>> Monday, 28 November 2011
...when your child is living too secular a life?
>> Sunday, 27 November 2011
>> Thursday, 24 November 2011
>> Wednesday, 23 November 2011
>> Monday, 21 November 2011
I think that perhaps I should be quite offended.
>> Sunday, 20 November 2011
>> Friday, 18 November 2011
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."
>> Thursday, 17 November 2011
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...
>> Wednesday, 16 November 2011
>> Tuesday, 15 November 2011
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.
>> Monday, 14 November 2011
How do you know you've lost that sartorial edge?
>> Thursday, 10 November 2011
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.
>> Tuesday, 8 November 2011
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.
>> Monday, 7 November 2011
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.
Frankly it's the sort of thing which, if I owned any of the appliances they are currently messing about with would give me kittens, but since I don't, I'm just enjoying the show.
The thing is, in my non-Russian speaking bubble, right now I have no idea what's going on. For all I know, the conversation could be as follows:
Young Mild-Mannered Foreman: "Come on guys. I know it's early but we need to get this sorted out."
Workman #1: "That's easy for you to say. You haven't got at dishwasher balancing on your head. What did the stupid cow do to break the washing machine anyway?"
Workman #2: "God knows. These westerners and their crazy wash-every-day ideas. Every one knows you don't need clean clothes every day. No wonder the damn thing's broken "
Silence, broken only by panting and puffing...
Workman #3 (head under the sink): "Would it be out of the question to light up a quick fag, do you think?"
Workman #4: "Better not. You know how arsy they get about that type of thing. Not a decent ashtray in the place as far as I can see. Somebody pass me the monkey wrench?"
Workman #2 "What am I, your servant? Get it yourself, Comrade!"
Workman 4: "Comrade? That's behind us now. I don't need to answer to you, commissar."
Mild-Mannered Foreman: "Hey! Hey! Stop with the political discussions and eyeing up the chocolate biscuits and pass him the monkey wrench for pete's sake. We're all new Russians now. Right. One, two, three, lift..."
Workman #1: "Watch out for the laminate flooring! It's brand new! We didn't take up the perfectly decent parquet for you to scratch Ikea's finest laminate that we replaced it with."
Silence and more wheezing...
Workman 3: "OK. One previously perfect Samsung out - one slightly ropy Ariston alternative in. Give it a wipe down with your handkerchief, comrade, and let's be off."
Workman 2: "Let's see how long it takes the Western Imperialists idiots to break this one with their compulsive washing habits... We do know she doesn't understand us, I take it?"
>> Sunday, 6 November 2011
>> Saturday, 5 November 2011
>> Friday, 4 November 2011
...for her children than to stay in the kitchen cutting up pizza for them whilst the volleyball scene from Top Gun is on...
>> Thursday, 3 November 2011
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.