Wednesday, May 28, 2014

St. Petersburg - Rainy Cold Day

Barrett told me the latitude of St. Petersburg is about the same as Anchorage.  “When people tell me about the ‘White Nights’, I tell them I get that in Anchorage”.  Apparently our overnight train went  closely north out of Moscow.  It was too hot the first day we arrived, like in Moscow, almost Mexican hot. Then overnight the clouds came and we were chilly in jackets and hats in the cold wind and drizzle yesterday.  At times I felt like Winnipeg Spring. But the nearby Bay of Finland and harbour gives the air that Vancouver nearby sea scent.  There’s pigeons but I’ve not seen the sea gulls of port towns yet.
Today the rain is heavy.  Looking outside I see umbrellas everywhere as if I was transported back to Vancouver.  I suffered the heat and now I’m about to suffer the wet and cold.  I found myself thinking of Jimmy Buffet’s, tropical,  Changes in Latitude - Changes in Attitude song.  Without the sun, I’m dreary as the day. We’re planning to visit the Peter and Paul Fortress. This was where Peter laid the first foundations for what has become this great city of St. Petersburg.
Yesterday I saw fur stores. The Russian art shows sleighs and skis.  I talked with Vlad about hockey.  Jamaicans don’t know what they’re missing. Life maybe a beach for some but without the variety and challenge there’s lethargy and waste. I remember languishing in the Mexican summer, the year I lived there. I couldn’t wait to get out in my sailboat just for the breeze that made the weather tolerable. Here I’ll buy an umbrella though my Vancouver shell jacket and Montreal beret are adequate.  Were I here in winter I’d dress like I did in Winnipeg, parka, fur hats, long johns mittens and boots.  It is easier to adapt to the persistent climates than the mercurial politics.
There has been recurrent flooding in St. Petersburg.  With rising seas it’s likely going to have to invest in higher walls for the canals.  I remember Winnipeg flooding, flood ways, dikes and sandbagging.  Nature is forever offering challenging.  The English spoke of the ‘oppressive’ climate of India and moved out of the cities to the hills away from mosquitoes and squalor.  Gandhi in contrast adapted to his climate called the British ‘oppressive’.
Here about I’m aware that extraordinary changes have occurred in a couple of decades. We sat in a ‘post soviet’ cafe and ate lunch under the stark authoritarian parental posters of the old regime.  Vlad had apparently picked this place because it was the least expensive of cafes in the downtown with the best of food.  Barrett liked the posters. Het!!
Watching the ticket offices and some of the other civil servant processes occurring I intuit an irritability even greater than in the west.  The notion of ‘servant’ is new to the government officials and one imagines some are disillusioned by this new world. Certainly the ‘customer’ doesn’t rule yet as in Canada.  There we all live in terror daily fearing summons to the complaints department, law suits or civil rights tribunals.  There is a sense of freedom here.  But is that simply a changing of the guard?  A brief respite of weather.
The elite have their own issues.  It’s often harder to hold onto power than it is to acquire it.  "Rags to riches in three generation and riches to rags to one”, is the old truism. It applies to empires as well with each the world has known lasting less and less time.  Alexander’s empire and the Roman Empire lasted an infinity compared to the British. America and the USSR were johnny come late lies.  China and India are in the offings now while Africa and South America languish.
Meanwhile I’m thankful to have brought a water resistant shell jacket.  All the riches are naught when one is without basic comforts such as jackets and umbrellas. IMG 5005DSCN1776DSCN1767DSCN1701DSCN1716DSCN1764DSCN1675DSCN1750DSCN1726DSCN1620DSCN1614DSCN1610DSCN1609DSCN1602DSCN1600

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