‘By the way, we don’t have to take that with us’ said the Resident IT Consultant, indicating The Siberian Painting. He was trying to be helpful, and feeling responsible for it, he felt he could at least make it one less item to be packed, once it’s time for us to move.
He seemed to have forgotten that I had already explained – last time he said it – that it would come with us. Because contrary to so many belongings, it really does have memories attached to it.
Not that I’ve been to Siberia. But he has. The autumn 0f 2001 he was in Moscow when the Twin Towers came down, and was very nearly stuck in Russia for a while due to diligent travel rules for employees of the US owned company he worked for.
Some weeks later, he and a colleague went to Siberia to do some work on site for the client (who, in case you follow the news, has only recently been let out of jail) and at the end of a working day the local boss inquired whether they had been to their nice museum.
They had not, so the boss called the museum and told them to stay open late so that the foreigners could have a look round. With a set-up like that, the least you can do is buy something in the museum shop, and the Resident IT Consultant picked something inoffensive and small enough for his suitcase; this tiny painting of birch trees. It’s only postcard sized, but very heavy, as it’s actually painted on stone.
When it arrived home I put the Russian doll, which Daughter had requested, next to it. They seemed to get on well together. And there they have stood for over twelve years, in the shade of the palm tree.
It had plenty of extra meaning for me at the time, since I had been reading Gillian Cross’s Calling a Dead Man, which is about a Western worker disappearing in Siberia. Luckily it didn’t come to that.