Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

On Weather, Complaining And Butterflies

Complaining about the weather has attained something of the status of a state religion in Russia. No matter what the temperature or atmospheric conditions, they are always the wrong ones.

The main topic of conversation in our office last month was the cold, wet weather and grey skies of June, which threatened to repeat last year's summerless pattern.

"I just want to get warm," whined my friend Fedya a few weeks ago. "I feel like this cold has seeped into my bones."

"We have to store up warmth for the winter to come," my friend Natasha told me, with more conviction than logic. "Last year we never had the chance."

But now that the mercury has finally attained what in my opinion is a reasonable level for summer, my friends and colleagues have devoted themselves with equal vigor to moaning about the heat.

"Uzhas (horrible)," wailed Natasha, while I looked at her in confused dismay. The skies were blue, the sun was shining, the temperature a moderate 27 degrees Celsius."It's so hot I just don't feel like living," sighed Fedya.

I'm not sure whether this is just innate Russian contariness or a fear of enjoying oneself too much. Just as a Russian can never say "You're looking well," without spitting over his left shoulder three times (presumably so as not to call down the wrath of heaven on the compliment receiver for hubris), he will never utter an innocent "What a nice day," for fear of provoking fire, flood or famine.

I, on the other hand, am reveling in the unaccustomed warmth. The fact that my apartment has been invaded by mosquitoes the size of B-52 bombers is just a minor shadow on my otherwise perfect contentment. One of the major reasons for my happiness is the fact that for the first time in two years I have unpacked my summer clothes.

Strolling around the city in my long-unused finery, I made a startling discovery: Moscow is becoming a major fashion capital. The caterpillars of winter are turning into some very chic butterflies.

I must confess I have never been much of a fan of fashion a la Russe.Women's warm weather wear used to consist mainly of an item that could most charitably be described as a housedress. An admitted clothes addict, I was safe in the haute couture desert of Moscow. I very rarely saw anything in the shops or on the streets to tempt my sartorial greed.

No more. The sunny sidewalks of the capital are now awash in modishly dressed people. I might never have noticed if my friend Jason had not come by the other day.

"Is it just my imagination or are there more good-looking women around these days?" he asked with a lascivious leer. Rather than deliver a lecture on sexism, I expressed the opinion that Jason needed a vacation, and sent him on his way. But I have since come to the conclusion that he is right.

I heartily approve of the shift. Western women have become far too accustomed to scoffing at Russian dress, and it is refreshing that Russian women are now displaying a level of sophistication and taste that put most of us to shame.

The downside, of course, is that I can no longer afford to shop here. I have been drawn into numerous stores by attractive window displays, only to find that my entire clothing budget would not buy even a pair of stockings.

Maybe I should invest in a nice flowered housedress.