Thursday, 8 November 2012

More Moscow Manoeuvres

Living and thriving in a big city is an extension of an evolutionary trait : just as we walk and talk without having to think before or as we do so, to get through Moscow or London, the natives of each acquire over time an automatic choreography that swerves or swivvles them just at the right moment to get them through a barrier, across a road, or produces a gesture or a word to allow them to buy a necessity swiftly  and with a minimum of friction.
I am an evolutionary result of London - so I can shoulder through a phalanx of commuters coming out of the barriers at Waterloo with a duck and a dive just like a bat flies through the solid dark of a cave without touching a thing. But the heavy glass and wooden framed doors that must be pushed back to enter and leave the Moscow Metro I have not adapted to - like a drowsy autumn bluebottle, I repeatedly find them bashing me in the face as they swing back forcefully from the person ahead of me. If I don't develop an avoidance mechanism soon, I'm dead, or unconscious, just another bluebottle concussed on  glass pane.
Elena has acquired some evolutionary traits of London, but most of her evolutionary experience was in Archangel,before Perestroika, in the Soviet era, so she has very few of the traits necessary for either city when it come to shopping.
And shopping was exactly what we had to do - the worst kind of shopping: bed linen, duvets, pillows, a wi-fi router, cutlery, a toaster and a kettle, an English teapot, an iron and ironing board. All bulky, fiddly, or unreliable things that just aren't right when you get them home. And all things that everyone else seems to want at exactly the same time that you do.
We were shopping for necessities for our lovely new rented flat.
First stop, a vast aerodrome of a shopping mall to get the toaster, teapot and kitchen things.
Self service and not too bad until we got to the checkout. Elena noticed that we had been double - charged for the kettle. Before one can leave the shop, the security police shake you down, but we had a very helpful man who checked our receipt in response to Elena's query. He endorsed her observation and confronted a terrified young checkout man. There followed a ten minute wait for an officious young woman to check the receipt again, then an even longer wait as she disappeared to obtain the authority to give us a refund. many pieces of paper were signed, and thirty minutes after the helpful security man had intervene on our side, we were free.
In the same vasty palace of consumerism we searched for a double bed size sheet - called Euro-Size. The traditional Russian double bed is smaller than the London or European one, but it is catching on, so they were sold out here and everywhere - we finally found a shop miles away that had a double duvet, sheet and pillows, at an exorbitant price, but it was getting late, and we had no choice.
With such relief that the salesman gave me a lascivious leer as Elena stood by, I agreed instantly to buy the combined set. I wanted to pay him, dear reader. but he would not let me - we had to fill out a form and proceed to a bank cashier 50 yards away. The bank cashier's machine would not accept my cards ( Earlier, to by a wi-fi router, Elena had to show her passport. this is vital when you have it installed too. Uncle Vladimir is watching you.) I found a cash machine, thoughtlessly returned to the shop, and was reminded sternly that I must proceed to the unsmiling cashier at the bank.
Still, we got home, and were happy.
I opened the piece-de-resistance of our expedition, a British made, superior stainless steel teapot from England, made by Taller - Premium Quality Products.
I poured the fine black tea leave made tea into our cups but half of it leaked from below the spout - traditional British workmanship of the 1970's, or Chinese sweatshop workmanship and British branding misrepresentation? Either way, watch out Mr Taller, I will get you for this.
Meanwhile, the Moscow Metro trains run every 90 seconds, everywhere, on every line, without fail, while the Circle Line in London is always broken or lost or there is a non - person lying across it, or it has no signals, and the Victoria line is closed for every weekend - the London Underground has great branding though, and a lovely logo!
The next day Elena bought a Russian teapot.

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