I had a new student in class today (no, not THAT sort of 'had', you dirty-minded bugger!). Nothing special about that, you might think, but ... the resemblance was uncanny. See that guy in the picture alongside? Well, they could have been twins!
All of which put me in mind of this little item of mine from April 2007, the month when dear ol' Boris actually popped his Russian clogs. And the story is quite true, honestly.
The Yeltsin Years
Well, now that the drunken old bugger has finally shuffled off his mortal coil, I can reveal all. You see, back in those dazzling days of madcap Russian infant capitalism, the mid-1990s, Boris was one of my star pupils. Five star, as in the brandy, I mean.
You might think that I’m kidding, but it’s true. Boris used to send the Kremlin limo to pick me up from outside the British Council in Moscow. Then I’d be whisked off into that swirling vortex of the Wild East, the nerve-centre of new Russian politics, where a deal made with the wrong guy could earn you a lump of hot lead in the head.
Although Boris wasn’t the most conscientous of students, he did know how to entertain. “Forget homework”, he’d often say, “just share bottle of vodka (brand: Parliament, of course) with me, and tell me all about English mini-skirt!”... before falling over the red Kremlin rug and disappearing down a trap door.
Boris was very good at vocab, though, and was careful to pick his collocations well. “Fuck you, stupid prick” he would often shout at his aides, confident in the knowledge that they hadn’t a clue what he was talking about. On occasions he would ask me to bring along a female teacher, so that he could practice his chat-up lines, such as “Why nice girl like you want sleep with old man like Boris?”
I was saddened when Boris was first rushed into hospital, deeply saddened. You see, I never saw him again after that, and he still owed me 200 bucks for five lessons. Despite my constant calls to his colleague, Vladimir, all I got was a load of old flannel, half in Russian, half in German, about hidden Stasi files, and questions about why I went to East Berlin in 1988. Strange, that was. You see I was there in 1986, and it's not like old Vlad to get his dates wrong, is it?
Then I got a knock on my door one night (dark and stormy, of course), and there, standing before me dressed in black, was an extremely well-built Kremlin crony. “I give you one ticket for London” he said, as he pressed into my hand a large brown envelope.
Despite my protests that I had no immediate desire to return to England, and that I had a few weeks more to run on my BC teaching contract anyway, I was bundled into the back of an anonymous-looking Zhiguli sedan. Twenty minutes later, I was delivered into the firm hands of a waiting Aeroflot official at the airport.
Well, at least they let me sit in the back of the car, instead of the boot. And they didn’t send me home with a lead souvenir in my neck.
Nice touch, that was, Boris!