Sometime in mid April it was suddenly announced we would start being ‘confined to barracks’ in the guise of a quarantine designed to ward off the appalling, and by now out of control Covid-19 virus ravaging all of Europe. Countries like Italy and Spain were hardest hit and at their zenith, with depressing hospital scenes being depicted in newspapers and on TV. At this stage, the UK was just accelerating and Russia had only a few isolated cases in the far east of the country. However, the authorities had seen for themselves how badly prepared Europe had been and were determined the Motherland wouldn’t suffer the same fate, so my freedom of travel was thwarted.
For the last decade I had been cheerfully navigating my way to clients’ offices or cafes via the metro to meet, so to have the rug suddenly pulled from under my feet was something of a shock. I had always been advised that living and working in Russia, one should operate under the maxim of ‘expect the unexpected’ and now it was here and I had to adapt fast to the threat of losing my clients. My laptop had more or less given up the ghost and I went and re-installed skype on my mobile and made a plan of action. I contacted all my clients and some had already decided to up sticks and move to their dachas where in some cases there was no internet, so they were effectively lost. Others acquiesced and were pleased have online lessons, so having been operating with around 22 lessons a week, I was reduced to about 15 which was infinitely better than many of the teaching fraternity. With new clients coming on board in recent weeks, I’m back up to between 18-20 lessons a week.
As we’re all in the same boat working from home, it hasn’t escaped my attention that while I initially wondered if this whole modus operandi would actually work, I’m delighted to report that everyone, myself included, has come on board with the notion of working online remarkably well, and indeed there’s now a reticence to return to respective offices on June 15 when we officially exit quarantine! The wearing of masks and gloves became mandatory in the first week of May, producing terrible scenes of people queuing for a couple of hours to enter the metro, so thereafter checks were limited, especially after the erroneous publicity in the media. I managed to get a travel permit twice a week via my lawyer friends at Conner and Conner, so a big shout out to them for adding a much needed ‘joie de vivre’ to my routine. Goung forward, I could travel to Auchan to enhance my dwindling wine supplies, and Azbuka Vkuza for fine food and my much missed Magners cider! It should be noted that I’ve invented the concept of ‘wine online lessons’ which have gone down a treat with my clients; it involves both parties simultaneously opening a bottle of wine, pouring a glass and toasting each other at the start of a 60 minute lesson. Probably it’s best I don’t mention whether the bottle gets finished in the allotted time, but the cognoscenti among you will doubtless be able to make an educated guess where I’m concerned!
So what else has changed in these challenging times? Well, I seem to have adopted a more ‘laissez faire’ attitude about life, especially with Sky TV which has been an absolute life-saver for not only evening viewing, but also daytime between lessons. All of us seem to be doing a lot more in our respective kitchens, cooking up a storm of gastronomic delights for ourselves and the occasional visitor who drops in for fine wine, food and a cheerful chat. I’ve also managed to surreptitiously visit one or two people in and around Moscow for more of the same shenanigans, so my social life certainly hasn’t taken a dive! As the time has worn on, I’ve been amused to see some of my Facebook friends posting far more gobbledygook than usual as boredom levels escalate. As for me, my couch potato lifestyle has resulted in an additional unwanted 5 kilos but I suspect I’m far from alone with this problem. In synopsis, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how myself and others have managed to adapt to this unexpected situation and remain optimistic. Whilst my wine supplies have been unaffected, my cheese supplies are dwindling alarmingly, so I’m hoping flights will resume in the second half of July or start of August so I can fly to Cyprus for a few days to negate this situation!