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Five Habits I Wish I Had Not Lost

Over the years I’ve lost some habits that I now wish I hadn’t. Among them are cooking at home, wearing heels and keeping abreast of all things Internet and Social Media.

One of my favourite pairs of shoes

Over the years I’ve waved goodbye to a few habits that I now wish I hadn’t lost. I cannot say the loss causes too much pain; however, it’d be better if I could regain the skills and renew the routines. So, as I’m sharing my trouble with you, will you please also let me know if you ever had a similar problem and what you did.

1.Wearing high-heels

I became very wary about heels after I’d hurt my ankle in 2008. Then in 2010 I worked in direct sales, we had to walk fast, so high-heels were not fit for purpose. I resumed wearing heels between late 2010 and 2013, but then I changed jobs. I started teaching, and in all four years of my working for a local community centre I had to walk and run once again, and flat footwear was best. I do love high-heels, and I’d love to get back into habit of wearing them regularly, but I’ve also got used to moving fast or philandering lazily, and 8cm heels are just not good for that.

2.Keeping abreast of all things social

Can you believe I used to be an SMM manager for nearly 4 years? Or that I used to run a very socmed friendly blog and, generally, was very active on many social channels? Some of them, like Klout, have since stopped existing; I still have accounts with others, but I’m not quite active there at all. I’m getting reaccustomed to the pleasure of sharing things on Reddit, Pinterest and Facebook, as much as reading up on SocMed trends. However, as my interests have firmly shifted to my own literary endeavours and teaching, every bit of new industry info feels like a huge information overload. I feel, though, that this is one of the most valuable habits I wish I had not lost.

3.Travelling far and wide

Whatever happened to those itchy feet? Admittedly, I needed some rest from my peregrinations. On the other hand, it now feels like an act of heroism to get myself out of the house and out and about. The main reason for my being sort of tied down is time: I can only go on day trips, and Russia is not England. There you can travel from Manchester to Edinburgh in 3 hours, and Scotland is almost like a different country (or so it may become after Brexit). Here in Russia you can only travel to smaller cities and towns, like Kaluga, Yaroslavl, Podolsk, Ivanovo and Tver, and, regardless of certain differences, it’s the same Central Russia as most people know it. It will take you 5 hours to get to St. Petersburg by train, and if you wish to travel to Kazan, Novgorod, Arkhangelsk, Yekaterinburg or Vladivostok, it’ll take you even more. I read and view travelogs, but it’s not the same as going somewhere.

4.Cooking at home

This is a difficult one. Living in Russia was not good for my kitchen abilities because my mother is a great cook. A small kitchen space didn’t help, either. I started cooking in England where I could have the whole kitchen to myself. Back in Moscow, I only cook now and again, and I do wish I could do it more often. Each time I gaze at the mouth-watering food photos on Pinterest I wish I could bake, fry and grill every single dish. Sadly, when we were redoing the kitchen following a terrible flood, we chose not to have an oven. Perhaps I will do something about it (or not).

5.Spending time online

I agree with those who say we need a break from the Internet. There are paper books to read, and someone like me is much better at writing on paper than using a typewriter or computer. Still, we need to be online, as life is happening there, too. There are things to which I don’t want to react, but there are others that certainly require my attention.

So, here are my 5 habits that I wish I had not lost and which I want to regain now. What about you? Have you lost any good or useful habits? Have you regained them or decided to part with them for good? Share your story in comments!

Scottish Memories

On occasion of the International Women’s Day a few days ago I came across a photo on the House of Scotland page on Facebook, which turned to be a pleasant sight to see for many of my lady friends. Indeed what’s not to like? Long hair, a beard and mustache, and even a kilt and some leather. Just perfect.

When I went to Edinburgh last year I also bought myself a tartan scarf and a sporran, which is Scottish Gaelic for “purse”. You can see it in the picture. The shop I went in was run by an Eastern European guy who, when I entered, was serving a group of Italian women who were buying ladies’ kilts, their interpreter being a girl of 11, of their party, too. He happened to visit Manchester once for a football match, though sadly he somehow ended up going for a drink to a gay-friendly bar, which put him off Manchester. But the funniest moment was when he started discouraging people from going to other shops “because they were all owned by the Pakistanis and Indians”. “There are not many authentic shops left”, he was explaining in a noticeable Eastern European accent… I’ll leave it to you to contemplate the irony of the story.

The Case For Aliens (Exercises in Loneliness-XI)

If we take George Mikes’s title literally and add to it the fact that each of us is a rather solitary figure in this world, then each of us is an alien. Either an Englishman in New York, or a Russian in Manchester, we depend on ourselves and always get back to ourselves as a point of reference.

Then another George comes to mind – that’s Orwell with his “some animals more equal than other animals”. By extension, some aliens are more equal than other aliens, provided they constitute the majority – of population, religion, sexual orientation etc.

At this carrefour originates a seeming necessity to be less alien than other aliens, and this necessity sometimes can yield unexpected results.

It was probably in 2010 that I went into a Tesco Express, one of many in Manchester city centre. The girl who was working at the till belonged to the Afro-Caribbean community and was absolutely lovely – except a typically Caribbean accent. She was trying to give me change and asked for a two pence coin. I was distracted so I didn’t hear her at first. She repeated, and I genuinely couldn’t understand. Again she said it, this time I made it out and gave the coin. She laughed:

– You’re foreign, that’s why you don’t understand my accent.

– No, – I replied, – I’m British.

I didn’t mean to be nasty, and I wasn’t really offended. After all, I was foreign in Manchester once. I suppose the whole conversation was a matter of fact, at least as far as I was concerned. It was strange and funny yet that we – both actually foreign in one way or another – engaged in guessing the “degree” of alienness, one of us ultimately losing.

Now, on my recent visit to Edinburgh I went into one of many souvenir shops . An owner with a recognisable European accent was selling ladies’ kilts to a group of Italian donne interpreted by an 11-year-old girl. “I can tell you, ladies”, he was confidently telling them in a high voice, “almost all souvenir shops here are taken by the Indians, there are only 5 or 6 authentic shops”. His was evidently one of the authentic shops.

I was attended to next. I think for the best of his business I shall omit the reference to the exact country of his origin. The point, however, is that he was as much alien to Scotland as the Indians (or Pakistani). And yet – be it due to skin colour or merely parroting what he might hear in pubs and from other vendors – he considers himself superior to people who at any rate have been associated with the UK for longer than his country of origin.

The stories are quite similar, as you can see. People assume superiority over their neighbour by assuming that the neighbour is alien. Greeks did the same when they called the rest of the world barbarians. They couldn’t understand that rather imperfect language, but it was the barbarians’ fault anyway. And as if the realisation of one’s solitary existence and loneliness in this world was not enough, there comes, sooner or later, the understanding that there are aliens who are more equal.

Shaken, Not Stirred: A Brief Review

Tomorrow Russia and a few like-minded countries celebrate the International Women’s Day. I wrote a post on this earlier. Some countries, like the UK, celebrate Mother’s Day, hence there will be a Mothering Sunday.

For me, these will be days off work that I want to spend exactly as days-off.

In the third week of February I went to the UK and this time I finally crossed the border with Scotland and wandered around Edinburg. I very briefly, for a couple of seconds, contemplated visiting Glasgow, but then I remembered visiting the UK for the first time. I never visited London then, which is the capital city. I reckoned visiting Glasgow instead of Edinburgh would be like entering the same river twice, and since you cannot enter the same river twice, I bought a ticket to Edinburgh.

I was also contracted to do some translation work, one project having been completed the day I flew out to Manchester, another that I’m involved in as a collaborator is nearly finished.

There are more work projects, all in the Translation field so far, plus I’ve surprised myself by going back to teaching. Granted I teach World History, in which I specialised, it is probably no wonder. However, I still did not expect myself to do this, and yet… I have never said “never”, so I suppose I could do as I choose.

The best thing, as I feel it, is that certain days and weeks are already booked for months ahead. Only those who know the feeling will understand how grand it is to be able to look into a diary to see that you have things to do three weeks from now.

I have also nearly missed the worldwide craze Harlem Shake videos caused this February. It seems like everybody participated, from Amazon and Google to the Egyptian opposition. And yet I found two videos which you might not have seen yet. Harlem Shake reached the English National Ballet (!) and a group of Russian guys who like an occasional ice-water dip. The eponymous holiday was celebrated in January, but this was quite an Epiphany! I’m afraid you’ll have to watch it on YouTube.

And while the Russian TV has to keen a close watch on the age restrictions for programmes, when it comes to Harlem Shake, everyone is doing it, including a popular TV host and actor Ivan Urgant:

(I thus declare that Los Cuadernos de Julia has participated in the Harlem Shake global tour).

The TripAdvisor Map of My Travels

I mentioned before that I criss-crossed England and Wales, which in a way compensated for the lack of knowledge of my first native country. Now it’s been two years since I came back to Moscow, and I’m happy to report that I have been trying to travel at every opportunity. Given that Russia is larger, it can take a fair amount of time to travel from one town to another even when they are closely located. And still… I impressed myself with the result of my exploring Britain, and you are invited to take a look. I don’t use TripAdvisor all that much, but I have been Qyping since 2010.

Plyos In Ivanovo Region Opens a Central Museum For Tourists

Plyos, the view of the Volga River (infotravel.ru)

I’ve been twice to Ivanovo Region in the last two years, and now the news has it that a new museum has been opened in Plyos, a beautiful small town half-way between Ivanovo and Kostroma. I have not been there yet.

The museum is called Prisutstvennye Mesta, which in a literal English translation means “government offices”. These provincial towns, as in England, used to be quaint regional creations in the 19th c. where government officials indeed went, sometimes to purchase the dead souls, as Nikolai Gogol told us. The regional authorities mostly likely meant that this is the central place for Sobornaya Gora tourist complex, so the verb “prisutstvovat'” is used in its literal meaning, as in “to be in the place”.

The museum (which reconstruction cost the regional budget RUB 130mln) contains a permanent exhibition following the age-long history of Plyos. The ground floor houses the offices of the local lore museum. More temporary exhibitions will unravel the little-known pages of Plyos’s history. The current exhibition that can be seen during the next 6 months is dedicated to the Time of Troubles of the early 17th c. The museum also accommodates tourists with disabilities.

The town of Plyos had been founded in 1410 by the Great Prince Vassily I. Later archaeological excavations revealed that earlier settlements in the area date as far back as 9-14th cc. During the Time of Troubles Plyos changed hands many times, going between Russians and Poles, until eventually it remained in Russian hands. The ancient wooden fortress perished in these battles and was never restored. The oldest cathedral dates back to 1699, but most cathedrals and churches were built in 19th c., some in commemoration of victory against Napoleon.

The development of Volga trading fleet led to the industry growth at Plyos. There were breweries, ten smithies, salt warehouse, and numerous stalls that sold silks and wool. A fabric plant was also opened in Plyos in the 19th c.

And like many Volga towns (Yaroslavl, Kineshma) Plyos boasted unforgettable landscapes that attracted many an artist. The Russian painter Isaac Levitan lived and worked in Plyos in 1888-1889. His museum was opened in 1970s at the house he rented while staying in Plyos

A Press Visit To the Volga Towns

After many press events that I attended in the past there was not a single press-tour. That changed in October this year when I went to survey several towns and villages in Ivanovo Region. I visited the city of Ivanovo in May 2011 for a conference, but most of the oblast’ remained undiscovered.

Our journey was kindly planned and paid for by the Department of Sport and Tourism of Ivanovo Region. A three-day press-tour started with a flying visit to the village of Pestovo from whence we went to the nearby town of Palekh, famous for its black lacquered boxes painted with a variety of scenes and subjects worthy of a proper art movement.

At Palekh we visited several local museums and a 17th c. church. The same evening we moved to Shuya where we were to spend the next day.

Shuya occupies a special place in Russian history and culture. It was the heritage seat of the Shuysky family who played an important part in Russia’s political life of 16-17th cc. One of them, Vassily Shuysky, even led the Russian state for a short period in the early 17th c., during the so-called Mutiny Time when Russia was practically invaded by Poland.

In 19th c. Shuya came to economic prominence as a centre of soap-making, harmonicas and accordions, and cloth manufacturing. But it was the poet Konstantin Balmont and the statesman Mikhail Frunze who now justly constitute the fame of Shuya. Both the poet and the statesman have museums in the town.

We also visited several cathedrals and churches, as well as a soap museum. The fate of such crafts as soap-making currently rests entirely in the hands on enthusiasts. As for churches, they all have rather different and peculiar stories. The Resurrection cathedral in the city centre was the starting point of attacks on churches under the Soviet rule, 7 people who were killed for protecting the cathedral later became the New Russian saints. The church was shut down during the USSR period. Meanwhile, Transfiguration church in Melnichnoe village remained open throughout the same period with a brief pause only during the Great Patriotic War when the church willfully offered its premises to sustain the civilian war effort.

From Shuya we migrated (by bus) to Semigorye village hotel on the bank of the Volga River. Eighteen years later after a visit to Yaroslavl this was my first encounter with the greatest Russian river. It was calm in the early morning drizzle. We went to Kineshma, the last stop of our journey where again we visited the Holy Trinity and Dormition Cathedral, Alexander Ostrovsky Drama Theatre, the Valenki (the famous Russian felt boots) Museum, and the local art gallery that, however, boasts some fine examples of European and Russian art.

As I was writing this, I realized that I forgot a great deal of things and stops. The vodka museum in Shuya where, contrary to its name, you can buy very tasty balsams and spirits. The icon workshop, the linen store, the arts and crafts Orange Cat store, and so much more.

I gave a short interview to the local paper in Shuya where I said exactly what I felt at the moment. There is so much potential in all those places in Russia, and to visit them would be a fantastic experience. Suddenly certain Russian peculiarities become apparent but also more understandable. And it would be a great honour to me to help people discover this vast, beautiful, mysterious country.

A Bout du Souffle (Longing for a Vacation)

Last night in a company of several translators we discussed the fact that Jean-Luc Godard’s title, A Bout du Souffle, is not correctly translated in either Russian, or English. The original title indicates that the protagonist is about to have the last breath; the translation suggests that he is doing something, barely breathing. It may be hard to grasp the difference, but it does exist.

The mis-translation is quite applicable in my case because I have been working on a project for over a year now, and I feel veeery tired. I hope I can get a vacation soon, for I am very glad to be engaged in this project, so I need to recharge the batteries.

In the meantime, just to give you a heads-up about what I’ve written/done and may be of use to you here are some links to Qype reviews (which are not getting posted directly to the blog for some reason):

Cathedral on the Blood (Yekaterinburg)

Heaton Park (Prestwich)

Manchester Craft and Design Centre (Manchester)

Central Library (Manchester)

Olivier Morosini Hairdressing (Manchester)

Lomonosov Moscow State University (Moscow)

The Albert Memorial (London)

I’m also in the process of compiling a couple of Russian guides for Qype; in the meantime, here are some I did in the past:

Best places to write in Manchester

Manchester Public Transport

Manchester Streets

Monuments in Manchester

Moscow Museums

Northern Quarter

Parks and Squares in Manchester

Marc Chagall, Window to the Garden

Last but not least, an exhibition of little-known works by Marc Chagall is open at the Tretyakov Gallery until 30 September. It features his illustrations to My Life autobiography, etchings to the Bible, The Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, and Lafontin’s Fables, the ceramic 6-piece table set for his daughter’s marriage, as well as many little-known paintings and collages. The exhibition is generously augmented by the artefacts of Jewish everyday life between the second half of 19th and early 20th cc.: menoras, cups, hanukkiahs, painted wall rugs, sketches of decorated tomb stones, and even a marriage contract. The exhibition is accompanied with a catalogue. If you wonder, I’ve been there this week and was very pleased. The display celebrates Chagall’s 125th birthday anniversary and comes as a part of the Literature and Language Year between Russia and France.

Kodak Is No More, But Photos Are Still There

The sad news about Kodak just shows how easy it is to get swept by “everything going fine” and not to notice that the world has changed and gone in a completely different direction. Anyway, the photos are there, and The Guardian called for our Kodak moments to share. Before 2007 all my photos were taken by Kodak and Konica cameras, and even today I still don’t own an SLC. I blogged some of the photos previously, but it’s such a good opportunity to remind myself – and you – about the times when I had to wait before the photos were printed and then I had to scan them. It was a pain, but knowing it’s no more is sad.

Rastorguevo 51. Rastorguevo 6

Rastorguevo is, strictly speaking, a small village that people pass as they travel by Aeroexpress on their way to the Domodedovo Airport. It’s only 10 minutes of train travel away from where I live, and 2000s saw the reconstruction of the monastery and the church. My mother and I used to go there on weekends when I was a little girl, we’d usually visit two shops, one that sold everything, from stationery through clothes to furniture; and another that was a village-format version of B&Q.

View a full Rastorguevo set.

2. Dubrovsky

Dubrovsky 9Dubrovsky is another small village easily accessible from my district by bus. The Gardening Institute is located there, and the river is quite popular. Naturally, people used to go there for swimming and sunbathing. Sadly, as our visit there in October 2010 showed, things have changed dramatically. The Institute has practically closed, and on the opposite bank of the river sprung a quasi-elite settlement, and cars are driving up and down the sloppy roads all the time.

View a full Dubrovsky set.


Big Ben: A Study
Big Ben
St Dunstan's Church
St. Dunstan’s Church


St Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Cleopatra's Needle
Cleopatra’s Needle


Bond St. A View from the Charing Cross Arcade
Bond St

4. My first visit to London occurred in April 2004, and I will never forget those two weeks. This isn’t the moment to recap how I felt and what I did. Maybe, had I visited London during my first ever visit to England, my attitude would be different. I look at these pictures, and I see they’re not the usual touristy type of photos. Apparently, the moments of living and walking in London in those April days, especially during Easter, are still very vivid. These are also the photos I’m glad to call mine because they are good – and given the technology that produced them, they certainly say something about me and my aptitude as a photographer.

View a full London 2004 set.


The View from the Millenium Bridge
London and the Thames from the Millenium Bridge

5.Last time I went to London with a Kodak camera was in March 2005. It looks like I didn’t scan all the photos, as there were definitely some from The Globe theatre. Anyway, during all my visits I rarely photographed the Thames, so this is a “rare” photo taken from the Millenium Bridge.

View a full London 2005 set.

6. And finally, the Lake District. I do actually miss England, and I’d happily go to visit Lakeland. There was a flying visit to Carlisle in 2010, and I visited Shap Wells in 2004, but in all my visits there (by car) I never went further than Windermere and Grasmere. I’d gladly go to Keswick.

View a full Lake District set.


Lake District 56

Lake District 6

Lake District 30

Lake District 48

Lake District 60

Lake District 26


Lake District 33

Qype: Gorki Park in Moskau

“I follow the Moskva/ Down to Gorky Park,/ Listening to the wind of change”. Yes, one of the well-loved Moscow parks, named after the revolutionary writer Maxim Gorky, was commemorated by the rock band Scorpions in 1990s. Where London has Waterloo Sunset, Moscow has The Wind of Change.

All jokes aside, this massive amusement park stretches along the bank of the Moskva River, from Park Kultury to Vorobyovy Gory stations, approximately. The famous Neskushny Sad is casually incorporated into the vast resort area in the heart of a megalopolis. Although amusement facilities and walking areas form the greater part of the Gorky Park, it is often used to host concerts and events. In particular, it is one of the favourite places for high school graduates to go after a school matinee.

During winter season an ice rink is open to public. The entry to the park is free, using amusement facilities and ice rinks varies in cost.

The Gorky Park can be reached from Oktyabrskaya or Park Kultury underground stations. If you are walking from Park Kultury station, you will be taking the Krymsky (Crimean) Bridge, from where splendid views open on to the Moskva River, Frunzenskaya Embankment, the Academy of Sciences, and the Moscow State University. Across the bridge is the Central Artist House, a place for exhibitions of contemporary art and design.


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