Thursday 13 August 2015

Far from me?

Not all our travel lands us in the cities. We dodge the main highways occasionally and lob into a ‘small town’. This one looks to be in transition from reliance on a state-owned factory to a foreign investor, in this care, Swiss. Job numbers are lower and education and skill requirements higher. The local school now teaches English and German. Streets and footpaths are crumbling, the market area is rundown, but the kids still enjoy their summer holidays in the modest playground and long grass of the schoolyard.

The main drag boasts a fast food joint and bar, just up from the old supermarket and new mobile phone company, all tightly fronted for the long, tough winter ice, snow and wind – function over form.

Our navigation app shows a Гостиница (gostinitza / small hotel) in the town centre. The usual crowd gathers round the cars, and one, a programmer at the local factory, speaks English. This gets us to the town’s restaurant, run by a couple of young women, plus one extra phoned in when we arrive. They tried hard, even to dimming the lights for the entrance of Bill’s pork flambée. After 10 pm, as we were leaving, their usual mob entered, armed with their re-corked vodka and brandy bottles. It looked to be what happens here.

There are plenty of places like this in this big, changing country. Russia is not unique. Bob Hudson could have written “Girls in our Town” here, or John Prine* “Far From Me”.

* Look him up. If you need to, you've been missing out for about 5 decades.

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