Archive for November, 2016


November 29, 2016

The time has come to remove the dust off the books after the renovation of the apartment. At some point in the future, our book-cleaner2grandchildren will probably laugh at this sort of pastime. They will be living in the digital book world and basking in the internet of things. But will books be their long-standing friends? Will they turn lovingly the pages that they first opened thirty, forty, fifty years before?

Here’s Eckersley’s “Essential English”… Tolstoy and Khakina’s “Learn to Speak English”… I was doing these two for my admission exams in 1966. After I entered the college, an audio course “Meet the Parkers” was added to the list. Here it is: “It’s very nice to be home. Had a good day, Nora?” – “Not very good. People kept knocking at the door all the morning. I had to come downstairs a dozen times to open the door.” – ”Oh, who were they all?” – “Oh, nobody special…”

A few years afterwards there came “A University Course of English”, “Advanced English”, “Modern English”, “Graduation Course.” No joking this time: things were in earnest.

Dozens of conversation books… “Art for Art Students”, “Sports”, “Home and Home Life”… I also used them to compile topics for my daughter when she was preparing for HER admission exams. Those were great topics. Each of them was a colorful snapshot of our family life in general and of Yasya’s experience in particular.

Next to the conversation books there are four books “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney. It is a much later acquisition. Yasya bought the books after she graduated from George Washington and was about to leave for Europe. We love the time when we were kids – even with our PhDs.

I hold the books, wipe the covers with a rag, caress the pages… It’s not that only I love the books: they remember me and love me too… I know it…

I’m a book-cleaner… Is there such a profession?


November 28, 2016

People often ascribe human qualities to inanimate objects or phenomena. Winter may be called a “magician” changing the surroundings with a touch of a brush dipped in white. In Ukrainian culture a poplar tree is associated with a slender girl and has a feminine grammatical gender. As a little kid I found that neighboring houses looked like their owners: in my village, old Maksym’s hut was bent to the ground and angry with everything and everybody – just as Maksym was, while Granny Dunia’s house was all smiles warming in the sun (nobody had seen Granny Dunia in the dumps). It’s funny, but domestic animals and pets may also resemble those who own them, and not only in character (which would be more natural) but in appearance too (which is quite unexplainable).

Is the above phenomenon a result of people’s instinctive attempt to classify the in-coming visual information and pigeon-hole new things into some hypothetical compartments already existing in the brain? Of late I have found that new faces I meet easily relate to someone I knew or read about in the past. Thus, while jogging in the morning round the lake at my block of flats I often see a bespectacled old person with a pointed beard and Jewish facial features. The man comes to the lake with his big dog and does physical jerks for about an hour there. I decided that he should be “Leo Trotskiy,” one of the leaders of the Russian communist revolution in 1917.

There’s also a lady of about sixty who walks in small steps round the lake. She has got an immaculate wavy hair-do, wears a longish winter coat and her lips are primly pursed and painted. Although she walks for sport, but there’s always an H-bag in her hand. She never looks left or right, and goes as “Agatha Christie” with me.

A limping “Iron Gauntlet” can walk only when she holds on to the rail of the metal enclosure round the lake. For this, she uses a big glove – otherwise she would have her hand long bruised after her repeated “to-and-fros.”

“Old Sergeant’ looks as if he is always parading before his seniors. He stretches his legs straight, makes wide steps and waves his arms with all his might.

A group of elderly ladies, headed by an elderly man, walks slowly. They carry plastic bags with Leonid Chernovetskiy’s election logo (Leonid Chernovetskiy, the former mayor of Kyiv, is known as a corrupted politician who eventually fled from Ukraine, but who, nevertheless, keeps being admired by his 60+ year-old electorate). After two laps of a self-important strut, they sit down on a semi-circular bench, and the gentleman goes off to the nearest metro station to collect half a dozen copies of the anti-Ukrainian newspaper “Vesti” that is handed out there for free. “Pro-Russian rednecks,” who else are they?

I don’t know whether it’s good or bad to label people that way, but I feel that my morning jogs would be rather boring without “Leo Trotskiy”, “Agatha Christie”, “Iron Gauntlet”, “Old Sergeant” and even without the pro-Russian “rednecks” walking round the lake clockwise to meet me every several minutes.

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