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Thursday, 23 May 2013

241:The Pike and Eel (щука и угорь)

I'm spending this week in UK and decided to spend some of my British Airways delayed flight compensation money by taking some good friends out for a meal. 
We went to the Pike and Eel hotel which nestles by the side of the river Great Ouse in Cambridgeshire. To quote from their website it is "a haven of traditional hospitality". Their usual high standards were maintained with good food and attentive service. 
Here are some pictures to help you visualise the ambience of the hotel and the area around it. Note to Clive - in this day and age it is a good idea to be on your guard 24/7 for rogue snappers to catch you unprepared. I toyed with the idea of airbrushing you out but then it would look as if I was taking your wife out to dinner and tongues would wag.

An amusing item on the BBC Web Site this morning about Churchill and Stalin "making merry" (веселиться) until the small hours. 

For my video clip this morning I wanted to include something with a watery flavour due to the proximity of the Pike and Eel to the river. Here is part 1 of  episode 1 of a modern slant on the Jerome K Jerome classic "3 men in a boat". Enjoy.

Monday, 13 May 2013

240: paint it even if it moves!

Two blogs in two days. You're to blame for this little sister! :)
My first student of the day (you know who you are - no names, no pack-drill), cried wolf and claimed food poisoning. Another excuse to add to the ever-growing list of disingenuous reasons to skip lessons given to me by my students. Don't worry, Andrei (whoops, now I've named him), I'm quite sure you really were unwell. Hope you recover quickly enough for your upcoming trip.

Anyway, the cancellation left me with some spare time to go for a nice (?), invigorating (?), jog round my favourite park - Park Dubki. Hopefully, I've picked up enough endorphins (the happy hormones) to last me through the day.

I need to amend the title of blog 234 "if it doesn't move, paint it." Turns out that's not quite true! I often run around the edge of the park, there's a well-worn track just next to the fence. On my last run there was somebody spray-painting the fence on the outside. If I had not smelt the paint in time and taken evasive action my blue track suit trousers would have quickly turned into black track suit trousers. 

Talking about smells, the snow melt puddles have finally disappeared from the ground. However, I came across a body of water in the SW corner of the park this morning that smells very much as though it isn't snow melt at all, but something much more distasteful! There were manhole covers nearby and I suspect an overflow. Evasive action called for again.

Our son is flying off to Peru next weekend to tread the well-worn path to Machu Picchu. I wish him all the best in his adventure. The title of the song on the video clip is dedicated to him.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

239: goodbye to the guests

Cecilia And Alisdair, friends of long standing, left Moscow this morning by overnight train bound for St Petersburg to begin the second half of their whistle-stop holiday in Russia. I have now replaced my tourist guide's hat with the usual, well-worn, teacher's one.
Their holiday was arranged as part of a package but while they were in Moscow they stepped back from the confines of their organised group and allowed me to be their guide for their all too brief time in Moscow.
On day one we saw Red Square and the changing of the guard at the eternal flame, toured GUM and had coffee and cake in Stolovaya 57, reflected on the inhumanity of man at the State Gulag museum, marvelled at the sculptures outside the Museum of Modern Art, paid the foreigners' inflated prices at the Tretyakov galley and had real Russian ice-cream in Gorkiy Park! 
All in one day!  Their feet didn't touch the ground. 
They didn't get inside the Kremlin itself because the queue was so long. Next time?
On day two we visited the Central Armed Forces museum, near Dostoyevskaya metro station and then the 1939-45 Great Patriotic War museum before embarking on a river boat at Kievskiy Vokzal for a leisurely meander along the river Moskva. In the Central Army museum we two veterans bought Soviet Army ration packs as a souvenir and to remind ourselves of our own experiences with British Field rations. In the Patriotic War museum after viewing many of the exhibits and being held spell-bound by the excellent 3D-like dioramas they were treated to a display of ballroom dancing. A very nice coincidence as they are great dancers themselves.
At the end of the visit, as they were returning by monorail to their hotel, a young man presented Cecilia with three flowers. As she couldn't really take them she kindly gave them to me. Although it is considered slightly (?) effeminate for a man to carry flowers in UK it is perfectly acceptable to do so here so I had no qualms about carrying them through the metro to put them in a makeshift vase in my apartment.
Here are a few photos of the things we saw during their visit and a video clip of Gorkiy Park (the song, not the film based on the excellent book by Martin Cruz Smith). I think we've seen/heard this before but it's my blog so I get to choose!

Dostoyevskiy - think "Crime and Punishment"
Think "crime and punishment" here too! Details on request!

And now for an early night!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013


Acrophobia (the same word in Russian - акрофобия) is the posh word for a fear of heights. Many people have phobias and this is (one of!) mine.
In Moscow I live on the tenth floor of a block of flats. In my mind I am happy with the tenth floor and have lived here harmoniously for a little over four years.
Recently though I acquired a new student who lives on the 15th floor! What a struggle it was in the beginning to talk myself into going THAT high. On the very first visit I acclimatized my brain by going up to the 11th floor, then back down, up to the 12th then back down and so on..... The student was beginning to wonder where I had got to by the time I finally arrived on the 15th floor!
Now, however, I am quite blasé about it. 15 floors - no problem. I'm even managing to look out of his window on the odd occasion. 
You might just be able to make out from the photo that there are 17 floors worth of lift buttons but only the first 15 are shiny. The last two floors don't exist, or if they do the lift doesn't go there. Perhaps the builder ran out of money after building 15 floors.

I have a friend who lives on the 22nd floor. It may take a little while longer before I reach those dizzy heights! We'll see.
Strangely, but happily given the amount of flying I do, I'm OK on aeroplanes. 

Today's video clip has to be the Byrds singing "eight miles high". I've just had a look at the lyrics. They don't make any sense to me. I've reached the conclusion they were implying a different meaning to the word "high". The Wikipedia entry for the song endorses my impression. Apparently this song was among the first of the "psychedelic rock" genre. I was around in the 60s but didn't swing in quite those circles!

Sunday, 5 May 2013

237:Христос воскрес! (Christ has risen) and the puppet theatre

Today it is Easter in the Russian (and Greek ?) Orthodox Church. People say to each other "Христос воскрес" (Christ has risen) and the reply is given "воистину воскрес" (truly). 
There is a much more eloquent description than I could give of what happens during a Russian Easter in "Natasha from Russia"'s blog
but just to whet your appetite here is the picture from her Easter entry:

Yesterday was a rainy day. It rained almost non-stop. To get out of the rain I went to the puppet theatre. It was the first time I had been there but it won't be the last. What a fantastic performance and at the end all the puppeteers came out with their puppets and took a bow. I saw something called "the extraordinary concert" and enjoyed it immensely. And, as a bonus, I understood "most" of what the Master of Ceremonies puppet was saying. Do take a few minutes from your busy day and click on the link - I especially recommend clicking on the embedded video clip to get a flavour of the show.
Here are a few pictures of the museum inside the puppet theatre.