SOVIET HOSPITALITY Part 9
Part 9. I tried to add to part 8 a recipe as requested but it has appeared in an unrecognisable state and I can’t get rid of it. Had better not try that again. Sorry.
Today, Sunday, was a working day. This seems to be because the 8th of March went on for three days. On the 8th men give their wives flowers and get pissed. On the 9th they demonstrate their affection for sid wives by taking out the carpets to clothes lines in the communal area between the houses (blocks of flats) and beating them. On the 10th people take it easy and get over the general celebrations – a bit like our New Years Day. Rabfail had decided that glasses (optical) were shockingly expensive in England soI should visit their clinic and get a prescription to buy a pair here. I protested that this was unnecessary but Rosa came home from work to take me so I went and a delightful doctor tested my eyes and gave me a prescription, armed with which Rabfail later bought me a very good subsidised pair of specs in case I lose mine, a possibility which he, probably rightly, sees as a probability.
We then set off to the puppet theatre. The director and one of his artists took us round everywhere and showed us all the puppets and where and how they were made. It was fascinating. All the people there clearly love their work and work for far less money than they could get if they employed their skills in the ordinary manufacturing industry. Finally he took us back to his room for tea and then escorted us through the theatre for the performance. Rabfail had to shoot outside to find Rosa who did not know we would be already inside. The performance, ‘A Northern Fairy Tale’ was all the more interesting for having seen the characters hanging up ready and having examined their inner workings. In the interval the director came and fetched us and took us through the locked door to a gallery from where the music and lights (a vast complex of wires and gadgets) were operated. Then we went back for the second half. Most of the audience were children, just a few adults inside seats. They do a performance for adults twice a month and apart from these performances it is difficult to get seats. They are all for children so we were especially lucky with out complimentary tickets. The performance finished with the appearance of the northern lights, which had been imprisoned by a wicked bird who, I think, was the robber nightingale ‘Соловей Разбйник’. This was an enormous tall and fantastic puppet which we had seen earlier but he now appeared all lit up and nearly touching the top of the set. At the end the director took us backstage to see while it was still up there. At the end of the performance all the puppets came round in front of the screen with their actors to take a bow. We’ve been invited to another performance and I’ve been promised a Bashkir doll.
From there Rabfail went home to do various tasks like fetching my glasses and Rosa and I went to look at a clothes shop. This was rather limited but by no means a disaster. There were ‘cooperative’ (Ie private enterprise) as well as state made clothes, the former more expensive than the latter but on the whole better.
From there we went to some book shops. I got a nice map of USSR which shows all the republics even the autonomous ones. Autonomous means, as far as I can understand it ‘non autonomous’ as they are within other republics and are not usually shown in a different colour. The map will be useful to show people where Bashkiria is. In the art shop there were quite a lot of original paintings at various prices as well as prints. One very large and beautiful winter scene cost 680 roubles. Frames were rough but some of the paintings excellent.
We had dinner, a slightly spicy soup with noodles, followed by chicken rissoles and coffee (real and good!) in a big restaurant, the Rossiya. While we were sitting over our coffee the cloakroom attendant came over and more or less told us to get a move on as they wanted to close for their break..
After dinner we went to the Russian Dramatic Theatre. Rosa being with me had let Rabfail off the leash, he making it clear that musicals were more to his taste but that he would take me if she didn’t. I was glad Rosa came as we both enjoyed it. It was an American play by Edward Olby, ‘Everything In The Garden’. I reckon I understood about half but it was well done.
Finally we went home and had Xarcho. Rosa’s version has prunes in it. I have forgotten what exactly it is now.