Sunday 3 May 2015

St Petersburg

When I was 22, after I went down from the university and when all careers seemed like rival prisons, I made several large commonplace books. As a result quotations stick in my mind and I am a walking dictionary of them. I collected famous last words and here in St Petersburg I remember - as I very often do - the Decembrist who was walking up to the gallows, when it broke down and he had to go back down and wait. His last words were, 'Nothing ever goes right for me'.

Two feet from where I sit back in the B & B after long hours tourist work a young man is sitting one leg hanging off a window ledge cleaning the windows three stories up. In a way this disregard of health and safety is inspiring and makes on like Russia. In another way it gives me vertigo. 

Russia is enchanting, un-Western, backward. People are wonderful. Men are real men, women real women, all replete with Russian soul, except the vulgarians who walk into you as you cross the road..

Yesterday was a very serendipitous day. ! met and was invited to join a group of lovely young women being guided around St. Petersburg (I went to L to type Leningrad, oddly) by two lovely St Petersburg girls. As Nina who steered me around last time I was here said to me -"How I love these Russian girls - so beautiful and so kind." I decided not to wait in the long long queue for the Hermitage with the girls but as I walked away Vadim the seller of contraband caviar who knows the boy on the door fixed it for me to skip the queue and pop straight in. I bought some caviar from him for 1000 roubles = EUR 17 which is half the price of dinner at a cheap restaurant and it tastes good. I spent a very long time looking at the seven Claudes. He is the greatest of all painters for with him painting becomes poetry. He paints light itself. 

And, dropping an intellectual level or five, of course St Petersburg is a reason for me to retell my favourite joke.
What have Catherine the Great and Winnie the Pooh got in common?

Answer: the same middle name.

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