5 thriller TV shows to binge during the lockdown

Another lockdown means another binge of series: how could you resist a cosy night in on the sofa when it’s dark and raining outside? In this light I’d like to share my top 5 recommendation when it comes to good thriller TV series – story line, cast and most importantly, suspense. Enjoy! ❤

Continue reading “5 thriller TV shows to binge during the lockdown”

Foraging Mushrooms in Oxfordshire

…or a story about how I found a lawn of mushroom gold (porcini!) 20 mins drive from Oxford

My grandad used to say that mushroom foraging is in our blood. I remember waking up at dusk and going deep into the forest, to some known places, where we’re hoping to get the best and the most mushrooms. We would have special baskets, and a pen-knife, and we taught since childhood which ones are safe to eat and which ones aren’t. The big prize would always be to find a good looking porcini or a large plain filled with chanterelles.

Continue reading “Foraging Mushrooms in Oxfordshire”

3 events that broke my heart this week

Wherever you look, there are always sad news. I feel blessed to live in such a safe country, where you can tune out the terrible things that happen in the world, because they simply don’t affect youmost of us do it, right?

But three things happened this week, that are so close to my heart, made me so outraged and sad, that I wanted to raise a little more awareness.

Mauritius Oil Spill

Mauritius has a special place in my heart. This is where my husband and I spent our honeymoon, and it’s the most beautiful place I have even been to.

Last week we saw disturbing stories on Instagram and this week it’s reached the world headlines – because it’s THAT catastrophic.

Despite all the efforts to pump off the oil and save the coastline with hair, tights and straw, the damage that’s already done is huge. I remember the beautiful coral reef, but the locals pointed out that only years ago, there was so much more colour.

I feel so lucky that I got to visit this place, and so heart-broken that I’ll never get to see it the same again.

If you would like to support the cleaning efforts, here is the campaign you can donate to.

Russian Covid19 Vaccine

I saw the news breaking through one of the Russian News Telegram channels – hours before the news hit BBC headlines. Vladimir Putin announced that he’s approved a Covid-19 vaccine. The first in the world. They even named it Sputnik V, as a nod to the first ever satellite that went in space.

I wasn’t surprised. This is so Putin. What an absolute evil genius.

The guy, who hid his daughters away for decades, is now saying that his own daughter tried the vaccine. The President wouldn’t put his daughter’s health or his reputation on the line, right?

The state channel TV (read: key propaganda tool) – Yes, I endured 4 hours of it – is pouring all sorts of patriotic references – just look how amazing we are, comparing to the Decaying West! Not only Russia has one of the lowest Covid19 mortality cases (or do they?), this is the country that will save the world! And the West is just jealous, and will try to stall us, because they don’t want us to win. This will give us leverage with China!…

Here is a great article ‘We have no idea if the Russan Covid vaccine is safe or effective‘ that breaks it down better than I ever could, but the point is – Russia simply has not done enough testing to approve anything.

Put Russian propaganda tools, are unfortunately, very strong. And this is the easiest, fastest way to run a study – right? On all the patriots? On conscripted soldiers and civil workers?

My husband’s reaction was ‘It’s a marathon, not a race’, but not for Putin.

I just truly hope that this vaccine doesn’t have side effects. Russian people deserve better.

Belarus Elections

On Sunday the 9th of August Belarus had their presidential election, and the current president Aleksander Lukoshenko (aka the dictator) of Belarus, who has been ruling for 26 years – that’s the longest ruler in Europe, by the way! – simply stole the election.

Firstly, he arrested all viable candidates, and when one (ex-)candidate’s wife – Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – decided to run instead of her husband, Lukashenko didn’t think that she could become a threat – what would a housewife know?

But then the wives of other opposition candidates joined her campaign, and those ‘Amazonians’ became the true symbol of opposition and resistance.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is practically the Belarusian Katnis Everdeen

Fast forward to the election day – Lukashenko’s won by a landslide, which wasn’t just corrupted – the numbers were taken out of thin air. So people took it to the streets to protest. And Lukashenko, armed with the national guard was ready.

Despite the protests being peaceful, thousands of people were detained and beaten up: policy brutality is approved, if people didn’t vote ‘correctly’.

But there are no riots, no looting, no burning cars. There are people, who had enough, whose democratic choice was stolen and who are trying to get their voice heard.

They are doing it peacefully, and they are being met with force, and they will never forget.

How many more people have to get hurt before it’s the end of Lukashenko?

Which star sign should I be???

A couple of weeks ago the news broke that left a lot of people in shock. NASA has added a brand new zodiac sign, so everyone’s star signs got shifted! Social media blew up with mixed reactions – some were outraged, whilst others welcomed it, as the new signs seem to suit better… So I decided to look into this too.

My birthday is on the 12th of January, so I have always been a proud Capricorn:

Ambitious, hardworking, analytical and disciplined, but very stubborn

Do these traits describe me? Pretty sure they do!

But now, apparently, I’m a Sagittarius.

Energetic, adventurous, optimistic and independent, but brutally honest

These fit in too… So I decided to go to the most trustworthy source of any information: memes, and would you look at that, both Capricorn and Sagittarius fit!

So what am I supposed to do? Stick to the ‘old faith’ and traditional astronomy (as a true Capricorn would do), or embrace the new view and proclaim to be a Sagittarius?

Which star sign should I be?

Why should I even care?

I’m very skeptical of astrology. Horoscopes, let’s be honest, are a joke  – why should you be more careful not to offend someone feelings, just on that day, just for that star sign? Or focus your energy on work to achieve great results, just on that day, just for that star sign?

Why? Because the starts are aligned? Surely you should be doing it every day? Yet many of us read them, and relate to them.

The star signs give us an excuse for our negative traits or actions:

It’s not my fault, it’s because of my star sign!

 

Ultimately, NASA shut these news down – let’s not forget that they are the experts in astronomy, not astrology. Old hoax resurfaces online about NASA adding 13th zodiac sign ...

Despite this, many of us started looking at different signs, trying to figure out which ones we can relate to more – but:

is this to explain some of our shitty not so positive traits

or

to aspire for the new sign’s wonderful traits?

 

Let me know your thoughts.

 

Love,

Pox

Meet my heroes

Today we are be celebrating 75th VE Day (Victory in Europe) –  the day when the Second War Ended. Most of Europe celebrates it on the 8th of May, but all post-Soviet countries special day is the 9th of May – purely because of the difference of the time zones at the moment of signing! 🙂

But the date isn’t important. What’s important is to remember our heroes.

My great-grandparents were my heroes.  Here is their story.

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Valentina & Vasiliy Prokopovich

Summer 1939

Valentina  was only seventeen when she left her home town of Yaroslavl and went to the Mining University in Leningrad (Now St Petersburg). In her first year, on her course, she met a handsome man – Vasiliy.

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There were courting for over a year, and were planning on getting married in ’41, but…

The war has started, and everything has changed.

September 1941                                              

Leningrad was under Nazi siege. Noone could have even imagined that this will end up one of the longest sieges in history, and the largest loss of life ever known in a modern city – with over three million casualties, one million of them dead.

Since summer, the students of the Mining University were working at the military factory, but Vasiliy wanted to go to the front. At nineteen years old he wanted to join the military and protect his homeland: honour and loyalty to his country was above all. But he was rejected.

He was the son of the Enemy of the State.

Vasiliy’s family  – The Prokopovich family – has been through a very tough time, with the worst year being 1937 – the year of the most brutal Stalin’s repressions. Russian nobility was being destroyed by the Soviets, with all of their lands and belongings repossessed by the State. Anyone who stood in the way of the new ideology was murdered. Vasiliy’s dad was announced as a British spy and an Enemy of the State, and was shot to death.

It was tricky to live with this stamp of shame, so after two months of trying, Vasiliy was finally accepted to the military and in November of ’41 he was setting off to the Volkhov Front.

He took this picture to leave it with his Valentina.vasilli prokopovich veteran estonia (1)

They said their good-byes and promised to write each other letters. He left her all of his tobacco, not even realising, that it will save her life…

December 1941

This is when the famine in Leningrad became extreme. Having worked at a military factory, Valentina had her bread vouchers, which really kept her going.

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One evening, on the way home after a long shift, Valentina got attacked and beaten up. When she woke up, her bread vouchers were gone.

 January 1942

Vasiliy was at the Volkhov Front, fighting alongside other young men, most of them under twenty, and just like so many of them, he got wounded. Many of his comrades died, but for him it was pure luck – he was found in the swamps, shell-shocked, with his toes frostbitten. It took him a good couple of months to recover from partial amputation and all of the injuries, but he was alive, and he could go back to war.

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March 1942

In Leningrad people were dying from hunger. It’s been weeks since anyone has eaten any solid food. Tobacco was more valuable than gold, and when all of the pets were eaten, people were boiling anything leather or making porridge from any wallpaper that they could find – most walls were painted, so it would be a luxury.

Valentina was dying from dystrophy. When she stopped turning up to work, her great-aunty heard about it and went on a search for her. Great-aunty Natalya has somehow managed to get herself a spot to the Road of Lifethe only available path out of Leningrad, and she gave it up for her great niece. Blockade victims were taken to Yaroslavl.

Valentina was going home.

August 1942

Vasiliy was studying in military medical school through his recovery, and was about to be sent back to the Front to work as a military paramedic, when he received terrible news: his twenty-two year old brother Vsevolod was dead.

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Vsevolod & Vasiliy

He lead the intelligence mission, which helped his battalion win, but unfortunately he didn’t survive. He was awarded with the order of Red Star posthumously, but the family never found his grave.

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Vasiliy & Vsevolod

1944

It’s been two years of loving letters, but in 1944 they managed to briefly see each other – part of Vasiliy’s army was formed in Yaroslavl, Valentina’s home town.

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January 1946

The war was over, Valentina was back in Leningrad. Vasiliy would only be de-mobilised in the summer, but he came to Leningrad, and on the 23rd of January they got married.

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Wedding Day. Vasiliy, Valentina and her parents Maria and Aleksander

 

1947: They were going to have a baby, but the boy wasn’t carried to term and didn’t live… Something that happened to the most of young girls who survived the blockade.

January 1948: A daughter Elena was born (my grandma – dad’s mum).

August 1951: A son Vladimir was born

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Vasiliy with his childen

November 1957

At the International Meeting of Communist and Workers Parties, Stalin’s ideology was condemned, and Vasiliy’s father and family were rehabilitated. They were no longer Enemies of the State. 

1976: Vasiliy and Valentina attended the opening of the Monument to the Fallen at their university, where Vasiliy’s brother – Vsevolod is commemorated for his bravery.

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———————————————————————————————-

Both of them have since passed away, but I’m lucky to remember both of them, as I was their first great-granddaughter. Thank you for being my heroes.

This is the last ever picture of Vasiliy, my hero great-granddad with my little  brother and his military awards behind him ❤

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___________________________________________________________________________________

Valentina Prokopovich (Ershova) 28.02.1922 – 13.06.1997

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Vasiliy Prokopovich 23.02.1922 – 18.03.2008
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Я помню. Я горжусь.

 

A month of isolation

Yesterday was exactly a month since everything has changed.

On Friday the 13th of March was my first ‘working from home’ day until further notice.

We went on a lockdown ahead of the government’s advice. We started to abide the rules a couple of days before Boris put them down in writing. Better safe than sorry.

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Our isolation crew is perfect: Ben & I, our housemate and her boyfriend, who also happens to be our closest friend. Enough of us to bounce off each other, and luckily, the apartment size allows the four of us live in harmony (most of the times)

It’s been a month of adjustment, and a month of reflection.  We’re probably looking at another month before some restrictions are lifted, but the country is a very long time away from things going back to normal, that is, if they ever do.

First week was easy.

We even got together with the girls to film our thoughts on Corona:

There was this initial excitement of not having to go to the office, and the creative ideas of staying in touch were flowing right, left and centre.

The week when everyone downloaded Houseparty app and had their first virtual drinks.

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That was the week when we’ve run out of the toilet roll and pasta, but kids were still going to school, and the pubs were open.

I made a couple of videos for LinkedIn (first & second – you should totally watch them, and please do connect!), and had so many other ideas…

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That was the week of over-ambitious planning – I’m sure you’ve had one too? We’ll get to that in a minute, I promise.

Second week was determined.

By that point it’s been more than 10 days since I’ve been to the gym. This is when it finally hit me: all of my plans, my progress, PB’s are simply not going to happen. I’ve written out myself a fitness plan, to ensure I maintain some sort of routine… And so far I certainly have.

The key highlight was the egg hunt – well ahead of Easter. Supermarkets have run out of eggs, but the local suppliers were there to make our household happy.

Second highlight was Tiger King. Carole fucking Baskin. As a result, I am now cross-stitching a tiger.

We  would generally only leave the house to get essentials, or for one exercise a day.

We didn’t go out on that Friday before the hospitality industry went into hibernation. We still drank a lot, just at home.

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All the following weeks became a blur…

I’m not going to lie, I was taken aback when I looked at the calendar and realised that it’s been a whole month.

I dyed my hair pink, I’ve done TikTok challenges…. This is what a month without the gym and pubs does to a girl! (Who am I kidding I’d do them anyway ha)

[Add me on TikTok: polina.rocks]

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Key highlight is that we now have weekly pub quiz with the friends we normally wouldn’t see that often, and this feels truly special. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat – don’t take it for granted, cherish it!

Our Penthouse household goes on regular bike rides. We keep our distance. From other people.

We celebrated Easter in tradition.

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We had good quality nights out, whilst staying in.

 

But not everything was so lovely-jubbly

Of course, I want to reflect and remember the good things. Of course, I feel blessed and grateful every day about my circumstances. But I’ve recently realised the importance of voicing concerns and sharing difficulties: I’m not the only one who is going through this!

There’s been times when it felt tough.

First of all, the job. I know how lucky I am to have the job that is more in demand in times like these. I work in retail data analysis – what shoppers buy in supermarkets, specifically in alcohol. Consumer behaviour is changing every week, so we need to report faster and answer a lot more questions. There are a lot more time pressures than normal, and things are a lot slower, because everyone is trying to use the internet and connect to the VPN.  This is teaching me patience through so many opportunities of having to collect myself…

There’s been a couple of very late nights, which ultimately leads me to another tough self-check on my over-ambitious plans.

Because we’re at home, we get more time to do home stuff, right?! I can paint the wall, wash the carpets [insert your personal OCD]… WRONG. I’m not gaining the time I lose on the commute over the speed of the internet. And there is more work.

But what about all of those plans? All the videos I wanted to make? All of the arts/crafts/cleaning/shopping/etc.etc.etc. I was planning on doing? Boom, there it is, the  guilt or a super-planner and a control freak. So in time of isolation (or so I realised now), it’s more than important to allow things go.

Marie Kondo approach:

Would doing it bring me more joy? Will not doing it really make the world stop?!

Still learning, hey.

The toughest challenge is the lack of human contact

I thrive through social contact. I love throwing parties, I talk a lot, I work in a busy office and my jobs requires me to travel around the country and present to and train different audiences. I am a people person. My husband and housemates are amazing, but I need more people. Virtual just doesn’t do it for me.

The other day I was dropping some groceries off to a friend and we had a chat in the front garden for about five minutes (with all the distancing!). I WAS BUZZING. My housemate noted that I’m a true extrovert, because having a chat with friends really turned my mood around!

I miss people. I miss hugs. I miss pubs. The atmosphere. Ahhh, you have no idea how demanding I will become now of our group pictures.

I miss my bestie 😦

 

One more month.

This month will be very eventful, this month will be absolutely brilliant.

Because I want it to be.

 

Lots of love,

Po

x

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