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December Magic – 5

Today I gave a masterclass on working with different kinds of sources when writing a Wikipedia-style article.

Earlier in 2023 I have become a member of Znanie Society, which used to be a highly reputable Soviet organization involved in education and enlightenment. In June I took part in their project Znanie.Wiki, which saw me contributing several articles on one of Moscow’s historic districts. Finally, in November and just now, in December, I gave two masterclasses. The first was on self-editing (which is a very important skill for online writers); the second was on finding and working with sources for an article.

It is a great opportunity to bring my life-long experience as a writer, editor, and researcher to a big audience. I believe in importance of sharing our life and skills with others, and I am always happy to do this, especially as I am getting older, and my experience is becoming richer. I know I could share it with my children, but I don’t think it would be enough for me. I would still look to spread my knowledge far and wide. Hence I am very grateful when such opportunities come my way.

Source: Pinterest

December Magic – 4

Since last year I’ve been taking part in different academic events. Last year I had a paper on the pictorial fate of Wales, from Richard Wilson to William Turner, and I had an article published in a paperback.

This year I took part in another conference dedicated to the notion of normality and abnormality as regards to physical and mental health. My subject was John Leland, the first English antiquary, who sadly lost his wit following the death of Henry VIII. I was trained in Tudor History but I haven’t done much research in the field since returning to Russia in 2010. So, setting my foot onto this terra ferma was a bit odd but thrilling.

Today I received a PDF copy of a soon-to-be-published collection of our essays. This time the collection will be electronic, although I certainly do not mind. As far as I am concerned, my article being accepted is the most important things considering that I am currently an independent researcher.

My plan is to allocate enough time for my academic studies next year and to finally do my Ph.D. The latter is unlikely to happen in 2024, nonetheless I should work towards this goal.

Source: Pinterest

December Magic – 3

Another important aspect of December 31st was always a last-minute cleaning. I have recently written a text about residential and office cleaning in the Crimea, Russia; and me writing it in December naturally made me remember our preparation for New Year. Not that we didn’t clean and tidy the house before December 31st. However, this date seemed like a watershed between the soon-to-be “then” and the impending “future”, and there you were – in the “now” where all sorts of things had to be done at the last minute.

I must admit, I have since reviewed my attitude to this procedure. I don’t mean to downplay its importance; yet I believe all cleansing and tidying should be done the day before. New Year’s Eve is all about winding down and saying a grateful goodbye to the old year.

And even if you celebrate Christmas first, I still hope you find time to buy presents and to clean your house in advance, and perhaps even cook some of the ingredients. Let Christmas Day be a solemn, calm occasion, which it has always been meant to be.

Source: Pinterest

December Magic – 2

One of my most vivid childhood memories is that of decorating a New Year tree. It was still the Soviet times, so we barely mentioned Christmas/Nativity. Instead, the whole country celebrated New Year. In my family we traditionally unwrapped, set up and decorated a New Year tree on December 31st. There were balls of different sizes, icicles and pines, bells and all sorts of figurines: a Spaceman, a Dog, a Cat, Gena the Crocodile, a Cucumber, and two sets of characters from the Russian fairy tales, Morozko and Ryaba the Hen. Most of them have survived to this day, and that is at least 43 years, if not more.

Source: Pinterest

Decorating a tree with these delicate fragile objects was as solemn as attending a mass. I’m not sure I’d spent the whole year waiting for this occasion. But once December 31st was there I couldn’t wait to help my mother put those toys on the New Year tree’s branches. It was a very family thing.

Source: Pinterest

December Magic Returns

My last year’s Christmas Tree Challenge has brought me a lot of traffic, thanks to Pinterest. Most importantly, it has inspired me to carry out November Thanks series of posts featuring pumpkins in beautiful interiors. But this is December now, and we all want a kind of magic.

So, this time I shall do a series of posts featuring Christmas trees up and close. Admittedly, not all Pinterest photos like that are breathtakingly beautiful, but I hope to choose those that will be of interest for the year to come.

Yet for the first post in December Magic I have once again chosen a full-length image of a Christmas tree in a festive interior. Tell me, are you beginning to decorate your house for Christmas?

Source: Pinterest

November Thanks – 20

“Find Love…, and Love will come looking for you”

I love this line from Paul McCartney’s Young Boy. It succinctly tells about the principal source of all bountiful things in this world. It is Love. We often mistake other things for it, but, as the new world is presently unraveling, it is necessary to get back to where it all began.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. 

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

So, Love never fails, and this is what we should aim for: to never fail those whom we love and who love us in return. Be it people or animals, buildings or trees, they all last only as long as we love them. Sadly, we spend eternity waiting for Love whereas the task is to find it, to open our hearts to receive it, and to take it further, to spread it far and wide.

When we learn to be proactive in this, our world will have changed forever.

Source: Pinterest

November Thanks – 19

Warmth is something we take for granted. A house should be warm, and so should our tea and meals, and winter clothes, and a hot water bottle. Little do we think, though, about the warmth of our hearts and souls. The cold we sometimes feel has nothing to do with the lack of clothes or low heating. It comes from within; it comes from other people. It causes loneliness and insecurity, frustration and disenchantment.

I’m grateful for people who shared their warmth with me when I needed it. Today I share my warmth with others to make them more confident, to let them feel love and acceptance. It is a great power – to give others what you have in excess.

Source: Pinterest

November Thanks – 13

Of all things I’m most thankful for I’d single out the friends that I acquired after 2014. The year when the Crimea reunited with Russia, a massacre in Odessa happened and a Malaysian Boeing’s catastrophe orchestrated.

I came to realise then that a few people I thought were my friends turned out to be quite alien. And I’d cope with that had it not been for their hell-bent determination to put me straight. As far as they were concerned, I was a victim of the state propaganda. In my turn, I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that we used to read the same historical texts and learn the same dates, and all graduated “cum laude”, yet for some inexplicable reason the opinion of the so-called global community mattered more to them than the actual facts.

In the end I decided I wanted more like-minded people in my life, and in the years that followed I found a lot of them, indeed.

Many of us avoid changes for fear of losing what we’ve got. To think about it, this is how a deficiency thinking is formed: we convince ourselves that unless we keep to what we have now there will be no more in future. And so we choose to persist in misery lest we experience happiness. What do you choose?

Source: Pinterest

November Thanks – 12

In expressing our gratitude we should not lose the sight of one, most curious fact. We thank God and the Universe for providing us with opportunities. We are capable of thanking ourselves for grabbing those opportunities. But rarely do we acknowledge, or even realise, that a person or people we help and serve are also god-sent. They are an opportunity, too, and we should be thankful for having them in our life. By experience, it can take a while to figure this out; once you did it, though, you will always be thankful for being surrounded by people and things.

Source: Pinterest

November Thanks – 11

Britain celebrated Remembrance Day, and I wrote on my Russian Telegram channel about it. November 11th was first marked in 1919 by the decree of King George V. Since then, and especially after the World War Two, people remembered those that fought and died in other conflicts. In fact, in one of the ceremonies I watched they even remembered the soldiers who died in the Boer War. The day that began with commemoration of the victims of the First World War has evolved into an occasion to remember all soldiers of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

In Russia, we also remember the tragedy of World War One, but we do it on August 1st, the day the war started. In recent years, we have largely come to see this event as a personal tragedy of the Russian state and its people. Following the successes at the front in 1916, it was probably assumed that Russia won the war; however, the events of 1917, with its two revolutions and deposition of monarchy, annihilated every achievement of the Russian army. The separate peace treaty between the Bolshevist government and Berlin effectively left Germany to struggle alone on the Western front. Russia, in turn, was engulfed by the Civil War.

It is hard to feel gratitude for such events, but as I said in an earlier post, it is these events that ultimately teach us the most valuable lessons. And so I’m grateful for this experience that my country had once undergone that now supports its domestic unity.

Manchester Cenotaph (@Julia Shuvalova)

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