понедельник, марта 12, 2007

Smolny sobor


Next morning, I brave the cold air and board a bus that takes a group of students to Smolny Cathedral. It’s a massive blue and white building, badly deteriorated, which would have been truly lovely were it not for the scaffolding that covers it. I’m sure it’ll look even better once the restoration is finished, but I don’t think that will happen while I’m in Russia. We circuit the cathedral, and enter the ex-monastery behind it.
An abrupt, business-like Russian woman gives me an evaluation test and places me in a class. She turns back to her desk, evidently expecting me to leave. Foolish woman. After twenty seconds passes and she realises I haven’t moved, she snaps:
‘That is all!’
‘No,’ I reply, with a wistful sigh. ‘No, I don’t think it is.’
She looks half puzzled and half pissed-off.
‘What? What?’
‘Well, y’see, me old mucker,’ I say in English, ‘I’m not taking group classes. I’m taking individual tuition. So, I think you’ll have to make a few changes here and there. Sorry to be a bore.’
Of course, she can’t understand most of what I said, but she does understand the vital bits. She makes a flustered phonecall downstairs, then tells me that I’ll have to wait until 2 o’clock – two and a half hours away. I ask her if she wants to play cards. She looks confused, and I explain it a bit more simply. Good lord, the woman actually smiles. She tells me she has work to do. I tell her I was only joking.
I leave Smolny and make my way west a few blocks to the statue of Dzerzhinsky, who set up what would eventually become the KGB. The statue has become known in recent years as a rallying point for some of the more nostalgic authoritarians such as the neo-nazis, but it’s deserted today, apart from a lone Russian feller, who slips up on the ice and takes a spectular fall onto his arse. I offer a hand, but he is embarassed, and hurries away. I continue on to the yellow Tauride Palace, built by Catherine the Great for Potemkin, but better known to me as the place where the Provisional Government and Petrograd Soviet unwittingly plotted each other’s deaths. I guess you could say the Petrograd Soviet won by remaining influential longer, but while most members of the Provisional Government fled to Western Europe, many original members of the Petrograd Soviet were executed for ‘treason’ or committed suicide to avoid this fate.
I eat a cheese and berry pastry, drink a strong and mildly disgusting black coffee at the Karavay bakery, and watch the people hurry past. There are people walking everywhere in this city. I have yet to walk much further than twenty metres without passing someone, even when it’s snowing.
Back to Smolny through through the Institute gardens where a bust of Engels angrily glares across the way at a bust of Marx, who scowls back with equal ferocity.
I finally corner the administrator, who confesses that she has lost the correspondence where I claimed to want individual tuition, and has also lost my HIV test. She rewrites the contracts, then rewrites them again after I point out several fundamental mistakes, and having signed them, I depart for home.
Emerging from Primorskaya, I see a pack of twenty dogs idling about in the middle of the intersection. All the traffic patiently waits for them while they sniff, yip, and snap at each other. I realise they are literally a pack of stray dogs, wandering the streets looking for food. One of them barks loudly, and they all trot off down towards the Smolenka river. They’re having a great old time. Dogs love dogs.

6 комментариев:

jikajika комментирует...

Ya guilted me into it, Max. Now seriously I'm off to sit in front of that jigsaw puzzle, and nothing can stop me (except spiderman and possibly the incredible hulk).

jikajika комментирует...

Er, or else a change of heart. I'm off to buy a bottle of wine and drink it with my woman instead. Jigsaws are for nerds.

max комментирует...

i think you did a wonderful job, but i dont think you are around there. i think you have many personalities (to continue on about what was from the last comments) and not just one, and you cannot call the kettle black because it is anonymous.
thank you anyway though, thank you, but i wasnt angry, just saying something i didnt really feel, so you were right in your analysis of what was happening.

max комментирует...

whats all this then?! youre in russian and you havent even bothered to come and see us?!!??

jikajika комментирует...

No fella, no. That was just a wistful recollection from back when I was a strapping young bloke, clomping around Piter and playing in the snow.

These days I split my time between Brunswick South Central, North Carlton, and the Bureau of Meteorology.

You'll be unsurprised to learn that me reputation as a gallant and swashbuckling adventurer has seen me services tendered to overthrow the petty tyrant who's been menacing these lands for the past 11 years.

But when I make a return journey to Russia, you'll be among the first to know.

max комментирует...

among the first? thank you a very much for very little! among the first?! who else could you tell?21? gwain??! a girl?!? we hear things about you, yes? we know things students formerly of yours tell us in the hallways! they tell us things even if you havent told to them for three months. we hear it.