Friday, 4 November 2016

Opportunity knocks

A caller on my mobile phone inquires whether we are still making our spruce products in South Lanarkshire. That same evening, I watch a TV programme,  'Hipsters', by trend-spotter Peter York. I conclude that, were we 'hipsters', wearing check shirts and sporting raggedy beards, we and our hand made,  'artisanal' , organic products would be the toast of Spitalfields, at ludicrous prices. However, we are not in east London and production is on hold while we fell and replant our spruce crop.

I am reading Alexander Herzen's 'My Past and Thoughts', a massive, unwieldy and unclassifiable collection of memoir, political polemic and letters, plentifully bestrewn with long footnotes. It is mystifyingly little known in this country, but treasured as a classic in Russia, Herzen's native land.

Since our fifth Moffat Russian Conference, I feel twinges of the old trouble: I sometimes introduce myself at public gatherings as 'a recovering Russianist'.  'That country' as my former husband John used to call it with affectionate exasperation. Since our Russian guests departed, I have had time to look carefully through a slim paperback volume they brought with them, about Marina Tsvetaeva, one of the five poets celebrated at our conference. It turns out to have an introduction by Mikhail ('Misha') Men', a governor of the Ivanovo region whence the Tsvetaevs originated, and a distant relation. Misha is now Minister for Building and Construction in the Putin government, a far cry from his early career as a hard rock musician. He and his famous father Alexander used to listen to a bootleg record of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Jesus Christ, Superstar' together. What a complicated country, populated by complicated people, Russia is.

No comments:

Post a Comment