Wednesday, 6 January 2010

2009: That year in full.

Great things:

Russia + Ukraine

Good things:


Reasonable things:


Bad things:


So, overall, not really that bad a year really.
The weighting is firmly on the 'good' side of that 'good - bad' spectrum that apparently exists and that all people share.

Here are four really good things that I've also enjoyed this year (in no particular order):

The xx- xx

Studying again.

Being young and old.

That's my 'list' for 2009. It's already 2010 - so maybe I missed the boat a bit.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Last Exit

So, I thought I would start my newfound desire to update this page with this great picture. I found this whilst searching for a picture of The xx, the now phenomenally popular South London indie trio who are taking the world by storm. Well done them. However, this was, in fact, the first picture to crop up on my Google Images search. I enjoyed this opportunity for alterior meaning so much I decided to use it as a sort of umbrella symbol for the new direction that I'm attempting to take with this.

I also looked up this band on myspace (, who play a sort of rowdy surf-rock. I'm not even sure if that accurately describes their sound, as it is rather a mixed bag. Indeed, they seem to play it very well. I would probably dance it to in a club if it came on, actually. Although, it needs to be said that I don't actually go to clubs anymore so the chance of that happening is rather slim.

Anyway, on to the good stuff. I'm going to start using this as a film blog. Specifically, a Russian film blog. But I'm sure other stuff will crop up. I will, of course, be talking about the popular characters of post-Soviet Russian cinema. But I will try to mention those who will have, perhaps, slipped your eyes.

In this vein, I'd like to start off with a film I watched recently: Boris Khlebnikov's Roads to Koktebel' (2003). It is a road movie, and rather a Russian one. But, as the Kinokultura review points out, it does not follow the usual formula of a typical Russian road movie. Instead of moving to Moscow, the father and son characters in this film are running away from it. To Crimea, in fact.

The Crimea is, in the Russian popular imagination, still a destination associated with pleasure and relaxation due to its cultural associations stretching back to the 19th Century, when spa-resorts dotted the beautiful Black Sea Coast. This was built upon by the Soviet Union, when it became the 'worker's paradise', one of the most sought-after holiday destinations for Soviet citizens. Not alot has changed in the post-Soviet period. It is still an incredibly popular holiday destination for those wanting sun, sea and sand in a place that is still considered, at heart, Russian. Although once forming the base for the Tatar Khanate of the Medieval period, it was the subject of russification in the immediate post-war period with the deportation of the Crimean Tatars.

The population of Crimea numbers around 2 million, and Russians are very much dominant ethnographically. Indeed, the formation of a distinct post-war Crimean identity is rather an interesting subject in itself. But, it is in fact not the destination that matters so much as the journey there, and the experiences undertaken during that.

The father is played brilliantly by Igor Chernevic, who appears in Help Gone Mad (2009) also by Khlebnikov. The father-son relationship is troubled, however, by the various encounters with seemingly senile recluses and helpful women. I would not want to spoil this film, so I will leave it there. It is definitely worth watching not only for its representation of the post-Soviet Russian environment, but for both the subtle and absurd humour that seems to pervade the film throughout.

Monday, 7 December 2009

I'm going to start updating this again.

Monday, 8 June 2009




Word to your respective mothers.

So I went to Finland with my mate Jesper and his friend Fyodor on Wednesday. Jesper needed to go because of vehicle registration issues, Fyodor because he's interested in beavers and their habitats, and I went because I felt like it. That is, I'd never been to Finland and I thought it might be cool.

I was wrong.

It might have something to do with the fact we went to several small towns (Ilomantsi, Joensuu) where we didn't know anybody but really the two things I can say about Finland currently is that it's a) boring b) expensive. That said,I have been invited to go sailing in the Gulf of Finland this summer which I am sorely tempted to do. In fact the most interesting part of the trip was on the Russian side, on the way there they thought my visa was hilarious. And on the way back my passport wouldn't scan in the machine, and then they thought that Jesper was doing something dodgy with these four tyres he had in the back of his car. Rather funny in retrospect really.

No, the best times are to be had on the Russian side of the border, where we went to a little town called Sortavala and stayed in a very cheap hotel and got really really drunk in a bar that only sold cans of beer and crisps.

In other news, on Wednesday we probably set off on our road trip around the Onego. Which will no doubt be very interesting, and will hopefully involve some hot water along the way because they've turned ours fucking off for 3 weeks. Ta.

Monday, 25 May 2009

I went to murmansk and I all got was the impression that it's a big port town.

So I went to Murmansk. And it was good, it was fun. And I didn't even drink that much (I'm severely worried about my levels currently).

On the way there I got adopted by some ladies who gave me tea and wafers because I was a poor foreigner who cannot survive without those in the know (fairly true). We had some very nice chats, and it was really cool seeing that I was otherwise pretty much on my todd for the 20 hr journey there.

Getting into Murmansk was fairly interesting, there were some lakes that were still frozen up there, and the sun doesn't set at all, it just gets a bit darker in the evening (try driving around in a taxi at 4 in the morning with the sun shining over the tower blocks - class).

Murmansk is a huge port town set in the hills of the Kola Peninsula, and is fucking wicked. Theres a huge 80m high WW2 soldier who sits on the hill that looks over Murmansk, and theres loads of cranes below which you can hear when you're up there. It's incredibly soviet, I mean, Petrozavodsk is kinda soviet, but Murmansk is a monument to Soviet architecture and town planning. Essentially everybody lives in these tower blocks that are up on these hills around the city, it's fairly depressed (although was alot worse in the 90s, like everything else, apparently the population decreased by a third due to moving away, drugs etc). But under the White Nights its not so bad, everything's sunny and people are cheerful after the days where you only get 3 hrs of sunlight.

We took a trolleybus out to this new bridge that they've built across the bay, and then walked underneath it with a few beers, chilling out under the sun. After that went to the first Soviet kitsch bar I've ever been to. Not actually that bad, it was full of Russians actually and was painted red in the middle of this estate we were in.
Also turns out that Murmansk and the UK have a kind of friendship thing seeing as we sent them alot of stuff via Iceland during WW2 (lend-lease), they kind of like us up there. In fact, generally the people were really really friendly, always ready to help when we got lost and shit. Marina Petrovna told me that they're famous for it, and told me a story that once they'd been driving from Moscow to PTZ when their car broke down, a wheel went or something and even an acquaintance wouldn't help them but then this guy from Murmansk stops for them and gives them a lift home. The guy wouldn't take money, or even the offer of a place to stay the night. Klass voobshche.

What wasn't so cool was the fact that the morning after I came back I had to give a presentation on British culture, which I had written some good shit for but hadn't learnt obviously since I'd been in Murmansk. Didn't really work out but ate alot of cake and we sang songs and stuff after as it was like the big day for the language school where I have private lessons.

It's currently 26 days and counting until I'm home, and I'm starting to look forward to it. Although what I 'm looking forward to more is the fact that tomorrow I will again be giving an interview on the life of a foreigner in PTZ. No really, I'm used to the publicity now... :)
When I came back of course I was instantly given wine for two reasons 1) I came back 2) Sergei is getting married. Big news. Russians are literally mad when it comes to either weddings or children, and apparently there will be both a wedding and a kid so the family have gone fucking bonkers already.
Well, that's all for the moment just wanted to do a quick message while I could.

Thursday, 14 May 2009 we come?

Still fresh from the sense of pride that I received on the 9th of May (Victory Day) last Saturday, the last week has been pretty good really. We went to the parade, we had a picnic, we went on a suspiciously rusty Big Wheel in the fairground by the lakeside. It's all good really.

These feelings of optimisim, vitality etc abstract nouns aplenty have inspired me to do some travelling. I'm now currently taking the 20 hour train to Murmansk next week to see whatever is there (apparently not alot) and then also planning to take a road trip round Lake Onego at the start of June. Great stuff.

On the downside, my two other English mates left town last night never to return. So now, with 5 weeks to go, I'm somewhat alone. Apart from that, I spent the weekend without the family as they went to the Cherepovets for 5 days. Why? I really don't know. Cheropovets is the capital of Vologdaskaia Oblast', and is a smokey hole according to Big Sasha. However, they did come back looking refreshed, tanned and with lots of pickled goods. So I'm not complaining. Especially as I got to eat alot of vareniki. Woop woop.

We're also probably going to the Dacha this Friday night for some hard drinking and banya time, which will be ace.

Monday, 4 May 2009