Cockpole Green WI
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
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”.