Stalin shouted over to me. He’d seen my pipe and wanted to compare. I wandered over. Stalin liked mine. He asked me what make it was. I told him it was from Ireland and asked if he wanted some tobacco. I had some good stuff. Lenin laughed and told Stalin he was cheeky. Stalin didn’t care. He stuffed tobacco in his pipe like a starving man would bread. He asked me for a light, but my lighter wouldn’t work. I said I was sorry and left him there, with a pipe full of fresh tobacco and nothing to light it with. Continue reading
The point I’m trying to make is about experience. If yours won’t stand up to scrutiny, then it’s probably time you changed it. For that reason , and no other, I’ve started work as a stringer for one of the English language dailies here. I’m going to talk about expectations in a bit, but to avoid creating any false expectation of my work as a writer here, let me state; I have no intention of holding Bill Hayton’s ideas up to too rigorous an examination, neither do I want to expose or lift the lid on anything. Similarly, I have no ambition to be a journalist. Continue reading
I knew I was going to do this as soon as I heard about it, but still, holding the beating heart of a recently living animal is quite another thing. However, like so much in life, there comes a time to silence the voices, close your mind and take a step forward.
In this case, a swallow forward. Continue reading
They say whatever you’re looking for, you will find here. They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived. The smell: that’s the first thing that … Continue reading
I’m in limbo. Well, to be exact, I’m in Lancashire. The wind and the rain are pounding off the window of my Father’s study and I’m still trying to make up my mind on how best to frame my final impressions of the last year. The truth is, I can’t. Continue reading
Moscow might be rank with corruption, it might whore itself daily to the whims of the corrupt and powerful few, but people here are still trying to create something better and, even if that never happens, that’s still pretty awesome. Continue reading
In retrospect, this was probably luck, as what happened next would have made a sober man very nervous. Drunkenness has many advantages over sobriety, bravery is just one. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on, or why we had stopped. The first thing I was aware of was a uniformed head sticking itself into the cab and ordering us out on to the street. Leaving any car and getting into the freezing cold of a dark Moscow night is always disconcerting, not least when that dark Moscow night is populated by three Militia of varying ages and a nervous looking Gypsy cab driver. However, the nerves didn’t appear to be entirely contained to the cab driver. I remember one of the Militia, probably still in his teens, also seeming quite nervous. That should probably have been the cause for some concern and I remember telling myself that someone else should probably be quite concerned about it. From here, and after some fairly abrupt questioning, we were bundled into the back of the Militia Car, flanked on either side, and driven across the city. It’s worth stressing at this point that neither of us were in any way scared. In fact, sticking with that whole commitment to honesty thing, I should admit to a shared drunken thrill in the experience. However, maybe that’s just me. I don’t know. Certainly, looking out of the window and staring out at the city passing me by, I don’t remember feeling any real sense of dread. There’s something inherently reassuring about being driven through a city night. Perhaps it’s the neon light, maybe it’s the warmth of the car against the nighttime’s cold, I don’t really know, but it’s soothing and, even under those fairly extreme circumstances, I was failing to get overly excited. Rather,I remember an idle curiosity as to what would happen next and an almost lazy detachment to events as I calculated the odds of getting a beating. As it was, we came to halt in a darkened and fairly secluded residential area where we were removed from the car and our documents taken off us, (I know we were supposed to keep them but they had guns). I think this was the fist time I became aware of my nerves. I had no idea where we were, but I knew it was dark and no one was about. Furthermore, I knew that they now had my passport and were not looking at us in a very friendly way. The details of what happened next are pretty blurred, but matters soon came to rest on the subject of how much money we had and how much money we were going to give them. For reasons that entirely escape me now, I made the decision to haggle, before conceding to reality and handing over most of our money. Duty done and richer for the experience, the Militia drove off leaving us to the Moscow night. Continue reading