 2006 (when I was still serving). The military academy is called Vystrel and it has shrunk considerably. There is a fence around a small part of it but many of the old buildings are outside this fence and are boarded up and slowly decaying. It all looks very sad.
The town itself is a mix of old and new: old wooden houses still being lived in, a few "kommunalkas", some 5 floor concrete panel buildings and some more modern tall (20 floors +) structures blocking out the light of their smaller neighbours.
The first 3 photos are from my time there in 2006 - it's amazing how much vodka you can get in a helmet!

The second group shows some of the work of one enterprising citizen to try and brighten up the environment for people's enjoyment. She has created what her sign calls a fairy tale glade. We saw her working away on her creation while we were passing. It is a labour of love and I do hope it's not vandalised too quickly.

On this day, in 1956, Soviet troops invaded Hungary and crushed the popular uprising that had begun in October. Here is the BBC take on the invasion.
And a video clip

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

271:An Indian summer?

They say that the sun always shines on the righteous but this year it is finally shining on me. One or two nice days in UK last week, before the St Jude's day storm broke on Sunday night, and now it looks as though we're going to have an Indian summer (бабье лето) here in Russia. 
I've just looked on the weather forecast for the rest of the week and had my enthusiasm dampened. After today we're not due to see the sun again for at least the rest of the week. Never mind. такова жизнь!
Here are a couple of photos of churches I came across in my travels around the city. The first one is a Roman Catholic cathedral and the second one isn't!

On this day in 1961 the Soviet Union tested a thermo-nuclear device - at 58 megatons the largest explosion ever recorded.
This leads me nicely to my song for the day: Barry MacGuire singing "on the eve of destruction". I think perhaps we were. Maybe we still are.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

270:Oh what a beautiful morning

What a wonderful bright and crispy autumnal day here in Cambridgeshire. There isn't a cloud in the sky. A very quick blog today so I can get out and do some work in the garden while there is still the opportunity.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

269:The "real" Russia?

I commend to you this superb article from the New York Times describing some of the villages on the road from St Petersburg to Moscow.
A journey through a heartland on the slow road to ruin.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

268: Art for art's sake

One or two blogs ago I complained about the eyesore that is graffiti. Today's first photo shows that graffiti is not yet endemic and people are taking some very positive steps to brighten up their environment.
The second and third photos help to illustrate the marvellous autumnal weekend we are experiencing. The sun is shining and people are out in their hundreds and thousands walking in the parks and taking the air - before winter engulfs us.
Finally, a view from the other side of my apartment (in English you can't say a view from the back side as it has a completely different meaning. See picture 5!)

Today's song: Art for art's sake from 10 CC.