Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Yesterday was not a good ‘essay’ day, but today, today is going to be different.  I have decided on the ¡anything is better than nothing’ approach to this particular exercise, and that usually works for me.  So, by the end of today I should have something, at least, to show for my worry and then that ‘something’ can be sent off before the deadline.  Job done.  In theory.  Now for the practice.
            However, before that I have to factor in the statutory prevarication which is now an integral part of my day: swimming, writing and note making – as well as a little light shopping.  We all have our burdens to bear!

The coldness of yesterday seems to be a little ameliorated by the welcome intrusion of sunshine, but the palm fronds in next door’s garden are waving about in a most alarming manner which indicates that there is too much wind about for my liking.  Although the car thermometer tells me that our daily temperature is as high at fifteen degrees Celsius, it reminds me of my one and only visit to Communist Sochi years ago.  The hotel that we were staying in had an electronic board in reception telling us the balmy temperature of the water in the sea.  We would look at the board before going to the beach and then enter the water chanting, ‘The water in the sea is X degrees!’ before having the air and coherent thought smashed out of us by the Arctic nature of the brine! 
This watery lie was on a par with a nasty question to our Intourist guide about why there was such a long queue outside a butcher’s shop in Leningrad - as it then was.  Her response to this pointed question about shortages in the socialist ‘paradise’ of Russia was to state, with a straight face, that the people were queuing for theatre tickets!  Yes, where else would you go for culture but your local slaughterhouse?
Our guide was a teacher, I discovered later in our trip, and was working in her holidays as her English was excellent.  We got on well and she became more open with me than with the bunch of pseudo-fascists that I was travelling with.  Her saddest comment to me in one of our conversations was, “I could live in your country; you could never live in mine!”  And that was because my wishy-washy liberalism (with a small ‘l’) would have been anathema to the Soviet authorities, whereas the narrow-minded, right wing prejudice displayed by many of the small shopkeepers that I was travelling with (long story, don’t ask) would have been perfectly acceptable to the Russian State!  That was Communism for you.  And just look at the character that Russia has as head of state now!  He may have been KGB, but he has the soul of a bigoted small shopkeeper!
Well, time for my mandatory swim (without which I cannot do) with added note making and exotic tea drinking.  The real trick will be, after the shopping, to come home and get down to the work that I should have done yesterday.
The flesh is weak and the spirit is hardly positive.  But we shall see.  Or at least we shall hope!

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