As I grow older, I cherish Sundays more and more – especially this year when I finally don’t work on Sundays. I’m discovering the beauty of “taking time”: I don’t rush my breakfast, dog-walking, reading, doing something about the house, if I must. The feeling of prolonged time is so palpable on Sunday, yet there is also this special silence and relaxedness that is so characteristic of the fin de weekend. Whereas before I’d be thinking of what else to do for the next day, this time, this October, I’m just looking forward to the dog-walking and evening tea.
Over the years I’ve done so much and gone so far that I can’t help taking time and looking inside rather than collecting the impressions of the outer world. My religious views also suggest the inner work, the improvement of the inner vision and wisdom, and I am glad this is so. The year 2014 was a turning point in my religious outlook, and I’m glad to be among the faithful. I’ve never been an atheist, but the years of agnosticism or misconception of the role of the church are also firmly in the past.
Hence tonight, as I’m looking out of my window, I feel this immense warm gratitude to each and every person on my path that, knowingly or not, made me who I am now. As the city is sinking into the dusk, I’m catching the last glimpses of Sunday – to imbue the coming week with calm and joy.
As I’m reading through Art History books of my English-language library, I’ve immersed myself into a book on Turner’s trails in North and South Wales. I bought it on my visit to Valle Crucis Abbey in Denbighshire in 2009.
My visit to Dinefwr
I visited Dinefwr Castle two years earlier, in the summer of 2007. I was accompanying my husband to Carmarthen, and on a free day we decided to travel to see one of the castles. Dinefwr in Llandeilo turned out to be the closest, we didn’t have to change buses, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I wrote about the trip in my Carmarthen Cameos and even received a long comment from a once citizen of Llandeilo, in whom my post awakened lovely childhood memories.
Turner’s Dinefwr Castle
Dinefwr Castle, in its turn, inspired Turner: he visited it in 1795, and in 1796 he exhibited the watercolour painting, Llandeilo Bridge and Dinevor Castle. It can now be seen at the National Museum of Wales. Just like in his other paintings, he juxtaposes different viewpoints, making both castle and hill more magnificent and closer to the viewer than they really are. The bridge, as we can see, used to be insecure: in the watercolour Turner depicts it being supported by an uprooted tree. Following his intention to combine the past with the present, Turner concentrates entirely on the foreground, which is ridden in misery, whilst the silhouette of the glorious past glows in the light of the setting sun. The eye of the viewer may travel from top to bottom or the other way round, but in any case, one is moved to consider the fate of Wales and its people.
And this is the extract from the aforementioned Cadw book that sheds light on the variety of techniques an artist could use to enhance the desired effect:
Whilst this picture was undergoing conservation in 1993 an unexpected discovery was made that shed new light on Turner’s experimentation with watercolour technique at this time. Bonded onto the back of the paper was another sheet painted with the same scene, though in a different technique and seemingly unfinished. At first this was thought to be a preparatory sketch that Turner had abandoned, but further investigation revealed that it was almost certainly a deliberate attempt to imitate in watercolour an effect that he had found possible with oil by superimposing layers of pigment. Here he seems to have tried to exploit the translucency of the watercolour paper and enrich the level of reflected light from the surface of the finished picture by placing additional painted work underneath the paper (from: On the Trail of Turner in North and South Wales, p. 30. Cardiff, 2008 (3rd ed.)
To summarise, Turner made another painting of the similar scene on the back on the final picture in order to enhance the light and expressivity of the watercolour. Given his secrecy about his working methods, I’m very intrigued to find out what other methods and techniques he deployed to obtain a previously unknown artistic effect.
My library is finally back home. After I had moved and posted everything that needed to go before anything else, there only remained hardbacks and photocopies to be transported from Manchester to Moscow. That was the end of December, 2013.
In 2014, my grandma died, then the anti-Crimean sanctions struck, a little later, in the aftermath of the flood, we were faced with a complete makeover of the flat… The prospect of bringing the books and papers to Moscow was delaying with every passing month and year.
Then I made a resolution to have them all back to Moscow by the end of 2019. And when that didn’t work, I didn’t back down but instead adjusted the deadline. I suppose I was as determined as Cato the Elder when he professed the imminent destruction of Carthage. None of us knew exactly when this would happen but both of us were determined to live to the day. Well, I certainly was.
So, the books are finally here, and I have also been able to appreciate the long-term friendly ties that remain despite the boundaries and time. One friend helped to pack the boxes, another arranged the posting. Here in Moscow I had some books delivered by the courier; a few I picked up from my local post office; and one I had to collect from a remote post office in a taxi.
This weekend was spent putting the books on the shelves. The papers are still to be accommodated in their new abode. One thing I have already done was to look through my treasured Unseen Vogue and People in Vogue editions. In one of the pictures you can see Wallis Simpson and the former king Edward VIII, photographed by Cecil Beaton.
It may seem I live from sunset to sunset – so many of them have I captured in the last few years since I was back to Moscow. Each of them is truly spectacular. Occasionally, I think that I could move to the countryside, but one thing that would influence my decision is the opportunity to watch sunsets.
I worked with a guy whose parents lived in a house halfway between Cambridge and Chichester. From the front it was just another country house, but the back door led from the kitchen into the yard that overlooked the beautiful expanse of either rapeseed or rye framed on the horizon by the woods’ greenery and the azure sky. We visited his parents in the evening, it was summer, the sun was setting slowly, and the sky was lazily donning the darker blues, adding a tint of feminine pinks to its subdued countryside glamour.
So, if that could be the view from my backyard that I would get upon moving to the country, I probably wouldn’t give it a second thought. Meanwhile, I continue enjoying the captivating sunsets from my block of flats.
I took this photo a couple of years ago during my morning walk. The bed of tulips caught the rising sun, creating a beautiful tapestry of subdued shades. This year the tulips season went almost unnoticed due to the lockdown, and the flowerbeds presently boast different kind of smaller garden flowers.
In my neighbourhood there are a lot of apple and pear trees, as well as cherries. The latter have already been eaten by kids and birds. But the apples and pears are ripe, and where they grow, the ground is covered with fallen fruit.
August is my second most favourite month, after December.
There are rumours that another lockdown is looming from mid-September onwards. Hence I thought it was high time to reflect on the first episode of our not-so-lovely soap opera. First, let me share some musings on distant education we’ve been through.
Speaking as a tutor, I have to say that I’m rather thankful to lockdown. On the one hand, it was a bit of a hassle to sort out the weekly schedule for my students. Up until May we all presumed that there would be Year 9 exams, analogous to the GCSEs in England. In May the Ministry of Education resolutely said ‘no’ to GCSEs and rescheduled A Levels to June. In case with private tutors it meant that we kept working all through May, June and even July. My personal vacations began on August, 2. To say that I’m tired is to say nothing. It looks and feels that I’d better stay in the city to avoid possible complications, but I certainly feel I have to go somewhere to get some rest.
On the other hand, I realised just how convenient my work suddenly became. I no longer had to visit students, neither they had to come to me, and yet we had quality lessons over the phone or Zoom. If I wanted, I could easily make myself a cup of tea or coffee, something I don’t practise when I work face-to-face. Most importantly, we were able to do so much more in a relatively short time. I felt that my secondary school students began to feel more confident.
Children, too, had more time on their hands to do something creative. In the next post on the topic I’ll show the animated plasticine videos one of my students created at home. Other students took to drawing, sewing, reading, and just enjoying themselves.
I’m not sure I want things to stay this way. The classroom experience means a lot to both students and teachers, so it is important that we all the chance to learn and teach face-to-face. However, I must admit, now relying on my own experience, that distant education is a good opportunity that should not be discarded.
Today’s dusk was of the kind that I’m very fond of. The sun spiritual, hiding in the clouds, sheds its light on earth. I sometimes think this is a reminder of the Days of Creation or even of His presence.
As we often say, posting a picture taken by phone: “it doesn’t reflect the true colours”. The sun is setting at this precise moment in Moscow, and the beautiful peachy pastel shades have painted the sky.
I’ve had a very good day, if judged by 3 cones of ice cream that I ate. I wrote and read a lot, and now is the time to slow down and get ready for the night.
There’s little better than to spend a Sunday afternoon in a company of good friends. Years ago I wondered what to do to ensure I spend such lovely time with people whose company I treasure. It took me a decade to find such people but now I’m very happy to have them. So, this Sunday sunset is peaceful and fills my heart with joy.
My school year has finally ended, the A-Levels are done with, and my students are looking forward to their results – and their new adult life. I wish them every happiness on their way.
These days in Russia we recall the 1980 Olympics. I’m doing two voiceover projects, in one of them I’m also a translator, and my text will apparently be used by the German team to produce a German version of an educational course. The French voiceover project involves me as an editor and a voiceover artist; this is a Psychology course for those who wish to overcome stress.
I’ve got enough time now to finish my editorial work, to develop my Yandex.Zen channel, and to do a couple of translation projects. I’ll probably finish a couple of knitting projects, too.
And to share the glimpses of my Moscow life with you, I’ve started the rubric Neighbourhood Cam. My Instagram account is also dedicated to the photos of the place where I was born and currently live. To begin with, here’s today’s Sunday sunset.
Also, if there’s something you want to learn about life in Russia, or Moscow in particular, feel free to ask!
We’re in the new week of quarantine, and QR-codes in Moscow are now necessary to obtain if you need to go to work. Officially, this is due to the Muscovites’ below-average observation of quarantine. Indeed, a lot of people, especially youngsters, still go out, so now they will have to order QR-codes in Moscow that will then track their movement and whereabouts.
As for me, I’m in yet another week of distant teaching. There are many advantages, and perhaps my dogs appreciate the sudden absence of people more than I do. The biggest disadvantage is the need to operate multiple devices. In the past, if we used a textbook, then I didn’t need either phone or the Internet. Today, I often use both a textbook and the Internet, and I conduct a session via a phone.