The Last Ditch was conceived in and has been mainly executed from my apartment in Moscow. It has been my home for four of the seven years I have spent in Russia and I am fond of it. I find myself strangely reluctant to leave, but tomorrow my bed will be packed with the rest of my things and will begin the journey to China (on a very slow boat indeed, as I am told not to expect to see it for 8-12 weeks!).
My home in Shanghai is about the same size and objectively more attractive; certainly more luxurious. Yet a new apartment in a high rise in a sunshiny city cannot have the atmosphere of a pre-revolutionary Russian building. This place (in the same block as the Supreme Court) must have lived through many horrors before I brought my joys and sorrows here. Known as "The House of Two Lions" (because of the guardian statues at the front door) it is opposite the Belgian Embassy, fifty yards from bustling Novy Arbat. It has been a great home for me as I enjoyed a great adventure. Not only did I see, as I never hoped as a boy, the fall of the Soviet Union. I have lived in its former heart; the capital of a nation as warm and friendly as its climate is harsh and forbidding.
I never thought I would say it. As a child of the Cold War, Moscow gave me the creeps for a long time after I moved here. But I love this city and shall miss it. I am glad to have been able to call it home for a while and delighted with the friends I have made.
Every decent hotel in town is booked up (recession? what recession?) and so I shall spend my last two nights in some Georgian establishment near my soon-to-be-ex office. No doubt I shall sleep in a smell of barbecued meat and strong red wine, having drifted off to the sounds of food being noisily escorted to the table in traditional style. There is a leaving party with my clients tomorrow night and with my staff the night after, so blogging will be light.
Anyway, I shall think of my last night in Moscow as this one; the last in the place I have felt so much at home, and the first home of The Last Ditch.