Robert Pimm

Short story: Moscow 1993: The Second Phial

Here is a complete short story, set in the Moscow of 1993.

In the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia experienced rapid, chaotic, change.  For many Russians, the transition from communism to capitalism meant hardship, uncertainty and suffering.  For a few, it brought untold riches.

Nearly everyone had to adapt to changed circumstances and work out new uses for old skills.

Like all my stories, The Second Phial is a work of fiction which springs entirely from my imagination

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A doorway in Moscow.  Photo: Robert Pimm

I wrote the story a few years ago and have decided to publish it now in search of feedback.  If you like it, I have a few more like this.  If you don’t like it, tell me also; I might take it down again.

Of course, I hope you enjoy it.  But be honest in your feedback.  If you want to be super-honest and are worried about hurting my feelings in public, send me an e-mail 😉

 

Moscow 1993: The Second Phial

Friday and Saturday nights she always went out, my beautiful Lyuba, trip-trapping down the evil-smelling stairs to the bright lights of Moscow City.  Sometimes, in the heaving crush of the new hard-currency clubs, she fell in love with American or British boys.  She never knew why it happened so fast.

Lyuba never knew either why I always stayed up until she came home.  She never could know why I loved to sit, dressing gown clasped round my knobbly knees, to see her lips grow bright as she told me how she had fallen in love again.

What she did know was that, once she slept with them, they never came back.  Sometimes this made Lyuba melancholy and she sat out in the yard, tears frosting her cheeks as she wept for her lost lovers.  She never knew the difference between the first phial and the second.

But she kept right on falling in love, right up to the end.  So did the boys.

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Body Politic? Blood Summit? Or Show Me the Head of the President?

You’re shopping for a fast-paced, intelligent action thriller.

You spot three books, set in Berlin, which you think might meet the bill.

The Reichstag in Berlin: setting for my new novel

One of them is called Blood Summit.

One of them is called Body Politic.

The third is called Show me the head of the President.

On which do you click?

Please let me know in the “comments” section below.

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The one with the links to happiness

Ha!  Is this absentmindedness?  Or dementia?  Either way it’s, er, good news.

I’ve been keeping an article from a newspaper meaning to blog about it:

A cutting from “Der Standard” of May 2017

When I sat down to write, I found my freshly-minted text curiously familiar.  I discovered that I had already written about the article in my blog Things are getting worse, right?  Wrong.  Here’s why, back in May.

My moment of forgetfulness is good news because it reminds me that I’ve written several happiness-related blogs, including:

–  How to be happy: 11 simple tools (May 2015) (more…)

Central European melancholy 10/10

In the course of a recent quiet weekend, I dipped into the soul of central European melancholy.

I watched 210 minutes of a 1964 black and white TV adaptation of Radetzky March, a novel by Joseph Roth.  Later I listened to Schubert’s Winterreise (Winter’s Journey).  Spoiler alert: this blog mentions key plot points of both.

Radetzky March is about the decline and fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, illustrated through three generations of the Trotta family.  The eldest Trotta, a humble infantry lieutenant of Slovenian origin, saves the life of Emperor Franz Josef at the battle of Solferino in 1859 (more…)

How to find your way

In his story The Feeling of Powerwritten in 1958, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov imagines a future where computers are so ubiquitous that people have forgotten how to count.  When a man works out how to perform simple sums using a pencil and paper, he has a sensation of power.

I often recall Asimov’s tale as I do my accounts; and sometimes do sums manually instead of using a calculator in the hope of keeping my brain working.   But nowhere is my sense of technological advance erasing a skill more focused than in navigation.

Map-reading is a skill I value.  To navigate a road or path from A to B gives you precisely the feeling of power of which Asimov wrote.  Yet when you are in difficult terrain; far from home; the maps are not good; or all three, you crave information.  No wonder GPS is so all-conquering.  But how useful is the latest technology for hiking the UK, compared with traditional methods?

Walking into cloud at Little Dun Fell. The rucksack cover blew off five minutes later

I recently walked the final 100 miles of the Pennine Way, from Dufton in Cumbria to (more…)

Jumping Jack Flash 8/10

‘Is it cold in here?  I’m a bit cold.’

Mick Jagger, in a skin-tight stage suit displaying his gaunt chest and an ornate cross around his neck, is drenched in sweat.  You can’t hear the crowd respond.  Are they delirious, or puzzled?

“Ladies & Gentlemen” on a 300-square-metre open air screen in Vienna

Until now I’d never heard of the Rolling Stones’ 1974 concert movie Ladies & Gentlemen.  Drawing on performances from four 1972 concerts in Texas, it was released in quadrophonic sound (remember that?)… then disappeared.

Most concert movies are boring.  This one – not so much.   (more…)

How to increase your attention span

A man is writing a novel.  He decides to check a fact.  He consults his computer, or his phone, to find he has six new messages from friends.  An extraordinary news story has come out.  Some thrilling sport is available, live, on-line.

You know the rest.  By the time our writer friend returns to his novel, 45 minutes have passed, and he has forgotten what he originally set out to research.

Our apparent inability to focus on anything for an extended period of time is one of the problems of the 21st century.  It risks hampering our creativity and channelling our energy into bitty activities which leave us unsatisfied or unhappy.  What can we do?

Two things.

First, we can learn from the masters of concentration.  One of these is the novelist Anthony Trollope, about whose awesome qualities I have written before, including this: “Trollope’s work is a reminder that sometimes, life in the slow lane can be better than the alternative. There’s no way to rush-read Trollope.  His novels are best savoured: read in chunks, rather than a few pages at a time.”

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