Monday, 29 March 2010

Pink Slippers


Have been asked to contribute to a flash fiction website, Rammenas. Was so happy that wrote something quite sad. Started drafting it and had to stop, as it almost made me cry- not a good idea when in the office, pretending to be busy on Excel. So, had to actually do some work for a change: to distract myself.

Got home, finished it, asked mother-in-law to read. Mother-in-law cried. Was convinced my mother would cry, too but she was too obsessed with Farmville to get emotional about some 500 word fiction.

Anyway, enjoy!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Why is there no IKEA in Azerbaijan?

My husband hates IKEA. To him, it represents something he is terrified of becoming-"a castrated suburban husband".

So, when my daughter needed a bedside table,I thought it would be lovely to go to IKEA ourselves. Because we, girls, love IKEA. For us, it is a day out.

Our nearest shop is in a very awkward area. First of all, I had to arrive there without getting confused at the North Circular.

I then had to find what I needed in an enormous store, right down the item code, aisle and location, load the boxes on a trolley and take them all the way home without breaking anything. All that might sound simple to normal humans; however, to me, that is an awful lot of tasks, each of which has a potential to go terribly wrong.

But I managed to get there beautifully. I got a good parking spot, right in front of a pushy Indian man, who gave me a dirty look. I then managed to find a perfect bedside table, cheap and cute, get the right box and bring it home without chipping the edges.

Proud of my achievements and supported by my daughter’s excitement, I decided to go all the way, and actually assemble the piece. Why not? It had instructions after all, and they provide you with everything you need. I can be technical, you know? I studied how to build buildings, I can surely put together a small, light piece of furniture.

Husband would never believe it, I thought smugly, as I evenly spaced 24 little nails along the back panel.

So, imagine my horror, when, having assembled the whole thing, I realized that I had placed the shelves back to front.

IKEA makes cheap stuff. This means, the back edges do not have to be finished. And now, not one, but two of my shelves were facing me with their exposed backsides. I was devastated. Is there any limit to my stupidity?

“Don’t worry”, said husband, who arrived just as I was about to throw the whole unit out. “We can take it apart and put it back together. “

“Not when you see how well I nailed the back panel”, I told him and we agreed that I was, after all, a moron.

That night, I had a Skype call from an old British friend, who used to work with me in Baku, and has recently moved to Turkey.

“Can you imagine, he said, what it would be like? IKEA in Baku? Can you imagine, he said, Azeries and IKEA?”

I don’t have to imagine, I said, do I.

We discussed why it would not work in Azerbaijan. Just the idea of self-service would simply fall flat.

My friend insisted he knows for a fact that IKEA did consider coming to Azerbaijan. And, after a very careful consideration, decided not to. Wounded, I asked if there was an IKEA in Turkey. “Yes”, he said. “With a very, very large restaurant. Turks love to go there to eat.”

Of course, I thought. You see... They had to adjust their business model slightly to fit Turkey. So why can’t they do the same for Azerbaijan?

It would work. Of course, it would.

Look, here is my business plan for Ikea in Baku. (I knew I would eventually find some use for my expensive MBA.)

1. Allow 10% for furniture, 90% for a restaurant.
2. Provide horns on trolleys, as Ikea’s one way system will never work in Azerbaijan. Everybody will cut across, move in an opposite direction and will need horns to constantly blast at each other.
3. Provide policemen at corners and junctions inside the store.
4. Provide service staff- to find the aisle and location of boxes, load them and take them to customers’ vehicles.
5. Increase the number of free pencils by 50%
6. Provide service staff to visit customers’ flats to assemble the flat-packed furniture
7. Re-design colour scheme. No whites, especially no beige tones. Instead, more gold, some silver and purple.

See? Simple.

IKEA concept will work in Baku. All they need to do is adjust their business model to the local environment.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A guest posting for Expat+Harem!

This is one of my in-between postings. Wanted to share with you that I recycled one of my most popular blog posts. There is nothing wrong with recycling, right?

Anyway, as I was getting excited about appearing on expat-Harem, a crazy and hateful comment arrived- isn't this a funny coincidence?- for the very same posting.

(Check the comments section, quite fascinating how many sad and angry people there are in this world)

But I am still thrilled to be given this opportunity to introduce scary azeri in expat+harem and hope to write more stuff for them in the future. If you have not seen their site yet, do check it out.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

It ain't over 'til the fat lady...does it, somehow.

So, we had friends visiting for a couple of weeks. They live and work in the States at the moment, and claim that the carbs there just don’t taste the same.

“It is so nice to be able to taste M&S carbs again!”- They said, and bought half the store's supply of deserts. We spent a week happily eating through it all, but as soon as I thought we were almost there, they went back and brought some more. All I can say is they can come and stay again! But I do feel slightly-how shall I put it?- engorged at the moment.

So, naturally, we talked about getting fat quite a lot. As you do, when you have a huge dinner, say a plov (something I have only recently tried to cook, and,unfortunately, succeeded), followed by some chocolate ├ęclairs. You get the idea.

And whenever I think about very, very fat people, I always wonder about one thing. How do they, you know, do it? Alright, it might not be your typical discussion at the dinner table. But I cooked a nice plov. Me, who does not know how to cook. So, I deserve to choose a topic of conversation. So, I asked, how do you think they do it? Because, it must be physically impossible.

Oh, and have you noticed, my visitor suggested, that the very, very fat women often have very, very skinny husbands? No, I have not, I thought. But, even if statistically that is the case, it still does not make things any easier, in my opinion. I am not talking overweight, by the way. I am talking grotesquely obese.

"Don’t worry", husband said, "If we continue eating like this, we will soon be able to answer that question."

The guest also pointed out that some very, very fat people have to use a towel after using the toilet. I did not even get it at first. A towel? I asked. Why? Oh. Oh, I see! In order to reach.

But not all fat is unattractive, I tell myself, choosing a piece of chocolate to go with my afternoon cup of tea. In certain cultures, some fat on a woman is considered beautiful. Azeries even have a joke on the subject. Something about two men discussing their wives’ backsides. One of them is saying (proudly), that when he slaps his wife’s behind, it wobbles for a few minutes. His friend says: “That’s nothing! I slap my wife’s backside, go to work, come back home and it is still wobbling. “

You see, Azeri men never used to object to their women being slightly on the curvier side, so to speak.

But I don’t know if it is true anymore. I think-sadly?- that the modern standards of beauty, imposed by skinny western celebrities are spreading all over the globe.

The other night I happened to watch a scene from a new Bollywood movie. As a Soviet child, I was raised on Bollywood movies. My Asian friend was shocked I knew who "Seeta aur Geeta" were. ( Or, as we knew that movie: Zita i Gita)

So, I thought I knew what to expect. But things changed in Bollywood, too. Gone are soft curves and rounded shoulders. The new generation of Bollywood movie stars are skinny, with an impressive definition in their arms; their dance routines are more suggestive and their clothes are more extravagant. And I can only assume that wobbly bottoms are no longer considered attractive in Azerbaijan either.

Which is a shame, really, I thought, stuffing my face with a rhubarb crumble, kindly prepared by my mother in law. Honestly. How great would it be to enjoy this gorgeous food and not feel guilty. Oh, well. Back to the gym. Sometime after Easter.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


Was walking past a little gift shop today and saw this. I very excite. Someone clearly made it for me, so I had to have it. Husband of course, loved it. Mother in law...not so much.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Happy Mother's Day but not if you are in the Vatican

I have not got much to write about at the moment. My house is filled with visiting friends, their twin babies and, from today, my in-laws, too. In the midst of the chaos, I almost wrote about my Mother’s day yesterday. Which would have been either very sad or boring, but most probably a bit of both. Because, while most British mothers spent the day celebrating being a mother and a wife, I went to Tesco, bought an obscene amount of cleaning supplies, got home, put on some green gloves and plunged into some obsessive-compulsive cleaning frenzy. Not sure what it was. I normally do not enjoy cleaning, but yesterday nothing could stop me. When my husband and the visitors finally arrived back from their work and fun destinations, I greeted them with an insane smile. Almost done, I said to husband. Just a cooker hood left.

So no, let’s not talk about my insane cleaning day.

Instead, sticking to the theme of insanity, I thought I would share this with you. Some good news. The devil is in the Vatican.

I thought this piece (from Metro) was worth scanning and re-publishing here. I was just worried you might have accidentally missed this important news. Because, while he is all the way in the Vatican, you should not worry about him possessing you. He is too busy having good time in the Vatican.

I loved this article. Every little detail in it was just great. From the fact that, according to the president of the International Association of Exorcists, Hitler and Stalin were of course, not entirely responsible for their actions, because oh, they just got possessed; to the fact that there is- did you even know?- The International Association of Exorcists. And the fact that Fr Amorth’s favourite movie was the Exorcist. And of course that the Harry Potter books are dangerous. Anyway, enjoy. I'll be back, as he said. Once my household is back to normal.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Lucy has a boyfriend!

Have you heard? Lucy has a boyfriend!

Everybody is talking about it. I first heard of it via a mutual friend in a country far, far away. "Have you heard, she said, Lucy has a boyfriend!"

I then had a voice message left by Lucy on my phone.
"How are you, she said. Hope you are well, oh and, by the way, I wanted to tell you that I have got a boyfriend!"

I then noticed messages she had left on our mutual friends' Facebook pages. Friends in some other countries far, far away. Saying that she had tried to reach them earlier...I knew what it was about. Lucy has a boyfriend now.

So you might ask- So? Why should I bloody care?

Well, you see...this is important. I am happy for Lucy. I also feel kind of proud of my (perhaps slightly Azeri, perhaps somewhat conservative) advice that seems to have helped her in her lingering dating problem. Lucy, you see, is a very attractive, sexy girl. Why, why, why?- she kept questioning-could she not keep a man? They come and go, and never stick around. So I braved to suggest to Lucy to start with one very old-fashioned principle.

Please, I said to Lucy, please just for me. Just try it. When you next meet a man you think you quite like, try not to shag him on the first date. Just try it for me.

When I say you should not "shag him on the first date", that also includes- sorry, Lucy- any other very intimate activities. I know you are a free, independent, western woman in your late thirties, I said. I understand you have needs and desires. I know you are entitled to them just as a man would be. I am not against women's rights to be equal to men. I think it is a great idea. I am just suggesting that in reality, as they say, some people are just more equal than others. And we can claim and fight all we want, but in the end, men are still more equal than us. Lucky bastards. And it is everywhere, isn't it. Men are still getting paid more and get promoted more often. When we have children, we automatically assume that looking after them is our responsibility. "He is such a good dad, my friends would comment on their husbands- "he helps a lot". When they stay at home with kids they are "babysitting". But really, it is not "helping" or "babysitting" when it is your own child, is it.

And when it comes to sex, we girls can never be entirely equal to men. Because, whether we admit it or not, we will always be more vulnerable. However cool and independent our thoughts and desires might be. As long as it is us who can get pregnant or raped, things will remain the same. So,really,all we got in the end, thanks to feminism, is that nobody will hold a door for us or offer us a seat. Result!

And so I said to Lucy: just try it for me. Forget- just this once-about being a free, independent western woman and try to follow this simple rule.

When I finally called Lucy back, she told me, laughing, that I would be very proud of her. "I did not sleep with him for three dates! ", she said
"Wow, I said, Lucy! Three whole dates! That is wonderful! "

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

I know I told you I could not cook, but...

Thought I would impress you with my recently discovered culinary skills. Check it out!

My first ever Russian style myasnoy pirog or meat pie. With meat, egg and dill inside. How about that, eh? See? And you thought all I am good for is blogging.

It only took a few hours. Plus a couple of hours of discussing certain aspects over Skype with my mother, who by the way, is so addicted to Facebook Farmville that it is almost impossible to get her attention to focus on anything else besides that game.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

A greasy ball for my garden

Nobody tells you that having a child at home brings in a lot of useless crap. People tell you about the hard work, sleepless nights and tiredness. But nobody tells you that having a child means the amount of useless crap in your house will just get bigger, from day to day and year to year.

The older is the child, the more crap you will accumulate. Since the beginning of the nursery at school, our house started filling up with not only the usual bits of Polly Pocket, branches of old trees, stones and sea shells; there is also stuff from school. Look- mummy-what-we-made-today kind of stuff. The stuff that you feel obliged and expected to keep, for years to come. And I do try to be a good mother. I keep cardboard tubes with plastic wheels, and painted conkers. I keep bits of aluminium foil mixed with cotton wool stuck on large pieces of paper. The other day though, my daughter came out of the school with something utterly disgusting in her hand.

“Look mummy, she said. Look at this!”

I am looking! – I said- What is this? And why are you holding this in your hand?

"It is for the birdies!", she cried, shoving the thing in my hand. Surely, I thought, looking at the big greasy ball of lard-this is not for me, not to be brought home in my (recently hand-washed by a bunch of Croatian boys) car. But it was. You see, lard is commonly used in the UK to make bird-feeders. Don’t ask. I have no idea why. You can buy perfectly suitable bird feeders in shops.

I love animals a lot. And I love the fact that people in the UK, in their majority, love animals, too. However, the fascination that Brits seem to have with birds is simply beyond me.

I noticed a while ago that my in laws, who live in the middle of a beautiful countryside, can sit with a cup of tea, stare out of the window, and discuss whether they saw a Blue Tit or a Greenfinch on that bush. “Have you seen that tit?” -My in laws would exclaim excitedly. And the scariest thing is that my husband, who is not quite 70 yet, gets excited, too. "Wow, he would say- I have not seen a buzzard ‘round here for ages!" Who cares? It is a bird.

And now my child is getting into that, too. Not only she decorates the house with bits of static wild life, including conkers, stones and sea shell and gets encouraged by Husband to experiment with worms in the garden; she now feeds the flying wild life with greasy balls of lard with seeds.

Sitting with Druggie outside some years ago, enjoying a rare sunshine and a cup of coffee, trying to learn a little more about local birds, I asked her, pointing out to a black bird on the lawn:

-And what is that black bird called?

Druggie started laughing.

-Black bird?- she said, and I thought she did not get it.
-Yes the black bird, that one over there!- I pointed, and she just kept giggling.
(It is the drugs, you know. She giggles at almost everything I say)- Yes, Blackbird, she said. That’s what it is called.

Oh, I thought. That bird watching business is actually going to be easy. Years on, Blackbird is still the only type I can recognize.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Cultural Shenanigans-Feb2010

From February issue of the MagAZine.. I hear it offended some induhviduals.

PS Remember to click on it so you can read it.