Art Journal

Nature Ramblings ~ Past Times Time Travel ~ Romancing Daily Life

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Time Travel Trip, The Samovar's Story: Russia Bound (part 2)

Judy Дорогая моя, 
I wrote in my last letter, that I’d fill you in on my little Period Pilots jaunt to past times Russia. Funny thing about that trip, it didn’t work out at all like I’d planned.

Isn’t that always the way it is when one of us goes on an excursion?

I did my homework really thoroughly and had pretty much decided that I’d head back to the court of the Russian Empress Elizabeth, mainly to check out the outfits. I mean, some of those clothes are to die for, literally in the case of a some of her servants I guess. But wouldn’t you just love to get close to some of those dresses; silks and satins in bright colors, and absolutely encrusted with jewels. 

The woman had thousands of dresses! Would she even notice if I started trying a few of them on, in one of those more deserted palace wings? I would guess her ensembles would probably not be something I’d want to have to slip into on a daily basis, but for just one night, I wouldn’t mind being a lady-in-waiting. I’m pretty sure if I just showed up in a big group of women, properly togged out, she’d never even notice me. I hoped that if she did notice me, she wouldn’t recognize an outfit she wore once five or six years back. It would be so worth it if I got to attend one of her banquets and check out some of that beautiful Russian court porcelain of the period.

Travel Plans Journal: Note To Self: Keep a low profile. Do not cheese the Empress off.

It’s not just the clothes. I was also crazy to see Rastrelli’s work on that Rococo palace of hers, out by St. Petersburg. The aftermath of World War II leaves so much about the palace to the imagination. Though, if we’re voting here, I’ll take major property damage over genocide, mass murder and lengthy sieges any day.

Travel Plan Journal: Note To Self: When it comes to reflecting on the horrors of past times, remember that my own responses to rotten situations, might keep other people from turning into monsters. Just be kind!

Hummmmm…. Where was I? Oh yea, back in time in Elizabeth’s pied-a-tierre outside of St. Petersburg.

You know I’m a nut for blue and white, chinoiserie and anything gilded. The first two are all your fault, of course. You’re the one who got me going on blue willow motifs back in our freshman year. Of course I’ve got my own modern day set of willow-ware now, but wouldn’t it be fantastic to see some of the originals that inspired centuries of fascination with those designs? Yards and yards of blue and white and not just ormolu clocks and picture frames, but gilded walls, ceilings and roofs.

It sounds like the little place in Tsarskoye Selo had it all. No wonder that after a few centuries of rulers indulging themselves like that, the citizens got cranky and had a revolution. That woman’s spending habits make those people at AIG look like a bunch of monks who’ve taken a vow of poverty.

I wasn’t totally committed to Elizabeth’s reign, though. I also considered heading back just as far as Catherine the Great’s take on that same little part-time residence. All her complaints about how much Elizabeth spent rebuilding the house six times and then what did the budget-minded Catherine do? Well who doesn’t like to redecorate? I sure wouldn’t mind taking in that cool, spare Greek Revival look she went for, with Adams fireplace mantels and Neo-Palladian arches. Yum!

And don’t even get me started on the way the gardens must have looked back then!  I was planning to set aside a day just for those. I wonder how the photographs would have turned out….

Everything was pretty much set. I’d arranged for someone to come in and feed and walk Rufus for a few days, stopped the mail, and packed. There are few items I find essential.  Even when I pickup clothes when I get there, I’ve rarely found adequate replacements for my own toothbrush and deodorant, though the people around me in my past times destination always seem to be perfectly satisfied with whatever they’re using, or in most cases, aren’t using.

I got my boarding pass for Period Pilots online. There was some problem with the queue for the closest portal, of course(!),  and it looked like there was no point in leaving for another hour at least. You know I like to have a good attitude about things like that, so I figured I’d just use the time to get myself culturally acclimated.

I don’t know if I told you that I bought a beautiful old samovar at a garage sale a couple of weeks back. (The things people throw out in Atherton!) It’s a bit of a job heating the water, since I have to heat it outside over an open flame, but I’d rigged up my own little mechanism using the camp stove and my ancient Webber barbeque. (No, I don’t actually recommend this as a safe practice.) It’s also good to do outside because I have to stuff charcoal down inside the chimney and that gets all over me and, well it just gets all over everything!  I suppose it seems rather silly heating up all that water just for myself, for a short period of time. It certainly doesn’t fit the whole point of the lengthy communal tea drinking experience. What can I say? I was in the mood, And so the whole process seemed worth it.

That samovar is a beautiful thing. It’s silver. No, I didn’t say it was cheap! People who live in Atherton know what things are worth. That’s how they stay rich. But I paid less than I would have for the markup in an antique store, and the householder got a better deal out of it than if she’d paid the auction percentage. The antiques market isn’t doing that well around here right now anyway.

That’s solid silver Bud, not plate!.  There are monograms above the tap but the engraving is pretty much worn away. The lady I bought it from hadn’t been able to decipher them or known anything about who it had belonged to. While the water was heating I got out my antique mother-of-pearl magnifying glass to try to check out the letters. Do you remember when I got that glass, the day we went to Portabello Market?

That is the best glass! I see things with that I’ve never seen with my super-sewing magnifier.  Not only could I distinguish a ‘N’ and maybe an ‘A’, I was able to make out some kind of crest just above the monogram.

I was trying to get a better view of the crest symbol, when the oak trees in the patio started to vibrate. I knew right away what was happening, so I turned off the stove and zipped my jacket pocket with my toothbrush and deodorant up right away. It’s not the first time Period Pilots has gotten their wires crossed.

Who would have thought that old samovar was a time portal?

It’s getting late. I’m looking forward to telling you more about my trip in my next letter.


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