Friday, 18 January 2013

Moscow madness, beauty, piety and the occasional sniper and acid attack

There was snow everywhere and it made everything beautiful, as if everything had been cleansed of every stain, and every sinner could start again afresh, holy and happy.

An Azerbahjani mafia boss lay dead in the snow on the pavement outside a central Moscow restaurant, a snipers bullet in his head, and a waitress from the same restaurant lay injured in hospital, having caught a bullet that missed its target.

Outside the Marfa and Mary Convent of Mercy in Bolshaya Ordynka, old ladies cross themselves and bow before the domes of their deity as the snowflakes bless them in return, gentle missives of forgiveness from on high.

There are churches everywhere in central Moscow, domed and fantastical, confections of pink or white or blue,sounding their bells mournfully, reminding us of our mortality, especially from icicles falling from the roofs of buildings.

There are as many 'Healers' which some people, especially those with medical training, call charlatans, working in Russia as there are medical doctors.
The greatest of these was Anatoly Kashpirovsky, who attained rock star levels of adulation as a 'Healer' in the 90's, and is now back in the country after a period in the USA. We look forward to a general improvement in the health of the Russian nation.

Last night,thousands drilled holes in the ice in ponds and rivers and immersed themselves fully in the belief that this will help them to understand the Peace of God, which passeth all understanding. The Orthodox Church and its priests officiate at this act of mass hysteria once a year on the 19th January by making the water sacred.This they achieve by immersing a cross in it and intoning prayers. The priests are fully clothed.

At the Bolshoi Theatre, some of the dancers feel that their director is being too firm with them, and one of them throws acid in his face.

The victims mother knows who the attacker is, and says she will inform the police.

We tried to visit Lenin in his mausoleum.

I wanted to ask him about the concept of democratic centralism and if he ever imagined this morphing into democracy, or just plain old centralism.

But we weren't allowed in - we asked why not.

'It's a war secret' replied Lenin's guard.

'Oh, I see,' we replied,'thank you'

On the pavements of Rublevka, where we live in pleasant surroundings, a mini-bulldozer chased us along the pavement as it cleared the snow behind us, and I wanted to tell its driver that if he keeps up this good work, one day he will drive a full size bulldozer.
It's lucky I can't speak Russian.

At the Tretyakov State Art Gallery, there are not many visitors, but there are guards everywhere.

Everything in Moscow is very well guarded, except Mafia bosses.

These silent, usually solitary, suffering sentinels must be a drain on the Russian exchequer, and the work itself must lead to thoughts of suicide, so obviously  pointless and boring is their duty.

As we leave the gallery for the second time, having paid two visits to its splendours, we encounter by the exit door, another dead soul in full military attire staring into his hands and ignoring us as we cheerily say Do sveedanya.

Young couples stare in pity at the fate of the young girl forced to marry a very old man in Vasily Pukirev's Unequal Marriage, painted in 1862 as part of the 'New People's' movement to expose the iniquities of life for the poor and women in Czarist Russia.

Outside, by the gate to the entrance courtyard, we notice in the mist and the curtain of falling snow, a guard's hut with a large pane of glass that faced the gallery.
Pressed against this was the face of another guard.
It was a face of utter despair, total ennui, it must have belonged to a man who had the answer to the great question in philosophy which is ' Why is there not just nothing?'

His answer was ' There is just nothing but it's a war secret'

By this time we need a drink, and we are in luck.

A few hundred yards away is The Fullers Bar, where beckons a pint of London Pride to remind us of the CCTV security we enjoy at home. We feel ignored here, the guards that are everywhere pay us no attention and don't speak to us. At home, we know we are being scrutinised all the time, and it feels good!

We manage to get past the man employed by the bar to reduce business and turn customers away ( a lot of Moscow establishments employ such a person ) and we get a table and a couple of pints.

People all around us are drinking, smoking, laughing and chatting.

Arsenal score the winning and only goal with three minutes to spare against Swansea.

The waiter, a nice young lad, gives us two cigarretes when we ask him if it's possible to buy them one at a time.

We smoke these when we have finished our superb Lamb and kidney pie.

And we say to ourselves, what a wonderful world!

Wandering out into the night, the dark and cold wrapped themselves around us and we wrapped our arms around each other, keeping the warmth in and the madness out. Then, as unto a vision of heaven, came upon us the fairy tail tower and domes of the Temple of Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow".

Unless otherwise stated all photographs by Elena Bruce

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