Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Hungry for blogging

I've been back in Moscow for a month already and it's time for a new post. I love posts, don't you? This one is about my favourite thing in Moscow: Food. It's a constant adventure. A step into the unknown. I feel like Laika that dog that they shot into space that died and often I am taking the same risks with my life. So me and Tim are looking for a place to get a decent meal, a 'business lunch': 3 courses for a decent price. The place we found had like a BILLION staff leaning against the bar. (It's always too many or too little) and we sat down to enjoy a delicious meal of some fishy thing, some soup and some goulash. Well, my friends, it was poor. On a scale of one to shit it came out as shit. The goulash was cold so we had to send it back. When it finally came back mine was hot, but Tim's was STILL cold. So he had to send it back again. There was also a cat in the restaurant.

All that was just a preamble to the awesomeness to come: So we went for a nice breakfast at Chokoladnitsa. A basic chain of coffee shops. Think Costa with table service. We have had the 'city-fm' breakfast a number of times: Juice, Coffee 3 slices of toast, ham, cheese and jam. Nice. They have pictures of it on the poster outside and on the menu. It's like dairy-lea lunchables or something. You can construct it anyway you like. It's like stickle-bricks. So I have this weird pancake thing and Tim waits for this breakfast. He gets the juice and the coffee but no food. 15 minutes passes by.

Now I don't know whether you've made toast before but the recipe is fairly simple. 1. Take some bread. 2. Add fire. It doesn't take 25 minutes, does it? So after asking Gdye Eta? and pointing at the picture the food comes.

It's a toasted sandwich.

So Tim gets the menu and points at the picture and then at the sandwich, and the waiter is confused. HE THINKS THEY ARE THE SAME THING! He must think the photograph is some kind of instruction manual. Take these ingredients and then combine them into a sandwich shape. Despite the fact there is no friggin' jam in the sandwich. Only in Russia my friends, only in Russia. And usually to Tim, thinking about it. He has bad luck when it comes to restaurants, I think it's bad karma from taking too long to fucking order.

So I tore out a page in my sketchbook, drew the breakfast and the sandwich and wrote the name of the breakfast in Russian on the top. Then in big letters I wrote DA under one picture and NYET under the other.

We did have a nice italian the other night, though. So it's not all bad.

Tune in again next week. Same bat-time, same bat-URL.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A teary farewell

It's been very remiss of me not to post much on here these last couple of weeks. And now it's all over for the summer. We went out with the students last night and had a laugh as we walked around Moscow not finding somewhere to go. I was tired because Tim had me assessing work on my day off yesterday, but it was still great fun. There were a few tears from Sacha who is off to England for her third year and who said that this has been the best year of her life. Aaaah. They are a terrific bunch of students and if they are reading this. Do some more work!

From left to right: Tutu, Tim, Lilya, Elena, Sacha, Elena, Genia (jackie), Moi, Olga, Genia (in the red shorts), Yulia. You may have noticed the lack of male students at this point. That's because all the boys are in the army.

Here is also a photo of me dribbling water and about to pull off an amazing set of skateboard tricks such as the world has never witnessed in the corridor of the school.

Photo: Reuters

And now I must bid you adieu, for I fly back to england on the day after the morrow, but this blog shall continue in a different guise, packed to the gills with ace things and toast. Love you, bye.

Friday, May 18, 2007

In Hot Water

Here in Mockba it's pretty warm, the temperature got up to 301K the other day. That's 28ÂșC for you centigrade buffs. One strange custom in the summer concerns the hot water. You don't get boilers in people's homes, the hot water comes through pipes and is controlled by the state. So what they do is, they turn it off for three weeks in the summer! This is apparently some money saving thing, and they stagger it throughout the different regions of Moscow during the warm months. I'm outta here on the 28th for the summer, so I'm hoping the water stays toasty until then. Tim, on the other hand is pretty buggered.

Here is a picture of a shop. The sign says pyechat. Don't know what it means.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Back again

I'm back in Moscow again, its nice and sunny and everything looks a lot greener than a couple of weeks ago. I've just had a bag of crisps out of a machine. Guess what flavour?

That's right! It's the ever tasty mushroom and sour cream flavour. Mmm.

Back soon with more crisp flavours for your entertainment.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A clarification

Tim is a little unhappy with the previous post. He's asked me to make things clear. He washed his jumpers on 60 degrees INTENTIONALLY because he wanted to shrink them. Only it went wrong. He also would like me to point out that he is (in his own words) 'A domestic goddess'. He's gone wrong, if you ask me.

Also I forgot to put a picture on before. Its a good representation of Russian technology coupled with taste. It sums Russia up quite nicely.

Actually, this one that Tim took is probably even better.

The fall of the iron bathroom ceiling

We came home from the pub a few nights ago and the false ceiling in the bathroom had fallen down. Imagine trying to communicate that with a landlady who barely speaks any english. Tim had to phone someone at work to translate the problem for him. Also Boris Yeltsin died. The two events might not be as unconnected as you might think because Yeltsin was actually earning a few extra roubles on the side putting up cheap plastic bathroom ceilings. Ours falls down, he dies. What delicious irony. To be honest no-one seems very bothered about him dying that I've spoken to, and I can't really be bothered to go to the cathedral and check out the mourners. Not my cup of tea.

In other news, we went to this big park with all sorts of old buildings that I can't be bothered to tell you about. Highlight was this man ringing the bells. He was up a tower and was playing them by hitting the ropes that the bells were connected to. He could teach some of those jazz idiots a thing or two I reckon (about playing bells up a tower really annoyingly for about an hour).

Ps. Andre has not heard of Pacman.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Have you heard of Space Invaders?

At work the 3D tutor, Andre, listens to his eighties electro music on his laptop in the office. One song features the robotic chanting of 'Space Invaders' over and over again. We had a chat about his musical tastes and he asked me that question: 'Have you heard of Space Invaders?' What a great question. Its now become a recurring joke, in fact Tim has just asked me 'Have you heard of cars?'. Russians sometimes ask fabulous questions, but they're not as good as the answers they give. My favourite was when we saw one of the students on her bike just cycling away from the college. I aked her, 'Where are you going?' She answered, 'I'm going to ride my bike'.

I erroneously spelt the word for bye 'Puka' in a previous post. This should of course have read 'Poka', as 'Puka' is an extremely dirty word, so dirty that people won't even tell what it means.

As a final treat I thought I'd show you a tube sign to give you an idea of what you face in Moscow. Enjoy and poka!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Behind the iron shower curtain

Well, Tim's birthday was a lot of fun, the students went for it big time, much to Tim's chagrin. The cake, by the way, was odd. In the way only things in Russia can be.

We went out for dinner with Victor and his wife, Sacha. (everybody is called Sacha here, including me) There was some honky-tonk music accompanied by a 100 year old tap dancer and a good time was had. The best bit though was Victor eating Tim's prawns whole, without pealing them. Then he proceeded to eat a fish head which you may be able to make out in this photo.
He was disappointed that the eyes had been removed, though, as they are apparently the best bit.

I mentioned the rush hour briefly before, but I think you need to see it. The volume of people is unbelievable. You just get carried along by the people and they ram themselves into each carriage before people have got off. They close tubes at times in the rush hour so you have to get on at the other connected station (10 minutes away) then walk underground for another 10 minutes to get back to where you started. Its all the simple, basic bits of life which strike you as so different. I imagine it's just the same for a Russian in England.

This is around 9.30 in the morning!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Rootin Tootin Putin

The weather has got nicer recently, although can still be bitter. A few days ago it was like this, though:

Its Tim's birthday today, so shame on all of you for not wishing him a happy one. We went out for dinner at this nice place with a weird honky-tonk band on and a 90 year old tap-dancer. I've had a bit of Uzbek cuisine too recently, which is entirely the same as Russian. Natasha, who is the boss, Sacha's girlfriend invited us to jump out of a plane tomorrow for Tim's birthday. We politely declined. Her friend Vera flies a plane and we assumed they'd be jumping out of that. But after some complicated conversation we discovered that she is only allowed to fly in a circle and the invitation was to jump out of a helicopter. She doesn't speak much english so it took a while to get there.

I am certainly not going to jump out of a plane in Russia. The technology cannot be trusted.

More soon...

Monday, April 9, 2007

Many Happy Returns

Happy Easter to you people out there in non-Moscow

Went to a Jazz Club the other night to see Billy Cobham. He's some kind of big fish in the land of Jazz apparently. A jazz drummer, he played with a band of Russians who Tim said were crap, although I couldn't tell, as it was jazz, which is of course, all crap. Highlight of the evening was when we passed Billy as he was coming off stage and Tim said; "Nice one Billy!". I'm not sure this was jazz etiquete, but Billy was fine with it. I'd have given him an icey death stare. Each to his own.

Its been snowing here and is freezing, but on the whole its an enjoyable adventure. The students are frustratingly unmotivated but a joy in comparison to working with school age students. Getting used to the signs and the weird customs, the terrible service and crazy roads. And after a good 20 minute search in the supermarket managed to find some basil and oregano.

Been waiting for money which has finally arrived so buying a camera tomorrow, so photos will be appearing soon for the less imaginative of you...

Puka! (with the stress on the last syllable.)

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The General

This post will give you some idea of the general oddness of things round here. When I went to the supermarket with a rucksack on, the security guards at the door made me put it in a big plastic bag and then stuck a sticker round the top so I couldn't steal anything. There are people in Russia who have jobs where they don't have to do anything. There are so many employees at the supermarket, that everything on the shelves is moved every two days! You can't find anything. People in glass boxes sit at the bottom of escalators watching 4 monitors. In fact, there are security guards everywhere with nothing of value to keep secure. When we went to the sports bar which has a casino in it, the guy runs some kind of detector over you, which beeps over mobile phones etc, but he doesn't want to check them. I assume that he knows what he's doing and the thing beeps differently over guns and shit. Although I am suspicious that he hasn't got a clue what he's doing. When Tim went to the police station, he said there were about thirty coppers sitting around smoking. Thirty! Also, everyone is late and unmotivated. The students just can't meet deadlines and so many of them can't work independently. Its all rather frustrating.

The shops are weird too. They are glass fronted with all the products on display on shelves against the glass, packing the entire front wall of the shop. In the middle of that is a tiny window that you poke your head through to ask for beer or chocolate or Russian Grazia or paracetomol or a religious figurine. Its all just a little odd. And you have to pre-pay for everything: internet, gas bill, everything.

Everyday I see something that just makes me chuckle at the silliness of it.

On another note, I've been fiddling around with type and using that as the basis of some cartoons. Here's an example using an idea I had a while ago:

Whether working for a living or just riding for your pleasure, let the world see your life is something that you treasure...

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Schizoid Man

We had fun today in a Russian restaurant. Tim ordered a steak and it came with nothing else. Just meat no vegetables. I ordered a chicken dish and it was chicken with banana sauce. Sounds like one of Hilde's experimental recipes. It was nice, though.

Its quite work intensive this visit to Russia. We're currently planning a typography workshop with slides and all sorts of shit. I'm trying to fit cartoons around that as well. I've been playing with a drawing tablet today, for the first time. Its pretty cool. Here's my first go:

Drawn entirely on the computer, luddites. It's hard trying to do some of my own work, experiencing Russia and focussing on a new job, but as always I'm up to the task.

I remain your humble servant,


Monday, April 2, 2007

Free for All

Got a pizza from pizza hut after work today. They didn't have a box big enough so they put it in 5 seperate small boxes. Also: It was the wrong pizza.

There are some people with really bad acne here, Tim thinks its a virulent form of leprosy but I know better. You don't see acne like that any more in England. There was one policeman with it. He looked silly, particularly with his giant green hat.

There don't seem to be any rules for drivers here. They're all mad. And there's no parking fees. It's total anarchy. It actually makes me think that labour have got it right over-regulating drivers. Without rules where would we be? Fucking Moscow, that's where.

I know you lot are incredibly busy but I'd like some comments please so that I know you're reading this. Come on people. This is for your benefit! Pictures will be on here soon. That should make you come back for more.

Be seeing you.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A, B and C

Right, day 3. Went into the centre and saw Red Square and the Kremlin. Half of the square was shut so couldn't see most of it, including Lenin's Mausoleum. I'll have to go there again soon. I'm not sure why they have the onion things on top of the towers. Isn't that a muslim thing? More research required. It feels very Russian though.

Went to the national gallery. Full of traditional painting including that one on the cover of Crime and Punishment. Massive place. Got tired and had coffee and cake. Yum Yum.

Tim took me to a little gallery of contemporay art which was showing Georg Baselitz, Chris Ofilli and the amazing Jonathon Meese. His stuff is brilliant, the scale and humour and energy in it was fantastic. I would go so far as to say I loved it.

That evening we went out out with Sacha (the director of the School) and his girlfriend Natasha. First we had Vietnamese. And now a word now about the service. Natasha got her starter at the same time as her main, Tim got his main after we'd finished and when I got my main the waiter said I had to wait ten minutes for the rice to go with it! Why he didn't tell me that 10 minutes earlier, I don't know. Its not rocket science people! Got over that and went to this crazy party...

Sacha drove in his crazy Russian way, which is basically completely illegal and like Popeye Doyle in The French Connection and we got to this weird broken down warehouse. There were girls with big hair and next to nothing on giving out free beers, a car outside with a video in the boot playing awful house music and loads of photographers. On stage to begin with 2 skinny girls danced badly to the terrible music. One was wearing tiny pants and a top. All the Eurotrash were dancing in the way only Russians can and I was immediately feeling like this was exactly the place I never wanted in my entire life to find myself. Then the Russian hip hop group came on.

The Miller girls started dancing out of time to them, guys who couldn't see a thing in their sun glasses started flicking their arms around like gay down syndrome suffererers and I pursuaded Tim to leave, who was in the same mood as me. Sacha, it turned out had left after a night of arguing with Natasha.

We got a taxi back. It cost 2 quid.

The Chimes of Big Ben

Second day in Moscow: First I wandered around in a bit of a daze, looking at all the strange signs, dust flying about and went to the 'British School of Higher Art and Design' where I'll be working, via Metro. Loads of people, cramming on to ancient looking trains, completely inscrutable signs. Got to crack the alphabet.

All the girls are really skinny here, they make English girls look rather porky. Note that there aren't fried chicken shops on every corner. Some are even pretty, although this is rare. All dress 'distinctively' in the oddest combinations. Terrible fake Versace, gold bits and all. Bad jeans, eighties suits. Saw one Russian guy check out a couple of girls and walk straight into a billboard like on YBF.

College is really nice and modern, met my colleagues, some can speak english, some can't. Feels good there, very creative and comfortable. I reckon I'll enjoy it. Worked with a couple of students, including Tutu (Ekaterina Tyutyunnik) who I met in England. Her typography sketchbook was awesome. She'd also illustrated a childrens book. Tim said that she basically lives at the studio and she at one point did an experiment where she stayed at the studio for three weeks, not sleeping. She's not crazy then...

Made some alphabet flash cards. I'm getting there now. I'll give you an example of the craziness of the alpabet. 'Pectopah' is 'restaurant'. P is R, H is N, C is S and E is YE. So you get Ryestoran. That's basically what they do with words. Approximate them with Russian letters. When you find a word that you recognise its a nice little moment.

Went out and had Moroccan for dinner. There was a belly dancer. Russians are unbelievably dreadful dancers.

Touristy things tomorrow:

stay classy England.

Saturday, March 31, 2007


First impressions of Moscow: Dusty, bad haircuts, appalling dress sense, construction sites, everyone is earily quiet.

Having dragged my huge bag across the dusty streets accompanied by a hideous scraping noise from the wheels that don't work, I collapse knackered into Tim's flat, where I'll be staying for the next couple of months. Its nice. He is totally paranoid about ruining the varnish on the floors. My bag seems like the ideal weapon for doing just this, but I lift it up anyway. Because I'm nice.

No milk for coffee or tea because Tim says they don't have proper milk. Okay.

We go out to a weird live music/bar/cafe. Tim doesn't know how to summon a male waiter, only a female one so consequently the service is shocking. Menu was entirely illedgible-had some soup and weird fish. I decide I'm not like most British people who would go to Pizza Hut or Maccy D's for a first meal to 'ease themselves in'. Obviously very proud of that.