About me

My wife was posted to the Australian embassy in Moscow from November 2011 to November 2014. I, of course, accompanied her. Prior to that I had worked with the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service for about 25 years.

I grew up during the Cold War. The Russians were 'them'. I knew almost no one who had been to Moscow, certainly no one who had spent any time there. My preconceptions were neither well-informed nor particularly positive.

Three years is a long time in a city. I got used to Moscow. I became familiar with how things were done, how things worked. It became home. The language barrier was always a formidable obstacle, but with some basic knowledge, I got by. I spent a lot of time out and about, exploring. Some days were great, others less so.

I also worked, part-time, at the embassy, where quite a few Russians were employed. They were all lovely people. Out on the street, though, it was generally a different story. Often abrupt and morose, Muscovites would seldom smile, rarely catch each other's eyes. I suppose I should not be too critical - I, after all, have never risked being hauled off to a gulag. Still, it became wearing.

Unfortunately, the Ukrainian conflict developed while we were in Moscow. MH17 was shot down with a number of my own countrymen on board. It became that much harder to feel positive, especially with the lies and propaganda coming out of the Kremlin. The Russians are becoming 'them'again. But a wreath was left on the Australian Embassy gate with a note saying, 'we are so sorry'. A reminder not to tar everyone with the same brush - some Muscovites did feel remorse.

Back in Australia, and we have moved to Melbourne. At the time of writing it is July, 2015 - mid winter. Winter?

Winter is walking to work along icy pavements in minus 15 degrees; the sun not rising until I have been at my desk for nearly two hours; the Metro crammed with damp, smelly fur coats; children's slippery dips in the park sculpted from ice; the trees covered in fairy lights and snow; the long, meandering skating rink in Gorky Park.

Call this winter? That is winter.

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