The Ship of Fools and our society

It was at the end of the fifteen century that Hieronymus Bosch painted his amazing painting, called the ‘Ship of Fools’. I wrote about it here, but want to come back to this piece of art once again.

ship of fools

(Ship of Fools by Hieronymus Bosch)

The painting as such was based on what was happening to the people proclaimed as ‘mad’ at that time. ‘Madness’ as such incorporated the same elements as today, such as calling all people exhibiting weird behavior or showing weird thought pattern, as ‘not normal’. These people were put on the ship and sent in the middle of nowhere, but still attracting large crowds of people in order to see them off or when they would embark in another town on their journey. The human curious mind always liked the spectacle because it simply shows us the possibilities of a quest of the human soul: some people simply go beyond the gates of ‘normality’.

Later the ships were replaced by asylums where those, deemed, as ‘insane’ have been kept away from the general public, and not because they pose any danger (it is a grotesque lie) but because our society, using psychiatry as its biggest weapon, doesn’t want to be confronted bluntly with possible ways and thoughts which can deny us of our mediocre thinking, such as dwelling about the next ski holiday, which car to buy, and how to stock on toilet paper because of a very bad flue. All those who start thinking that there is more to life, and question things, usually acquire one form of ‘madness’ or another. But the psychiatry doesn’t want these people, because more people think – more there is a possibility of a revolution for our society which has lost totally its values, with so much poverty, hunger and unhealthy competition where it is no longer a life for the common good (including for the sake of our humanity) but an individual fight in the big manipulation machine where it becomes a battle about who earns more money and drives a better car.

It was several centuries ago that Bosh painted his oeuvre but it is more than still relevant today. On this painting we can see several nuns and a priest instead of the crowd of fools, as the title hints to us when we first see the depiction. There is one single fool, at the end of the painting, in the background, just to reassure us that it is indeed the ship of fools that Bosh is talking about. But by putting the self-proclaimed ‘sane’ members of the society at the front Bosh asks and answers a prominent question at once: but who is really mad here, an innocent ‘fool’ or those, who, behind tales of morality, hide their own sins?

The painting is speaking to me today because it is precisely how I see the society. I don’t witness any high moral values and any strive for the goodness of all. I see rather greed, fake love behind Tinder apps and the like, chase for better gadgets, and thoughts in the head of people that make me wonder as who is insane. I can see the thoughts in the minds of people around, it is written on their faces: how to manipulate someone, how to outsmart someone, how to be more competitive in the already overdriven by competition earth. Rare are those who still look for true friendship, true love, and don’t always think about money. Money is a tool which can make one’s life more comfortable but its place in today’s society got at a higher platform than the one for God.

Those who ask and wonder usually get a mental health diagnosis or get depressed. The depression of today is a normal reaction of our minds to reach for something higher in a place where there is no longer anything higher, hidden behind the fake normality which hides in its turn just greediness and strife in our over-competitive world. It is a normal reaction of our higher selves that revolt in the fakeness of love, fakeness of friendships and betrayal of God, where one can believe in something, but God forbid, when one actually sees the manifestations of God him/herself. All exhibitions of aspiring for something higher than what is dictated by those in power, telling us what and how to do from  their vintage points of offshore accounts, are suppressed immediately by the scare of the psychiatric tale. The psychiatry is a weapon to make us all the same, which puts all those who aspire to be different, behind closed doors of the asylums of modern times. Nothing nice is happening there, and no one gets healed, because there is nothing to heal. All the ‘success’ stories you hear are provided by those who feel relief that they are back in our fake normality and can function like everyone else in our robotic society. The psychiatric drugs simply mask the problems of our sick competitive material sphere, and eventually all those on psychiatric drugs, realize that they are not healed and never were, because there is nothing to treat or heal in the first place. Depression is a sane reaction when one wakes up in our sick society, and so are all other ‘psychiatric’ symptoms.

But we are not allowed to voice all this aloud, and only pieces of art such as ‘The Ship of Fools’ remind us of the sad truth that few dare to voice out. It is not those who see the truth that are sick, but those who punish others when they see and hear what is real, hidden behind the narrative of normality, presented to us as ‘caring’ for our mental health.

Let’s turn away from the painting of Hieronymus Bosch and face its portrayal in reality, all around us.

What do you see?

srceam

(The Scream by Edvard Munch)

Unique People: Be different. Be unique

I like unique, unusual  people, I genuinely do. I realized it another day, thinking why, for instance, I am attracted only to certain people and have, most of the time, weird, unusual and daring friends.

I am unusual, and I attract unusual people into my life. By unusualness I mean unique outlook to life, the ability to not just think out-of-the-box, but demonstrate in practice what it actually means. We ask the new generation for out-of-the-box thinking, but do we even know what it is? Out-of-the-box should mean being different, but in reality this word is mostly used on paper, because, we, humans in western hemisphere, really forgot how to live differently, how to live interestingly, and how to be unique.

Let me give you in an example with two variables in otherwise same and boring system of normality. Let’s call them Nick and Janna. They met at the end of their studies, both interesting and lovely humans, who fall in love, or think they fall in love, as how many of us confuse passion (it disappears relatively quickly) and real love, I got tired of counting? I don’t know about you but I had met only one or two couples in my life who show with their union what love is, one of such couple were my grand-parents (I wrote about them here). Many other couples follow the same pattern: marriage, mortgage, kids, work, retirement. Nick and Janna did the same, realizing one day that they had missed on something, when it’s too late. It is so boring as a plan in life (marriage, mortgage, retirement)  that I am surprised why not more people rebel against it, especially when they discover that all passion is gone not just from their union but other aspects of life as well. Work should be fun, life should be interesting and adventurous, and we should dare more.

I dare in life and therefore, live a truly interesting and unique life. And I refuse to be humble and not to admit it loud and clear. Yes, I live adventurously and I live uniquely. Just four months ago, I accepted a job offer in Leeuwarden (Friesland), and moved to another country for the fifth time. Difficult? You bet! Challenging? Yes, I am exhausted, especially that I also moved my son and my cat in unprecedented life move (before this move, I would move countries on my own, which is a piece of cake, in comparison to what I did this year). Do I regret it? No, of course not. I miss my friends I made in Sheffield, I miss the UK (where I lived for the last twelve years), I miss cafes there with live music, my strolls in the hills, the local park with its café, the botanical gardens, the Sharrow vale with its restaurants and artisanal shops. I miss the British sense of humor, the BBC, yes, I miss it a lot. But if I stayed there, I could see my life unfolding in front of me with a depressing picture. It would stay the same, with me holding three different jobs, all on zero-hours contracts (even if at university), until I would be lucky enough to land in a more permanent post, the political unfortunate developments after Brexit for the whole country, the homelessness on the streets, the same routine. I was stuck in it, and once stuck, we should look for solutions, not wait for one day when you wake up and realize suddenly that you missed on opportunities, that you didn’t dare, that you let go off the fortune.

Yes, I have it in me, the forcing of fortune. I refuse day after day to ever let go and be weak. Oh, on how many days I wanted to give in to nostalgia, to the misery of the life itself, become depressed (and I did experience it) because, let’s admit it, life is not easy, and we are not always in control of the events. Bad things happen, and bad things can damage us if we let it.

There was once a woman who worked in my son’s school. Her name was Sarah. She worked in the after-school club, a very pleasant, beautiful woman, who as me, was a single mum, and we sympathized with each other. I could sense some sadness in Sarah as if she was looking for something more, for life itself to reveal herself in a more interesting and unusual way. I probably felt in her what I feel myself, the powerful urge to live fully and to live each single day with a purpose.

My son changed school and we lost touch, but two years later I met Sarah in a pub. Sarah was a different person. She had, on the spur of the moment, decided to move to Malta and was back in Sheffield to sell her house to say goodbye to the UK for good. Sarah was blossoming, she was happy! Did she move for a marvelous job? No, not really, Sarah moved just because she wanted to experience something totally new, she wanted adventure and she wanted more from her life. She found work as a cleaner, and was happy, because the job became just a means to live life at a different level.

You might guess that I admired Sarah when I met her in the pub. I didn’t know at that moment that only a few months later I would also move to another country (fifth time), but I thought then: wow, that’s an interesting life! Maybe I should do the same, even if it seemed like almost impossible, that with a small child, a house, and a cat.

So, what am I trying to say in this post?

Be like Sarah! Be adventurous and be unique. Don’t be afraid to make radical changes, even if it means that you might change a glamourous job to a less prestigious one. It’s not the status and wealth which really matter, but the desire to live life fully, without compromises, radically and in a unique way.

Be different. Be unique. Think indeed out-of-the-box. Don’t be like everyone else.

 

 

Born in Russia, born into a privileged family

Before I re-launch myself into the 1990s in Russia, quite remarkable time by all standards, I should probably tell more about myself.

I was born in the 1970s (more towards the 1980), to an interesting family. My mum, originally from Saint-Petersburg, had met my dad when they both studied at the University of Friendship of People, very famous place, where lots of international students came to study. From my mum’s side, it was always a family of teachers and academics. My grandma, her mum, was a daughter of a headmistress of a gymnasium, while my granddad, her dad, was a professor of geology at the same university. At home talks around the dinner table were always around philosophy, books, theater pieces to visit, music to discover, students to help. My granddad was so popular among students that some of them would show up on occasions for tea, just to have a chat with him around matters that mattered. There was also a secret within a family, which became less dangerous under Gorbachev, such as that my great granddad on the side of my grandma was a baron who had left his relatives in Russia all his fortune, by the letter with notification was well-hidden and never shown to the authorities, to avoid being sent to Gulag.

On the side of my dad, it was the Cossack’s gene. His parents run a beautiful farm in the south of Russia, where I would spend most of my summers. It was a truly amazing place, built from scratch by the hands of my granddad. He had met my grandma in a remote village in Ural, where he was sent because he had come as a prisoner from Germany after the second world war, and under Stalin, back in the Soviet Union, all prisoners were sent to such ‘installments’, remote places in the middle of nowhere, to build entire towns from scratch for the benefit of the country. My grandma’s family was also sent to such a place due to some black spots in the biography of the family, with their fault being that her dad, my great-granddad, was the head of the Baptiste Christian church in whole Caucasus area of Russia. But I will come back to that story in due term, for now, I want to just say that my granddad, once he and my grandma returned to his land, the Cossack village, destroyed and taken away by the Soviets, built two houses, and created an amazing farm, where even grapes could grow, and we had our own wine, and fresh fruits each summer.

They had three sons, with my dad being the middle one. He wanted to study in Moscow, and he achieved that. By the time I was born, both he and my mum worked at the University of Friendship as lecturers, and we lived in the best area of Moscow, known as ‘Yogo-Zapandii’ area, now popular among the Russian celebrities.

Our apartment had only two rooms, and was on the sixteen floor. There was something wrong with that place, but till today, I am not sure exactly what, apart from a weird dream I had once, that I was reborn there following a very difficult, terrifying life. I also saw the devil there for the first time, staring at me outside the window when I was sleeping in my cot, at the age of 2 or three. My parents reassured me that it was just a bad dream, and I tried to believe them for a while, but of course, I know now, and probably always did, that what I see and hear, is indeed real, as scary as it sometimes can be. I have to add here that the first appearance of the devil in my life was how he is often portrayed in references to the Bible, even if I wasn’t really afraid, just curious and amazed. Parents and adults would always say that all that wasn’t real, but I kind of, made to myself a note, at the age of 2 or three, that they could be wrong sometimes, and magic is real, and one didn’t even need to try, to see its manifestations on a daily basis.

Some strange problems with our apartment apart, I was born into a privileged family by that times standards. Everyone was an academic, I would go to one of the best schools in Moscow, and we always had nice food, and holidays in either Latvia or Crimea. I spent my summers in the Cossack village, helping on the farm (you can read about my summers in here), and was blessed with great friends, and lots of opportunities to express myself, such as learning French, practicing piano, ice-skating, and many other beautiful and really not mundane things.

But then, everything changed in the 1990s when Yeltsin came to power, and Soviet Union collapsed, becoming a monster in the eyes of all those who weren’t born here, and that image influenced also those who were born there, like I was.

And that’s why I probably talk about the 1990s so much. It was the time that something really bad happened to my native country, and when I go back there, I still see the manifestations of what went wrong then. The wild capitalism became an ideology as if it’s a must, a prominent way for people to live their lives. But it isn’t the best ideology, far from it. When I was growing up, under the socialism, everyone had food on the table, and children run happy outside, because there were no worries and everyone was more or less equal, even when one was born into a privileged family.

moscownationalgeographic

Let’s define the normality: the most boring tale

We are making yet another break in chronology about the events in Russia back in the 1990s to look at an important issue, which has been bothering me for a while.

Let’s look at ‘normality’, let’s have a good look. Let’s even try to define it, because it has become relatively easy – the whole society is based in normality, it is difficult to miss. The definition is literally staring at our faces, reflections and minds.

Normality is when first of all, one acts ‘normal’. One is supposed to follow a certain life pattern nowadays, and dare you to do otherwise, – you will be proclaimed as insane if you don’t follow the rules. You need to finish school, continue studying, get a job, then a mortgage, meet your second half, have children, two holidays per year that one would prefer to spend at the sea or skiing, work more, retire, wait for visits from the grand-children. In between all this, one has to read the news brainwashing our brains, shop for Christmas and on Black Friday, celebrate the Valentine’s day, buy a new car every couple of years, save for a new TV, etc, etc. Just writing all this, I want to evaporate all that boring bullshit with a nice inhale from my vape. Or and I forgot the gym! One also has to be a member of the gym, being a member is enough, as you probably know, you don’t even have to go there, a gym card will do.

Normality is boring. It is so boring that you can stare at it, each day, and the picture remains the same, it is static. It is the desolate faces of people who greet you every morning on a train to work, it is the same tired faces when you return home from your work, the same reality TV which greets you back home when you watch your TV, the same shops that entice you to spend even if you can’t afford it or, more sadly, don’t need their merchandise. It is gossiping about your ex-best friend because she did something better with her life, or is depressed, and you think that it’s a good topic for gossip. It is wishing to marry a rich man, forgetting that there is also love and care, and that being marrying to a rich man without being in love, is a total nightmare. Or when you stay in a marriage because you are afraid to leave and have no job or qualifications because you put all your faith in a rich husband. The syndrome of normality is also when everything simply has to be normal, without extraordinary thinking, without challenges and even reflection. Even universities are affected by the syndrome, boasting of their ableism, as if being normal equals being perfect, while in reality, no one is ever perfect, and we all can get unwell, depressed, sad or anxious. It is a normal reaction when one relies on zero contract, when there is no stability and no security. One’s mental health is directly affected by the social circumstances in which we find ourselves.

I don’t like the normality, you see. I find it extremely boring. If I had to lead my life by the normality’s astonishingly boring to death rules, I wouldn’t be here. There would be no joy for me, no aspiration, no challenge and no magic. I learned from an early age that I can always rely on myself, and thus, I am not defined by any rich husband or aspirations about how to get a mortgage and save for the next TV. I don’t watch any TV (very rarely), and I always can find a job to sustain myself. It also happens that I love my job, and work, and not labor, is an essential part for a person to feel happy and fulfilled. Without it, we feel useless, even if there is a thick bank account at one’s disposal. One can feel good only when one does something meaningful with one’s life.

Our boring society is running itself to its boring death, with laughter being replaced by the capitalism which sees no respite in its own making. Where love is replaced by the Instagram culture, Tinder culture, and the reassurance from the authorities that status and money do matter, instead of finding a job one really likes, even if it isn’t the best paying job. Where care is replaced by the ever-consumption, with animals being tortured still in civilized countries, to make sure your cream of more than hundred pounds is good for your skin.

Remove the normality, and only when you will see, and you will start caring. You will see when what Greta is on about, with fires in Australia, dying forests, and lands. You will see that you should stop eating animals, because you will notice that they have a soul. You will stop planning the Christmas a year ahead, and just chill in the moment, perhaps making presents by your own hands, or realizing that a good tasty meal is maybe enough, when some people are dying from hunger on the same Christmas day where you are inundated with presents.

Get away with normality, and you will start questioning things. You will start thinking about deeper and more meaningful values. You will notice that there are more and more homeless people on the streets in your ‘civilized’, ‘democratic’ country, and you will ask: why? You will realize that one in third has a mental health problem, and you will question, why? You will finally notice that even in your ‘rich’ country, children have nothing to eat, and you will hopefully cry, because it isn’t fair, and it wasn’t our God’s plan.

Have a glance beyond the normality, and you will encounter angels, you will communicate with God, you will meet the fairies, and you will know: it is humans and only humans who are the biggest problem on this earth, with their distorted normality, greediness and death of moral values.

F…the normality, I prefer to be ‘insane’, which in our days, means being saner than the rest of our miserable population.

A little wicked.

mewitheecigarette

Bad Witches in Russia

But let’s go back to the 1990ies in Russia to continue with chronology of the events, not just influencing me and my life after, but also the fate of Russia and how it has become.

When I talk about witches, and apologies to all nice white witches, who wish no harm, I talk about bad witches, and in order to ban you from telling me what I am deranged, I will present you a picture of Moscow on one day in June in 1991.

It was a beautiful day, as far as I remember, and I was strolling the lovely streets of the Moscow city, together with my cousin, who came to see me from the South of Russia. We were then really young, fourteen, fifteen, care-free, and very independent. I, for instance, due to the fact that I was constantly moving from the house to my dad and step-mother to the house of my grandma, and back, had lots of freedom. I really could do anything I wanted, and once I came back home at seven o’clock in the morning from a party of my boyfriend, and no one even noticed.

I was proud of my city then, because Moscow still stood as it was meant to: large streets with scare construction, old beautiful buildings, the view of the Kremlin, undisturbed, amazing museums, and not than many shops. I was slightly boasting to my cousin, even if I also actually envied her, with her nice, simple, very friendly life in an old mining town in the Eastern Ukraine, where she could visit our grandparents, proud Cossacks, in the South of Russia, whenever she wanted.

We walked for a long time, stopping at different places, to admire the view. We didn’t go inside the Kremlin that time, but stared at it from the bridge, taking in the breathtaking view of that amazing establishment. Kremlin is indeed breath-taking, encompassing beautiful imposing building, the most beautiful cathedral in the whole world, and the Kremlin tower itself, as well as the canon, and park and river around. All Kremlins in Russia were built on the river, surrounded by it, to protect themselves from the enemies.

And then we reached the old Arbat, a famous street in the center, forbidden for cars, where so many Russian writers created their stories, and where artists and vagabonds loved to assemble: to play guitar, to have a laugh, to share artistic ideas, to fall in love and to experience magic. Old Arbat was magical.

But no anymore. In the summer of 1991 I got for the first time a definite feeling that something wrong was going on in my native country. We entered the street, and there it was: witches parlors on almost every corner. At each corner, they were sitting, the witches. One was saying on a poster in front that she could read your fortune and make it better. The other had an announcement that she could ban certain people out of your life, and one man claimed to be a hypnotizer, looking similar to the idiot Kashpirovsky, promising to hypnotize one to good health or death, depending on your wishes (he didn’t mention ‘death’, but he looked like he could do it).

Ah, all that is innocent, and doesn’t mean anything, you might say at this point, especially if you are an atheist, or a psychiatrist.

Well, it does, of course it does. Queues of people were assembling next to each witch, wishing, hoping to get something that would make their lives better. It was indeed a desperate moment for my country: there was nothing to eat, nothing to buy, with uncertain future and total turmoil in politics and economics.

I didn’t like any of them, and I kind of felt a sort of despair myself when I saw these crowds of people, and because I was curious by nature, I joined the queue of a palm reader, a woman who didn’t look kind, and who started to give me weird looks before I even approached her. My cousin was standing next to me, but I told her I had money only to pay for my reading, not for hers. Something protective was always in me, in regards to my one year older than me cousin. She was vulnerable, fragile, thinking that she had lost on points, because my father had made a life in Moscow, while her dad, my uncle, worked in a mine. We both didn’t understand then, yet, that the life of her parents, in a small mining town, was the one that was full of beauty and wonder, and nice, kind people, who earned their bread with honesty and integrity.

By the time I approached the palm reader, I wasn’t feeling that well, I think it was probably due to the fact that all people who had a reading with her, had sad, desolate faces when they departed after receiving their reading. She was piercing me, with her unkind, calculating eyes all the way through, and I assumed it was due to my quite sexy, revealing top, that my mum had brought me from Italy. I was standing out in terms of my clothes, and the woman probably didn’t like it, was my guess.

When I sat in front of her, I had a massive headache, not helped by the fact that what she was telling me, a fourteen years old, was beyond being disturbing, it was pure bad madness.

“You will soon have an operation and you might survive, but it is all in the hands of the fate. You should never work as a teacher, or become a doctor. You will be unlucky in love.”

There was nothing nice coming of the mouth of the woman, and I don’t even know where I found the strength to contradict her, but I did. When she finally revealed her trick, such as asking to paying her lots of money to correct my outrageous fortune, I put a hand on top of hers, looked into her eyes and said:

“You are a liar.”

I then stood up and took my cousin firmly by the hand. I stopped for a good measure as well, looking at the crowd still waiting for their reading, really wishing for them to never approach that monster psychic, to never deal with her madness, greediness and ill-will.

Something unexpected happened then. The bad psychic stood up and started to assemble her chair and her tools (cards or whatever), and then she said:

“No more reading today, I am going home.”

I experienced enormous relief then.

The next day, I took my cousin from the south of Russia, and my cousin from Moscow, my sisters really, I don’t like the term ‘cousin’ to the Zamoskvorechye, a district full of churches, right outside of Moscow (now, a part of it), to baptize all three of us.

We received baptism, someone stole my best hat on the train back to Moscow, and I did feel something. Something really good entering my life.

It wasn’t enough though to fight with the negative energy my native town was dealing with then, but we will come back to it in my next post.

zamockvorechie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moscow and the arrival of capitalism

I was a teenager when the Soviet Union collapsed and suddenly I found myself in a new country and in a new regime.

As things go in life, when you have to live through the unbelievable, you adjust pretty quickly, especially when you are young.

Still, the changes that my country was undergoing right before the collapse, and after, were remarkable.

It started with the emergence of ‘lareks’, the small ugly compact boxes decorating almost every street in Moscow, selling stuff. These were the first visible signs of capitalism, offering everything from coca-cola, mars chocolate, and spirits to tampons and cigarettes.

larek.png

(example of Larek)

No one was even thinking of checking for age, and together with my best-friend, Masha, we took advantage of this new development at once. We would stroll to one of such shops after school, buy coca-cola and cigarettes, and then stroll to the McDonald restaurant in the centre of the city for more ‘delights’. It was the first real fast-food event in our city, and therefore, very noticeable. The queue to the place would stretch for a kilometer, with people eager for the Big Mac and apple pies. Masha and I were still at school, we had plenty of time, and so, spending an hour at least in a queue, was really a minor matter, considering the joy of discovering McDonald when you are fourteen/thirteen, the age which is so easily corrupted by the allure of fast, unhealthy food. We would go for the big mac meal, together with milkshakes, and apple pies, barely able to walk after each feast at the ‘restaurant’. Smoking our cigarettes bought at the ‘larek’ as a complimentary measure following the escapade to McDonald, we would make plans for our new discoveries, ‘things to follow, to try’.

bbc world first macdonalds

The world suddenly turned upside down, and for Masha and me, it represented new undiscovered adventures. Everything seemed possible, everything was allowed. There was no one to explain that cigarettes were bad, or that fast-food was unhealthy. We could do anything we wanted, and when you are at that daring age of fourteen, you, obviously, dare to pursue the temptations.

I remember the day when we first entered the casino in the centre of Moscow, situated at the prestigious hotel in the centre. Our aim was really unclear, we didn’t plan any playing or betting, but we wanted to have a look. Having established that anything, absolutely anything was possible in our new brand world, called the ‘capitalism’, we started to push the boundaries to a tricky and often, dangerous extent.

We wanted to be clever, we wanted to be smart. We were too young for the grown up world in its whole glory, but the truth was clear to our eyes: in the new regime, under the new ideology, the crown belonged to those who overcame the rules, bent them, and went for what they wanted. At that time we wanted to be among the grown-ups, and thus, we went to where the adults had fun. The adults who seemed to rule the new world, based on money and status. That first entrance to the casino was our first appearance among the cool ones, and since it had worked (we got the entry), we tried all other, prestigious and luxurious places.

Masha and I would dress in what we judged to be smart clothes, while in reality, it was what most of Moscow was wearing at that time. Clothes were still rare, at least, interesting, clothes, but I was luckier than others because my mum worked in Italy then and would bring me good stuff, while Masha had extremely resourceful mum.  Masha, would simply borrow her sophisticated, beautiful dresses.

We would turn up at the entrance to the casino or the most prestigious club for foreigners, and play a game of getting in. Bouncers were strict, because these places were reserved strictly for the nouveu-riches or wealthy foreigners, and thus, we would start speaking French with Masha hundreds metres before approaching the bouncers. We attended a French school in Moscow, you see.

“Hello,” I would say to the bouncer, smiling in a conspiratory matter, as if I was about to unveil a bombshell. “This is the famous singer, Margerite Condounois, coming directly from Paris. I am her translator,” I would point towards Masha, leaning towards us as if she couldn’t understand a word, and then switch to a whispering mode to continue with my tale, “Miss Condonois is incognito here, to look at how the locals live, to relax little bit, so, please, make sure, it stays private,” I would then slip a note of some roubles into the hand of a bouncer, and proceed to the entrance. The money was very little (less than a pittance for a tip), because we didn’t have any, but it worked each and every time. Wherever we went, we were let in.

Now in retrospect, I think it worked because of the obvious lie. We looked too young to be international stars or translators, and on top of it, Masha looked way too Russian (distinctive Russian cheeks and blue eyes) , while it was me who could pass for a French, with some difficulties. And because of such a visible ‘oversight’ in our story, we were allowed to proceed, since the bouncers and security always believed in what we were saying. The opposite could pass for a truth, in case we were lying, that was their assumption.

As a result, Masha and I, attended the best casinos, restaurants, clubs, theatre performances, managed to get into the ‘White House’ twice, and into a private party of an oligarch in the making. Masha even went on stage to perform some songs in French (she could indeed sing), and we ended up being paid on several occasions.

We exited the narrative of the life of the glory and the rich, when we both realized that we were after different things. We wanted to study, to be independent, to discover the world, to read books, and to remain young, care-free girls for longer, instead of turning into ‘gold-diggers’.

As a result, despite the absolute madness of that times, I am also grateful that I discovered the inside of it, the inside of what it means when one lives one’s life based on money, power, and more money. Each time Masha and I succeeded to enter the world of the powerful and wealthy, it led to a terrible disappointment. There was nothing of real interest there, no real discussions, no interesting talks, no spontaneity. No philosophy, no deepness, no soul, and no real laughter. We looked, we observed, and we made our minds. We wanted to remain in that old world, in that space in between the ideologies, where feelings, people, and soul discovery mattered more than one’s bank account.

Ironically, we remained true to our convictions, where life is interesting on a daily basis, when you look for something deeper than money and status.

masha and me

(The view of Moscow with my best-friend Masha, five years ago)