May 28 2011
May 27 is the birthday of the city of St Petersburg. It commemorates the laying of the first stone in 1703, realising the dream of Peter the Great to create a city so beautiful that it would compete with all the great cities of Europe. Walking around today in the glorious sunshine I have to say that he really did build a Venice/Paris of the north on what was basically a swamp.
Today there are lots of folk in 18th-century costume and the police have nice white shirts. Tonight Sting is performing free at Hermitage Square as a gift to the city. I don’t want to spoil the party but that could set back Anglo-Russian relations by decades.
Last night’s event was one of those where I get told I have to attend with a very little brief, just whisked along, stood in front of a branded board, photographed next to some dodgy-looking men and some beautiful girls, ushered to a stage with a microphone in front of the press and asked, what do I think about The Aurora fashion week? I tell you, it's only because I find myself in such potentially compromised positions so often, that, like a politician put on the spot, the words just spew from my mouth. If I had anyone by my side, people would swear that it’s ventriloquism.
After that, it was the front row of a fashion show which was fine until one model hit the runway in what can only be described as a Chewbacca hat. Admittedly this was an autum/winter collection by a Russian designer, but really! I mentioned this to my wife who sat next to me and she managed to turn what should have been a giggle into a side-splitting tear-jerking spectacle. This is obviously unacceptable behaviour in the front row of any fashion show. The cameras on the opposite side didn’t miss the gift. At the first opportunity we tried to make our exit. Only to be stopped and told that it was time to inspect the finalists in the Stephen Webster-inspired Seven Deadly Sins competition and award the winning student the R50,000 prize (about £1,000).
Finally made it out of the door and on to my next commitment as guest DJ at a cool small night club; Dom Byta. It was free and my gift to St Pete on its birthday.