My prime reason for visiting Moscow was my Grandma’s birthday. She’s turned 86 on October 1. I happened to be walking in Moscow city centre, and a lot of VIPs were getting into the Kremlin. A passer-by asked me what the occasion was; I replied that the only occasion I could think of was my gran’s birthday, but since she wasn’t quite well-known it was unlikely they were celebrating her. We laughed, and the man asked me to send her his greetings.
Of course, I’m using this opportunity to take a holiday and to look around, to see what changed and how. Yet amidst all I hear the voices urging me to stay.
And, to be honest, I don’t know. There are many things here that I remember and love. The other day I easily navigated my city, as if I’ve only been away for a month. If I’m honest, though, had I only been away for a month, the sense of novelty would’ve been so much more palpable. Bizarrely, after seven years I neither see many changes, nor do I feel like I’ve been away for a long time.
What I did notice, and I wrote about it in my Russian post, is that people rarely smile. It’s not like they dance in the street in Manchester or anywhere in the UK, obviously. However, I must be really used to the fact that people do smile back at you and organise impromptu music and dance performances on the English side, whereas in Moscow this would most likely invite sneering remarks, or people would think you’re laughing at them rather than merely giving them a friendly smile.
People turn at me all the time, and it’s another part of my bizarre experience. I don’t feel or see many changes but in my native city I seem to be more of a stranger and foreigner than foreigners themselves. Of course, it is all a matter of finding your own circle and carving your own niche, but so far one thought proves itself true: in one way or another I have outgrown my native city.
There is nothing particularly peculiar about this. In order for our parents to be proud of us, we must outgrow them, their education, their habits, the expectations they had for us. I want my city to know me and to be proud of me, but for that I have to be larger than it, and so far this seems to be the case.
What it makes me wonder is this: exactly how and where would I fit in, should I decide to move back? And I can only recall my good pal David Edmundson-Bird who told me at the end of 2009 when I was looking for another job: stay in Manchester and spread your influence from there. Should I decide to move, it would only be to cut certain costs and to acquire certain career opportunities. Maybe to enjoy better healthcare than the UK’s NHS. But little else, methink.
Sadly or not, I have no idea, and I’m not planning to decide any time soon…