Cock­pole Green WI

The Wokingham Paper - - SOCIETY - SELINA AVANT

ON Wed­nes­day, Septem­ber

19, Pres­i­dent, Adri­enne Rance wel­comed mem­bers.

Un­for­tu­nately Wild Life Pho­tog­ra­pher Tom Way was ill, so lo­cal res­i­dent Mr Al­don Fer­gu­son stepped in at the last minute. His il­lus­trated talk was about the 17 years he spent work­ing in Rus­sia from 19902007.

It was a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into life in com­mu­nist Soviet Union.

When one of the ‘Big Four’ ac­coun­tancy busi­nesses asked Al­don to ac­quire an of­fice build­ing for them in Moscow, he im­me­di­ately went on a crash course in Rus­sian to help him un­der­stand the Soviet Union and its idio­syn­cra­sies; the largest coun­try in the world with 11 time zones.

The British Em­bassy put him in con­tact with Marissa, an in­ter­preter. Her pay­ment was in Amer­i­can dol­lars not rou­bles, since that was the pre­ferred cur­rency in the Soviet Union.

Ar­riv­ing in Moscow, he found that the weather was ex­treme vary­ing across the sea­sons from mi­nus 30 to plus 30. Spring and Autumn hardly got a look in. He found ev­ery­thing very drab as money was mainly spent on the Mil­i­tary.

He found every­where was dirty, no salt for icy roads, so soil was put down in­stead.

There were no West­ern Ho­tels so he often stayed in the Bel­grade Ho­tel

(Stal­in­ist sky­scraper), which was very ba­sic and here he en­coun­tered the usual very rude re­cep­tion­ists. In Com­mu­nist times ev­ery­one was em­ployed and had to work – there was no al­ter­na­tive.

Trams were very cheap and often crowded as was the metro and the buses. Cars were ba­sic and built like trac­tors and there was a wait­ing list of

ap­prox­i­mately three years to buy one un­less you were a party mem­ber.

The state owned all prop­erty. The govern­ment al­lo­cated flats, although cheap, they were pro­vided with­out con­sid­er­a­tion of the size of the fam­ily so you may have six peo­ple liv­ing in a one or two bed­room flat.

The cen­tral heat­ing, known as City Heat­ing, came from cen­tral heat­ing sta­tions and the city de­cided when it was turned on and off.

Al­don opened an es­tate agency of­fice in Moscow spe­cial­is­ing in com­mer­cial prop­erty for for­eign com­pa­nies. All busi­nesses had to be joint ven­tures and also had to ac­com­mo­date a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the KGB.

This often turned to his ad­van­tage as the agent was well looked af­ter and could quickly smooth out prob­lems.

Traf­fic po­lice were on ev­ery road junc­tion – they is­sued on the spot fines to car driv­ers to

sup­ple­ment their mea­gre salary.

This was Rus­sia then but in 2000 their lives be­gan to be trans­formed when Rus­sia opened up her bor­ders and al­lowed McDon­ald’s to set up a chain of fast food restau­rants in 2004. It was a mas­sively pop­u­lar

move with the Rus­sians, who were happy to join long queues

Al­don ended with a flash dance video staged close to Moscow Uni­ver­sity in the Fe­bru­ary snow of 2012 by the stu­dents.

They danced to the Amer­i­can Irv­ing Ber­lin com­posed ‘Put­tin’ on

The Ritz’

This had us all tap­ping our toes and fin­gers to the mu­sic and smil­ing at the danc­ing and an­tics of the stu­dents.

He ex­plained that he pro­jected this video to show that Rus­sian stu­dents and the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion are just like west­ern­ers.

They like to sing, dance and have a good time but had been sup­pressed by the Soviet regime and are to­day de­ter­mined to en­joy west­ern style free­doms.

Mem­bers then en­joyed a de­li­cious tea pre­pared by Jill Tom­lin­son and Judi Row­lands; Nana Davis and Hilary Kinnersley, manned the Bring and Buy ta­ble and were kept busy by mem­bers buy­ing up lots of bar­gains!

The next meet­ing will be held at Cra­zies Hill Vil­lage Hall on Wed­nes­day, Oc­to­ber 17, at 2.30pm.

The speaker will be Mr. P. Lowe, whose talk is en­ti­tled “The Chal­lenge of the Chan­nel”.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.