Kiev calling – 2
It is going to get a lot colder here in Kiev: temperatures on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are forecast as -9ºC up to -6ºC. And it should be snowing by then. According to the BBC forecast on my MacBook. Which is good news, I think. For the last several days it has been grey and wet, with a mix of sleet and freezing rain. I don’t recall seeing the sun since we arrived.
We have been in Kiev for two weeks now. Which doesn’t make me an expert on anything. But we have finally changed some US dollars into local currency, Ukrainian hrivnya if you need to know. Written UAE. Changing money was very straightforward at a little currency shop across the road, with an unsmiling red-haired woman behind a glass screen. No passport or identity document required. And we have ordered several large barrels of water, along with a tailor-made pump, which were delivered this morning by an efficient young man. It seems that no-one drinks tap water in Kiev. And Susie said that it was an unrepeatable pre-Christmas offer. And we have, amazingly, booked some rail tickets to go to Lviv after Christmas. Both the water and the rail tickets were sourced with help from Kate, who has been here at the embassy for three years. And who is a great help and encouragement. Admittedly we only secured the rail tickets [the last seats on the train] at the fourth attempt and with a second credit card.
A few days walking around the city in the rain gave me a streaming cold; cue much sneezing and a nose running like a mountain stream. So I stayed indoors for 36 hours, living mainly on tea and paracetamol. Happily I was well enough for the service on Sunday afternoon, but sounded more like Paul Robeson than usual. A small but faithful congregation. The church here uses an unknown [to me] American hymn book. I remember all those old jokes about Britain and America being two countries divided by a common language. Divided more I think by a common hymnody.
Susie has caught my cold this week, and has been staying warm indoors. So I went by myself to carol singing at the Embassy on Monday evening. It was a low-key event with twenty or so people singing carols in the garden, followed by mulled wine and mince pies indoors. The embassy is quite big here, and I can imagine that Ukraine is a challenging posting. It was good to have brief conversations with some of the people there. From which I gathered that the Kiev Anglican church is a well-kept secret. But I hope to be organising a baptism for one of the families that I met on the Sunday after Christmas. It seems that December 25th is not a public holiday in this country. So we will be having our Christmas Day celebration on December 26th.
Walking across town to the embassy was an opportunity to photograph a few of the sights after dark. Which may be when they look at their best ! St Michael’s gold-domed monastery is named after Kiev’s patron saint. The current building  is a copy of the original , which was torn down by the Soviets in 1937.
Andriyivsky Uzviz [Andrew’s descent] is the most picturesque street in Kiev. It is a steep, cobbled street reminiscent of Montmartre. According to legend the Apostle Andrew walked up this hill, erected a cross, and prophesied that a great city would occupy this site. At the top of the hill St Andrew’s church was built in 1754 by an Italian architect, interpreting the traditional Ukrainian design of a five-domed, cross-shaped church.
That’s probably enough guide-book stuff. France 24 mentioned blustering Boris yesterday; only to say that he is deeply unpopular, and that his back-benchers are revolting. Which is not exactly news. But they haven’t yet acknowledged the coming day-night test in Adelaide. I suppose that a French news station has to draw the line somewhere.
Today’s exciting news is that the Tories have lost the by-election in Owen Paterson’s old seat. With an unprecedented swing of some 30%+ to the Lib Dems. And that Boris has taken full responsibility for the result. A rare display of truthfulness ? Yet more good news to celebrate this Christmas.