I'll tell you, we live in a good location, in standard Moscow block, that was probably built in the 1970's or early 1980's. Our flat is not free, we pay a good salary to our flat owner for doing nothing, his flat was given to him free when the communist dream failed. All is paid in cash and no tax is declared by our owner. We live a few floors up from the street and face the back yard, so it's not so noisy but the soot from the cars stills gets in and covers anything that is near to a window. Our block, is a mini soap opera of personalities and certainly never dull. Next door to us, lives a nice old lady who must be in her late 70's although she seems to be as strong as an Ox. She is highly religious and her daughter is to. She lives alone and her daughter visits her often and is rather serious looking. When her daughter arrives at her door, she makes the sign of the cross, when she leaves her door, she makes the sign of the cross. They follow all the Orthodox customs. Her daughter is slightly strange and is always dressed in long skirts and always in headscarf. The old lady, her mother, regularly knocks on our door and gives us pancakes and homemade jams from her dacha country house, she is very different to her daughter in personality and is always smiling. I doubt she has very much money. We give her a bottle or chocolates sometimes and check on her, to see that she is OK.
We have our resident busybody and our resident drunk, as I'm sure many block do, the world over. Our block of flats is made up of very different personalities. Above us, we have a dysfunctional family, below us lives a man who has very loud, regular sex. One lady always leave the block in strange, large hats, as if she is off to a big wedding or horse race and I enjoy seeing what her hat she will be wearing, whenever I bump into her, when I enter or leave our block. A driver, in a smart car always collects her and I don't know where she is going or what she does and I don't care. Our resident busybody, who must smoke forty packs a day, is always telling people where to park their cars and is always seen giving orders to the brooms who work outside. I call them "brooms" and although this may seem a cruel name for them, it's an accurate one. Some of these men are from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. I have grown to despise these men as we get no peace. At first, I felt very sorry for them and now they are a daily irritation to me, like a fly stuck in a room when you try to sleep. They wake us up early, seven days a week, at six am each morning. We are woken up in the winter by the sound of metal shovels clearing the snow and in the summer, by the sound of brooms or by the sound of them clearing out their noses on the ground below our window. They clear the snow, even if its just one millimeter thick on the ground, they sweep puddles clear of water and six of them paint one tiny fence, that goes around the blocks small garden. Apparently, there are no jobs back home and most of their money is sent back home to support a family. These men never rest but surprisingly, seem to look fairly happy with the miserable existence. Our small yard, has four such men, they sweep and re-sweep when there is no dirt, clear snow at all hours and paint things in the spring. One man could do the job of these four and I am not entirely sure who pays them or where they sleep at night? They could go to my country, the United Kingdom and they would be very welcome and very unusual, in a country where the workshy won't take the most basic of jobs, as taking the unemployment money is far easier and much less effort. They guys could reduce our yearly welfare bill by at least 50%.
Last week, I heard a massive bang, I looked out the window to see a body splattered across the ground. We later found out from ours blocks cleaning lady, who makes it her job to know everyone business, that the body was that of a women from the eighth floor above us. She is the mother of our drunk, who is in my opinion, an acute alcoholic. I see him every day walking his old, tired dog to the local shop to buy his daily booze. He staggers back with his plastic bag, clanking with vodka bottles, I hear him first and then see him later, as he walks, bandy legged, round the corner, dragging his aging dog behind him. He is often unable to get into the main door, because he is so drunk, so he just lays on the floor, with broken glasses on his face, while his dogs lays by him, longing for a better life and for a different owner. I digress, the cleaning lady told us, that his mother was trying to fix a cable in the balcony wall when her chair broke from under her and she fell over the railings to her death. The poor lady, his mother, was in fact senile and I would often see her wondering around the car park in her night dress and she would often she would ring our bell, thinking it was her flat. I have kids and living under these two has been a great source of worry to me. A flat with two people sharing it, one who is a drunk and one who is senile, is a very dangerous situation for everyone as gas can kill. I was convinced he had pushed her to her death but it later transpired that he was out at the time buying his booze, so he was not at home when she fell. I know this sounds awful but I had hoped he had done it, so we could be rid of him but I feel very sad that his mother had to die and in such an awful way, perhaps if he had been home and sober at the time, she would still be alive now. He is now back in their flat, living alone on a liquid diet, I only hope someone will keep an eye on him for all our sakes! This women was once a some parents beloved daughter and was once a tiny baby, why did her life end in such sad way?
One thing is for sure, personalities, what every their habits, make life less dull and Moscow is turning out to be an experience I shan't forget in a hurry. I try not to see life as good or bad but as a journey and as an experience. This is the best policy and makes for some very interesting memories. I think life is a soap opera, to entertain, shock and inspire us.