I missed my first blog yesterday.  I did not realise how tired I was when I got back home from my lessons, and when I fell asleep it was for 12 hours straight.  I woke to realise I was a little colder than usual, the ambient room temperature has dropped 2 degrees – still in the 20s but I’m pretty sensitive to changes.  I have been using the bedding that was provided to me on my arrival, which includes a duvet cover but no duvet, I have been managing with a couple of small (I mean ridiculously small, hobbit-sized) blankets stuffed into the double-size duvet cover.

So my first order of business was to get a proper blanket.  I had spotted some promising products last time I was at Superman (see previous blogs) so I put on my proper jacket, and headed out.  There was a bit of bite in the air but not really Arctic-level yet – probably a normal summer morning in England.  I reached the supermarket and discovered that what I thought were duvets were in fact mostly really big cushions, folded over and bagged.  But with some persistent poking and pulling, I did find a couple of duvets in the same display.  I picked the biggest (210cm x 175cm, just under an English tenner) and grabbed some other essentials (washing powder, TR and suhari).

Perhaps I will set up a glossary page…

I had 4 lessons yesterday but they stretched from 10am to 17:30 so it was a long day.  At lunchtime, I had my first shop transaction that did not just involve showing what I wanted and thrusting money into someone’s hand.  I wanted a small water and a cold strawberry milk drink, but it was not a self-service shop, it was counter service.  So I asked the young lady “вода?” and pointed at the size I wanted.  She said something back that I didn’t understand until I heard the syllable “газ” – gas.  So I just responded “не газ” and got what I wanted – still water.  The next part was more tricky, I knew “strawberry” I knew “milk” but I wasn’t sure they could just go together.  I could see the product behind the glass counter, so I just added “strawberry” to the biggest word I could see, that was milk-related: “и клубнице молочное.”  I did point as well, but I like to think that she understood me perfectly!  It was a very refreshing drink.

I stocked up on fizzy pop on the way home, and noticed an old man playing bongo drums, I have seen him now about 3 or 4 times in the same place.  He reminded me a little of Bromley, where there is a man who stands in the street and plays bongo drums late at night as people are coming home from pubs and parties.  I threw him some of my loose change as a reward for the nostalgia blast.

The homeless situation in Volgograd is not as visibly problematic as in central London, or even Bromley, but you do see old people begging outside supermarkets, and at entrances to subways.  I saw a man lying in the bushes one early morning start when it was still quite cold – I hope he was just sleeping.

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It is election day today in Russia, not that it will make any difference to who is running the country.  The biggest party, Putin’s party, is United Russia, and I was given some campaign literature by a leafleteer as I came back to the apartment one evening (in fact he was waiting for someone to open the door so he could get in and drop leaflets in the mailboxes).  I’ve seen a few posters here and there of grim looking men in suits trying to smile, but there has not been any sense of excitement or much more sign that anything is different from usual.  I don’t have a TV these days but what social media I see has been all about the American election.  I’m not complaining though, there’s only one kind of blanket coverage I’m interested in, and I’m all set now.

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