It goes without saying that I’m obviously looking forward to going home too. I’ve missed family and friends a great deal, particularly over the last few days, so it will be great to land in the UK and start catching up. I’ve also made many new friends and a part of me is genuinely sorry to be leaving them behind. I’d love to take them all with me and throw a big old shin-dig for them back in blighty. I’d like to show them the kind of hospitality they’ve shown me during my stay. People here, without exception, have been unbelievably friendly, courteous, curious, interesting, interested, funny and happy….. perhaps apart from one security guard, but then I’m sure I saw the merest flicker of a smile as I reluctantly handed over my poorly concealed mobile phone.
Last night we had a little dinner in recognition of the successful project carried out over the last week and a half, and toasted our success as well as our continued friendship and business partnership. Well I say “little dinner” but anyone who’s read my earlier blogs will know fine well they don’t do little dinner’s here. Last night I genuinely thought the traditionally cast-iron Baldwin stomach was going to meet its Waterloo. Caviar, spicy sausage, cabbage, chicken in sesame, peppers in something, herring in something else, potatoes, white bread, black bread, the dishes just kept coming and coming and coming. All washed down of course with glass after glass of vodka. And when I said a toast to our continued friendship, of course I meant our continued friendship and everything else as well. It was a wonderful night with lots of laughter and smiles however a minor low point came after the last of the aforementioned dishes was cleared away only to be followed by the main course of steak and raspberries. The chap next to me actually asked if I was ok. “Fine” I answered, “just praying for a second wind”.
And so, a fine and fitting farewell to a wonderful and unexpectedly varied experience. I’ve never really been one for taking many pictures but I perhaps wished I’d snapped a few more on this trip. I mean there are things that not even a vivid imagination such as mine can hold on to forever. It’s not every day you get to shoot the breeze with two Siberian, pool playing lesbians (yep – even in Siberia too), or gate-crash a wedding and dance the night away with a complete strangers mother-in-law. Despite all this however, one thing is certain; London, Moscow, New York or Kogalym, we’re all just doing what we can to get along, and if we can pass on a little friendship, warmth and humanity along the way, well, the world is suddenly not such a scary place. I’ve no doubt that I’ll continue to be a ‘died in the wall’ xenophobe, but I have to say that right now it’s definitely with a pretty small ‘x’. Das vidania.