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Aside
We’ve just returned from a holiday in Russia which, yes, was wonderful. And a bonus I was not expecting, although I should have since it was summer—the midnight sun or ‘white lights’ as they call it in St Petersburg. This resulted in many late nights out celebrating life with our friends as it always seemed too early for bed.There are a few cultural aspects of Russia that would be known to most people, I would think. For example, Tchaikovsky, one of the greatest composers of all time, was Russian. He composed the music for the Russian ballet, Swan Lake, which may well be the only ballet storyline known to many of us. Likewise, Tchaikovsky’s score is easily recognizable even if you do not know him as the composer or the origins of the music, especially since Black Swan.

Some of the world’s greatest names in ballet are Russian, for example, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Anna Pavlova. Again, they are known the world over even by those who know nothing at all about ballet (although I remember Baryshnikov primarily because of his defection to Canada in 1974).

Australia’s national dessert, the Pavlova, was created and named after Anna Pavlova in the 1920s following her tour of the antipodes. The Kiwis (New Zealanders) try to call it their own, but it’s as Australian as vegemite and lamingtons. Sometimes we’ll add Kiwi Fruit to the top of our pavlovas to keep the New Zealanders happy.

I had previously seen Swan Lake in Sydney some years ago but it was a parody by The Trocaderos, “The Trocks” or long title, Les Ballets Trockadero De Monte Carlo, a company of professional male dancers who make ballet humorous by exaggerating the fundamentals and seriousness of it to the point of comedy. The dying swan scene is memorable and I worried that I would never be able to enjoy the ‘real’ Swan Lake after The Trocks. Here’s the ‘real’ dying swan scene, which is beautifully poignant, and The Trocks’ version. Incidentally, the dying swan was considered the signature dance of Anna Pavlova.

It was only fitting that while in St Petersburg, we attended a production of Swan Lake at the Grand Palace Theatre. There are several possible endings to Swan Lake including the crowd-pleasing happy ending where Siegfried and Odette’s true love defeats Von Rothbart, and Odette is restored to human form. One of the more tragic endings is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet ie Odette commits suicide, the Prince discovers her lifeless body and does so as well but Odette isn’t actually dead. We were lucky enough to enjoy the happy ending in St Petersburg which gave further cause for an evening of celebration, as if one was needed.

Regards
Leigh

Contact Leigh at:

Website: http://www.leighkcunningham.com

Email: leigh @ leighkcunningham.com

Twitter: @leighcunningham

Facebook: Leigh K Cunningham

Grand Palace Theatre, St Petersburg theatre_3 theatre_1 blog ballet_2 blog ballet_1

The swans of St Petersburg

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Aside

Those of you who know me, know that I’m a very happy person…90% of the time. I have every reason to be happy; my life for some strange reason has been blessed, particularly so because I’m able to go through it with my twin soul—the other half of me, much like how Jerry and George teamed up to be one complete person in my favourite Seinfeld episode, The Summer of George 🙂

However, I have three pet peeves: (1) pedestrian etiquette, (2) taxi drivers who think I’m a tourist and don’t know the quickest route from A to B, and (3) bad manners, in particular, coughing without placing a hand or tissue over your mouth. I’ve already blogged about the first two, so I figure it’s time to deal with (3).

As a child, we were taught to cover our mouths when coughing or sneezing so that germs, viruses, whatever you had, weren’t spread to those around you. And this seems like a pretty easy thing to do in order to show others that you’re thinking of them and their wellbeing first and foremost.  When someone with a cold, flu or other virus doesn’t cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing, they’re saying, ‘I’m sick and I couldn’t care less if you end up sick as well.’

The average human cough fills about 3/4 of a two litre bottle with air together with approximately 3,000 droplets of saliva which fly out of the mouth at speeds up to 80 kilometres per hour (50 miles per hour)! And it’s even worse with a sneeze. Do you like the idea of being doused in someone else’s saliva? If that person is sick with a virus, the virus is on those droplets and can survive in the air for hours afterwards. A single cough can catapult as many as two hundred million individual virus particles in your direction; there is nowhere to hide.

Viruses need a living being (human or animal) to survive so when they land on a surface, their life span is limited to a few minutes or at best, in humid conditions for example, a few hours. They last longer on hard surfaces than on soft surfaces like fabric. And since we wash our hands several times every day, the chance of infection this way is less than if we breathe in the virus—we can’t avoid breathing but we can avoid putting hands in our mouth.

The World Health Organization has predicted that the next pandemic that will kill millions, will be spread in this way, and it is not a case of ‘if’ this will happen but ‘when’. So practicing the hand-over-mouth drill now will reduce the risk of this killer virus spreading worldwide in record time. We’ve already had a glimpse/warning with SARS and H1N1, H7N9 and other birth flus but people still seem complacent…except for the Japanese. In Japan, if you have a cough or cold, virus or flu, you wear a mask. It’s another easy solution but I guess if you just don’t care about other people, it won’t matter how easy the solution might be, and that seems to be the way of the world today.

Regards
Leigh

Contact Leigh at:

Website: http://www.leighkcunningham.com

Email: leigh @ leighkcunningham.com

Twitter: @leighcunningham

Facebook: Leigh K Cunningham

Achoo!

Aside
I dream most nights and sometimes I have several dreams per night. I love dreaming; I look forward to it. I only wish someone would invent a machine that would record dreams so you could replay them the next day although I can usually remember most of my dreams.A lot of my dreams involve snakes but strangely there is never any fear associated with the snakes even in the one dream in which I was bitten. In that dream, I was in bed and a snake was biting my arm but my arm was protected by a thick sleeve, like a dog bite protective suit. I wasn’t afraid of the snake even though it was trying to bite me; I was focused on working out how to get rid of it without waking Steve, who as usual was asleep beside me completely unaware of the problem.

In another dream, I was ‘gardening’ on a large mound of barren dirt then all of a sudden the dirt moved and a snake came out of the mound. That was it. And my most recent dream this week: I was in a hallway and at either end of the hallway there were snakes. At one end were King Cobras curled up ‘resting’ and at the other end, small slithering black snakes. In my analysis of which way to go, I was thinking that while the small black snakes appeared less formidable, they could be baby Taipans and more deadly so I decided to approach the Cobras which allowed me to pass without moving.  When I relayed this dream to Steve, he felt compelled to tell me about Snake Island. I don’t know why.

Snake Island is more correctly known as Ilha de Queimada Grande, an island off Brazil near São Paulo. It is uninhabitable because for every square metre there is at least one Golden Lancehead, a unique species of pit viper with a fast-acting venom that melts the flesh.

The island did once have a lighthouse operator who lived there with his family. One night, snakes entered through open windows and started attacking the man, his wife and their three children. They ran from the lighthouse but were bitten by snakes that dangled from tree branches. Their bodies were found spread across the island when a navy vessel stopped to make a routine supply drop. This is the source of nightmares and I’m waiting for it to manifest in my dreams. Thanks, Steve.

Regards
Leigh

Contact Leigh at:

Website: http://www.leighkcunningham.com

Email: leigh @ leighkcunningham.com

Twitter: @leighcunningham

Facebook: Leigh K Cunningham

I dream a dream…