The Moscow Challenge.

My first encounter with real non-English speaking Russians was at the local supermarket. I managed to find the goods I wanted, then it hit me, I would have to communicate with the person on the check-out. I approached with a knot in my stomach, my brain working overtime and spinning, this was so far out of my comfort zone I’d need a space ship to get back to it.

I’m at the forefront of BBC news from Russia, six months have past since I arrived in Moscow, a move I hoped would challenge me, forcing me outside of my comfort zone and push me in different directions.

I left the British summer and a lovely old cottage in beautiful rural Herefordshire and swapped it for a two-bedroomed apartment in Moscow. I thought it would be a grey and oppressive city. My preconceived view of Moscow could not have been farther from the truth.

It’s beautiful, it’s clean and it works. Apart from the traffic, it is, like most cities in a state of almost permanent gridlock. Moscow is a city with a three way blend of architecture. A mix of confident modern structures, domineering, oppressive Soviet blocks and colourful pre-revolutionist Imperial or Slavic/ Byzantine influenced buildings.

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The rooftops of Moscow.

In summer, the streets are lined with flowers, decorations and performers. It’s colourful and vibrant. There are plenty of tourists, although the majority of them are Russians who have come to visit the motherland’s capital.

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Traditional Russian folk singers.

I’m still getting to know the people of Moscow, they tread the pavements with stern untrusting expressions, however, occasionally you see past the barriers. And when you get to know someone, if you are liked, you will know; if you are not, they will tell you. I like that, I prefer to know where I stand. For me, the main barrier has been the language.

So I don’t really speak any Russian, and yes, it’s a problem. My first encounter with real non-English speaking Russians was at the local supermarket. I managed to find the goods I wanted, then it hit me, I would have to communicate with the person on the check-out. I approached with a knot in my stomach, my brain working overtime and spinning, this was so far out of my comfort zone I’d need a space ship to get back to it.

“Zdravstvuyte” She said, phew! I know that one, I replied.

“Vy Khotite, polietilenovyy paket” Nope I was lost. A series of hand gestures to my ears and she realised I was out of my depth. She kindly pointed to a plastic bag, I nodded and all was well in the world.

Since then, I can now ask for a bag with a bit more confidence. I also discovered the self-service automated till, it speaks English, it’s my friend.

Thankfully, I don’t have to worry too much about the language when working, the two correspondents and three producers speak Russian. And sometimes it can help, I’m not drawn into long discussions, I can just get on with doing my job of filming and creating stories without distraction.

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Filming the swan lady (right) with correspondent Sarah Rainsford (left)

And what stories I have covered in the last six months, I have been so fortunate,  at the forefront of news coming out of Russia for the BBC. I have covered pretty much all of the major stories here. Those stories making it onto the BBCs main news bulletins, digital platforms and the ever popular BBC World.

Worthy of note: the Doping Scandal, US-Russia relations and interviews with Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, and the impressive Mikhail Gorbachev. My personal favourites are stories about injustice, human rights and anything to do with wildlife. Thankfully I’ve managed to do them all.

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Meeting Mikhail Gorbachev.

Some of those stories have taken me to other parts of Russia, from filming Sacha Dench flying with swans up in Arctic Russia…

Swan Lady – TV Edit from Edge of Focus on Vimeo.

…to a touching story about the Stalin purges in Tomsk, Western Siberia.

Execution from Edge of Focus on Vimeo.

So it may all sound a great, fantastic and well just awesome. It has been, but for one thing. One huge thing that occasionally gets in the way: The black dog.

  1. What’s the black dog?

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    1. The black dog is a term used for depression. Watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc

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  2. Keep them dogs at bay

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    1. Indeed mate, but when it descends there isn’t much you can do.

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  3. My dear friend its such a pleasure to see you gain the recognition and platform you so richly deserve, all down to your talent. Re the black dog, he is the penance we must pay for the things we had seen and places we have seen them. You are not alone, “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”

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  4. Awww right! Keep your chin up and know that your family and friends are all here for you xxxxxxxxxx

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