We joined the queue one warm afternoon two days

before Victory Day, and the week Putin

was first crowned. There were police everywhere –

mostly, it seemed, armed thirteen year olds

in wide-brimmed caps. One halted the queue

to allow a group of be-medalled,

self-conscious veterans to enter first.

Inside, we were ‘forbidden to smoke, talk, photograph,

video, or have your hands in your pockets’.


Exiled to the conifer forests

of Central Siberia with its gnat

legions of summer,



Ten minutes or so into a performance

of Mathew Bourne’s ballet at Sadler’s Wells,

with the principal alone spot lit en pointe,

there was a muffled shout off stage right

and a clatter as if a metal ladder

had been toppled. (Professional dance –

that always seems heartbreakingly effortless –

is always on the cusp of injury).

The music stopped suddenly, the curtains closed

– and, as the house lights came on, we were asked

to remain seated,



Lenin, to leaven his exile in Zurich,

would sometimes weekend in Luzern and,

after kalberwurst with onions and gravy

at the Wilden-Mann on Bahnhofstrasse,

would always visit the Panorama

in the Löwenplatz – or so it is said.


Panoramas were popular before

the illusion of photography,

still or moving, became reality.

They were cycloramas painted in oil,

typically fifteen metres high, one hundred

metres in circumference – often

with a three dimensional aspect:

in this case,



In a black cab on our way to the ballet –

‘The Red Shoes’ at Sadler’s Wells – we passed

the munificence of St Pancras Station

that dominates the six lane highway

and then the removed magnificence

of King’s Cross set far back from the road,

and I was reminded of some of Moscow’s

imitative terminals, and I thought

how a railway terminus is like

a proscenium arch and the track

inevitable like a plot unfolding.

Terminus was the god of boundaries,



A week before Easter our Cyprus hotel

hosted the season’s last two conferences –

‘Moscow Niardmedic’, ‘Nestlé in Russia’.

The spacious, tiled, white walled lounge, the free bars,

the terraces with pergolas were filled

with Big Pharma salespersons on a jolly –

the many ethnicities of Russia,

all seemingly impassive, inscrutable,

seemingly suspicious of strangers.


April 3rd on the St Petersburg metro

a bomb was detonated between stations…

April 7th the US Sixth Fleet,

below the horizon due south from here,