After a little international ‘blip’… The blog is back in its full, uninhibited form.
To pick up on where I left off, Charlie and I have actually managed to find a more-than-decent looking apartment for a price that wasn’t completely out of our budget. How could this be possible we thought? With only three days left of our cosy communal living experience, we took the plunge, moved out from our snug little hostel and are now proud, fully flat-initiated Muscovites. Whatsmore, instead of just getting the usual dark, damp and dingy Year Abroad flat, we’ve gone for the more palatial approach. We even have a spare bedroom for visiting guests. Our bachelor pad, although admittedly a good half hour on the metro from the centre, is undoubtedly very nice. Ever the realist, it feels incredibly strange and unnatural for me to not have anything bad to say about it. So much so that both Charlie and I are waiting for an inevitable downturn- an axe-wielding landlady, poltergeist or Welsh neighbour surely?
As it was a Friday, we decided to go out and have a few quiet cocktails and sample some of the more salubrious (that’s right, more salubrious) destinations in the centre to celebrate our apartment victory, or ‘Victory of the Apartment Day’ as it shall come to be known. This conservative and sensible approach to a night out, after all, would suit our new ‘working lifestyle’. I even put on my tweed jacket, just to show the world that we really meant business.
We began our foray into the Moscow high-life with a decent cocktail bar, but we thought we could do better. After another Mohito for the road, we wandered around passing a number of bars before one caught my eye. Most of that day I had been perusing the ‘Moscow Nightlife’ sites, and this one had been mentioned a number of times. After a quick conversation with the suprisingly friendly bouncer, we entered.
My first impression was: ‘well this is alternative for Moscow’; lots of impressive facial hair, well-fitting jeans and even some flat caps. Most unusual for Russia indeed. Nevertheless, we settled by the bar and I let Charlie decide what to order. As he uttered the words ‘Two Rusty Nails please’ to the barman, I knew that our sensible night out was completely off (Charlie had ordered us cocktails comprising of one half whisky and one half gin. Oh bugger). About 10 seconds after this realisation, another realisation hit us like a limp, well-moisturised backhand across the face: we were in a gay bar. Men of all shapes and sizes were gyrating away all around us, interspersed with the odd girl here and there for good measure. And there we were, together. I was in my tweed jacket and Charlie had some questionable ginger facial hair. We fitted in like peas in a pod.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the current situation in Russian politics, the State Duma (Government) voted 388 to 1 for a bill that makes public events and the dissemination of information by the LGBT community to minors punishable by fines of up to £10,000 (a huge amount for the average Russian). After two more readings, the bill will have to be signed by President Vladimir Putin. Whats more, any protest against this bill is being met with a typically Russian iron-fist. ‘Kiss-ins’, a method of peaceful protest where people simply snog, have been occuring recently. These have been broken-up by militant pro-Church members who religiously beat-up the protesters. All the while, the Police stand by and watch.
The general population’s opinion of homosexuality is sadly still very archaic, according to opinion polls last year almost two-thirds of Russians find homosexuality ‘morally unacceptable and worth condemning’. A third thought homosexuality was the result of ‘a sickness or a psychological trauma’. So for Charlie and I to find the ONLY gay bar in central Moscow really was quite a feat.
I am very proud to say that this did not stop me from finding (the only?) two 24 year old heterosexual girls to talk to. One of them had a boyfriend with her, who was 47. Amazingly, he was Scottish. Not so amazingly, he was called ‘Ronny’, and he proceeded to get absolutely hammered. If there was ever a stereotype of a Scottish man, it was Ronny. To give a quick excerpt of the conversation we had with him: ‘Ayyyeee lads, let’s get ba’errrd!’ Translation: ‘Yes gents, let’s get drunk’.
Naturally, we left Ronny to do his own thing (stumble around aimlessly) whilst I got on with the whole ‘get a Russian girlfriend’ business and began to dazzle the girls with my stupendous idioms, flawless grammar and all-round knowledge of the Russian language.* Or so I tried. Ronny’s girlfriend very loudly and forcefully announced to my face that she spoke such good English I shouldn’t even bother speaking Russian. Twice. Just to reiterate to my gobsmacked face just how good she really was. Just when I thought I couldn’t dislike someone based on first impressions much more, she then sneeringly asked me:
‘If you are only 21, why on earth are you wearing a tweed jacket?!’
Game over. We left.
In terms of my work (Charlie has yet to begin), after two weeks of commuting I am bored of even the spectacular Moscow Metro. It is one of the most impressive metro systems in the world, has more passengers than the London and New York metro combined every day, and I dread it already. In the office I sit at my desk, in my own office; something that millions of people around the world are striving to achieve- a personal office in a magic-circle law firm. All I can say is God knows why, I crave human voices for 10 hours a day. Each time someone walks past my always-open door I look out longingly and wish for that quick, daily ‘kak dela’ conversation. Sat in my suit all day and commuting… Life after university seems foreboding close.
On the plus side, the work is actually very useful for both my business knowledge and Russian as I mostly help with translating documents that I don’t even understand in English. If the 4th year exam is on Russian legal deals in the energy sector, I will utterly annihilate it. I have also finally branched out in the office and befriended people in the Banking Department, who are all very friendly and sociable.
Charlie begins his work in the Capital Markets department at Cushman and Wakefield on Monday. He has been so worried by the thought of starting work in such an intense environment that he is struggling to finish his food and even threw up my sumptuous Spaghetti Bolognese on Tuesday night. I had extras.
On Saturday 2nd we celebrated Charlie’s 22nd by dining at ‘Pushkin Cafe’, one of the most ostentatious and impressively ‘tsarist’ restaurants in Moscow. As such once again we thought that we had better dress up to be sure we fitted in. Begrudgingly forgoing the tweed jacket this time, we ‘tied-up’ and got ready to impress the Moscow socialites.
No one else wore ties.
Once again we had managed to overdress, yet far worse (purely in a sartorial sense) was to follow. After the lovely meal we had arranged to meet with Zhenya, a Muscovite friend of Rufus’ who works as a PR in a modelling firm and had kindly agreed to meet up with us and show us some proper bars. After rubbing shoulders with the unashamedly rich and fabulous in a couple of unbelievably exclusive bars we ended up in ‘Solyanka Club’; I would liken it to Dojos in Bristol, but only after everyone in Dojos had suddenly become incredibly wealthy. Despite Charlie and I sticking out like sore-thumbs (at about 3am the incredibly laid-back and chilled Zhenya just laughed, pointed at us and said ‘Your ties…’),we had a great time.
* What about Charlie you may ask? On a slightly more successful note, I can confirm to the masses that Charlie ‘Badass’ McCloy is a no longer a single and ready to mingle eligible bachelor…