Happy New Year! We are now back in Moscow - along with my parents - and last night we all went to Red Square to celebrate the New Year along with seemingly all of Moscow. In true Russian fashion, many didn't start until about 30 minutes before the event started - which only gave them 10 minutes to join the party as the police closed the bridges and access to the area at 11:40pm! Whilst we didn't actually get onto Red Square itself, we stood on Vasilievsky Spusk (just behind St. Basil's Cathedral) and enjoyed the performances on the stage, watched and listened to President Medvedev's address to the nation at 11:55pm (following a short technical hitch.....) and then after the bells of the Spasskaya rang in the New Year, enjoyed the traditional impressive display of fireworks. I have seen this before - once - but my parents and especially Alice found it quite something. Al couldn't believe that she was standing in Moscow, seeing in the New Year in such a place.
But to step back a few days.....Our Christmas break was enjoyable but tainted slightly with the complication of getting our suitcases returned from BA. Once again, you'd think that even given the Christmas period, a timeframe of 48 hours would be sufficient to restore a passenger's lost luggage and that everything would be returned together. Not so. Initially, having submitted our information to the lost baggage desk at Newcastle we were told 'within 72 hours' - up until Christmas Eve - and we shrugged that off. The cases eventually arrived in two loads: the first on Christmas Eve and the second, two days before we returned to Moscow.
I was amazed at how many phone calls I had to make and to how many different places - the baggage handling company at Newcastle Airport; the logistics company who act as the couriers; and to BA themselves. No-one could actually give me a definite answer or was prepared to take responsibility. "Am I in Russia?" was my thought, more than once. It was amazing how a little bit of snow - little being the operative word - had caused so much chaos. This decision on Monday night to stop operating domestic and international flights must have cost BA a fair amount and given many people at their customer service centres sore ears - probably just as much as if the planned strike had actually gone ahead!
When the second bag finally did arrive we cracked open a bottle of Chablis (kindly given by Uncle David earlier that day) in celebration. It felt like a Christmas present; all the more so as we could finally give various overdue presents to siblings and parents. Thankfully, it gave us time to get reorganised prior to coming back to Moscow and we still had some space left to squeeze in a few last-minute purchases!
It was wonderful to see all of our family - hard to believe that five months had passed since July - and especially to see our little niece. Sally and Gareth told us that she was so excited to see us and had been talking about 'Uncle Chris and Auntie Natany (sic) getting off a plane' (she still thinks we live in the airport :o). We had managed about three words by telephone over the last few weeks before she became shy.
Physically, she has changed so much. Emotionally and linguistically, the same. She is a 'real little girl' now and she is so much like Sally was at her age (and still is to some extent). Very self-confident, loves dressing-up, dancing, a very sociable child and very much in charge - as demonstrated by the way she got us organised into an orchestra on Christmas Day and, when Dad tried to stand up and make a speech for the toast, she ordered him to "sit down Grandpa!" Definitely the trouser-wearer.