I was raised on a diet of Victorian red bricks and Welsh green countryside but as I’m older (and never learnt to drive!) I spend less and less time amongst water, greenery and the smell of cow manure. This year, I had to travel all the way to Russia to feel close to the child’s self whose voice we can sometimes only hear in the tranquillity of nature.
I spent it the weekend with my friend Masha, her son Vanya, her husband Vas and their friends, Ivan and Natalia, along with their two boys. I’ve learnt to feel nervous around manly men because of experiences in the past when I’ve been made to feel lacking or odd, and those anxious thoughts came to me when I first met the males of the household.
When I arrived, Seryozho, the man from whom the families had rented the dachas, greeted everybody and shook my hand, smiling as warmly as he had with everyone else. He asked me if I had suitable clothes for the countryside, and when I told him no, he disappeared for a few minutes and brought me the yellow wellies I’m wearing and a pair of dungarees.
Later on, whilst cooking in the kitchen, Ivan passed me a red can of beer, and he told me he thought I would like it because it goes with my red nails! We burst into laughter and he pulled out green, yellow and blue cans, saying I can choose any like because all of them match the colours on my scarf! We even joked about me probably not wanting to help with the cooking, because my mind is occupied with luxury and society life (I disagreed and told them I’m actually a very practical young man!!!) He told me ‘midi’ (mussels in Russian) were called ‘moules’ in French, and I replied with ‘oui, moules!’ I then found out, once we switched into French, that he was in the armée française, and picked up the language during his travels across the country. His six year son, also called Ivan, that evening showed me how to properly cast a fishing rod, something I hadn’t done since I was a child of around the same age.
Life can surprise you sometimes, and it can also be absolutely predictable. The predictability in this situation is such: kind, loving people will seek the goodness in others, no matter how different they seem on the surface.


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