There’s an open-air pop concert on Pushkinskaya right now. Of course there is! After all, it is only minus 3 out there. I am blogging at the bar of Scandinavia: my internet router at home has died and I am taking advantage of their free (and fast) Wi-fi. While down the street, on Tverskaya, by the old Telegraph building, the regular rock band is holding its weekly impromptu concert; it draws a hardy but enthusiastic following which somehow manages to dance despite the lethal sheet black ice all over the sidewalk today.
Separately, rumors from two sources (one close to the CBR) reach me that, in April, the Central Bank will revalue the ruble. By 100 times! (this would be the eighth 'modern' Ruble.) This has been whispered before and April would make perfect timing. How better for President Medvedev to settle in and underline Russia’s roaring new strength than tell people ‘the new Ruble is worth US $4!’ (and would buy GBP £2). We’re talking new banknotes here, of course, rather than an excuse to place a big play on the forex markets.
Of course, ever trying to seek the underlying meaning of things – and you know you’ve been here too long when you do that about everything – I wonder whether such an announcement will be tied into a development about that much-heralded Federal Union of Russia and Belarus. And if that happens, then what will VVP plan to do then (new constitution, new career possibilities?)? Well, I'll stop theorizing there…but the next Belarus-Russian summit has just been announced so…
Anyway, finally, Friday we eventually had our staff ‘Old New Year’ party. I let the choice of venue / event / format down to the team (my job is just to pay the bill, after all and it is *their* night). In other countries, staff parties have tended to be of the dinner/dance variety. But my team – a quietly studious lot in the office (yeah, right) - like to party when they let their hair down.
Last year was a raucous affair in a Cuban dive off Taganskaya Ploshchad: with, I gather, the dedicated hard core partying until dawn, fuelled on absinthe, so I hear. Suggestions for this year included taking over a banya (an idea which I quietly, desperately, vetoed). They opted instead…for a karaoke extravaganza.
Actually it was huge fun. They had booked out the slightly Ottoman-looking ‘VIP’ lounge at the Jelsomino Café on Petrovka Ulitsa. Made famous by the fact it was ‘graced’ by Paris Hilton that extraordinary time when she was paid $2 million dollars to visit Moscow for Fashion Week. Completely sound-proofed from the public club, it is way cool and unambiguously ‘lounge-lizard’. When I did venture out public-side, for a toke on a sly fag, there were clearly some wannabe-boybanders out for a vocal warm-up.
It is the classic New Moscow yuppie night out (I am sure there is a better word for such a nomenclature, something more authentikny: does either reader know one?).
The evening featured:
- VIP room draped in silk everywhere
- Bottles of Irish whisky (my team are so cute they know how to get to my good side) – actually only in Moscow do I consider it perfectly normal to order whisky by the bottle; like those Saudis I used to know who holidayed in Lebanon when I was there. Obviously everyone was drinking whisky because there seemed to be three bottles on the bill. Martini Bianco seems to be the ladies’ weapon of choice
- Vast plates of sushi: actually the rice-green fish roe-eel thingy was disconcertingly tasty
- The singing. Oh yes the singing: the guys are all very talented at what they do but, boy! half of them could seemingly be entrants into ‘Russian Idol’ (dance moves included).
- Party games (yay). My guys love ‘em!
I like to think my 01.00 exit was still dignified. I did just once sit back and watch them have a ball and think “gosh, they are wonderful”. Four years ago there were just six of us (none too brilliant the crew I inherited and I out-placed and re-hired PDQ). Now we’re 30-odd. I have been running teams doing what we do for 12 years: and this lot, of all the teams in all the countries… well, when the time comes, I will miss them a lot.