Thursday 29 August 2013

Putting on the glitz.

This is a sponsored post.  But I worked really hard to make it entertaining...

Expat life.  It's all g&t's by the pool, drivers collecting you from shopping trips, manicures, pedicures, and glamorous nights out, isn't it?

Isn't it?

Well, no, actually - not for me, anyway.  And not only because - obviously - it's vodka all the way in Russia rather than gin.

One area where I'm afraid I fall very far short of the mark is the 'glamorous nights out' mentioned above.  Certainly, Husband and I do go out, but there's very little of the champagne-swilling, Triple-A-list-celebrities-spotting, dancing 'til dawn events you might imagine.

However, there is one Black Tie evening that I go to each year in Moscow that does require use of a swanky dress - or at least, would, if I ever got my act together in time to have something suitable to wear.  This year will be the fourth that I've attended, and up until now I have worn, as follows:

Year 1:  15 year-old black on-the-knee Karen Millen dress that I just happened to throw in my suitcase when we moved here, and which got pulled out in a panic when Husband proved unable to locate my 'best' dresses on a trip back to our storage facility in London (aka; His Mum's Attic) the weekend before the event.  (For the record, when I went back to the attic myself a couple of months later, I was able to see the suitbag containing said dresses immediately, before I had even switched on the lights.  Definition of a 'man-look', anyone?)

Year 2:  12 year-old long black bias-cut silk Episode dress extracted from the afore-mentioned suitbag on the visit subsequent to the previous year's debacle.

I know.  Very poor performance, especially considering I was surrounded by Russians wearing creations from McQueen, Matthew Williamson, Missoni and the like.  However, I justified my lazy choices by telling myself that a) nobody there had seen me wearing those outfits before, b) my dresses were so old they were practically vintage and c) I could FIT INTO THEM (no small achievement given the two kids and more sedentary lifestyle I had had since their original purchase...)

However, this does not at all excuse:

Year 3:  12 year-old long black bias-cut silk Episode dress.   Again.  Yes.  I am that lazy woman.  Or more to the point, I am that woman who hates-hates-hates to go shopping, and who convinced herself that no-one would notice; the dress was long and black, like so many others.  Change the jewellery and it'll all be fine, right?

However, we are now at Year 4.  And luckily for my 12 year-old long black bias-cut silk Episode dress, which frankly deserves a bit of a lie down (as do I after typing all that out for the 3rd time), on my last day in London before heading back to Moscow, I just happened to be walking past John Lewis on Oxford Street, and just happened to pop in to pick up a tube of moisturiser, whereupon I just happened to be sucked up the escalator to the first floor, and then just happened to be magnetically pulled into the section with long evening dresses.  And then, well I just happened to find myself enamoured of all the silk and satin and pretty colours and reasonable prices and - oh, you can guess the rest.

Reader, I married one.  Or rather, I tried on 5, and just happened to buy one.

And no, I'm not going to describe this one because it's gorgeous and mine all mine (quite apart from the fact that you can buy it on their website... However, since there are 219 dresses shown on the 'Occasion Dresses' page of the John Lewis website, I figure I've got a pretty good chance you won't guess which it is...), so now all I need to do for the rapidly approaching Year 4 event, is a) find a pair of matching shoes, b) ensure I can still fit into the dress in a few weeks' time and c) to avoid the possibility someone else might also turn up in the same dress, not share the John Lewis website address with anyone in the meantime.

Oh.  Wait...

This was a sponsored post - but all opinions are my own, and I paid for the dress myself.

Tuesday 27 August 2013


I started my month-long intensive Russian course yesterday morning.  On Sunday night I had the following conversation with my Husband, who speaks the language fluently.  (Of course.  Ruddy annoying, I can tell you.)  Anyway...

Me:  "The thing I'm really worried about is the cases (fyi, there are 6 of them in Russian, including Accusative, Dative, Genetive and Nominative), because that's what did for me last time when I tried to learn it.  I always hated them, even when I was 14 and trying to learn German at school."

Husband:  "I think you might be overestimating how much you're going to learn on this course.  It's only 4 weeks - you won't even reach that level of difficulty.  Don't worry about it."

Me:  "That's the best news I've had all week."

I arrived at the language centre yesterday morning to find that after my pre-course assessment test, I had been dropped into an existing beginners class - 3 weeks in.

And the very first word that the teacher wrote on the white board?



Wednesday 21 August 2013

Staging my own intervention; 'If it is to be...

... it is up to me.'

Cliched, huh?  That's certainly what I thought 2 years ago when this was trotted out by someone at the Boys' school in a speech made to children and parents at the start of term.  And yet, I heard it again yesterday - from the same person - and it struck a chord.

Expats everywhere will know peers who refuse to engage with their local environment.  They hide away from the reality of where they are living, simply existing from one holiday to the next, and not venturing out to see what lies beyond their temporary front door.

I get that.  I understand that.  We all feel like that sometimes.  And I have to admit, I'm struggling at the moment.  Struggling to regain my equilibrium in a hard-to-live-in city, in a country that I don't know I'll still be living in one year from now, 1500 miles from my family and friends.  

We just returned from a fantastic break with a summer spent taking it slowly, away from the battle of the daily Moscow grind.  Sure, I was still food shopping, cooking and washing, sorting socks, packing and unpacking and repacking every week or so, travelling through airports, train stations and car hire outlets,  fitting in 6 months' worth of dental and doctors appointments, stocking up on any school uniforms, children's shoes and underwear we are likely to need before Christmas, and then working out how the hell to cram it all into our suitcases and stay within the weight limit for the airlines, but ultimately we were on holiday, and somehow that made it all OK.

Now, though, we're back in Moscow and even though the thermometer hit 27degC today, I know that in around 8 short weeks we'll have freewheeled down and be bumping along the bottom of the scale for a short while before we nose-dive below 0degC around mid-November and then don't come up above it again until the middle of April next year.

Add to that the fact that the start of the school year is earlier here than it is back home - we're in the first week of term already - and despite the fact that I'm majorly in denial about the shortness of the summer (wearing every short sleeved dress I own in turn until it's too damn cold not to), I'm already experiencing GroundHog Day type symptoms.


I may have less than one year left in Russia.  That in itself is a scary thought (what - and where - next?), but I refuse to let this year pass in blur of worry and wishing I was somewhere else.  Why live somewhere like this, surrounded by the wonderful people I do, if you don't push yourself out there and experience it all properly?  

So I'm staging my own intervention.  I've signed myself up for a months' 4 hours a day, 5 days a week Russian course (the straw that broke the camel's back on this one was not being able to understand a telephone operator at the company we buy our drinking water from - not my finest moment after living here nearly 4 years), so that whatever else happens in the next 10 months or so, I may at least be able to make myself understood.

I am going to enjoy this year.  I am.  But like the man said; if it is to be...

Monday 19 August 2013

I wonder...

... will it be different for our children?

I know my parents love me.  They have shown me - and my siblings - that they do, in a million different ways.  The effort that they put in to giving us the right opportunities, the unceasing support, the sacrifices that they made for us; what child who benefited from these and so many other unspoken, unnoticed and un-recorded actions could ever doubt that they were loved?

So I don't, not for a heartbeat.

But parenting, when my parents - themselves products of the austere post World War II years in 1940's, '50's and 60's Britain - was different when they were thrown into it, barely out of their own teenage years, to how it is now.

And one of the things that was different was the frequency of use of the phrase 'I love you'.  Looking back on my childhood, it wasn't something we heard very often.  We knew we were loved, but mum and dad didn't bandy the verbal expression of that fact around.  Our very existence, our lifestyle, how our parents behaved to us, was seen by them to be enough proof of their feelings for us.

I know that my experience may be unusual, but I don't think so.  Back then, 'I love you' was just not something many parents said to their children (or even, I suspect, to each other that often).  It was almost as if by saying it out loud, they might cheapen their emotions, put them on display.  As if they were risking bringing the wrath of the gods down on their heads by using the words.

Thirty years later, however, I don't stint with the verbal expression of my love for my boys - and as far as I can tell, neither do my friends, to their children.

I tell them I love them when I drop them off at school in the morning, and I tell them when I tuck them in at night, and on a myriad occasions in between.  I even manage to shoe-horn it into disagreements sometimes, especially with Boy #2 who has recently begun to state (as I insist on his getting dressed / leaving his lego upstairs whilst he comes downstairs for breakfast / tidying up / doing his homework) that he doesn't like me 'very much at the moment, Mum' - to which my stock answer is 'I can see that.  But I still love you...'  (which of course infuriates him still further...).

So I wonder, by wrapping our kids in this knowledge - this security blanket - that whatever else goes on in their lives we love them: are we changing the way they will view they world?  Will they be better or worse off for our constant assurances?  Will they be more self confident well-rounded individuals as a result, or will we have turned them into egotistical monsters?

It's a rhetorical question, you understand;  I love my kids, and I plan to keep on telling them that.  Because I'm the mum.  And it's my job.

Saturday 17 August 2013


I know that I will get my blogging mojo back soon - previous experiences of losing it have shown me that the best way to get over the non-inspiration hump is simply to sit down and write - but in the short term re-acquainting ourselves with home and Russia in general, along with getting ready for the start of the school term next week (I know!) is sapping my energy a little.  So I'm going to cheat a little, and use the fb posts I've written since our return to Moscow this week to get things started again on The Potty Diaries...  (Apologies to those of you who've already read these.  Needs must, and all that).

So here are some snapshots of life in the Potski household this week...

Wednesday 14th August

There is nothing quite like being greeted back to Russia with the hot water out of action first thing in the morning. This, my friends, is exactly what I was afraid of when The Management announced they were going to remove our water boiler and put us on the communal hot water supply (which they did whilst we were away over the summer break). My Husband is not here right now - of course - but if he were, I doubt I would be able to stop the words 'I told you so' issuing forth...

Friday 16th August

How do you know when Autumn is knocking on the door in Moscow? No, it's not the slight chill in the early morning air. Or the intensified quality of the light. It's not even the fact that the leaves have already started to turn. 

It's when you find yourself standing in front of your wardrobe thinking: "Well OK, the green dress and the pink shoes may not be appropriate for messing about at home all day, but who knows when the next time it will be warm enough to wear them will be?"

Saturday 17th August

My sons are doing a stock-take on the contents of their pocket money folders. Which is all very well, but they're also calling in the I.O.U notes I put in them when I was short of change...

Thursday 15 August 2013

*Clears throat, coughs nervously...*

My blog voice has gone all scratchy from lack of use.  So I will keep it brief, because whilst once I may have thought hoarse voices sexy, now I realise it simply sounds as if you haven't spoken for a while.

Here are a few interesting facts I picked up along the way during my summer hiatus...

  • My sons are growing up, up and away.  Scary but true.  Time to start making good on all those plans for when they don't need me as much, because that day is bearing down on me like an unstoppable train.   (See Talk About York's wonderful post on this very subject here. Warning: tears may follow).
  • It appears that at the grand old age of 46 I am finally grown up enough to wear a bikini without worrying about the wobbly bits.  And I cannot believe that during my 20's, when I had the figure to flaunt, I sweltered in one pieces.  What the hell was I thinking?
  • White wine does not agree with me.  I agree with it, oh yes, but it appears to dislike me intensely. The signs have been there for a while, but I have to say that I ignored them, hoping the situation would improve and the bloating and cramps that followed an evening spent drinking it were just a passing thing.  Sadly, white wine felt differently.  Perhaps it was the slightly higher than normal consumption (cough) over 2 weeks in France, but whatever, it took to kicking me in the stomach if I drank more than 1 glass. Hey ho.  Red it is from now on, then.
  • I am capable of leaving my laptop closed for days on end.  Who knew?
  • Whisper it, but I didn't actually miss blogging as much as I expected to...