>> Thursday, 29 December 2011
It allows you to record moments like this which would otherwise be lost in the post-Christmas haze...
It allows you to record moments like this which would otherwise be lost in the post-Christmas haze...
My grandmother is 98 years old. She is a feisty lady, who knows what she wants in life - as evidenced by this recent conversation with my mother during the run up to the festive season...
So which one of you jokers out there knew that cutting up a pumpkin would give me brown stained fingers and palms, and chose not to tell me?
I lost a friend. Not today, not yesterday, and not in the eternal sense; as far as I know, she's still out there, somewhere. Scratch that: she's not 'somewhere' - I know exactly where she is. It's just that wherever she is, it's not in my life, not any more.
No, please. Let me. Leave my hat on, that is. Because 'that' time of year has arrived — The Time Of The Eternal Hat.
I've never had an easy relationship with head-gear. Throughout my childhood I managed to avoid them as a rule. Sure, there was my uneasy truce with a dun bobble-hat when I was in the Brownies, and then the airline stewardess look-alike cap I had as a Girl Guide — the things I did for Queen and Country — but overall, I was always aware that generally, hats were not for me.
I'm not sure why that was. Oh, alright, I know exactly why that was. I have a big head and fine hair, a disastrous combination for any aspiring hat-wearer, and one that invariably tends to leaves me either looking like I borrowed my younger sibling's titfer (hat on), or (once I've taken it off) with hair so lank, straight, and flat against my head that I might as well have tipped a vat of cooking oil over myself. Not, I am sure you will agree, desirable outcomes in either case.
But, here I am in Moscow. Where the temperature for, oh, I don't know, five or six months of the year is so inclement that only a fool would venture outside without 'protection.' At times, it gets so cold here that if you are silly enough to set foot on the street without a hat, you will be accosted by well-meaning but more than a little scary babushkas berating you for your idiocy and prophesying doom in the form of cold, pneumonia and imminent death if you don't immediately put the woolly bobble hat your mum knitted for you back on. (Mind you, they make the same pronouncements about drinking beverages with ice in them, so...)
But this s the start of my third winter here, and having spent the previous two in an adequately warm but frankly unstylish wool confection from (name deleted to protect the innocent), I was determined that this year, THIS YEAR, I would find the perfect hat.
Reader, I promise you, I tried. It's not as if Moscow is short on hats. They come in every shape, size and material, and surely there must be at least one within my price range to suit? But therein lies the problem — the "within my price range" disclaimer. Certainly, I saw lots of beautiful hats. Some of them — in the right light and with half-squinted eyes — actually suited me. But amongst the ones I could afford? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. If only I could make like my sons and simply throw whatever happened to be warmest and fit me on top of my head.
Instead, I've ended up with a velour number that looks distressingly like the sort of thing your grandmother would sport on a trip to the dentist and which, whilst it fits, doesn't even keep my ears that warm. To add insult to injury, despite it's being too loose, it still manages by some Moscow static magic to glue my hair to the sides of my head by the time I take it off, leaving me with a daily dilemma: add 40 years to my age and keep my hat on inside like some misplaced Edwardian lady on sabbatical from a BBC drama, or remove the offending item and look instead like a drowned rat?
This post first appeared over at my other blog, 'Diaries of a Moscow Mum' , on The Moscow Times.
I am addicted to cheese.
...not yet, anyway. But check on this blog and you might be forgiven for thinking that it is, because today, instead of joining in with Silent Sunday as I usually do (but can't because the weather has been so gloomy I haven't been inspired to take a single photo this week), I'm taking my cue - again - from Tara and answering her question about which is my favourite Christmas song.
...when your child is living too secular a life?
I think that perhaps I should be quite offended.
Sitting at the Boys' school yesterday, fruitlessly trying to sell tickets for a forthcoming event (yes, I AM that masochist you see sitting in the hallway with a fixed grin and an empty cash-box in front of them), I was chatting with a friend. "Do you still blog?" she asked - more to fill the time than anything else, I suspect. "Yes, I do, actually." "And how's it going?" "Well enough. It keeps me busy, what with my normal blog (The Potty Diaries) and the blog I have over at The Moscow Times."
Tara over at Sticky Fingers is running a fabulous competition right now, to win a Tassimo hot chocolate maker.* Despite the fact that I'm not in the UK right now I have entered, and - what? I live in Moscow and if there's any place in the world where you need - that's right, NEED - hot chocolate, it's right here, right now and that gadget is mine I tell you mine! And - breathe...
This post first appeared over at my other blog, 'Diaries of a Moscow Mum' on The Moscow Times website
I spent the last four days in London, without my family. This was an interesting experience because not having the children to entertain and wrangle freed my attention sufficiently to notice a few things that I wouldn't normally remark upon. Perhaps it's because I used to be too close to the city — it was my benchmark of "normal" — whereas now, nearly two years after leaving, my expectations and measures of "normal" have changed.
Once upon a time, for example, I would not have been at all surprised by courtesy as a part of everyday life. On this visit, however, I was impressed to see how many people were polite to each other. And I'm not just talking about the service culture being a little more established over there than it is here, no, this is politeness as a two-way street. Not only were cashiers, servers, waiters and suchlike helpful and polite to their customers, but — get this — their customers were polite back!
No grunting, no muttering, no avoidance of eye-contact, no shouting across restaurants waving your hand in the air for service. Instead, people were politely chatting at tills, exchanging pleasantries (invariably about the weather; the British do run true to type on this one), and even smiling at each other.
There could be any number of reasons for this difference in day-to-day life between what I experience here in Moscow and what I saw in London. It could be that I just happened to strike lucky while visiting the latter. Certainly, if you speak to a Londoner, they will say that it is a very unfriendly place to live these days and remark on how standards have dropped. It could be that that people are simply glad to either have a job selling products or the money to spend on them given the economic gloom in the country. Or, it could be that my benchmark for common courtesy has been significantly lowered by my time here.
At the risk of offending a city of 16 million people, I suspect that it is the last of those.
I understand that Moscow is a hard place to live. Money is tight everywhere, the traffic is terrible, the weather is often inhospitable. Families live in close quarters, competition is fierce, you never know what's coming tomorrow. The world is a frightening place, and it's tempting to batten down the hatches and simply conserve the energy it takes to engage socially with another human being at the supermarket, the petrol station, or the cafe, and save it for the fight.
I also know that many people believe there have been great strides in recent years, and to a certain extent that's true. Certainly the goods and services you can access here nowadays are not so different from those "back home." But a decent service culture is only a part of the puzzle and is unlikely to be achieved without some positive feedback from those on the receiving end.
Moscow is a great and exciting city, as I'm constantly telling those who've never visited. But from my limited viewpoint, I would venture to say that life could be so much easier if we were all a little nicer to each other.
It's all very well to expect service with a smile. But you can expect it all you like; you won't see anywhere near as much of it if you aren't prepared to give one in return.
How do you know you've lost that sartorial edge?
May I point your attention in this direction? Having uploaded my blog to Netmums some time back, I promptly forgot all about it, so being singled out as Blog of the Week was a doubly nice surprise when I found out about it this evening.
An acquaintance of mine was talking recently about how, having written his Christmas list at the end of September, her son announced last week that it was now out of date and he had changed everything on it. Everything. Which, if you are as poorly organised as I am, not doing your present shopping until a week before the big day, would be no biggie, but this lady is slightly better sorted than me.
The eagle-eyed reader may have spotted a reference in one of last week's posts to the fact that we moved house recently. Not far - 200m, to be precise - but it is a different house, it did require a total boxing up of all our possessions (so they could rattle precariously from one side of the compound to the other on the back of a flatbed truck), and, of course, now that we're in, it also requires a number of visits from The Workmen.
...for her children than to stay in the kitchen cutting up pizza for them whilst the volleyball scene from Top Gun is on...
It's half term here in our corner of Expatville and unlike most of our peers, we did not head for the hills the moment the school bell rang last Friday afternoon. We stayed put, brave and trusty souls that we are and have been forging our way through the wasteland that is Moscow without school, scheduled activities or - crucially -playdates.
Yesterday Husband and I decided to exercise our Culture muscles and expose ourselves and The Boys to a little more than Halloween candy and dvd's for a change, and headed off on a trip to The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in downtown Moscow. We ignored the round the block queues for the Salvador Dali exhibition, and instead joined a much shorter one that gave us access to two exhibitions; Kandinsky and Annie Leibovitz. The former was interesting, although not very extensive, but the latter was amazing.
It is too early for a Christmas post.
So apparently we should expect our first - proper - snow of the season in Moscow this week. In a way, I will be glad to see it; Autumn here can be beautiful - and currently things are considerably brightened up by the all the golden leaves floating around - but even in the occasional sunshine there is the spectre of Winter looming in the background. It's almost like a 'well, we might as well get on with it' feeling - for me, anyway.