What this blog is for and about

I also offer personally-tailored, individualized English conversation practice (including etiquette) and coaching in writing techniques. Finally, I edit texts such as magazines, business proposals, memorandums, emails so they are presented in English which does not embarrass you or your organization. For further details, please mail me at: language.etiquette@gmail.com

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24 July 2012

This blogwrite is going to Barcelona for three weeks

My Hebridean holiday four years ago.
The sun shone that summer, at least for some of the time
I am sad to have to announce a discontinuation of service for three weeks, while I take a holiday in northern Spain with children, friends and the fascinating history of an exotic (to me!) country.
I shall be back in both print and Moscow in late August.
     There will be invitations to whisky tastings for readers who can correctly answer either of these two questions:

  1. What is the name of the grammatical form in which two normally unassociated concepts are put together in one sentence? Like: “I shall be back in both print and Moscow…” (I ask this partly as I cannot remember myself, and will have to look it up, ask a friend or search the recesses of either my memory or library—there’s another example.)
  2. Where is the mistake in this sentence: “Extensive moorland fires: eight acres of land destroyed”? This was the gist of a headline I read in a copy of the West Highland Free Press which I found when travelling back to Oban on the ferry from the beautiful Isle of Coll two days ago.
     I hope all you blog readers have a happy holiday yourselves, and I look forward to being back in touch in the autumn, when civilised people return from their sporting or leisure pursuits to their studious ones. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who has contributed with a comment, suggestion or response of any other sort. Your participation is appreciated.

09 July 2012

Silence can speak volumes

Exactly half-way round the MKAD from Khimki:
60 kms out, at 8.47—and still two DPS stations to go
On Sunday morning I had an interesting illustration of the potency of a facial expression, and how much more that can say than spoken words.
     I had decided to cycle round the MKAD. In my journeys around Moscow by bicycle I have often cycled on part of the ring-road and have thought for some time it would be worth making a full circuit, if only to say that I had “beaten the bounds” of the city.
     I waited for a weekend when I had nothing else on and the weather was right (not too much wind, not too hot and, above all, dry), and set off early (from Khimki) to avoid the mid-day heat.
     By 7 a.m. I was passing the Volokolamsk turn off, 20 kms from home, going in an anti-clockwise direction. I had chosen that way round because the wind was forecast from the south-east and I wanted to have it favourable on the later stages, when I would be tired. Also wind tends to get up during the day and the contrary wind early would, I hoped, be lighter than the fair wind later on—as turned out to be the case.
     I was in fine spirits on a beautiful, clear and still cool morning when, for the first time in five years of cycling all over the Moscow Oblast, and occasionally beyond, I saw a traffic policemen by the side of the road waving his little black and white baton at me and gesturing to pull over. I know that bicycles are not allowed on “Chausses” in Russia, but I have passed so many policemen on the MKAD over the years that I assumed it to be effectively tolerated. And what is a Chausse, anyway? Where are the signs saying cycling not permitted?
     I knew that if I stopped that would be the end of my little jaunt. I had been thinking of this for a year and actively organising it for a month or so. Damn! Damn! Damn!
     There was only one thing for it, which I have found works in many other circumstances with policemen in Russia. Act as if they do not exist. So I peddled on, right past the guy, within two feet of him, while he waved his little baton, blew his whistle, and shouted “Мужчина!” As I passed him I affected a glassy-eyed expression as if I was in some sort of athletic trance and the noise he was generating meant as little to me as the roar of a hostile crowd at Luzhniki Stadium. I wanted him to think I was mad, weird, wired, out of it, or foreign—or better still: all five. After all, what sane Russian would be out on a Sunday morning lapping the local beltway on a bike when he could be safe home in his bed snoring?
     Was my friendly traffic supervisor going to pull out his little gun and fire at me? I very much doubted it, but I put in a few random wobbles just in case he was standing behind taking aim at the disappearing cyclist. Soon I was able to swerve in front of a stationery truck and be lost to view. The next question was: would he have the energy to walk over to his car, turn the ignition key and come after me? Knowing Russia, I doubted it. Rightly so, as it happened since I was able to continue unmolested.
     Would the policeman—as he undoubtedly would have in Britain had I committed a comparable offence—radio the next DPS station on the road asking them to stop the madman on a blue bicycle who would be passing in ten minutes or so? Apparently not, since I passed three more DPS stations on the circuit and none evinced the slightest interest in my progress.
     So the expression worked—helped I am sure by the officer’s laziness. I has said nothing, just looked mad. It is too much effort to challenge that sort of thing. Who knows where it might end? 
     Using language, however well, can sometimes be less effective than not using it at all.

Connoisseur’s Choice #4: “Thank you” to all blog supporters

Scottish traditional music at  Шотландская Клетка
A good Glenfiddich helps it go with a lilt!
A wonderful evening was had by all last Thursday at Moscow's new Scottish-themed restaurant where Glenfiddich generously sponsored a tasting of their excellent malts for twelve of those who had won competitions which I had set in various blog entries in the past, or who had volunteered for tastings as advertised at the Glenfiddich advertisement at the top of the blog (see right).
     Glenfiddich needs no introduction, and anyone who is interested can get further information by clicking on the advertisement which will take them through to the company's site. But the restaurant, Шотландская Клетка is new and deserves a boost, partly due to its excellent food, partly due to its courteous and attentive staff and partly also for the interesting live music which seems to be a feature of nights there.
     For those of you who have not experienced it yet, Шотландская Клетка is at 27/29 Sretenka, near Sukharevskaya Metro station. Phone 495 608 0654, or see site: www.restorankletka.ru .
     Finally, I should note that further events of this sort are planned, so make sure you enter for any of the stilly competitions this blog holds, or register your interest direct in attending them by mailing me on language.etiquette@gmail.com . Slainte!