'Obi Wan Kenobi!!!'
'Can we play hide and seek?'
'Is this a lesson or just colouring in....?'
'Ok guys, calm down please. Do you want a black mark? No? Ok, let's carry on...what am I wearing?'
That was the shambles that constituted one of last Friday's four classes with primary school kids in the middle of nowhere out in the West of the city. Richard had flu-like symptoms and had already infected his two children by accident. 28 minutes later style they were running around like snotty zombies. He decided it was best not to infect a private school.
Text to Richard: 'So that was one of my circles of hell'
Text back: 'God bless you my son'
After the first class I got into the swing of things. The kids were calmer and I was more in control. By the fourth class I was masterly teaching 'I am wearing a blue jumper' with a combination of clear BBC enunciation and 'look at me I'm such a funny clown' physical comedy. Shattered and ruddy-faced I returned home. A tiring end to a windy, rainy - there was devastating flooding in the Krasnodar region of Russia near the Black Sea killing 14 - second week in the capital. The Moscow zoo was drenched, the animals soggy and the only solar solace came for 10 minutes one day as I walked along a street with framed pieces of artwork on the walls; notable that, although graffiti is ever present, these paintings remained untouched.
* * * *
My hands were freezing in my pockets. I only had a little black jacket on over my cardigan and the Muscovite winds were razor sharp.
'I'll be there in 20 minutes' bleeped the text from Anna.
We were supposed to be meeting at 11pm outside a cinema at the Arbat where the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival was being held.
'I'm going to go for a walk so I don't get cold' I responded
I paced up and down the length of the Arbat for 20mins before returning to wait outside the building again. I called Anna 'we'll be about 2 mins!'
15 minutes later Anna, Vacya, and two other Russians showed up. The tickets for the Advertising Festival were sold out. One of the unknown Russians, a tall, blonde girl, whipped out an iPhone and found a film that was about to start at a cinema further down the 'New' Arbat street.
We all but jogged to the other cinema complex and sat, hot and cold, on sleepy seats, with crowds of bawdy young Russians, in the dark and watched a frankly shit film. It was called '13' and it was dubbed. It wasn't a typical Saturday night.
We then, all 5 of us, crammed into Vacya's little car and bulleted round the Garden Ring road towards Kurskaya. Vacya chariot raced with a young, aggressive man in a Lada. They were both vying for the same lane.
'VACYA, STOP IT. LOOK AT THE ROAD!' screamed the girl
'It's not my fault, it's him!' Vacya retorted angrily, gesturing at the other driver, slamming on the brakes and swerving into another lane. I, without a seatbelt, gripped the headrests in front of me.
It wasn't a typical Saturday night.
I took Sunday more sedately and spent a couple of hours wandering around the Izmailovsky Park in the sunshine; famous both for its enormous market and having once been the Tsars' favourite city park. After that I pootled back into the centre on the metro and went round the History Museum on Red Square with some of the Spanish. My feet were falling to pieces. I went back home and died on my bed.
On the Monday I had a trial class at a new school.
'I think you're the man to teach kids' said Tony with a smile 'they liked you mate'
So, more kids. This time it was at the final stop of the grey line, in the north of the city. The middle of the middle of nowhere.
A rugged, old man with a limp was waiting for me outside the metro with a piece of A4 paper with 'L U K E' printed on it. He grunted something and gestured for me to follow him. We got into a minibus and drove in a small circuit for 5 minutes round to a little school hiding in the shadows of some large, grey flats. I put the unnecessary use of the minibus down to the probable irritation of his leg. This area was ugly.
Inside the little private school Russian kids and teachers were fluttering about. Limpy then shepherded me upstairs and left me with the director, Evgenia, who then showed me to the room where I would be teaching. It was all Russian and I had to focus hard to understand what was being said to me; advice, students, timings, 'do you want to use the computers? a ball to throw'. This time it was a breeze. The kids were calm and the hour sailed by.
They didn't know what Star Wars was.