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Tale of Three Cities

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    Tale of Three Cities

    TALE OF THREE CITIES
    Warning! There are absolutley no pictures in this topic. (Now there's a chance to use your imagination!)

    I had seen the brochure several times in the window of our local travel agents and what it offered caught my imagination. Pictures of those unmistakable gloriously coloured onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral as seen from across Red Square adorned the cover - it could only be Moscow. In the end I gave in, entered the travel agents and collected a copy. Once home I turned page after page as it described a trip to the USSR, with stays of a few days each in Moscow, Kiev and finally Leningrad.
    This was 1984. Chernenko had recently been elected as General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, but he was in poor health and died the following year. Then followed the election of Mikhail Gorbachev, whose reforms finally led to the break up of Communist regimes in Europe even though that was certainly not what he had intended. But at this time Communist USSR was still the “enemy” we had known for so long.
    Enemy or not, however, I was intrigued. Browsing the brochure, studying the itinerary and gazing at the pictures, I thought “Well, yes….. looks exciting.” Thoughts slowly morphed into “I wonder….. well, perhaps…. um-mm….. Oh, be a devil and go!”
    There were several optional trips offered, and I went on some delightful and very interesting ones, but I was equally keen to explore on my own as much as possible and even to get to know the Russian people as much as – or if - possible. Booking my holiday period at work and announcing where I was going resulted in raised eyebrows, widened eyes and gaping mouths and drew jokes on the lines of “Well, let’s hope you come back….”, “We’d better start looking for a replacement…..” But, like me, they were intrigued.

    The day had come - I was in Heathrow staring at the departures board which announced that the 6.30p.m. to Moscow was delayed some two hours. An excellent start, I thought, with a four hour flight ahead that means it will be well past midnight before we touch down, in fact a long way past midnight their time. Then Customs, Passport Control, perhaps they’ll demand our life history to check whether to let us into the country, might there even be a body search??? Then finally a coach to my hotel….registration at reception… finding my room… (or will I be escorted by armed guard?). By the time all that had been accomplished it would hardly be worth going to bed!
    Huh!! Why do I do these things?
    Somewhere between 8 and 9 p.m. the departures board suddenly flickered, re-scrolled and there it was – MOSCOW NOW BOARDING. Heart thumping just a little bit I headed off to where it would all begin. Settled in my seat, I waited, only half believing in my destination. Moscow, I reminded myself, yes, Moscow in the USSR. I would have to try and phone my mother as soon as possible as she waited anxiously at home for the sound of that mad daughter’s voice assuring her that all was well.
    Meanwhile, I waited.
    Then that magic moment came when, seatbelts fastened, engines suddenly roared full blast, the wheels began to roll. Gathering speed down the runway, I felt the nose lift …… heard the thump of the wheels folding back into their housing. I was on my way.
    Following the east coast as we flew northwards for a while, I concentrated on the view from the window. The moon must have been full, because the rivers winding below gleamed softly but clearly against the grey shadowing land, an image I have never forgotten. I tried to identify the river Waveney, which flows only two or three minutes from where I live in Bungay. Feeling a little calmer I settled back in my seat as the plane slowly veered away from the coast and got a fix on Moscow. Of the journey I now have no recollection, in the increasing darkness probably all there was to see were little clusters of city lights, perhaps more rivers, miles of blankness which made a mirror of the window.

    Descent had begun and the heart thumps also began again, this time with excitement. I had left Heathrow blazing with lights, chatter, hurrying people but here in Moscow we must have been the last plane in for the night (well, after all it was about 1.50 a.m. Moscow time) because most of the airport building was in darkness, leaving just the areas needed for our reception dimly illuminated. The plane finally stopped its trundle round the runways, engines quietened and shut down and we began to collect our belongings. Suddenly the cabin lights were switched off. We all sat there, silent, wondering in the darkness. After some time they were switched on again but still no-one appeared to open the cabin door and indicate that we were to leave. Some of the passengers were getting a bit restive and I didn’t blame them.
    In the end an air hostess came in, opened the door and we were allowed to descend. An official appeared to lead us to Passport Control. There was hardly a sound anywhere. The quietness must have been infectious, because most of the whole planeload walked in a kind of cowed silence. But in the queue I got chatting to a Mexican next to me and was amazed to find that he was studying at London University in what I used to know as the old Woolwich Polytechnic in south-east London, just a short tram ride away from where I was born and grew up. I never cease to be amazed at the coincidental meetings I occasionally have with complete strangers who turn out to come from a place, (even a street in one instance) that I have some connection with, or who know someone whom I also know.
    But this one was going to be a little troublesome! I had been observed as I chatted.

    (To be continued)
    Ivy

    "To thine own self be true.......
    Thou canst not then be false to any man."

    #2
    This is going to be fun - you write beautifully Ivy. Looking forward to the next exciting instalment.
    Cheers,

    Mark.

    www.pologlover.co.uk

    Comment


      #3
      WOW. You set the scene as John Le Carré did! Waiting for the next chapters, Ivy….

      Comment


        #4
        Many thanks, Mark and Yves. Writing about it now, after so long, is bringing it back to vivid life!
        Ivy

        "To thine own self be true.......
        Thou canst not then be false to any man."

        Comment


        • yvneac
          yvneac commented
          Editing a comment
          After rereading, on second thought, what proves us you weren't a spy???

        • wherrygirl
          wherrygirl commented
          Editing a comment
          Nothing my dear Yves. Absolutely nothing.

        #5
        Oh thank you, Ivy. This is indeed a spellbinder! Yes, i need no pictures, a complete scenery has been made up in my mind! Wonderful!
        Lofoten '07 ...... Nordnorge '11

        Comment

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