Happy (old) Russian New Year

не стойте слишком близко, я тигрник а не киска
Don’t come too close, I’m a tiger not a pussy cat.

(Fact.)

January has been the coldest I ever remember. Delight at the snow, turned to dismay at the never melting ice. So, when it feels like Siberia, what’s the best thing to do? Pretend you’re a Siberian, that’s what.

B took a break from telling anyone who would listen how in Canada they have giant snow ploughs and everyone is kind and the pavements are swept clear of snow, and decided to help ease our pain by arranging for a few of us to go out and drink vodka together. And then to make it more respectable, she also booked for us to eat.

Coincidentally, the night before was Russian New Year (before they joined the rest of the world and switched to the Gregorian calendar), so we got to relive the magic of the year’s turning all over again.

First we went to the Absolut Ice Bar to drink vodka cocktails out of ice cube glasses. The temperature was a cool minus five, which surprisingly didn’t feel too unpleasant – possibly because we’re used to chilly temperatures now. Or maybe because we’d been aggressively dressed in super-thermal Father Christmas-like capes by an eastern European woman in the cloakroom. CC got into the spirit and managed to bring along a guy named Trotsky who went down well with the boys in a ‘who can hold their hand on the ice the longest’ challenge.

When our forty five minutes was up, we returned to the balmy London streets for Cosmopolitans in Quaglinos where we were entertained by live jazz and a multitude of daft toasts to all things Russian, before heading on to Borscht ‘n’ Tears.

Reviews of Borscht ‘n’ Tears are either, 9/10 ‘we loved it’, or 2/10 ‘the food tasted of cat’. So who knew what we were going to get? By the time we got there, we were in fine raucous Russian form, singing our way from the Tube station, and spectacularly failing to order food, instead just shouting random bits of Russian at each other…

‘Glasnost!’

‘Dostoevsky!’

…and proposing more silly toasts. I tried out the Russian phrase (see top) I had learned earlier that afternoon, carefully handed down to me from my mother. The waitress looked suitably baffled, even when I asked her how my pronunciation was. ‘Yes, I understand you but why would you say this?’

‘Erm, to scare off Russian men…?’

Eventually we got food and wine and the merriment continued with dancing to Russian folk tunes played on the keyboard, and a reworking of the Pet Shop Boys ‘Go West’ on into the night.

All of which goes to prove that Canadians are not only good during snowfall, but that they are the best people to organise Russian-related celebrations.

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