A Second Chance

Is it perhaps an example of Karl Jung’s synchronicity that I should have come to the end of an acclaimed modern masterpiece with which I find myself at odds on a day when the Kremlin is shelling Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.

I began reading “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles soon after Christmas for which Tess had given me the book as a present. It is indeed a book of great ‘charm, intelligence and insight’ as quoted from the Sunday Times on the front cover. The narrative is very well crafted from start to finish. The apparently effortless language flows beautifully at a smoothly engaging pace. The relationships between his rounded characters are sensitive displayed. Knowledge of arts and history is demonstrated.

I do not have enough insight into Russian history to understand whether the story of a man spending almost his entire adult life in comparatively privileged house arrest following the 1917 Revolution is the comic genius that some newspaper critics are quoted as attributing to it.

So, although I did ultimately enjoy the book for its tale-telling and for its humour, with that dilemma in mind I could not find it funny without wondering about all the Russian people who lived and died under, or were forced to flee from the Communist regime.

Maybe it is more about the human capacity for acceptance, adaptation, and ultimate internal freedom.

Today was a bright and sunny as yesterday, so we drove out to St Peter’s Church at Bramshaw to test my resetting of the 35mm lens.

I had been given a second chance.

Unfortunately there were no ponies on Nomansland village green, so I had to make do with

some on the road at Frogham;

one against the rapidly descending sunset;

and one drinking from the pool at Ibsley.

This evening Jackie fed us on an extra pot of the chicken Jalfrezi and savoury rice prepared for Elizabeth’s event on Sunday. Because this is milder than my taste she gave me a chilli coulis made with four of the bird’s eye variety. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Finca Flichman Gestos Malbec 2018.


  1. I also enjoyed “A Gentleman in Moscow” for the same reasons.
    The graveyard photos make a splendid series. I can’t pick which one I like best. I thought at first the bench was a chair, and I wondered. The landscape shot is a nice perspective, and I love the daffodils around the lichen-covered stones.

  2. It’s interesting how the external context when we read fiction can impact our experience of reading and what we take away from it.

    It’s a tie for favorite photo: the header photo and the first sunset.

  3. Powerful timely emotional images for today. So many of them so very beautiful, too.
    I wish for the peoples of the world…inner (and outer) peace, rest, and welcome silence in this life. To have to wait to have those things in death is a great sadness.
    That first pony photo…doing it’s pony-things and keeping an eye on you…made me smile. 🙂
    The greens, yellows, and purples popping up made me smile, too! 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

  4. Strange synchronicity indeed, and not surprising that you would be feeling at odds. The troubles of a notional man who has to stay in one luxurious place would be undermined by pictures of a nation of real people abandoning their homes. It’s poignant to see the lichen-encrusted gravestones and the daffodils and that ancient yew.

  5. I was in Kyiv (Kiev as it was known then) during the time of the USSR. So many changes since then, and now Putin wants to turn the clock back. And there is little in the way of current leadership of Western democracies to stop him.
    Gentleman in Moscow is on my TBR.
    And I do love a cemetery wander.

  6. Back in the 80’s I knew someone whose grandparents had escaped the revolution and made it over to the U.S.

    Thanks for the reference to the book. It sounds like a good one for the reading list.

  7. Your header photo is fantastic, Derrick! It’s sad to see some of the markers practically falling over from the tree roots, but that tree is gorgeous. I’m happy you got a taste of the chicken Jalfrezi and savoury rice. When you mentioned it the other day, I thought Jackie would save you a bite. 🙂 It sounds delicious!

  8. A Gentleman in Moscow is a favorite of mine. Bringing a sense of humor and reality to a situation that would’ve intolerable for many, brings new insight into our ability to adapt and survive. Your graveyard photos are pristine. If that is a suitable word for a graveyard …

  9. Of course, there also is a human capacity for a sort of refusal and rejection that can be creative and life-affirming; those, too can bring ultimate internal freedom. One of my current go-to writers, Bari Weiss, says it well: “Absolutely refuse to let your mind be colonized. “

  10. In this case, the second time is a charm. Another lovely sunset – each one is unique. The graveyard seems peaceful, especially the view.

  11. I’ve also read “A Gentleman in Moscow” and liked it very much. While there was some humor in it, my takeaway from the book was quite different. At the start of the book, the count, Alexander, leads an aimless life that seems solely devoted to pleasure, and not surprisingly he only socializes with folks from the upper class. When he is stripped of everything, his life changes drastically. He works for money. He meets and befriends people he never would have noticed in his previous life. He becomes the caretaker of a young girl. Ironically, his life expands and opens up when he is under house arrest in a way it never would have if he had continued with his upper class life. Anyway, that’s what I got from the book.

  12. I have found much to engage with in this post. Others have already mentioned the apt choice of weathered gravestones. Perhaps with that in mind – as well as the frightening prospect of the fallout from Ukraine – when we consider the atrocities mankind has experienced the world over since time began, it must be the “human capacity for acceptance, adaptation, and ultimate internal freedom” that has aided our continued existence.

  13. Carl Jung would be well versed in madmen creating death and chaos in the world. I love listening to his suriving old audiotapes. Did you know he was struck by lightening as a young man and declared clinically dead? This lead to him developing a different view of humanity than Freud.

  14. The header image along with a couple of others have a surreal feel about them. The burnished sunset through the silhouetted, skeletal trees leaps at the reader from those glittering photos. The pony with its reflection in the pool of water is just marvellous.

    I nearly bought that book about a gentleman Moscow in an airport lounge when I changed my mind just before the cashier could bill it. I may wear you out trying to explain my weariness about the Russian fiction or facts — perhaps reading Secondhand Time: Last of the Soviet’s by Sevtlana Alexeivich may help understand some of my disillusionment.

  15. My thoughts were the same as Andrew’s.
    Such a peaceful setting next to the open fields. The grave the couple are tending appears to be a fairly new one, and that takes my thoughts to the people of Ukraine.

  16. When it comes to horses, ponies and all animals for that matter – there’s no such thing as “making do”. They’re beautiful!

  17. I am partial to that one drinking from the pool at Ibsley… great photo with the horse reflected in the pond! Like you, in regard to the “Gentleman in Moscow,” I “could not find it funny without wondering about all the Russian people who lived and died under, or were forced to flee from the Communist regime.” My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine now who are suffering and dying in this ruthless grab for power and property. So sad!!

  18. Have not read the novel yet–it lingers in my stacks…But I enjoyed your offerings today. The graveyard has a sorrowful impact these days…human life being brief, so many lives lost in so many ways…But the ponies make their appearance a pleasant one.

  19. Your description was enough for me. I purchased the audio book in advance of my upcoming road trip. In the case that I finish my current book while driving and move on to the next, I’ll have A Gentleman in Moscow.

  20. I finished the book soon after returning home from my road trip. It was so enjoyable. I had the same questions as you: the casualness in not addressing another perspective of why the Count was on house arrest to begin with. I found such interesting irony that apparently, he was there – and not killed – because he published under his name instead of Mishka’s. Overall I enjoyed the writing and the characters very much, and again – as you allude in this post – I couldn’t help but think about Russia as I read the book. I wish I had learned more about Russia in the story, but rather I was reminded of the deep goodness and humanity of some people that can be found in every single country in the world, even Russia in 2022. It was also funny and entertaining, and what a clever tool for the author to use: keeping the man within the walls of a single hotel, so that the scope could plausibly be narrowed down so far that we were forced to think only about personalities and relationships. It was lovely.

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