Friday, 3 June 2011

On Spring

The winter may have been long, but I thouroughly enjoyed it.  Spring however, was a little on the short side.  It is now the end of May and I can already feel in my bones the itchiness of the sun and the heat of the mosquitoes.  A nawing regret that the snow doesn't fall anymore and the unbearable face rubbing that comes from hayfever.

The start of the snow melt and bluebird skies

Yes the spring came, the spring went, and in its path it has left a Moscow that is starting to come alive.  The old, sour faced women on the metro have been replaced by short dresses and the smiles of beautiful girls.  There are beer gardens crowding the pavements, and there are people drinking into the wee small hours of the night (not that that didn't happen before, they can just do it outside with even more gusto).  The small pangings that i had had for the tropical climes of Cambodia have been replaced by a deep longing for "real rain."  So far ive only experienced itt at a BBQ picnic, which turned out to be a complete an utter wash out.

Beer gardens and shaslik at Victory Park

Relaxing in the shade at Patriarch's Pond

The snow melt in some places was a thing to behold.  Whole areas of land that had been glaciated simply became marshland and then grassy fields in a matter of days.

Marshland at Kuntsevo

Taking the snow away

Spring was interesting month alright.  It brought my parents to Moscow: thankfully they had great weather and a great time.  They met the girl and the girl met them, which went very well (of course), and my mother experienced her (first?) stadium gig.

Parents and Ukrainian vodka

Roger Waters was great gig.  The Wall being built behind the performers in the first half of the show, they then performing on the outside in the second half, and finally knocking it down! What a great experience, and one that I dont think can be repeated.

The Wall

Spring also brought a holiday to Kaliningrad (worthy of at least one blog of its own, probably 2), a place that is Russia, but is not in Russia, and a great, but more importantly, relaxing time was time was had!

Kaliningrad Gothic Cathedral

Spring is also the season of not teaching teenagers/kids, so I should have more time to blog (sorry Anna!), whether i will is a different matter (really, very sorry Anna!).

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

On hot weather and no hot water

I have no hot water.  This saddens me.  I won't have any hot water until the 10th of June.  This really saddens me.  It is starting to get hot on a regular basis.  This (to borrow a G.W.Bism) miserablises me.  I have hayfever. This also miserablises me.  I am, however, happy, content and not at all complaining about this point in my life.  I am indeed, a martyr.  More to follow....

Friday, 22 April 2011

Strange goings on...

Over the past few weeks I have continually seen the below sign spray painted all over the centre of Moscow.  I have no idea what it means or what it is for, but I thought that I would share it anyway.  If there is anyone in Moscow who knows what it means do tell... 

And in other news, this lonely shoe was found this week and I am dedicating this to
Sergeant William Schumann of Wag the Dog fame.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Exciting Times

Golden tickets of loveliness...

In a couple of weeks my parents will be visiting this fair city.  Having failed to brave the humidity and the general melee of Phnom Penh, I think that the late Spring thunderstorms of Moscow will be more up their indivdual streets.  I will be giving a grand tour of: my flat, some of the architecture, some restaurants...maybe a bar or two, and The Olympic Stadium, as on the Saturday of the trip we will be going to Roger Waters perform The Wall.  This is the first thing that I have been generally excited about in a long time.  A once in a lifetime concert, in Moscow, alongside The Old Man who introduced me to their music, it should be a great, great evening.  The tickets have been collected and paid for, now I'm just hopping with excitement, but hoping, praying and that he doesn't cancel...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

On 2010 (belatedly)

2010 was a year of contrast.  It began with fireworks and a party on a beach in a tropical country:

1 minute to go...

To freezing temperatures, mountains of snow and yet still a barbeque, and the obligatory fireworks:

Dacha and Barbeque

It was the start of my teaching career proper, I travelled to 4 different countries, including a new country for the first time since 2008.  I went walking for the first time in the Lake District.  I made a considerable effort to put on weight, and failed miserably.  I became closer to some people, grew further part from others, and left some people, sadly, behind.  2010 provided potential that is already turning 2011 into a great year.

The Lake District (minus any lakes)

The summit, Hintertux, Austria

If experiences are what makes the man, then 2010 definitely helped to make me.  Living in the crazy city, dealing with things on a day to day basis that are not required in the heart of deepest darkest Newcastle or Wolsingham.  Seeing new places in Cambodia, and taking as much as possible in, remembering not to forget, has probably produced a more rounded me, who is now even less likely to be surprised by what I see.

The first few months in Moscow are badly documented here, but the transition from a teacher of the same four classes every day to different classes and abilities daily has been enjoyable, if not challenging.  Size may matter, but as long as you do a good job and keep an open mind then sometimes Moscow seems just as small as Phnom Penh; just not as hot....yet.

Friday, 1 April 2011

On the End of Winter

The grass is just starting to poke through the still lying snow here, in sunny old Moscow, so I thought about the right time to reflect on what was, and sometimes continues to be a very long, cold winter.

After a lovely, warm ice-storm

I thought I was Billy Big Balls arriving in Moscow.  Yeah, it's going to be cold, and yeah, there is going to be snow, but come on, I'm from the North East, I've skied in Scotland for many a long year, and I've skied in Canada in early February where temperatures are similar.  Well, I can honestly say that I have enjoyed most of the winter, but it has, at times, become unbelievably cold.

On leaving the house there were always two ways to tell how cold it was; how fast my earphones froze and how fast my nostril hair froze.  At one point during the winter I was sporting a beard and just taking one or two breaths would produce a frost on my upper lip.  On one evening I thought that a bottle of water had broken in my bag as my legs felt so cold and wet from the frost on my frozen trousers.

Children make the most of winter, outside my flat they made an ad-hoc ice-slide

Only once can I remember the cold truly getting to me and I started to mildly worry about the damage I might be doing to my body.  It was night, at about 21:45 and I started to wait for a bus.  I waited.  And I waited.  And I waited.  After ten minutes it was nigh on impossible to stay still.  After twenty minutes I started to feel pain in my big toes.  After thirty minutes my whole body was shivering uncontrollably.  After forty minutes I got in a taxi and bit the rouble bullet.  I was still shivering twenty minutes later.

The snow itself took its time arriving, but once it did it barely let up.  The snow quickly accumulates and because it is so cold, it just doesn't melt.  This means that you can, day by day, watch small glaciers appear all over the city.  Whether it's on underused pavements, or, on grass verges, the snow piles up.  There is an army of city employees who chip away at the frozen pavements, or, more likely, wake you up every morning scraping the snow from the paths and back roads.  I have only fallen over 3 far anyway.

The army at work

Today however was a beautiful sunny day, and may it be the first of many to come.  I do hope I don't fall over in the dry weather.  Now, if we could also have a thunderstorm this week that would be perfect....

A winter wonderland:

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

On my first winter in 2 years

After an unusually warm autumn, winter finally struck Moscow last week.  Whilst the UK and other parts of Northern Europe were engulfed in snow showers and plummeting temperatures of minus 6 I was enjoying a 15minute walk to some schools in temperatures ranging from minus 15 to minus twenty.  You know it’s cold when you are judging the temperature on how quickly your earphones and trousers freeze.  Yes, the gloves have come out, the hat is being worn and I am abandoning my Northern routes by wearing a coat; it is cold.  I never though that I would think that minus 10 was warm, but last week that was every new teachers thought.

For the last 6months of the 8months I was in Cambodia I waited and I prayed for the Russian winter I was expecting and now that it is here it is living up to expectations.  With one let down.

There is not enough snow.

Whilst Wolsingham, Newcastle and all other places in the UK have been getting record snow fall, snow depth in Moscow has barely reached 3inches.  It may stay for an incredible amount of time; the snow from last Saturday night has barely receded but there is still not enough of the stuff for my personal liking.

Anyway, here’s hoping and praying for some more snow and a long cold, but sunny, winter!

The pond by my house in October

And again taken on 4th December

Kids playing on the ice with the power station
chimney stack as a majestic backdrop