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One gold ring December 24, 2008

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.


Have you ever seen such beauty? You can see it even bigger here. Doesn’t it just make you want to grow a beard right now and go and do nothing but chant and swing an incense-burner all day? I was so staggered by the beauty that I had to dash to last.fm and listen to two songs by Ace of Base in a row.

It’s in the town of Rostov, north-east of Moscow, and not to be confused with Rostov-on-Don which is in quite another part of Russia altogether. This Rostov is one of the towns of the Golden Ring which are all so dripping with churchly beauty that I want to give up all that is worldly and go and live as a holy fool, spending my nights and days murmuring in a cave. Naturally, having lived down the road – by Russian standards – for two years, I didn’t go to a single Golden Ring town but, if I’m spared, it’s down as an ambition for a suitably vague point in the future. Still, Novgorod – not to be confused with Nizhnij Novgorod. I do apologise for all this – where I have been, has enough churchly beauty to make your heart ache too, as, indeed, does Moscow’s own Kremlin. Ignore anyone who tells you to go to St. Petersburg, which is where Russians pretend to be Italian.

Anyway, that’ll do as a Christmas card, won’t it? It’s got snow and churches. And one of the wooden structures in the foreground is almost bound to have a manger.

Have beautiful, bearable days.


1. narrowback - December 24, 2008

…and beautiful, bearable days to you as well.

there’s something to be said for the transcendental effect of chanting and swinging about incense stenchers. Although quite beardless at the time I did have some experience as an altar boy in pre-vatican II times (V2 – the introduction of catholic services in the vulgate and it’s unfortunate consequence, the “folk mass”). I always was the first to volunteer for the High Mass…to this day I have a fondness for frakincense

2. narrowback - December 24, 2008

frankincense…not to be confused with colloquialism from Battlestar Galactica

3. BiB - December 24, 2008

Narrowback, what’s the frankincense reference in Battlestar Galactica? Can’t think of it. I once came over a bit queer from the incense at some Mass or other we went to with school and Mr. L_ had to take me outside and tell me jokes to help me cope with the trauma of it all.

And thank you galore for a REAL Christmas card. That’s so kind of you.

My old lady friend in England says the end of the Latin Mass is what killed her husband, though I think the fearsome boozing might have played a role too.

Happy Christmas! You in New York?

4. redneckarts - December 24, 2008

best of it all to you and yours…

5. BiB - December 24, 2008

Thanks, Redneck. All the best to you too. I’m just bracing myself to traipse off to the supermarket to go and buy more booze. I feel bloated and hung-over in advance. And then I’ll squeeze in a bit more work. Drone.

6. annie - December 24, 2008

More booze! (You are not allowed to work tomorrow.)

happy holidays, dear BiB x

7. BiB - December 24, 2008

Thank you Annie. I aim to drink red wine, bubbly, port, gin, crème de cassis and, probably, beer tomorrow. Though in different glasses.

Do you get to do anything Hanukkahish?

I think you’re right. I might well give myself a whole day off tomorrow.

Love galore!

8. IsarSteve - December 24, 2008

I’m not sure I’m allowed to write this…

It has something to do with a ‘Weihnachtsmann’ and a ‘praller Sack’

Anyway, I hope when he gets around to visiting Pankow.. ‘his Sack’ is just how you wanted..

have a peaceful time, one and all…

9. narrowback - December 24, 2008

BiB re: the card – just a small token. Hope you have a relaxing Christmas and a grand start to the New Year.

Yes, I’m in NY spending the holiday with mum, the siblings and the next generation. Luckily the travel plans I made back in August enabled me to escape Chicago before the weather nearly shut the airports down.

The Battlestar remark was related to the “current” version here on cable in the US (don’t know if it’s made it over there yet) and has to do with its use of “frack” as a substitute for “f_ck” in the dialogue…when I saw my typo…ah well, it was late and I had been doing some early celebrating with one of my brothers. it made sense at 2 am..it doesn’t now however.

Peace on Earth – Good Will to All

10. marshaklein - December 24, 2008

What a gorgeous picture.

Have a lovely, relaxing, boozy day tomorrow.

11. Wyndham - December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, sunshine!

12. BiB - December 27, 2008

Wynders, hope your Christmas passed off peacefully and that you go into 2009 full of beans and, of course, that we’ll be reading you somewhere in some format or other, or maybe even two formats.

Marsha, I think it was my first grown-up Christmas, in a way. As the host, I mean. We’ve been hosts a couple of times before, but this seemed the most authentic, with oodles of left-over booze and food.

Narrowback, hope the family Chrimbo went like a dream. I phoned my mother, who was with my sister. She told me to stop drinking. I ignored her advice.

Steve, do you know Santa doesn’t empty his sack for us Soviet-connected types till the New Year? And my mother eschewed anything which could be purchased online and has insisted I buy her plants when I am next on the island in person (as opposed to in hologram). So I haven’t yet really started my Christmas shopping.

13. Blognor Regis - December 28, 2008

So do you do your Christmas Orthodox style chez Bib?

Mucho Merry Christmas for when you do.

14. BiB - December 28, 2008

Mark, we don’t really, because the Russians still have their L-plates when it comes to their Christmas. I think this is just a Soviet thing (rather than an Orthodox thing). As far as I know, the Bulgarians, for example, celebrate like mad (and on the 24th or 25th, not having that calendrical queerity that the Russians do). Plus, as far as God goes, the Russians are far more into Easter.

But New Year (and not Old New Year, which also still exists there (again, a calendar thang), but is celebrated only half-heartedly) is when they really go for it. That’s the equivalent of our Christmas. Family, gorging, boozing and telly.

All the best for 2009!

15. narrowback - December 28, 2008

the holiday visit was grand…even got to connect with some folks from my distant past

only thing mum lectured me about was the cigs. at 78 she’s developed a taste for beer so we shared a few jars

16. Mr D - December 29, 2008

I spent Christmas ’94 in Slovenia. It had only been legalised a couple of years earlier and the only evidence were a few lights in the centre of town.

My local friends said the only real difference was that politicians now went to church on Christmas Eve.

Under Tito apparently New Year’s Eve had been the big thing, with New Year’s presents, New Year’s decorations, and – unless my friends were having me on – some kind of ‘Father New Year’!

We just ate a dodgy (and stodgy) pea pizza and saw some crap Richard Gere film about a little Buddha at the local ‘cinema’.

Still, that was more Christmassy than Christmas Day in Helsinki in ’97, when I woke up in a stranger’s bed with him feeling guilty about cheating on his boyfriend…

17. Mr D - December 29, 2008

Evidence was, not were. Hard to spot weird grammar on a little screen!

18. BiB - January 3, 2009

Mr D, did the Yugos really do away with Christmas? I tried to look for Christmas and Yugoslavia via google but couldn’t tell if the articles I came up with were piss-takes or not. The Russians had/have Дед Мороз/Ded Moroz/Grandfather Frost who, I think, is Santa’s twin and that all happens at New Year. And that’s when Russians gorge en famille and exchange presents too.

Narrowback, I’ve been to a pub once with my mother as an adult where she drank Britvic orange, which can’t have lasted long and I drank something poncy from a bottle. Her brother knocked back pints of Guinness in about three seconds flat.

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