let that be a warning

This is a cautionary tale about an American who died after the utility company cut off his electricity – he took 4 days to freeze to death.  How long did the gas ‘situation’ go on for in Kiev?  Well, the reason for the cut off was because this old bloke didn’t pay his bill. 

This reminded me of December time when a notice with names and numbers was posted on the front door of our building.  We pondered over this for a few days (read: we looked at the notice and thought – yep, whatever that means – as befits all notices in our building) until I eventually bumped into lovely Dmitri (a story for another day involving our neighbour and his underpants) who explained that this was a list of apartments in our block and their outstanding utility bills.  brrrrrrrrrr could have been chilly in there…….


lena the tailor

mindthegap is doing positivity this week.  MDH and I had dinner with his replacement (yes, you heard correct; replacement – we are leeeeeeeaaavinnnnnggggg) (oh and not really replacement because MDH can’t be replaced – he is irreplaceable but anyway).  So we had dinner with Mr and Mrs Replacement – following a strict briefing beforehand to be absolutely positive about Kiev.  Is there any other way to be? 

I got thinking about the positives.  Kiev is a 3 hour flight to Paris.

No, there is a smidgen of other shiney nuggets that mindthegap should start sharing before desserting.

A recent positive is Lena the tailor.  Introduced to me by a good friend, MDH and I have found Lena a godsend.  In fact she is the goddess of needles.  She can bust a mean stitch.  These recession-driven times brought us to Lena with 30 items of clothing that needed holes fixing (did you know that lavender oil beats the moths? I didn’t.), rips mending, seams taking in (MDH) and seams letting out (me). 

How one can require 7cm more on the waist especially when one has been tortured in the gym by Natalia the trainer (that’s another nugget for later) is beyond me.  Anyhow this is why Lena is really a goddess – on measuring my expanded waistline she said not to bother letting the seams out and told MDH to buy me new trousers (yeah I like that) and when he groaned, told him that the gap’s body was very womanly and all natural.  Yeah hahaha.  The needle goddess rocks. 

Needle goddess’s number is 80506917675.


mindthegap confirms: there is a recession

In case you have been hiding under your duvet all winter, which is quite likely, you will have felt the buzz about the recession wherever you are.  And now mindthegap can confirm that yes there really is a recession and Kiev is definitely feeling the squeeze.

Nevermind not being able to buy butter at our local supermarket and a dearth of decent fresh fruit and vegetables because import taxes are being buggered about again.  Nevermind the nice fruit and veg lady and man in our underpass disappearing overnight.  Forget about the endless clothes shops with closing down sales.

No, all that pales into insignifance when you are faced with this:

fizz at the opera

fizz at the opera

Last night Little Miss Moi and I went to the beautiful Opera house and saw a fabulous performance of Swan Lake. Half the fun of the opera are the perfectly spaced bar breaks. If you are clever and can situate yourself near a door opening onto the bar area to be first in the queue your experience is greatly enhanced.

So being experienced pizzers – well, LMM still has her post baby licence plates on but she managed to do the Dairy Queen before she left home so was free to indulge in a few drops of fizz – we were first in the queue every time.

Despite the high gained from watching men in tights, our spirits were dampened at the bar. When mindthegap first arrived in Kiev one could get a decent sized glass of fizz for near on ten grivnia (about $1.50). Now you get about 2 drops for near on $4. AND the (first) glass was flat. In the good old days one munched on smoked salmon sandwiches but last night one manky bag of M&Ms was shared between two.

Hells bells if this isn’t the clearest indicator of a recession tell us what is.



2008 was something of a year.  Heaps happened – I passed round two of my exams ( I blame Little Miss Moi’s pregnancy-induced absence (abstention?) not distracting me) and best of all MDF became MDH – yes he made an honest woman out of me, we bought a house (not in Kiev), we took a trip down under, I learnt bribery and I gave up driving in Kiev.  What else?  That’s enough for now. 

Somehow my blogging mojo went out the window in 2008 and I now feel the need to smarten up my act.  Here’s a picture:


view from our window

This is the view from our living room window right now.  That snow drift is menacing the power cable, but as we have limited heating (unless you’ve been living in a hole you’ll know why), why not screw up the electricity too?  Candles are romantic. 

See the barbeque in the bottom right corner?  A reminder of summer months gone past. We discovered we could hang out the window and barbeque to our heart’s content without having to leave our flat.  Folk (expats) say you have to be happy in your flat to survive this city as you’ll be spending a fair amount of time in it.

 That barbeque will come in handy when we have to set fire to our furniture to keep our skinny asses warm.


the flying tractor

Occasionally MDF has to venture into the wilderness of Ukraine (I have yet to leave our cosy Kiev nest) in search of business opportunities. This post is dedicated to him because he does suffer from numerous attacks on his sensibilities during these trips.

Gone are the days of BA business class and endless tiny bottles of free bordeaux, five star hotels and crispy linen sheets.
If happiness as an expact is a function of lowered expectations then happiness as an expat businessman in the Ukrainian countryside is a function of clean water and air conditioning. Sadly these two often fail to materialise.

Here’s a list of things poor MDF has to tolerate (this can be used as a guideline for anyone else planning to do business in this part of the world):
  • internal flights on a Yak 42, otherwise known as the flying tractor. Ear plugs and gritted teeth required. And a faith in God or something.
  • trying to make the free 5ml cup of water and one sweet last the two hour journey to Dniepropetroprotestopov.
  • watching a sleazy American in the seat in front of you watch porn on his laptop in full view of the women (not his companions) sitting next to him.
  • observing as the sleazy American is greeted at the airport by a group of happy Hare Krishnas.
  • staying in the top hotel in town and having no air conditioning. Bad when it’s 40C outside.
  • staying in the top hotel in town and having no running water. Being provided with a bucket of yellowish water to wash in instead.
  • having to ask really nicely for your laundry to be done…

But here’s the fun stuff:
  • seeing parts of the world that are changing rapidly and that few people living outside this part of the world have seen or ever will see.
  • being part of a change that is so rapid you don’t recognise things a year later.
  • appreciating that not everyone gets to go business class and have crispy linen sheets because they just don’t have them sometimes. Yet.
  • really appreciating the effect of a history with stifling regime on a country.
  • going to the opening of the business and having a priest shake holy water all over the place.
  • seeing people queue up overnight because you’re opening a new store in town and then seeing them wondering around inside open-mouthed gazing at the wonders of modern retailing.
  • unpacking the souvenirs….

In our little Kiev bubble we really are sheltered sometimes from the reality of daily life in the rest of Ukraine – especially for those less well off. I must get out and see the place before it all changes beyond recognition.


it’s all about the contrast

On a clear sunny day a favourite activity amongst expats is to go around photographing freakish sights in Kiev – like the preponderance of mullet hairdo’s – and load them up on our blogs afterwards. Hiding behind a tree to get a decent (mullet) shot is a useful tactic:

I did this a few days ago and while going through the photos I realised that actually there’s nothing that odd about the sights themselves (like a dodgy mullet – after all in the UK there were dozens of them about in the 80s and plenty today in the USA) but it’s more the contrasting images that stand out.

Usually it’s the bloke that has the mullet:

Ok, enough of mullets.

The fact that we’re heading into winter and the Metrograd shops (probably not surprising) are full of:

Retail methods – babushka v modern retailers:

Taste in shoes – babushka v devoushka:

Buildings – old v new:

Where we live – advert on the street v entrance to our apartment block (would you want to walk in there with your flashy Cartier watch? Of course you do!):

Cars – trashy v classy:

Of course this needs no explanation:


kiev pussy #2

This is the second episode of cat sitting. This particular cat is adorable and is a proper fully grown moggy who has her own little oddities. She adores having her tummy rubbed and literally throws herself on the floor at your feet for a good scratching. Here is the routine:’Aren’t I just the most gorgeous cat? Ya, me.’

‘If I get down like this it’ll be easier for you to do my tummy…’

‘If you could just ditch the camera and get on with my tummy…’

‘For pity’s sake, what’s a cat gotta do for a good rubbing?’

‘How about I break dance? You like the rollover move? Now will you do my tummy?’

‘I give up. Don’t just stand there. Scratch me!’

And so this routine continues, albeit without a camera as this cat is insistent on a good tummy tickle. You can even do it with your toes like as if she’s a dog. Now is this normal for a cat or is it just in Ukraine? Actually this cat was born Romanian if that provides any explanation.

October 2016
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