Monday, 31 May 2010

Don't pukh me...

'cause I'm close to the edge...

Looks like snow, doesn't it? Don't be fooled; it's +22degCelsius here. No, the white spots on that picture are the result of it's being пух season in Moscow. This transposes into the Latin alphabet roughly as pukh (the 'kh' pronounced as the 'ch' in 'loch'), and refers to the vast quantities of down that float through the air at this time of year. I spent a frustrating half hour this morning trying to photograph it, but the photo above was the best I could do, so instead I'll have to use words to describe this seeming summer snow that arrives like a blizzard in the city every May and June.

It's the fluff that female poplar trees give out when they're feeling frisky (never knew trees had 'needs', did you?), and it's a real problem here. What normally happens - what should happen - is that the female poplar tree, once it works out through some mysterious tree tomtom that the seeds it's released have been fertisilised will stop producing them, so in most places the pukh season is - whilst quite pretty - mercifully brief.

Except, in Moscow. Enter Stalin.

Having built his mega-city of Moscow, it appears that he became depressed by the preponderance of concrete and the lack of green, so he ordered a few - if you can call 400,000 a 'few' - poplar trees to break things up, lift the spirits and ease the soul a little. There was just one problem which no-one had the nerve to point out. No-one told him that trees come in male and female, or that the consequence of ordering only the female of the species was that they become increasingly frustrated and rather than stopping production in a few days, as would happen normally, put out vast quantities of pukh for a much longer period of time.

I'm incredibly lucky not to be an allergy sufferer (unlike many others who are currently beating a trail to their doctors and hospitals), because there literally is no escape from this stuff. It gets everywhere, creeping in through open doors and windows, drifting into corners, piling up in drifts against the pavements, and even - during dry weather - causing a fire hazard when a spark or lit cigarette butt (of which there are many in this country of devoted smokers) touch it, as it's highly flammable.

Click here for the full story if you're interested. Personally I just want this itchy annoying stuff to go away, especially since I lost my prized sunglasses today - which I was wearing to protect my contact lenses from constant attack by it. Well, actually as a result of my own forgetfulness and leaving the glasses on a restaurant table, but I wouldn't have needed to wear them in the first place if there had been no pukh in evidence, so in my mind, it's those frustrated poplar trees fault. They owe me a new pair of Maui Jims.

I mean, frustrated poplar trees? What next?


  1. Funny. I don't remember that at all, and yet it must have happened. In fact I don't think I noticed the trees either. What was I doing for a year?!

    Hope you find the glasses. I lost my prescription sunglasses this weekend too. SO ANNOYING (not to mention expensive).

  2. Thanks PlanB, but sadly I think the glasses are gone for good - I left them in a not very expensive restaurant, and if I was a waiter here earning what they earn, who happened across a nice pair of sunnies, well... Serves me right.

  3. Fascinating. It's sort of 'Lack of Sex and the City' plant-style.

    Poor Poplars - perhaps it's time to start a 'Russian Tree Brides' online?

  4. The boys managed to stand on my sunglasses at the weekend and break them.

    I have just bought a pair from the supermarket. Oh, what is the world coming to.......

    Fascinating about the trees. There is a lot of fluff in the air here too - I don't know what trees is it coming from, but people with allergies are suffering terribly.

  5. Sexually frustrated poplar trees - I love your topic.

    I feel bad for you for the glasses. I just got some new ones, and I would mourn their loss.

  6. I'll just bet you that someone will google sexually frustrated trees and bobs your uncle, they'll find your blog. I hate that fluffy stuff. Yet another reason Moscow isn't on my top list of places to live

  7. It seems especially bad this year.

    The pukh, I mean.

  8. It does look very pretty - who knew a tree could feel frisky!

  9. Well, you learn something new every day.

    How on earth do the trees know whether their seeds have or haven't been fertilised?

  10. in our courtyard the maintenance guy whips out his lighter and burns it up - one way to get rid of it I guess!


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