Memories of a Russian winter: Part 2 – shopping

Dom Knigi (House of Books) in St Petersburg
CC photo via Flickr: House of Books in St Petersburg, one of my favourite places to visit

Given the 21st-century backlash against consumerism, it might seem contrary to write a post about my experiences of shopping in Russia, but different country, different era.

What’s more, shopping presented one of the best opportunities we had as students to practise our language skills in a ‘real’ environment outside the classroom.

As I mentioned in my first post about living in Russia in the 90s, after morning lectures had finished, we invariably headed off into the city centre of St Petersburg to see what we could find.

Shops in Russia – even a major city like St Petersburg – were an oddity. Not their existence, rather what they sold.

Buying food

There wasn’t much originality in shop names in 1992. For example, there were numerous places called ‘Moloko’ meaning milk. The irony was that milk was almost never on sale in these shops – in fact, the primary product available appeared to be cognac (the Russian version).

Looking for items of food was always a major element of our excursions into town. Certain items were always available: every second shop’s window display was stacked with jars of pickled goods.

Pickling was of course, a necessary way for citizens to preserve a glut of produce before they went bad (although I didn’t properly understand that at the time). Continue reading “Memories of a Russian winter: Part 2 – shopping”

How ‘Get Back’ demonstrates the change in respect in 2022

Get Back documentary still
A little-talked-about Beatles documentary(!) was released in December on Disney+. Joking aside, the column inches that Peter Jackson’s Get Back has generated must have the execs at Disney rubbing their hands with glee.

It’s a sign of how obsessed people are with John, Paul, George and Ringo that spliced-together footage that’s over 50 years old can still be such a massive deal.

That said, for me, watching the documentary made The Beatles seem more real than ever. Filmed in glorious colour (unlike much of the black-and-white footage of their career) and seeing them going about their ‘work’, you’d barely know it was filmed in 1969.

However, one particular detail stood out for me in Episode 1 that demonstrated what a different world we live in now. Continue reading “How ‘Get Back’ demonstrates the change in respect in 2022”

Be like Donovan – keep the thrill alive

Earlier this week, I was listening to an episode of Blood On The Tracks, the Colin Murray-fronted show, where guests bring their record collections and debate their favourite tracks in certain chosen categories.

In one particular round, the guests were asked to name their favourite act to come out of Scotland.

Fashion queen and former guitarist in The Fall Brix Smith chose Donovan.

If you don’t recognise the name or the above picture of Donovan, don’t worry.

In the 60s, he had a string of hits, such as Mellow Yellow, Sunshine Superman and Hurdy Gurdy Man, but his star waned in the 70s.

It transpired that Brix Smith knows Donovan and has his number, so Colin Murray challenged her to call him live during the recording. Continue reading “Be like Donovan – keep the thrill alive”