Patriarch Ponds

It’s 9.54 am and this expat is rushing for an appointment at 10:00; Mrs Expat called shotgun and is, as ever, in charge of the GPS. (this expat, who, at 13, was the only one in the house who could set the timer on a video recorder, is now a bit of a technophobe – is is that ‘technofool’?) Svetlana, the woman in our GPS, tells us to turn right in 120 meters, forgetting the slight lag in satellite time, we duly obey only to hear – ‘you have left [the] route’. I pause to hear the next instruction, fortunately it was one of the very few left turns allowed in Moscow. A quick left turn and suddenly a gap in the tall Stalin era buildings and a small park around a pond. But more astonishingly, a gap wide enough for a car to park; this gap about 50 meters from my appointment, this gap in the shade of a silver birch – the trifecta Muscovite motorists long for, but rarely get.  We had made it to Patriarch Pond by accident and not a tram smash in sight! (readers of Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita will be sniggering to themselves at this literary reference – or not!)

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Appointment over, we went for a walk in the park. Sadly the restaurant on the lake was closed, even the swans and ducks were having a lazy morning, almost not caring that an eager toddler was throwing bread at them. But then the park is a lazy place; children playing on swings; couples promenading; mothers perambulating with their new born, bohemian types sipping coffee and reading and a few tourists with their oversized cameras that may (or may not) be over compensating for something. However, perhaps the most dangerous thing of all in the park were the octogenarians power walking forcefully doing laps around the park, armed with ski poles, iPods blasting away, leaving a trail of dust, small children and barking dogs in their wake.

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Although Patriarch’s Pond is the setting for much of The Master and Margarita, the park is mostly dedicated to Ivan Krylov, a writer of fables, much in the style of Aesop; and grower of incredible sideburns. Along with a statue of Ivan there are some sculptures depicting scenes of his writings. Including a rather nice one of an elephant’s bottom reminding this expat of an old British folk song – the hole in the elephant’s bottom, which, depending on the version, is amusing or simply risque! [various versions can be found at http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=64019] As people pass by the sculptures various parts are rubbed for good luck and so retain their brass look whilst, like Ivan himself, the rest is aging and weathering well.

As we walked back to the entrance, which, I guess, would now become the exit, we paused to brush off the dust raised by the lapping, aged power walkers, whilst owners pulled back on the leashes of their dogs encouraging them to cease barking. Brushing off the dust, four things were considered by this expat:

  • that these octogenarians caused more havoc and debris than the tram crash at the beginning of Bulgakov’s novel;
  • that we should leave before they circled round to us again;
  • whether Mrs Expat would appreciate Krylov style sideburns and;
  • that this expat didn’t get to use the phrase ‘elephant’s bottom’ nearly often enough

So, getting into the car Mrs Expat and Svetlana were treated to a tuneless verse or two of that folk song.

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