Sunday, 19 December 2010

not all nice

Actually the shouts in the stairwell were initially quite unnerving. One of my young Russian colleagues was too scared to come to work some of last week because of the massive recent violence in Moscow against people who look like they are from the Caucasus.  See You in Moscow, which is usually an art blog, captures the threat of the current situation resonantly; while the Moscow News is its usual more vague self.

So now I know I live somewhere trendy

My neighbourhood is very like bits of East London - rundown with several derelict factories  but also with pockets of cultural activity (Winzavod, ArtPlay) and many bright young things in evidence at weekends. But now I know the area has really arrived. Instead of the usual drunks on the stairs, there has been a many-personed film crew occupying several floors for the whole day. With the whole works, including external floodlights.

And they have kindly given us extra graffiti, together with a considerable amount of shouting, music and chasing about.


This is one aimed at everyone in Britain who has been reduced to a standstill by the weather. Just to mention that Moscow has only about an inch of snow and yet this afternoon I saw 5 snow ploughs, 2 dumper trucks and my favourite device (above) - the snow-gobbler.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

One-offs: number two

And this is the only disabled lift into an underpass I have seen (there is one on the other side of the street too which was both a relief and - in a way - a surprise.) Again, other sightings appreciated.

One offs: number one

This is the only set of re-cycling bins I have seen anywhere in Moscow - when I walked past them with a Russian colleague he laughed out loud. I know it is not a popular pastime here, but there must be more.....

double doors

I must stop  extrapolating from my neighbours' behaviours to Russian habits and tendencies in general. This is not only because of the poor logic involved in making such assumptions, but also because things here continue to be a little eccentric and singular.

For example, I now have a new, new front door.  I thought this was because the initial one was a rather tinny Chinese-made version which was going to be replaced because it was not secure enough. But, no, what I now have is another door immediately inside the old new one - so immediately inside that the door handles easily become entangled.

To this must be added the fact that the the handle on the new (inside) door does not work very well, so tends to get jammed. The new door, it transpires, is not for extra security - because the key has not been fitted properly - but for extra warmth and acoustic separation. So getting in and out has got a lot more exciting.

And in more neighbour news, I got invited next door last night to see Es collections. Tropical fish, plates from around the world, fridge magnets, coins and paper money both old and current. And a request to help obtain more of the latter. His flat is absolutely stuffed, not just with collections and ornaments but also with furniture; moving around is almost everywhere done sideways.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

christmas time again

And whilst I am doing GUM, just thought you might like to see the Christmas decorations. Different from last year. Just.

wedding jam

GUM is one of the particular places of choice for wedding parties to go to have their photographs taken. I don't know why this Saturday was so popular, but there were so many different groups they kept bumping into each other. Very enjoyable to watch.

meeting the leaders

Caught Lenin and a mate having lunch together yesterday. They were in an appropriate place, the Russian Stolovaya/столовая in GUM (top floor), one of many contemporary examples of a Soviet-style cheap canteen in Moscow.

Interestingly, Lenin didn't talk to the other guy at all throughout their meal, he was too busy texting on his mobile phone.

And I feel really foolish. Lenin is a pretty good match but who on earth is the other one meant to be? Definitely not Stalin, and can't believe they would do Trotsky even now (certainly not in uniform - and I don't even know what period the uniform is). Help me here....

Note: If you want to know, read the comment below which just increases my embarrassment; he was, after all, a cousin of our own George V. 

Sunday, 5 December 2010

minor improvements

I think I got rather smug (and rather snug) in my previous flats, both of which were modern enough to have proper double glazing. And I think I talked a lot about how indoors in a Moscow winter you only need tee-shirts and underwear.

Well, now I am in a proper Soviet flat, with warped timber windows and a gap wide enough between the double panes for the air in there to get nicely chilled. So, I have finally started to need jumpers indoors. My very sweet landlord turned up this evening (with the helpful neighbour) to implement one of the standard Russian solutions to this problem - a thin, but slightly padded sticky tape around all the joints of the inner window frames.

Whilst he was here we also talked cleaning. I am just no good with those short sweeping brushes made out of dried straw or sticks;  can't seem to get the knack, nor to lose my desire for a more sophisticated broom-like or electrical device. So I have been lent a small vacuum-cleaner for now - with the promise that we will 'refresh' the rugs by beating them (with aforesaid brushes) at a later date. This, it turns out, happens outside and so just waits for a thicker layer of snow as a proper base.