Sunday, January 21, 2007

Just one of the crowd

The International Women's Club organises a lot of groups, and one of them is Monday morning coffee (MMC).

Today I had a lovely MMC session, but hitherto I haven't been entirely convinced it's my scene....

Before Christmas, I went to my first Monday morning coffee at the residence of a tri-colour flag ambassador (not the obvious one). It's a little out of the centre of town, so I dressed in my Sunday best, with pearl earring and fob chain to boot, and caught the metro over.

At the metro exit, I took the wrong street. After walking for at least 20 minutes, travelling further into a nameless native suburb, I was evidently nowhere near ambassadorial residences. Consulting my map, I realised I'd gone so far in the wrong direction that I'd almost walked all the way home.

I retraced my steps and found myself on a road six lanes across, that descended steeply down and around. Seeing a construction site snaking off this road instead of the street I was looking for, and being now an hour late, I rang Mr_Moi in desperation and tears, and demanded he look up the map online.

"It's fine. The construction site is the street. According to the map, it's the eighth house on the right." And sure enough, it was. Past the construction, the street was a boulevard of national flags, marking various ambassador residences. I found the house I was looking for, with a flag blowing above a 10-foot high gate guarded by a stern military man.

I was impressed. The closest thing I have to an armed guard at my apartment is the security guy outside the casino two doors up. At least he's there 24/7.

The guard let me in and I was greeted at the door by a grinning maid-babushka who whisked off my coat, took my 'shapka' and had me out of the foyer and into the reception room in a flash.

And there were all the 'ladies who lunch', munching on pastries and elegantly discussing life in Kyiv. The dining table was adorned with 30 of everything: 30 fine-bone china cups with real-gold trim and matching saucers, 30 crystal juice glasses, 30 cake plates, 30 silver forks and 30 silver teaspoons. Overseeing all were 30 (okay, three) servants, dressed in black with frilly aprons and white caps, serving food and drink.

I sipped Perrier from a crystal glass to cool down after my pilgrimage from the metro, then grabbed a coffee and headed off to talk to someone. Anyone. I was by far the youngest in the room - by about 10 years. But on average, by about 25 years. I gravitated towards the one person I knew, and proceeded to stalk her for the next hour.

I found it hard to keep up with the chit-chat about finding drivers and housekeepers, trips to Switzerland for skiing and Paris for shopping. But
I dutifully nodded or shook my head sympathetically where required. I chatted to people about this and that, and cracked a few jokes to prove that I was a 'crazy Australian' and worthy of social interaction. By the time the gathering ended, I'd talked to a lot of people and as a result was very pleased with myself.

As it was time to go, we moved en masse to the door, thanking the host for her hospitality. I donned my coat from the nice babushka, put on my hat and walked out among my new friends, laughing and chatting as we walked down the steps, past the military man and out onto the street.

It felt nice to leave with the crowd. It was like being at school again, yearning to be accepted and then actually making some friends. I felt like I was one of them - I was a lady who lunches! I threw my shoulders back and turned on my heel to head towards the end of the street. I took about five steps, then turned to ask someone a question, and realised... I was alone.

As I stood looking around for the vanished crowd, I was blinded by a blur of tinted windows and metallic paint as my fellow 'ladies who lunch' flew past in their luxury cars-with-drivers. My heart sank as I realised I was alone on the long walk home.

I set my shoulders to the wind, trudged up the hill and caught the metro back to my little one-bed flat with no babushka at the door. As made a cup of tea to cheer myself up, it occurred to me that I don't even have four matching coffee cups, let alone 30.

Luckily, things have improved. Now that Christmas is over, no-one is discussing holidays I'll only get jealous of. And most importantly, I found out MMC is usually walking distance from town - no driver required.


vee said...

it all sounds like life in our favourite corset busters! i'm jealous, mrs marie antoinette!

Little_Miss_Moi said...

Actually, vee, went to the Ukrainian art museum today and saw lots of paintings to inspire said stories. Although they would more be 'embroidery busters' rather than corset busters, as they love their embroidered cheesecloth over here (hippies). Lots of religious stuff too... might cramp my style?