Last week contained a Tuesday. That Tuesday was an incredible day.
After my early morning class with SOVCOMFLOT, which ended at 9:00, I hurried through the wind to the metro, past the streams of early morning commuters, and took the metro north to the VDNKH stop. I was to meet Dmitry and his friends as soon as possible in order to visit the Ostankino Tower. The Moscow Metro Map website clocked the journey at 20 minutes. In reality it took around 40. Lying bastards.
At the required metro stop there was a rather long walk down a rather long street to the little ticket office where I could enter into the Ostankino complex. Leaving the metro I began trotting along as fast as I could. It quickly materialised that I wouldn't make it by the 10 o'clock tour by mere wayfaring. Already sweating from the metro in my four layers, fleece scarf, gloves and hat I began to jog. Jogging at 9:45, in full winter kit, in my boots, through Moscow. I was breathing heavy and soggy under my clothes. I turned a corner, crossing a busy road, full of early-morning, steaming Ladas and BMWs and pressed on, crunching the snow and bamboozling pedestrians. Dmitry then called,
'Hey man, where are you?'
Cough, heavy breathing
'Ok man, sorry to disturb you. Keep running! See you soon'
With only a few minutes left before our tour was to start I pounded up to the Ostankino entrance where Dima met me.
The building stands at 540m. It is the tallest building in Europe, and the fourth tallest in the world behind the CN Tower in Toronto, the Canton Tower in China and the ridiculous Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It's primary function is to be a television and radio tower and, like other buildings of the same type, it spears up from a wide base and tapers into a tip, bulging out at certain points with viewing platforms or maintenance levels.
After the usual bureaucratic rigmarole of Russia - go to this window, then that window, show your passport and this one again - we got to security. There, in the tiny hall with the metal detector machines, was one of the most embarrassing moments I had had in a long time.
'Come in' said the officious lady holding a detector wand 'put your items on the table and walk through with your coat on'
I didn't quite catch what she said the first time, but after a slapstick routine with my coat I got the picture and walked through; my keys, phone and wallet on the table. She swiped the detector over me.
'Oops, da, eto moi ipod' I placed it on the table
She swiped my other breast pocket, it beeped. But there was nothing in there metal.
'Please take it out of your pocket'
But it wasn't metal...
'Just put it on the table'
Had I known it was the metal button for the external breast pockets I could have avoided embarrassment. I put my hand inside my coat and felt around.
'Oh no' I said under my breath and looked up to Dima who was being patted down at the other security point. I mouthed my problem to him and he laughed.
'Please take it out sir' said the lady again.
I reached in further and pulled out the offending item. Dima snorted under his breath and I flushed red. The little chocolate flavoured condom looked so pathetic and absurd lying there on the table. The lady smiled ever so slightly and then found the button that beeped.
At around 360m the high speed lift spat us out and we were granted impossibly vast and vertigo-inducing views to Moscow. Almost all was white and grey as the sun continued its morning ascent. Industry trails hung low in the air and a morning pollution haze, usually horrid in the centre, added a magical eeriness to the scene. Cars like ants, skyscrapers like tall black grass. It was magnificent but all too short and we were quickly sucked back down into Moscow to take the monorail system back to the metro. No more jogging for me.
* * * *
But a few hours after that I met up with Sarah, a girl who had done Russian with me at university. She was attempting to return to Moscow to live and work. She had the same russophile urges as me. We met at the Oktyabrskaya metro stop and skidded down the road to Gorky Park. I was disinclined to comment on the sweat-ruined state of my clothes but, for some reason, more than happy to share my folly concerning the comical preservative.
In winter Gorky Park is flooded. The walkways, as a result, become frozen channels so that the visitor may skate through the area. It's a strange feeling. I'm used to rinks, or a frozen pond at best, but to skate through a park as if one were walking is, for want of a better word, cool. It's just a shame that my skates weren't very tight. I had trouble walking on my left foot for the days that followed. It's hot and thirsty work skating so, with burning thighs, we sidled up to one of the kiosks that lined the ice-ways. To make the episode that little bit more Russian we drank hot tea that fumed in the chilled air and munched on warm, slithery blinis. Almost as soon as we had met we parted. Sarah had some interviews and I had to teach, in vain, a small five-year old child how to say 'I am good'.
I was, a couple of weeks ago, made 'single', due to incompatibility. This amazing day was rounded off by meeting a quite delightful creature who I am currently seeing. Olga. Beautiful and artistic with Lily Allen hair and eyes that would show up a doe. Fingers crossed I don't screw this one up.
* * * *
EXTRA: As if I thought the trials and tribulations caused by the humorous chocolate willy warmer were over I was wrong. It reared its ugly head - perhaps the wrong use of the phrase - again on the Thursday of that week. I was at SBERBANK. My student arrived and we went up to the main desk to get my pass. I handed the girl my passport, realising only at the last moment that Mr. Prevention had wrapped himself round some of its pages. She took the passport, removed the little brown salami sling, emitted the tiniest 'oop' on noticing what it was, typed in my details, popped it back in the passport and let me through. Nobody spoke of it.
I've since relegated the little bastard to a dusty drawer in my room.