Chapter 15: The Dinner
They all sat down to dinner in Ivana’s regency blue dinning room.
The candles were reflected in the mahogany table and large mirror.
The Kulebaika turned out to be a type of fish pilaff in pastry. A Russian Fish Wellington. Cass enjoyed the different textures of the pastry, delicate fish, rice and the thin crepes separating the various layers.
Anastasia looked to be saying a small prayer before eating. Cass could understand part and it appeared that she was asking for help not to eat too much. Cass decided that she would be asking for seconds.
Despite Ivana’s best attempts to stop the talk of politics, the wine and then the vodka seemed to take hold and everyone was talking over one another.
“You know exactly why Putin is behaving like this!” Sergey bellowed at Vassily. “It is his usual nonsense. There is no CIA conspiracy. The only person who invaded, no sorry annexed anywhere was him. “
Anastasia interjected,”The CIA has backed Ukrainian fascists and they are threatening Russians and Russian stability.”
“Putin’s Balaklava Brigade are fascists, running Donetsk and all those other godforsaken areas, who are so ultra nationalist that they make National Front and all those other stupid European groups look like Kindergarten,” laughed Sergey.
“They are patriots not fascists, anyway Putin is not funding them,” Vassily tried to defend his wife.
“Vassily, we are sleep walking into World War Three!” Sergey said, wiping a thin trickle of sweat from his forehead with his napkin. “He is using same old tactics any fragile autocrat uses. If in doubt find old enemy to blame. Economy fucked…. well lets blame Western sanctions. There would not have been sanctions if he had not invaded Crimea. And Russia’s Economy was fucked before the invasion.”
“You are over exaggerating,” Anastasia retorted annoyed.
“Am I? Why is most of Nomenklatura buying up London? Why are they now buying in places Birmingham, Exeter, Leeds and Liverpool? Anastasia, why has your mother got a house in London? Pretty impressive, considering she does not work and your Daddy is on a government wage!” Sergey was very drunk.
“Sergey! Enough!” barked Ivana. Ivana composed herself, ”Presents I think, so much more fun than politics”
Cass had ran around TK Maxx desperately that morning, trying to find something which would not be sniffed at by Anastasia. She had found some perfume, which looked like it had the right name on it for Anastasia.
She had found a second hand Wedgewood plate for Ivana off Portabello, because she collected them. A bottle of half decent Whiskey for Vassily, was the most Cass’ imagination could stretch to. She did not get presents again for the others who she had seen at Christmas.
She got carton of cigarettes from Vassily and some anti ageing cream from Anastasia.
Ivana handed over a large purple bag to Cass. Cass undid the silvery bow and underneath the tissue paper was a Westwood dress. It was simple with bias black and white strips. Under that was a fitted black jacket with a ruched high collar. Cass childishly hugged Ivana in her excitement. “I remember you said you liked it last time I was in London. There is a card as well, but open that later.”
The children were put to bed and Anastasia plead a headache to retreat after the presents.
The night went on, Cass and Vassily gently teased Sergey about the jumper he was wearing. ”My wife made it, don’t you think it is wonderful?” he said proudly as he rolled up the left sleeve again to match the length of the right.
“Well Pen, I don’t think that you will be opening that Kept Ladies Craft Shop this year,” Cass laughed.
“No, that Kept Lady is opening her own translation business instead. Don’t tell Mum, she will think that all that nagging worked,” smiled Pen.
“You dirty capitalists think that you invented feminism!” laughed Ivana. “The Communists had it a lot sooner and were a lot more honest about it. Stalin said, ”Women you will have to take up double burden of hard toil and domestic drudgery.” Or something like that. Well nothing has really changed. Men are lazy and now they have us doing everything.”
Ivana’s boys both chorused, ”Thanks Mum!”