There’s no ocean here


Here I am in Moscow, yet again miles from the sea!

Last time here it was -26 deg C, but now the days are long, sunny and warm.  Fur coats are stashed and bling things strut, sporting short shorts. The silver birches are in rich foliage, flowers abound, lovers canoodle on benches and sedate old men walk their dogs. Old bescarved ladies queue to see some relic or other at the Church of Christ Saviour. Nobody smiles here of course, but after all this is Russia.


As you may imagine, Maxine is not an easy person to love. But I don’t suppose I am, either. My boundless adolescent romanticism sits uneasily with her rigorous Dutch pragmatism. She plans and organises while I just dream. But as usual we have slipped easily back into an intimacy whose seeds were sewn in arctic Norway a lifetime ago. Our windows are open to gentle breezes, the young flautist upstairs is practising a Mozart concerto and next door a lyric tenor is singing Monteverdi.

Having just finished Pomerantsev’s bleak and frightening account of Russia post perestroika (“Nothing is True and Everything is Possible”), I now find myself noticing the armor-plated Mercedes 4×4’s and Maybachs with tinted windows. They’re everywhere. As usual the streets are in disarray – one friend says that summertime roadworks are a very effective way of money laundering. I am told the main construction company in Moscow is owned by some oligarch, or perhaps the Mayor’s wife.

There is a disconcerting lack of ocean here but all in all this is a lovely interlude between Papua New Guinea and the Mediterranean, catching up with old friends, visiting again the Tretyakov (for de Chirico, of course) and the Pushkin galleries, walking.

Next week I fly to Barcelona to join my refugee rescue ship, of which more anon.

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