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Happy New Year!

By way of tradition, I’m about to wish all of us a very happy new year ahead. It’s got to be good now that we survived the End of the World frenzy, don’t you think?

My 2012 has been rich in many an experience, so in no particular order here’s what I did and learnt in the passing year:

– went on a press-tour to Ivanovo Region;
– visited Kaluga region several times;
– did a 4-month practical course in Film Making;
– did a 2-month practical course in Literary Translation (prose) with two of the best working Russian translators;
– visited Pskov Region;
– a book I translated in 2011 has been released in August 2012;
– was published, nominated, and been asked for a permission for publication as a translator;
– many photos were published in a Russian Metro newspaper;
– attended many events;
– as a journalist, helped the Artist charitable fund, founded by the Russian actors Evgeny Mironov and Maria Mironova (not related) to help elderly actors. A branch headed by Natalia Shaginyan-Needham looks after children with moving disabilities.

I cannot mention all the acquaintances I made, and I’m exceptionally grateful for having some great friends with me, including Nadya, two Svetlanas, Elena, Alexandra, Anastasia, Galina, and a few others. And my biggest gratitude goes to my parents.

Last but not least, 2012 has brought a realization that I’m a typical Mad Catter, to paraphrase Carroll. I used to have pets since I was 12, but never did I think I’d end up having 5 cats. Actually, as of October 2012 I’ve got 6 cats, the latest being just 3 months old and sleeping next to me as I’m writing the post. Cats aren’t related, they were all foundlings, and I’m glad we’ve helped them to find a home. Needless to say, this is written by a Russian Bardot in the making, as far as pets are concerned.

As to my plans for 2013, they are rather obvious: building on what I’ve done in the past two years (or even 6 years). I’ll try to keep you updated 😉

Happy New Year! С Новым Годом! (S novym godom!)

Your Julia

PS – you might know that a 20th c. Russian tradition has been to have tangerines for New Year. Hence the picture with mandarins says: “Ready for the New Year”.

Christmas in Arts: Nativity Scene, Workshop of Hans II Strigel, Upper Schwabia

One of the highlights of the 33rd Antique Salon in Moscow in October 2012 was a showcase of German medieval and Renaissance paintings, generously offered by Russian private collectors one time only. The significance of this cannot be underestimated: when Russian collectors of the 18th c. began to acquire Western paintings, these were mostly by the renowned French and Italian masters. German painters, including the Cranachs, the Breugels, Duerer and Aldorfer, were practically neglected. As a result, at the Hermitage you can admire Leonardo’s Madonna Litta and Madonna Benoit, but it’s no small feat to find a German master.

Contemporary private collectors in Russia fill in the gap, albeit unless they bequest their paintings to one of the Russian museums, it is unlikely that people will ever see these beautiful artworks. We would agree, however, that this Nativity scene is a splendid example of German Late Medieval painting.

Workshop of Hans II Strigel, Nativity (1450-147980)
(Matth. 2: 1-12, Luc. 2: 1-7. Wood, oils)
The curators noted that this Schwabian painting follows the traditional depictions of Nativity that had been current throughout the 15th c. A 1504 scene of Adoration of the Magi by Albrecht Duerer puts Madonna in the bottom left corner, with the stables behind. Not only do the stables have the same triangular roof, but the cattle also make a part of the scene. The Schwabian painting dates back to the second half of the 15th c. and belongs to the workshop of Hans II Strigel from Moemmingen, Upper Schwabia. It is loosely inspired by the Revelations of St. Brigitta whereby the Nativity scene consists not merely of Madonna, Joseph and the Child at the stables, but also by three angels and two shepherds. The painting belongs to the collection of M. Kocherov.   

How the World Was (Not) Ending

It is an historical anecdote that around the year 1000 the pious medieval Christians willingly gave up their possessions to the Church, fully expecting the world to end the moment the clock struck 12am on the first day of the year 1000.

A thousand years later nobody seems to be donating their goods to either Church, or state, or any cause or person. Instead there was this burgeoning curiosity – will the Mayans be correct or will they be wrong. I suppose we know the answer, although a Russian newspaper printed an article claiming that one Russian scholar deciphered the Mayan prophecy “correctly”, and the real end of the world is looming on December 23.

Considering that December 23 is the last day for buying Christmas gifts, it’s safe to predict that in certain parts of the world the traffic will be collapsing thanks to all late shoppers.

In the meantime, here is a Someecard on the subject:

someecards.com - Just a heads up that your panic about a Mayan doomsday sounds insane even to Mayans.

2012 Xmas: First Days of Winter

To put us in the festive mood, here is a photo made in Moscow, not far from where I live. Lots of snow fell between Wednesday and Thursday this week, causing immense traffic jams, breakdowns, and 450 thousand more metro passengers.

But in the street everything was actually serene and splendid:


However, these were the scenes at the entrance to Paveletskaya metro station where people literally could not get past the entrance doors for some 20 mins.


Twelve Advice For Christmas In Recession

Christmas season has started in Russia, too, although we celebrate New Year first, and Christmas follows in January.

I know many people suffer badly this year in Britain. Some lose jobs, others have to stretch their budget to stay on a healthy diet. I’ve come across this heart-aching article earlier this week – Food for thought by Miss South, which brought back some painful memories of 2008 when I was out of work for some 6 months when recession had first struck. Losing a job was easier than finding one, but we normally only consider the “job hunting” part of the experience to describe how badly we felt. Food and other kind of deprivation is often omitted, whereas it is the inability to eat well (and that’s not packs of Mars bars!) and to socialise and to attend the memorable events that makes one feel the most miserable.

I guess for quite a lot of my compatriots in Britain this Christmas is going to be sad, dull, and deprived of one or another lovely thing. So, based on my experience and reading, this is the advice I’d give to anyone in dare situation:

1. Do not put blame on anybody.
OK, it may be Tory, or better Labour, or even Thatcher, or maybe even the U.S. or God who is the reason why the world (or the UK, or you, for that matter) suffer. You cannot change it. Even if you change the government, you cannot change America or God. Do not blame anyone, this only strengthens your already negative thinking.

2. Find something beautiful in whatever you look at.
In fact, make it a point of your life. There is so much beauty in life that goes unnoticed simply because we always “look up to the sky” and see Titian coupled with Dali and Britney Spears. If you can imagine anything like this, you will agree it’s not beautiful at all. So start noticing beauty around you. It is there, very close to where you are right now. I’ve been looking at the thermoelectric station and a busy road for most of my life, but I never actually saw them. To tell the truth, I saw the English fields, the French castles, and at best – the sci-fi landscapes.

3. You only fail when you’ve stopped learning.
If you want to get anywhere in life, you have to make mistakes. No matter how many wise men prepared you for the journey, it’s a new journey in a new era in a new country in different circumstances. You are bound to fail at least once, so go for it and stop whining.

4. Albert Einstein gave this definition to insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.
Enough said. This involves asking some difficult questions. Whether this is about personal relationships or profession, it’s all the same. If you want to change the world, change yourself. Stop expecting a different result from the same thing. It doesn’t work, it won’t, and it shouldn’t. Otherwise everyone could do it.

5. Always look on the bright side of life.
I’ve lost two close relatives, I’ve been out of job, I look after a very elderly Grandma and have to help my disabled mother, and I also have to work. Yes, there are moments when I also wish things were easier and less complex. But most of the time I am grateful for my friends, health, peace in my country and worldwide (most of the time), and all the things I can enjoy. Legion is their name, from art to sport, through science, social disciplines, short-haul travels, and every new experiences, especially if the latter come for free. It’s hard for some (even my mother) to see my point, but the more interests you have, the more opportunities there are – either for work, or for lifting up your mood. As a matter of fact, I was unwell this week, but on Thursday night I’m going to the theatre with my best friend in Moscow. And it’s free.

6. Sex is not the only free entertainment available.
Back in December 2008, the majority of Brits were opting for some bed action as a free entertainment. Already in May it was clear that entertainment brought the most natural results. But it’s instinctive. For the record, I’ve not visited quite a few Russian museums because I got so unused to the idea of paying for the entry, I cannot bring myself to paying the fee, nevermind queuing outside, like they do at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. But in Britain where museums and parks are free, there’s no excuse. This brings you close to 1) Beauty, 2) positive outlook on life, and 3) opportunities.

7. Look for opportunities.
They say recession is the best time to start a business or learn a new skill. The fee is down to your negotiation. When you have the bills to pay and to support your family, negotiating some upfront payment for overwork would be OK for me. Yes, you must then live up to your own promise. The beautiful thing is you never exactly know where this may take you. You may get the job, or you may get the skill and experience, and an even better paid job. To start, just say to yourself “I’m taking every good opportunity”, or such like, and see what happens.

8. Do not wait for the perfect job. Make best of the one you have.
The mistake most of us make is described as “if I were paid more, I’d do more”. This is a typical worker’s attitude who does not count his or her emotional contribution to work. The truth is (and I know it very well) you cannot be successful when your heart is not involved. Remember also that you are getting paid for what you ask. If you ask to be paid for the job you never did, there must be a very good reason for a prospective employer not to turn you down. I knew nothing about PPC marketing when I went to work for Latitude Group, but I knew foreign languages. I could provide them with the skill they needed the most, and in return they taught me and initiated me into the industry, for which I cannot be grateful enough.
On another hand, if you ask to be paid for the actual experience, you will always earn less. This may be a short-term solution, but it’s best not to forget about it.

9. Learn to plan.
This involves both planning your day (week, month, year) and budgeting (i.e. money planning). Recession, being out of work, or just any kind of money difficulty is the best time to learn this important skill. Do you have a diary or a planner? Do you keep it, in that you actually do things you’ve planned? Do you track your expenses? The point is not to kick yourself for spending that extra quid on a pack of Mars bars. It’s about understanding at what point and why you decided to buy the Mars bars and finding a possible substitute to it. But don’t forget that planning underpins the success, so learn to do it now, not when recession ends.

10. Whatever you want to do, can be done here and now.
I recommend you read Essays on Travel by Robert Louis Stevenson:
It’s a mesmerising account of a Scotsman journey aboard a ship to the New World with many other emigrants. A kaleidoscope of characters, with the protagonist’s musings on personal behaviour, makes a brilliant piece of travel writing. Yet this is not all. At one point Stevenson says one important thing: if you want to do something, you can do this here and now. You don’t need to travel to the New World or elsewhere to make a difference. At least you can start here and now. We’re often thinking of the likes of Mikhail Baryshnikov who made it both in Russia and in New York (I’m attempting a pun on the famous song here). What we forget is that Baryshnikov had emigrated when he was already a well-known ballet dancer, not a disillusioned wannabe.

11. Learn any skills that you lack that can help you to manage things better.
This can range from the aforementioned planning to cooking, knitting, sewing, hand crafting – anything that can help you to save or earn money.

12. When Life gets in your way, don’t try to get on with it.
Having your goals and priorities in front of you can help you manage any recession or problem. Different to it, if your goals are vague, it’s easy to fall prey to the momentous pressure. If you have a loving relationship and a good family, the most important thing is to preserve it during the financial downtime. Don’t blame anyone, don’t do the same thing again and again expecting a new result, learn something new together and look for opportunities. Chances are, for you recession will end earlier.

Why, you ask? Because I know that the law of attraction works. The positive thinking can work wonders. And when two or more loving people unite their forces, a brilliant result is guaranteed.

I hope you have a good festive season this year.

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