Monthly Archives: July 2013

Car Alarms !!

Here am I, sitting on the 17th Floor in Moscow, trying desperately to get some blogging done and all I can hear is a damn car alarm ringing constantly.  I am surprised that no-one has blown that car up yet.

Let me tell you a little about my trip to Moscow.  Yesterday we headed to Red Square, Revolution Square, The Kremlin and the Pushkin Museum.  I am now successfully navigating the Moscow underground.  Red Square was an experience, especially when I had to pay almost 12 quid for two coffees.  It’s all about location I guess.

We also took a look in Lenin’s mausoleum.  For those that don’t know that word, it is a place that holds a dead body so that people can visit it.  In all honesty, we were lucky to get in at all, the very last trip of the day as they closed the gates behind us.  No cameras or phones allowed, no talking inside and no hands in pockets either.  Now being honest, the guy has been dead a few years, whats to say that in there, is simply not a wax working of the old fella?  A huge conspiracy I know.  I was left wondering though, where was George Harrison’s body and would Paul and Ringo be placed there when they are gone?

Red Square is smaller than I thought it would be. Generally, it is bigger than Rugby Cattle Market used to be but not by much.  I was remembering that young german fella in the late 80’s called Herr Rust who tried to land a Cessna there.  There was not a lot of room and at the southern end there are tons of overhead electric cables for the trolley buses so he did a damn stirling job of getting it down there at all.  Word on the street was he made three low passes over Red Square to try to get the people to move but they didn’t get the message, so he had to land at the bridge at the southern end.  Thankfully, earlier that morning , the overhead cables had been removed for maintenance.

There are still a few old school Ladas kicking around too although the wealth here is obvious (probably all coffee shop owners on Red Square is my first thought). Rolls, Bentley, BMW, Mercedes and the rest of it, and some very bling shops now adorn the shopping centre at the side of Red Square.  I try to imagine how the pre-perestroika generation view the changes that the country has seen.  I quizzed one of the locals over lunch on Sunday.  Imagine a country where you can only buy locally produced goods – people that are lucky enough to have a car drive a Lada as a luxury and everyone eats cabbage. None of the big names that you see now in the streets were allowed, no McDonald’s, Dior, Mercedes, Gucci – none of them, but now, just a generation later, the place is overflowing with them.  Think back to England in the late 80’s – imagine if all you were allowed to drive was an Austin Allegro and there was a two year wait for it, and when you got it, you were considered privileged!!

I had the sheer pleasure yesterday of watching a guy on an R6 do a stand up wheelie the full length of the road that runs alongside the Kremlin – it was faultless and perfectly controlled.  Unfortunately I was so in awe that I neglected to pull my camera off my neck and get some shots.  I can only imagine the size of the grin on that dudes face as he put it down for the corner at the top of the road.

Today I also managed to find an old Russian Army coat that fits me.  Which rank ?  A General of course.  There was an Admiral’s coat that fitted too but it was black and I wasn’t so keen – he also wanted 20,000 rubles for it which is about 400 quid.  The generals coat I got for 14000 down from 17.  A big thick long trench coat that should outlive me I think. I am sure I could have found one at the market cheaper but I only found out about that market late on Sunday evening and it is only open on Saturday and Sunday.

I have also gone to the extreme lengths of uploading some photos.  Extreme because I had to buy another 10GB of space to host them, so I also plumped for the video upgrade too as it came out cheaper and now officially add free, so take a look at ‘Russia 2013’.

Back to Brussels tomorrow via Poland and a 6 hour lay over in Warsaw in an airport that has the least services in their lounges that I have ever seen.  Russia has been blissfully chilly and a welcome break from the monotony of the European heat wave.  I also recently made a video for Steve O that will now be uploaded directly to this site instead of a link to external nonsense.  A brisk trip through part of the Brussels forest that should tempt his adventure taste buds.

 

 

 


In the Mother Land, Comrade

Crikey O’Reily – it’s been a while since I last posted – I blame a lack of inspiration but I am slowly getting my mojo back.

Before I get into my swing, I would like to congratulate Amy Winehouse for being drug and drink free for two years now – well done Amy !

For those that don’t know, I am currently frequenting the ‘Mother Land’ of St Petersburg (that’s Leningrad for you oldies, or even Petrograd for you very old oldies, or better still St Petersburg for you readers that were around before WWI) and heading for Moscow on the overnight train tomorrow evening.  I am already thinking that I would like to spend more time here as I went for a wander around the city today after sending the bird out to work to earn some dollar, like the pimpernel that I am.

For the gamers amongst you, well that will be Steve, I took the tube today.  The escalator down into the depths had a very communist feel about it.  I know you want me to explain.  It was the stereotypical scene that we have seen in movies for years, but if you are a gamer, you no doubt would have played ‘Call of Duty’ at some point in your life, better still, the ‘World at War’ version.  As I dropped downward on the escalator, I fell into silence.  Silence of course apart from the solid sounding rumble of the escalator punctuated by the sound of someone speaking over the tannoy system.  The tannoy speakers were placed between the opposing  escalators and facing upward to the roof of the tube tunnel that the escalators ran through as they drop hundreds of feet down.  This gave it a clarity that was almost set in stone.  The people coming up, had expressionless faces, much like that of the tube in London.  Maybe all countries have the same effect on you when it comes to tube travel – you have to have a tube face, a bit like a poker face perhaps?

Anyway, it was just like playing a scene from Call of Duty, as I froze on the escalator.  My mind wandered of course, you would expect that.  I was thinking back to the Cold War Era and I could easily feel the potential this place would have had at suppressing an uprising to move away from communism.  I imagined, if I was a spy, planted deeply behind enemy lines here in Leningrad, how I would simply be shitting my pants purely because of this escalator ride.  The sombre silence of it, the drum and drone of the escalator, not too loud but powerful in its drone – left you with the impression that it could carry a tank up it should the mother land require, while the tannoy speakers pumped out continual communist propaganda.

I was also in awe of the amount of monuments, statues and generally spectacular buildings and that got me thinking too.  I guess, when you want a propaganda machine that keeps your people all pulling together, making them remember previous historic battles with thousands of magnificent works is a damn good way to do it.  I also got to thinking that if there were another call to arms of the likes of WWI and WWII, I am left with little doubt that Russia could easily muster another army of equivalent size or larger, whilst the UK and America would have more conscientious objectors than volunteers – because of course, if you are English or American, your country owes you something and you shouldn’t have to work for it, or god forbid, risk your life for it.

Still on a war theme, tomorrow I am going to the war museum.  Our guide drove us past it last night and I just have to get a photo of me with the mobile missile launcher.  I took a look at an old war ship from the turn of the 20th century today, a ship called Aurora.  Quite important if you are Russian but unfortunately for me, none of the scripts had been translated into English so I couldn’t absorb the history. Anyway, for something that was around in 1903 – it was a scary arsed piece of weaponry even if I couldn’t understand what they were waffling about.

I have also been looking for a vintage Russian Infantry Coat complete with emblems, lapels and pins etc.  No joy here, only new ones to be had but I am told Moscow is the place to find those. I did try on some genuine 1997 Russian Navy hats but they were just a tad too small.

Getting toward the end now – let me thank Horley for her inspirational tip-off of a web site called Park Run.  I am now officially training for my first race, at the ripe old age of 43.  The next Saturday morning that I am in England, I will be very competitive as I burst onto the amateur running scene in all my glory.  I am registered and ready to go.

I also need to say nah nah nah nah nah to Susan.  I am certain she will be jealous that I am visiting Russia, because I know it is on her to do list.

I also heard today that my replacement engineer on Timoneer has also quit, he didn’t even make 2 months FFS !!


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