Saturday, 24 May 2008

Catching up with Red Exile

[the layout of this post goes oddly here and there: I have laboured unsuccessfuly to correct it; sorry]

The most irritating news is that - somewhat predictably I suppose - the property developer doing our new Moscow office has predicted delays; to 10th June (90%) or 14th (100% certain to be ready he says). But our existing lease expires 31st May. So we had a meeting Friday evening. Fortunately we have a contingency plan in place for a temporary home: all at the developer's expense I hasten to add.

Oh, and our Russian bank - a new one which is not impressing me (so watch it Raiffeisen or I will switch our accounts from you!) has been a real pain in the ass. It is an issue of the 'hard currency passport' (yes, everything foreign needs something like a visa here) concerning a large transfer. Now lawyers and finance people in three, no, actually four, countries are beavering to sort it out.

In Russia your corporate bank is not your Friend or business partner: they are the devil! Actually, Raiffeisen Bank in Russia for a while - when I first moved here - set the benchmark of excellence, but I think their service and approach has really declined since they gobbled up Impex Bank. In Russia, it might be branded Austrian, but the middle management and service culture seems to me to have become distinctly Soviet. We were looking to pool our accounts in all the 19 countries of our region with them - I am pushing to ditch them in mine. Right now, I loathe them.

These two events - property and cunty bank - all occured after 5pm on Friday. Exhausted - a hugely busy week and two overnight train journeys in three days (and, like, 11 hours sleep in 72 hours) mean't I got home about 8pm, sank a large Bombay Saphire & Schweppes and went straight to bed - a glorious 11 hours asleep...

So, to catch up with all my news, here's some more annotated updates from my facebook account:


Red Exile says it's nice to wake up in his own bed, which is rare enough these days, especially then to realise it's Saturday.
7:54am meaning only that this week I've woken up on trains and in the 'apartment suite' in our Kyiv facility and, in recent weeks, have travelled a lot. Nothing, alas, more mischievous...


Red Exile is back in the irresistible, terrible, magnificent, pulsing dark heart that is Moscow: where the weather is ghastly.

May 22

Exile had a great evening in Kyiv; which really has everything in a city one could wish for. The weather is also lovely.
12:00pm I took the overnight train back again. Luckily it was the flag-ship train, so the 1st class sleeper compartments were top-notch...

Red Exile is actually watching 'the' game & really enjoying it; in the way an ingenue 1st watches a Verdi opera; wide-eyed, without partiality and for the sort of poetry of it. But I thought Mr Ronaldo splendid.

May 21

Exile wonders why, if the football match in Moscow doesn't start until 22.45 local time, all the expats going to it are leaving their offices now. It's only Luzhniki!

Red Exile does not feel fresh as a daisy; couldn't sleep as his train rattled and lurched across Russia & into Ukraine.

May 20

Red Exile is on way to Kyiv tonight - overnight train (fast one with buffet). Means a dawn appointment with Russian border guards followed by Ukrainian ones.

Red Exile Red Exile enjoys hot humid nights; but they're better naked in the pool; as in my Guadeloupe days. A lifetime ago I lived that.
9:21pm It was my pool, my privilege to swim naked in it at midnight...

Red Exile says Russia's stonking victory over Canada in the hockey Worlds means, if Chelski win Wednesday, that's 3 great sporting triumphs for Russian sentiment in a row.
12:31am Opinions differ amongst my Moscow staffers as to whether they are pro- or anti- Abramovich and hence whether to be pro- or anti-Chelski in fact

May 18

Red Exile sees that 'tree-sperm' season is upon us again in Moscow and the streets full of the snow-storm of germinating stuff. What's is called? Puchre?

May 17

Red Exile said: " an instant...his weekend evaporated...".
7:10pm I had to work the weekend - a crisis management assignment came up.

Red Exile has just realised he has no opera or ballet tickets booked for anything. A sort of panic has overcome him...
2:58pm Situation now rectified! Tonight I am going (for only the second time) to see the Bolshoi dance ' The Golden Age -music by Shostakovitch and choreographed by Yuri Grigorovich

Red Exile is surprised to discover that his Asus has been buggered and so he has no mobile connectivity. Hopefully it is just the usual shoddy Russian SIM card problem.
12:25am It was a SIM card problem - Russian mobile operators seems prone to them

May 14

Red Exile is still in idyllic rural Hungary and this morning will opine on web 2.0: "content may have been king but now aggregation is God".

May 13

Red Exile is in a particularly rural part of Hungary, just an hour's drive out of Budapest. Horses are nesting, or whatever they do, outside my window.

May 12

Red Exile has always been fond of Budapest. In 2003 it was on his 'list' with Beirut, Rome & Istanbul. But now 4 years in Moscow; LOL.

Red Exile is landed in Budapest, where everyone is enjoying a public holiday and, by now, very *relaxed*.
6:49pm No Valium? Red wine will suffice. Nasty 'crabbing' or cross-wind landing though.

Red Exile is depressed and anxious. He is about to fly to Budapest and has forgotten his in-flight Valium. Either reader will recall my absurd, but nonetheless serious, fear of flying. On trips longer than two hours I pop two Valium. Actually, I can see why people get addicted to Valium - fabulous stuff - but don't mix it with alcohol (apparently that's not good - but on flights to Kazakhstan? yeah right...)

May 11
Red Exile has his apartment to himself tonight for the first time in weeks, but only has one night to enjoy it.

May 9 - the Victory Day holiday, commemorating WWII

Red Exile Well the parade was later than it should be, and in the opposite direction from that expected, but the tanks and missiles were great big boys' toys. A tank driving up Tverskaya; and part (I was too close to get the whole thing in view!) of a Topol M ICBM, or RT-2UTTH, nuclear missile launcher (NATO IDENT: SS-27). LOL - to think that in Soviet times my photographing it would have been a serious crime.

That night I also took my mother to see the Bolshoi's superb production of Nabucco (4th viewing). Here an excerpt someone has ripped and put on YouTube (Elena Zelenskaya was singing the part of Abigaile that night too - it is great fun for a soprano - a baddy part for them for once to sing! But I think her Tosca is better and Irina Rubtsova the better Abigaile):

(PS: I see that this recording is from the old Bolshoi production though, not the current one! - which is visually much more stunning)
May 8

Red Exile thinks it funny that all the male expats are really excited that Russia's new long-range nukes are being paraded through the streets tomorrow. Smaller WWII ceremonies were also taking place around the city. This one was close by our office:


May 7

Red Exile is pleased, thoroughly, to recommend Moscow fishmonger at La Marée (top of Petrovka) & thanks his mate Brian for the tip. Langoustine vivant (but not for long)!
Mother was making her annual visitation to Moscow. She cooked the live langoustine and wasn't the least bit screamish at dunking them in boiling water. We ate them with a mozzarella / pesto/tomato salad; quails' eggs and a Gavi-di-Gavi

Red Exile wonders how long it will take to remember to call Putin Prime Minister and not President; and congratulates Dmitri Medvedev, and Russia, on his special day. 10:05am It was inauguration day - no, I wasn't invited to the ceremony. Outrageous! LOL

Red Exile The RUS govt has just announced *visa-free* travel for Brit football fans for this bloody match: what!?!?! Madness. Are they importing fodder 4 Nashi to bully?12:24pm
We all expected there to be huge trouble with all the Brit football fans coming to Moscow - turns out it all went swimmingly. I was less concerned about Brit rioters, though, than they would be targeted by extreme Russian nationalists. But the Russian security forces had weeded them out most effectively and they were getting no-where near the supporters.

Red Exile wonders why my Lenovo x60 refuses to obey me today. Sighs: I want to go mac.. 11:33am

May 5

Red Exile say street closures for Friday's war parade rehearsal, and later metro closures, will make Moscow impossible this week. 10:11am

May 4

Red Exile exhales: "sublimi il diva; notte di passione e di gioia". Anna Netrebko concert; Moscow. Magnificent! 10:27pm

erm..yes, I can get a little over-excited in post-concert high. It was at the Moscow Grand Conservatoire, which is an amazing venue and only ten minutes walk from where I live. And that day I had dined before at Cantinetta Antinori, on their lovely garden terrace.

Red Exile has enjoyed the longest long lunch; and is going to diva Netrebko's concert. 4:43pm Anna Netrebko is my all-star-world favourite soprano right now. I have all her recordings (thanks to iTunes:

She was four month's pregnant for tonight's concert and was an absolute trooper and stunning to boot. She shared the stage with superb Romanian mezzo-sporano, Rixandra Donose and (s0-so) American tenor, Brad Cooper. Anna and Rixandra dueting in "Si, fuggire!...Ah crudel", from Bellini's Romeo & Juliet (oh yes, it is an opera too, not just a ballet) was excellent. Bellini is hugely tough to sing and sopranos use his music to showcase their voice.

Red Exile today is a 'working day' in Russia. I booked leave. Have now finished essential work and am going to have a la-la long lunch

In contrast to the UK, which pivots all public holidays to a Monday, in Russia the holidays fall where they are on the calendar, which means any day of the week. But, sensibly, the Government bunches them together. The French do this: they call it 'faire le pont" (to make the bridge) - but the French do it by adding in a day. At least they did on Guadeloupe when I lived there. In Russia, in a grasp at efficiency, they deduct a day from a nearby weekend. So: holiday is on a Thursday? Make Friday a holiday too, but work the following Sunday. It is not something I can ever get used to so I book a day's leave; but usually end up spend half of it handling essential emails and calls anyway, so wonder why I don't just give up and work it like everyone else...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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