Simon Green

Last week saw the annual Christmas trees going up in Moscow, and alongside that, traditional Christmas events took place, and by that I mean the party season which started in earnest. It so happened there were two events on offer, and on consecutive days which was a double whammy so to speak, and a test for even the most diehard of expats- your scribe included in that category!

First up we had the British Business Club bash which was sponsored by Moet Hennessy; this was in their office which is located in the historical Bolshevik Business Centre. Around 70 of us converged on the fifth floor to be greeted by a contemporary bar decked out in expensively, heavy-duty oak pieces, but the piece de resistance was a Balthazar (12 litres, yes 12!) of Moet lying in a bath tub, full of ice. A couple of musicians serenaded us with soothing music while canapes were handed out to all and sundry, with the prerequisite glasses of fizz that flowed mellifluously down our throats and we were replenished with alarming regularity by the attentive waiters on hand. I met several new people for the first time which was a pleasant surprise given my notoriety on the social circuit.

Welcome speeches were then made with both self-deprecating humour as well as the deserved thanks to Moet Hennessy who did us proud. Then a metaphorical drum roll announced the opening of the aforementioned Balthazar of Moet, which didn’t prove as easy to open as it was for us to quaff it! As if that wasn’t enough, several bottle of Glenmorangie whisky were opened and consumed with alacrity- a fatal combination as it transpired, which I found to my detriment the next morning!

By lunchtime I had shaken off the cobwebs from the previous evening and was ready to face my next event: The Chevening Society Alumni, a part of the British Embassy, and they were celebrating their 35th birthday at H.E The British Ambassador’s house. Chevening are part of the British government and are responsible for giving out scholarships to study in the UK to international students who are the creme de la creme in their particular fields. In Moscow it’s organized by a group of volunteers who raise money for charity and do a lot of pro bono work. I was glad to see my friend, Olga Dyachenko, receive an award in recognition of her tireless efforts over the past 5 years. This was given to her by the First Secretary of the British Embassy for Economics and Politics, who also made the welcome speech. He regaled us with various stories, not least that two of the married couples present in the room, had met during their scholarships in the UK and were now happily married!

Over 100 people were in attendance, and we were treated to another evening of champagne that flowed indefatigably, as well as several glintweins that were on tap. We were thenushered into the dining room to be greeted by roast turkey with all the trimmings, and a quite delicious salmon and mashed potato in a rich sauce. Dinner having been enjoyed, my friend, Lyubov Zolotova, one of Chevening’s leading volunteers and the doyen of anything musical, coerced a few of us downstairs to rehearse the three verses of that eponymous carol, Silent Night, now translated into many languages, but English was on the menu for this occasion. We went back upstairs to perform to tumultuous applause, and I have to reluctantly admit that I actually rather enjoyed my singing. This pretty much signalled the end of the evening, so we went on our way rejoicing. A couple of days later, I was offered a ticket to the Irish Embassy White Ball, but had to valiantly decline such a generous offer, much to the person’s incredulity. I realised that the double whammy I had endured would be in danger of becoming triple trouble, and that my brain would have been writing cheques that my body quite simply couldn’t cash!