From Saint Petersburg to Murmansk, the flight took a bit over two hours – longer than the one hour flight from Stockholm to Saint Petersburg the day before. When we were landing it looked like the image I have in my mind of Siberia: vast white plains and tallest ever deep-green pines; the polar wind shaking the Airbus plane and grey post-soviet looking buildings in the background. Welcome to Murmansk. And people clapping and cheering when the plane landed, everyone genuinely appreciative of the pilot’s skills to have kept us alive once again. No one claps in Sweden, unless demanded by the necessary social codex. Ever. Not to mention on a plane. Czech people don’t clap either.
At first, I could not find the booked taxi driver, ‘Mazda blue 465’, wrote Glafira, so I was just staggering and slipping on the ice around the parking lot with my unnecessarily heavy suitcases (which I excused by the fact of ‘bringing catalogues and presents’ – but could they really be so heavy?), peering into every blue car I saw. What does a Mazda even look like? Eventually after my phone call to Glafira and her phone call to the taxi company, a little jumpy man turned up. Speaking of which, my two-phone system is not working very well – neither the Swedish nor the Russian one seems to appreciate the beyond-arctic disposition. The driver had a small jet black moustache, which I suspect must have been either magic or strongly waxed as it denied any rules of gravity. We spoke Russian, I very badly, he very fast, so at least there was a strange sense of balance to the conversation. I told him that I am an artist (chudozhnik), since I could not remember how to say a curator in Russian, and that I will be in Murmansk for a month residency. He laughed and spread his arms (letting go of the steering wheel) and exclaimed: “What here? You should go home and have children!” I replied there’s still some time. He looked at me in the rear-view mirror and said there is not much.
Funnily enough, my friend Tom told me the very same thing some five years ago. Is there a pattern to this? But he did not have a moustache, and it was in Scotland.