My October Revolution

In October 1917, a few hundred dedicated revolutionaries spent ten days shaking the world.

On the nintieth anniversary, in October 2007, I spent twenty days preparing to explore it.

In the days following the revolution, a lot of the bolsheviks discovered the extensive wine cellars of the tsar, and took the opportunity to get really really drunk in victory celebrations. Lenin, arguing that this was precisely the time revolutionaries should be most sober and cautious, arranged some trusted comrades to smash the vine vaults, to keep order.

In the evening following the final day of the course, a lot of trainees and students (and one staff member) discovered the pub down the road in end-of-course celebrations. And got smashed.

Tsarist Russia used the Julian calendar, making it out of step with most of the rest of the continent. After seizing power, the bolsheviks conformed Russia to the Gregorian calender. This means the October Revolution retroactively happened in November.

Although we finished the course on October 26th, notification of grades probably won't be sent out till early November, so although I'm as certain as I can be that I've passed, I can't put on my my CV till then. And, the grade won't be "fully" confirmed till sometime in December, when the moderators grade the gradings.

It is said that when Sergei Eisenstein filmed his re-enactment of the storming of the winter palace, there were more casualties than in the actual event.

We had one casualty, well, dropout - a businessman who basically wanted to keep busy in retirement. His multiple-day headaches and beetroot-coloured face turned out to be early indicators of shingles - probably from an immune system weakened by stress. I had bad shingles when I was fifteen, and I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone,

Apparently it can also be infectious in the early stages, and it's perversely fortunate that none of us liked him. If we had, we might have got close enough to be infected.

There are two kind of leaders. Those who know how little they know and organise because it's needed...and those who don't know how little they know and give orders because they like it. The leader who does things to get things done...and the one who does it for something to do. The authoritative philanthropist...and the grey bureaucrat. Lenin...and Stalin.

We had both kinds in our ranks. You can always tell the difference - when you're feeling depressed and self-doubting, one encourages you to succeed by drawing on your own strength, and the other by being more like them.

After the revolution, Russia was invaded by (so I'm told) armies from nineteen countries, trying to topple the new government and stabilise capitalism.

After the course, fourteen of us will join the army of TEFLers, invading the rest of the world, contributing to capitalism by teaching Business English.

Russia apparently has a shortage of English teachers.


  1. What's better, an October revolution or an October symphony?

  2. I'd go for the symphony.

  3. Without the revolution there would have been no symphony.

    And what's the point of trying to change the world if you can't make music?