SOVIET HOSPITALITY Part 6
WENESDAY 7TH MARCH
We got up and set off at once to get to the Institute Neft (petrol) by ten when all the men at the institute would be presenting the women with flowers and presents. We made it dead on time and did some celebrating with Rabfail’s colleagues. The gentlemen had already presented the ladies with their gifts but we recorded Nikolay Cherkasov congratulating the ladies and then making me a little speech and then presenting me with a traditional lacquered vase as a souvenir. We then visited other people in their rooms to congratulate them and then set off for the puppet theatre.
The ticket office was closed but Rabfail charged off round the back, went in an unmarked door and asked the дежурной (door keeper / caretaker) where the director was. We went upstairs and interrupted the poor man in the middle of his prazdnik (festival) lunch with his staff. He sent us to wait in a very comfy office and duly appeared and chatted most amicably with us, gave us lovely coloured brochures and invitation tickets to two performances. He seems a really lovely man. He said they were awaiting further plans for a visit to G.B. whither they have been invited. He doesn’t yet know where they will be performing but took my name and address and promised to let me know where and when. I invited him to Bodyfuddau if he had the time. He said, ‘We’ll make time.’ We’ll see.’
We went home rejoicing to spend a quiet evening but Rabfail’s Tatar / Uzbekistani friend, Damir, came and more or less kidnapped us. He has two flats more or less together. Various children seem to fly in and out of them although only one girl is his. It was the only scruffy flat I’d been in. Rabfail pointed out all the building faults and said that all new flats had such faults – floorboards laid damp and then shrunk by drying out, windows that don’t fit. He says that everyone moves in and promptly does a good DIY job. But Damir Kamayeev, he says, will always live in such a безпорядок (mess) because ‘such is his nature’ but also that he is очень добрый человек т хороший парень (a very kind man and a good friend). His wife is another Rosa and she had rustled up a wonderful plov (rice dish) Uzbekistani style. One of their neighbours is Nina whom we met at the birthday party and she tried to cure my bronchitis with her hands. It actually felt better for a while but didn’t last. Her daughter was among the hoards of children and told her I was there. Nina promptly arrived and took me over. She wanted to know how our courts work as she is a magistrate. She also told me that at the doctor’s surgery twenty tickets are issued. If you are number 21 the doctor is sitting there reading the paper and says, ‘Come tomorrow,’ even if you are really ill. This seemed a bit unlikely so I asked Rabfail and Rosa later. They said, no, only if it was a routine matter. In fact if you have any rise in temperature at all you get a home visit. Some years earlier I was in Moscow in a hotel on a visit and got flu. The doctor came and dosed me and forbade me to get up so I missed a nice visit a friend had made fpr a a few of us.) Here though we had a really jolly evening and they wouldn’t let us go. Damir fetched his accordion and played. Finally we went to bed at 1 a.m. after walking home through back lanes in the snow. This town has so many country woodland paths.