Thursday 31 March 2022

Time Zones … Europe – Russia … but now 'manyana' has appeared in the mix …

This could almost be an April Fool's joke … except it's true … I wrote about Russia's eleven time zones – but then I came across Spain's MaƱana effect … 'tomorrow'

Russia - Nato borders in red

This took me by surprise as I knew the clocks changed appropriately for each country and would just accept and alter my watch to the time of the European country I'd travelled to – be it Poland in the east to Spain in the west …

European Union countries

I also realised that Spain kept 'funny hours' enjoying their siesta in the afternoon … never realising that this habit was a quirk of political fate … or wondering how, etc …

hence the Spanish way of life … a job in the morning, then a rest or siesta, with another job in the evening ...

Family meal in the Madrid area

a long lunch perhaps commencing at 3.00pm or a little later … then work until 8.00 pm … home at the end of the working day, before going off to wine and dine in the late evening … taking disgruntled half-awake children with them …

But the Spanish still work to Franco time … when General Franco, about to meet Hitler in March 1940, acquiesced to Hitler's request to align Spain's clocks with Germany's time – however after three years of Spanish War (1936 - 1939), Franco did not want his shattered nation caught up in another war …

Main Spanish railway lines -
the reason time zones were needed in all 
countries around the world

This means that for over 80 years … western Europe's time zones are out of kilter with Spain's.

As the economy struggled in the post-war era, the Spaniards adapted to longer days and more sunlight, which were the result of being an hour ahead of London time.

Alhambra Palace, Granada
(tourism, Spain)

It seems unlikely that Spain will amend 'Franco's time' … because if the country did change, it would mean Spain having fewer hours of sunlight – most Spaniards have lived like this all their lives, and it'd be very hard to make that change.

Red Squirrel in
Warsaw park, Poland

The Spanish have got used to the unusual schedule of late meals and sleep times … and we concur and enjoy when we visit …

Russia / Norway border ... and I hope you can 
read the sign
But each to his own … how long Franco's time will survive remains to be seen – but eighty years already is setting a standard that will be hard to break.

So April's Fool tomorrow …

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday 26 March 2022

We are the World Blogfest # 57 – Ukraine Surgical Training Courses for War Zones …


To preface my post … this is a tribute to Damyanti Biswas, Belinda Witzenhausen, Sylvia McGrath, Lynn Hallbrooks, Simon Falk – who all co-hosted and co-ordinated these positive posts over the last five years …. So like Belinda - I wish you all the very best ... sent with loads of hugs from Positive Letters blog ... 

As they and I say goodbye to the #WATWB monthly posts … I will probably continue in a simpler format – and hope anyone who uses FB will pick up and post across for me – FB and I are not very connected …  

Now my last 'official #WATWB post' … it's a little long, but pertinent to today and events in Ukraine …

Medical Guidance in war-torn Ukraine ... 

David Nott Foundation
(Henry Marsh on left, David looking on)

David Nott – a general and vascular surgeon works mainly in London hospitals, but also volunteers to work in disaster and war zones.

The David Nott Foundation came to my notice in the Syrian conflict … however David Nott has been working in war zones since 1993 … Sarajevo, and alphabetically: Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chad, Darfur, Gaza, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Sierra Leone, and opposition-held areas of Syria.

He had established front line “Hostile Environment Surgical Training” courses that last four days … focussing on a wide range of skills, including treatment of gun shot wounds and vascular surgery …

Henry Marsh visiting Ternopil
University in 2016

now the course needed to be condensed, and to ensure that Ukrainian healthcare professionals are best prepared for complex war injuries, the course included triage, damage control, burns, cardiothoracic, orthopaedic, paediatric, and plastic surgery sessions.

In response to this Ukrainian crisis David Nott, and former Consultant Surgeon at St George's Hospital, Henry Marsh, joined forces to deliver a 12-hour surgical training course to over 570 healthcare professionals in early March.

Neurosurgeon, Henry Marsh had established roots in Ukraine as far back as 1992, as a pioneer of neurosurgical advances in Ukraine …

Ternopil National Medical
University in west Ukraine
their logo

Henry Marsh comments: “I hope and pray that my Ukrainian friends and colleagues will not need to apply all that they learn from the David Nott Foundation webinar. 

But we must do what we can to prepare them for the possible horrors ahead as Russia continues with its evil and murderous invasion.”


David Nott – Wikipedia

David Nott Foundation – Ukraine …

Henry Marsh - Neurosurgeon – Wikipedia

Ternopil National Medical University, west Ukraine - their Wikipedia site ... 

Revolution of Dignity – also known as the Maidan Revolution … took place in Ukraine 2014 – ousting ex-president Yanukovych, after he failed to sign a political association and free trade agreement with the European Union, instead choosing closer ties to Russia …

Blogfest Community in FB …

Belinda Witzenhuizen - A Hug and a Goodbye from the #WATWB community ... 

Thank you all participants - bloggers, commenters, readers ... of our #WATWB posts ... sad that 'time is called' ...  

We are the World Blogfest

In Darkness, Be Light

Peace and Compassion for Ukraine

and a happier world for us all in the years ahead

Hilary Melton-Butcher 

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Belarus Free Theatre – the exiled theatre group …


One member of our History group, where we're finding out about the 1900s Russian Revolutionary period, was very excited about going to see 'Dogs of Europe' – put on by the Belarus Free Theatre ...

The image on the Barbican website for the play

She obviously was overwhelmed … and I haven't had a chance to sit down and actually chat to her – she handed me a flyer that was in the theatre …

Set out in summary form below …

Subject: A blogger, designer from Minsk.

Date of Birth – April 18th, 1985

DETAINED 19.05.2021


Art. 342 of the Criminal Code - violation of public order

Art.391 CC (Insulting a Judge)

Art. 188 CC (Libel)


Tokarchuk Olga Andreevna

Prison No. 8.222163, Zhodino,

Sovietskaya str., 22A


OLGA was detained several times after the 2020 elections. On May 19, the apartment where she lives with her husband and two minor children was searched. At that time, she was already in the status of a suspect under Articles 391 of the Criminal Code, and Aritcle 188 of the Criminal Code. After the last detention Olga was charged with a new Charge under Article 342 of the Criminal Code.

Her prison details c/o Dissidentby link

Here's the link to the Dogs of Europe play … with further details from the director on how the play came about …

I quote from 'Sir Tom Stoppard':

You can be sure of one thing - Belarus Free Theatre are the good guys.

For seventeen years the company has been chased around, persecuted, arrested, exiled, spied on and slandered by the Lukashenko regime, always in danger and impoverished, and during all that time it has made theatre driven by the death of freedom in Belarus.

Today the last dictator in Europe is paying his dues to Putin, and BFT is once again on stage to remind us what is at stake.

Nikolai Khalezin, Artistic Director, Belarus Free Theatre … notes that if we look for parallels in art then Dogs of Europe reflects his life …

the book is an adaptation of Alhierd Bacharevic’s mammoth novel set in a dystopic Europe of 2049. (c/o the Editorial note in the website).

In the book published in 2017, most of Asia has fallen under a secret-service dominated Russian “reich”, while an ever more fragmented western Europe grapples with a refugee crisis.

The title seems to recall W H Auden’s poem on the death of Yeats: “In the nightmare of the dark / All the dogs of Europe bark / And the living nations wait / Each sequestered in its hate.”  (Part III 2nd verse)

I hope you will get a chance to look at the Barbican website – where further details are available … about the Free Theatre Belarus Editorial Section

The Monster Cockroach -
see the reference to Lukashenko

It is ever more horrific – the book and play provide greater insight into what life is like in a Soviet state … especially for those who abhor and activate for freedom of life (political liberty) in their own country.

I just had to post about this theatre group …

Peace to Ukraine,

and I hope no interference from Belarus … yet fawning Lukashenko worryingly worships Putin.

Another link to read about

Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus

The Dissidents' site about Olga Andreevna Tokarchuk's imprisonment details.

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday 18 March 2022

Russian Revolution 1917, Julian Calendar, time zones, and International Women's Day in Russia …


Our history group has moved on from the French Revolution to the Russian Revolutions of the first part of the 20th century … which of course was fine at the beginning of the year … but now by far worse – as the 'man-devised', despotic, brutal humanitarian disaster continues in Ukraine …

Women's Demonstration for bread and peace,
Petrograd - 1917

definitely not something I wanted to write about … which is why I held back in mid February, being uncertain what to write.

I am going to belatedly to mention International Women's Day … initiated by women joining in the peaceful Petrograd (St Petersburg) protest of 1905 … leading to the crowd being fired on by the Imperial Guard – now known as Bloody Sunday 1905.

German Poster for IWD

After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917 (the beginning of the February Revolution) – International Women's Day on February 23rd in St Petersburg was made a national holiday. This date in the Julian calendar equates to the today's world accepted Gregorian calendar date of 8th March …

It's accepted from 1582 onwards for all but four areas in the world to use this calendar – the exceptions are Ethiopia (Ethiopian calendar), Nepal (Vikram Samvat and Nepal Sambat), Iran and Afghanistan (Solar Hijri calendar).

Russia changed in 1918 … hence the date discrepancy … because Russia is so enormous … the date change after 31 January 1918 (the old Julian calendar date) became 14 February 1918 in the newly accepted Gregorian calendar … it then took until 1920 for the change to fully take effect.

Pictogram of Russian time zones

Other interesting things of note are the time zones across Russia – there are eleven of them! Fancy keeping track of those … but thankfully the railways and air travel follow local time …

... Russian Daylight Saving Time has 'fallen away' since 27 March 2011 when clocks were advanced, but did not go back …

Book cover

So back to why I was writing this post … however the rabbit holes of links to Kurkov, recommended by Orlando Figes – whose book Natasha's Dance I have here (a broad cultural history of Russia) – and other rabbity holes!  

Kurkov (see my previous post) described another of Figes' books The Whisperers as 'one of the best literary monuments to the Soviet people'.

Hermitage Museum complex

Here's a couple of links:

The Whisperers - by Orlando Figes - private life in Stalin's Russia ... 

Scarlet Sails - celebration of
music and the arts - per popular
1922 Children's Book
by Alexander Grin
(in St Petersburg on the 
River Neva)

The Guardian "The Women's Protest that sparked the Russian Revolution 1917"    

There's such an enormous cultural and historical story line around the northern continental area that is today described as Russia, which at one stage included Alaska to the east ... 

... I hope the present situation will not obliterate the history we've come in recent times to learn about and appreciate ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday 8 March 2022

PEN Ukraine … a Penguin who/which helped an author to this position …

Death and the Penguin - I found this book and was enticed by the title … as I'm sure you will be …

it's described as a tragicomic masterpiece … the blurb needs to be read to get an idea of the underbelly in the story …

Kurkov lives/d in Kyev when he wrote his stories … the New York Times describes the tale thus: “A striking portrait of post-Soviet isolation … in this bleak moral landscape Kurkov manages to find ample refuge for his dark humour”

Reading the book brought back so many memories of my very brief time spent in Brno, Czechoslovakia, at an exhibition and the few years I worked with an organisation exporting capital plant and machinery to Eastern Europe in the early 1970s.

Brno, now in the
Czech Republic

I was always accompanied by a member of the British contingent of exhibitors – wherever I went – and we were always indiscreetly followed, even in the lift.

Death and the Penguin was written in 1996, published here in 2003 … so when the Ukraine of a few weeks ago was becoming that Ukraine (the one we knew), after the break up of the Soviet Union, for them 21 January 1990 was when Ukrainians formed live chains, by holding hands, in support of unity – establishing the principle of having choice.

Contemporary political map of
the Caucasus

I found his works when I was checking out Ukrainian, Olia Hercules' culinary journey books about Ukraine and the Caucasus (the region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea). I am keen to learn more about the region.

So when BBC Radio4 broadcast Kurkov's the first instalment of 'Letter From Ukraine' – I listened with interest …

It is here:

The first of three episodes on 'the tumultuous events of the last few days and his family's flight from their home in Kyiv'.

Kurkov on the cover of
Culture and Life magazine

For all authors – note bene! He had difficulty getting his first publishing contract … and had 500 rejections … but eventually started publishing independently … he was elected President of PEN Ukraine in 2018.

When the invasion commenced I was about to write something historical on International Women's Day - 8th March … which I will get to next … co-incidences of life …

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories