‘Please tell me about your blog,’ my friend asks. My blank stare combines with a pained expression on my face. My blog? Is that still alive? I tell her that I haven’t touched it for a few months. Then, later (now, in fact), I log on my site. I stare once more. The last time I was here was in January 2022. A whole year ago!
If you are a new reader, welcome to my annual instalment of thoughts. If you have been on my followers’ list for some time, sorry that I neglected you. Will try harder.
Years come and go and unless we journal our thoughts or create photo albums, they can pass without anyone noticing. Have you felt it? You take a shirt out of your wardrobe, you know, the one you’ve received as a present a few Christmases ago just to find a photo of yourself wearing it on a trip twenty years ago. That’s my excuse and I am sticking to it.
January 2023 in the UK is a very different animal from the 2022 edition. We have had thousands of people making their way to safety from their own countries. The most profound impact on my own little life here in the sticks was the start of the war in Ukraine. It feels close to my family in the Czech Republic and it feels personal, since my maternal grandmother was born where the bombs are exploding today. I vividly remember my mum telling me that if ‘he’ gets to the Slovak border, they will start stocking up on water and tinned food. I was speechless. My generation grew up without war affecting their way life (now I am strictly speaking for western and central Europeans) and I was not prepared for this. I cried and raved about the injustice.
Then Masha arrived. She was around my age, alone, with not much English at all, with her husband back in the Ukraine fighting, with no certainty of her daughter’s whereabouts. And she arrived one late night to a house near ours. Her home was being flattened by egoism and the schoolboy desire to find out who has a bigger …army.
I won’t describe what is now almost a year of firm friendship between us. Masha showed me the amazing strength of spirit that we tend to admire in prominent leaders. She smiles as she walks to work every day, she makes delicious meals and gifts them to her friends, she talks. Oh man, does she talk!
My dear friend has a theory that every woman has a set amount of words that need to be said each day. If they remain unsaid, they accumulate until she has the opportunity to speak. Picture a cosy dining corner, hot supper on the table, three people ready to eat. Then Masha’s reservoir of unspoken words breaks the dam and she talks. She talks in her mixture of Russian and Ukrainian, which I just about understand. I reply in English (when I get a word in edgeways). She hurls more and more words, a torrent, to which I just nod. My English speaking husband is lost. He watches her in astonishment as she releases all those thoughts, impressions, theories, news, observations, gossip.
‘Bloody hell, Masha, shut up, your dinner’s getting cold,’ he interrupts her.
‘Sorry, I cannot,’ she replies, ‘I might not see Veronika for another week. There are still words to say.’