There is no hiding from the fact that I have been less than perfect in promptly posting on here. As is often the case in life, in my first few weeks back my life was a hive of activity and the things to write about seemed fairly endless. Having settled in, however, life has also slowed down somewhat, which is probably good for my mental faculties, but which does not make for particularly interesting reading. I suppose that is part of writing anything continuous: a diary, a blog, a column, the ability to find new things to write about even in the more mundane sections of life. I suppose it is also a symptom of today’s society, a desire to only share the parts of your life that are interesting, fun and exciting whilst ignoring the parts that hold less appeal, less “Instagrammableness”. I will thus attempt to write about the somewhat mundane parts of my life whilst maintaining any compulsion that previous posts may have had.
The last few weeks have been spent trying to improve my Russian skills (supposedly the reason I am in this excellent city) and pottering around a few of the lesser known sights of St Petersburg. The ice has finally begun to melt so I have also been making the most of the ice that is left, running across canals and rivers at all possible intervals. Despite the rapidly melting bodies of water, it is by no means warm. The sun has been making much more frequent appearances in recent weeks, and every time I think that Spring is coming, the sunshine is immediately followed by a blizzard. Every time the sun comes out I turn into some form of house cat and spend my time chasing patches of sunlight around to work or read in. Besides embracing my inner feline, I have also been attending a number of Russian sporting events, which is rather unlike me. I have to say that despite not being particularly invested in either football or ice hockey (the two matches that I watched), I actually thoroughly enjoyed attending. Ice hockey, in particular, is incredibly entertaining to watch, and when coming from a very ice-less country, seems amazingly impressive. I struggle to even remain upright when on the ice, but the players move with a surprising amount of grace given the copious layers of padding they all wear. I make no promises, but at this rate, I will return to England a fully-blown “Hooligan”.
I have not just been attending wild sporting events, I have also been trying to get my dose of cultural activities in. Last week I attended an exhibit on Frida Kahlo at the rather stunning Faberge Museum, and I have to say I was extremely impressed. It was apparently the same exhibition that was housed at the V&A for some time, and that was perpetually sold out in its time there. Here, however, it was a lot easier to get tickets. The exhibition showed many of her and her husband, Diego Riviera’s works. I am not particularly familiar with Frida Kahlo, her life, or her work but this exhibition was incredibly enlightening. For those of you who, like me, are not familiar with her, she lived an incredibly sad life. Disabled by Polio from a young age she was then involved in a bus accident at 18 that forced her to be bed bound for three months, during which she painted with a specially made easel above her bed. After her stint in hospital she still suffered health problems for the rest of her life, and her dreams of going into the medical profession were dashed, but her love and involvement in art had begun in earnest. Their marriage was not particularly happy and they both had extra-marital affairs, including one between Kahlo and Trotsky and one between Riviera and Kahlo’s sister. Her health after her bus accident was perpetually fragile and she suffered both miscarriages and abortions leading to a decline in her mental health. In later years when her marriage became increasingly strained (including a divorce and reconciliation), she even attempted suicide. There are many other incredibly interesting facets of her life, and if you haven’t I would highly recommend doing some reading on Kahlo, she was a truly remarkable woman, a fact that was very well reflected in the rather touching exhibition.
Kahlo, Trotsky And Their Respective Spouses
I also visited many Tsars of Russia in their final resting place in Peter and Paul’s Fortress to fulfil my Russian cultural requirements. The cathedral in which they are now housed, including the last Romanovs who were previously at rest in Ekaterinburg, is very beautiful both inside and out and includes a stunning example of an iconostasis, a large gold panel inscribed with icons and paintings. Besides that, I have also taken a trip to see some exhibitions at the Hermitage including one particularly stunning one of Frescos by Piero della Francesco. Beyond that, as previously mentioned I have mainly been chasing the little sunshine we have and enjoying the increasingly long days, ready for spring to make its presence fully known. Until then I wait with bated breath to see some grass again and perhaps even some green leaves.