Monday, 29 November 2010


I don't know why the stray dogs seem much more obvious in the winter. Do they take summer hols? Anyway, I have also started to see more of them underground; it is a well known Moscow belief that strays travel this way. The dog pictured here has just left the metro through the main doors, where it was waiting patiently and with much dignity to be let out. (I attempt to take quite a few pictures of these dogs; as with this one they seem not to like it much, and turn away as soon as you point a camera. Well, at least that is what I think it is, it might be me being a bit anxious about getting barked at - which has also happened.)

what are they??

I realise that this blog has currently deteriorated into stuff mainly about the weather or food, but my excuse is that I am just incredibly busy at work, and that these subjects concern me a lot.

So, I need help here. I am pretty certain the red things are berberis berries (these have a very delicate white speckled pattern and taste like sour pomegranate seeds) - but what are the green ones on the left? I was at the market with M, who said something about grating them (I am truly sorry for not listening properly) or cutting up and scooping out the fruit. They taste as if a lime and a pear have mated.

Which is a good taste.

at last...

So finally, with only minor flurries of snow, the temperature has plummeted to -18, and everyone is complaining of the cold. But I am loving  the bright blue, clear sunny skies. And interesting hats are back in large numbers...

(As last  year - England is trying to compete. Snow causes chaos and fun across the UK said the Guardian today, with the pictures to prove it.)

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

dairy product of the week: 5

After some delay I have finally got around to trying out a new Russian diary product - Ryazhenka, which is like a yoghurt drink. This was kindly given to me by U and O, as a healthy thing post-operation. (I have also been given Kefir, which I don't dislike, but get no enjoyment whatsoever from drinking).

So, I was pleasantly surprised. Its quite nice.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

rainy days

Having what I would call English weather in Moscow. Grey, overcast, scudding grubby clouds and endless drizzle, puddles. Oh, and dark by 5.00 pm. Day after day. Mid-November and still no proper snow. I have been asking around and what I took as a normal winter here -  the glorious cold but bright days we (mainly) had last year - turns out to have been pretty unusual.

So, lots more greyness to come....

handy hints for travellers 14: being in hospital

Hope it doesn't happen to you; but here are my hints if you end up in a public hospital in Moscow. This, of course, is only my experience (and of one particular hospital and I think I was pretty lucky) so would appreciate any additional advice from others...

1. Bring your own cutlery - at the minimum a spoon. Most people had their own plates and cups also. Actually things seemed pretty clean, but I guess only 'washed up' rather than sterilised.

2. Food provided is low-level edible, but good to have extra supplies if possible. Otherwise there was always bread and a very weak, watery coffee available (see photo above).

3. Bring your own nightclothes and 'indoor slob' clothes (must be a better name, but I mean the relatively disreputable but very comfortable stuff most Russians - and me - wear indoors) .  I was stripped naked for surgery and felt quite lucky to be given a (temporary) nightgown when I woke up.

4. Remember your slippers - these are essential in any Russian indoor situation, but of course come into their own in hospital. One day I will get the etiquette of when to wear/when to remove, but not yet.

5. Expect few niceties. No curtains around bed, or privacy during examinations. Bed-sheets changed about once a week.


7. It is assumed you have family or friends who will help out, bring you treats etc. My surgeon asked crossly why my children were not there to help (though I don't see how that would have helped the language problem we were having at the time).

8. Valuables and clothes were 'signed in' before my operation; then taken to some distant and impregnable store. So don't do what I do. Keep your mobile phone and anything else you are going to need immediately after an operation with your clothes. It took me several days to find out how to collect my important stuff (permissions required and much signing of paperwork), that the store closes over the weekend and that I was required to stagger in my pyjamas across the whole hospital campus - a small town in its own right -  to personally collect them. I never again want to be stuck in hospital without a phone.

9. Most doctors and nurses will expect some form of tip, with varying degrees of effect on the quality of services provided. I have no idea about amounts, as this was done for me. It certainly relates to the fact that surgeons and doctors seem to be paid below the average wage for Moscow. I couldn't find accurate figures for 2010, but in 2008 doctors in polyclinics were getting 20,000 rubles a month (400 pounds or US$826).

10. The word больно (which I pronounce bolnoi) - meaning (it) hurts-  was very useful when I was prodded, along with saying OY, which is the Russian version of OUCH.

Unity Day

5th November, National Unity Day. Missed it.

traffic again

It was a surreal experience attempting to rush through Moscow traffic in an ambulance. There is a technique it seems, which involves driving down the middle of the 10 lanes of cars going each way in the vague hope that 1.) drivers will or can give way and 2.) you don't meet an emergency vehicle or equivalent trying the same thing in the other direction.

Started out sitting in an upright position, with wide open eyes and mouth  as we edged forward in jerks and near misses. Then, after some considerable time had to lie down, to find that this (non) movement was periodically interrupted with what felt like driving over very rough ground (as over a field).

When we finally got to the hospital, the ambulance driver came and apologised for having to drive over flower-beds (I still have no idea what this actually means in the Moscow context).

Note: I stole this picture from EnglishRussia as, not surprisingly, I didn't have my camera with me. Many thanks to them, great site.