|How to marry a Russian bride|
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Excerpt 3: Dave strolls in Red Square
(Taken from 'How To Marry A Russian Bride' by Christopher Coin, pages 190-194.
© Christopher Coin 2009. ISBN 978-0-9564534-0-2)
Meanwhile Dave had found that by lunchtime the warm afterglow that he had basked in all morning, and which had sustained him through a languid bath in his en-suite and surgically clean bathroom, followed by a towel-down using the largest and fluffiest towels he had ever seen, had started to dissipate.
And after a shave and a read of The Daily Mail and some channel-flicking on the widescreen TV, not to mention a light lunch of salad followed by an excellent cheesecake and filter coffee, Dave is suddenly filled with a strange wanderlust, a need to explore Moscow a little more.
Perhaps this is a reaction to being shown everything by Olga, to being shepherded here and there, and having everything done for him. So Dave checks the complimentary map of Moscow’s central district, which is on the reverse of the booklet given to him when he first checked into the Hotel Romanof. He puts on his most comfortable pair of trainers, dons his three-quarter length Marks and Spencer jacket, and heads out of his room.
When Dave reaches the Arbat he turns east. He passes many shops, souvenir stalls, street painters and performers. He quickly reaches the theatre with the golden statue of the woman in nineteenth-century dress. He continues on past more boutiques and restaurants, until he reaches the eastern end of the Arbat, where the real Russia begins, in the form of a nasty one-way rat run which barely stops to let pedestrians cross - and where Steve nearly came to grief yesterday evening.
But Dave negotiates this effortlessly. He descends a pedestrian underpass and surfaces again on ‘Vozdveshenka Street’: the main road leading to the Kremlin. As he walks quickly along neat tarmacked pavements he catches glimpses of the roads on either side: they are full of elegant apartment blocks in the grand continental style.
But Dave does not linger. He is suddenly full of the need to see things, to do something on his own. And so Dave carries on, overtaking slower pedestrians and passing mature civic buildings that could be in the centre of any great European city. He walks quickly, anxious to actually get somewhere.
After about fifteen minutes Dave arrives at the Lenin library: a concrete box leavened with classicistic decorations. He takes an underground walkway under ‘Vozdveshenka Street’ (which is six lanes wide) and emerges near the entrance to the Kremlin.
Now Dave turns left and enters a lovely park called ‘Alexandrovsky Gardens’. After a few minutes he leaves this park and walks up into ‘Manesh Square’, a raised area of fountains and benches.
This of course is where Ted and Ludmilla sat yesterday. Dave looks at his watch: only 40 minutes from the Romanof Hotel to here - not bad, not bad at all.
So Dave sits like Ted and Ludmilla did the day before, among these fountains and benches, with their splendid view of the Kremlin, the park in front of it, and the approaches to Red Square.
And once again the weather has been kind: another glorious day with hardly a cloud to be seen. Dave can feel the sun on his face, that warm, warm sun, the same sun as yesterday; it’s as though Moscow has been touched by a golden wand, just for him and his fellow British tourists, so that each day is beautiful - just like yesterday in Novodevichy Cemetery.
The water from the fountains bubbles madly. Wherever Dave looks he can see couples sitting and talking, or strolling, just like Olga and he were yesterday and like they will be again tonight. Looking at these couples sitting and talking here, on this broad expanse of fountains and benches overlooking the Kremlin walls, and under this lovely sun, it seems to Dave as if the whole world’s in love.
And what a time it’s been! Only two days gone and already what a time Dave’s had! These glimpses of ancient Rus and of the metro, that seventh wonder of the world, and now this: this splendid panorama of the Kremlin walls and the lovely park in front of it, where the sun shines and the fountains bubble and the birds sing! What a time it’s been! With the promise of so much more, culturally, historically and sexually (in a cross-cultural and cerebral sort of way of course).
Sex, thinks Dave. And he thinks of Olga yesterday when they were sitting in Novodevichy cemetery: her perfectly formed face with those purposeful features; a talented woman both beautiful and resourceful, intellectual yet practical. He’s nuts about her of course, can’t stop thinking about her, can’t stop dreaming of her - which is crazy - as even Dave knows, for they’ve only seen each other twice.
Sex: now there’s something Dave could tell you about - or rather perhaps not tell you about. For things would be a little easier if Dave had been in a relationship in England recently, but he hasn’t. In fact Dave hasn’t had his leg over for two-and-a-half years, an amazing oversight on his part caused by many things: the silly hours he works, still sitting at an Apple Macintosh computer laying out pages at nine o’clock at night; and more significantly by the treadmill of production deadlines, which eventually blocks out all other considerations, eating up your personality and your outside interests until you are an obsessive, a slave with just the occasional weekend off, immune to finer feelings, a man for whom the touch of a woman’s soft skin is just a distant memory.
And now this: this magical other world, this world of bright blue skies and bubbling fountains and a fantasmagon of a metro; of the romantic tranquillity of Novodevichy Cemetery, where you can see the fascinatingly sculpted graves of people you’d only ever read about in books or newspapers; and the knowledge that all this is just the beginning, the mere start of The Great Exploration.
But above all Dave’s thoughts keep returning to Olga, beautiful Olga, who has awakened in Dave the need for a woman. Dave remembers with painful clarity what he has been missing. He remembers that electric shock when Olga was thrown into him by the centrifugal forces of the twisting metro carriage on the way to ‘Kiev’ station, when her firm little breast had nuzzled his chest. Dave shudders. It’s almost too much. He involuntarily gets up, as he realises he’s utterly hooked, besotted, crazy about her, crazy with the desperation of a man in prison who is finally coming to the end of a long stretch - and who can practically taste the clean air of freedom.
Dave leaves this area of bubbling fountains and sitting lovers and the cheeky sparrows which hop around your ankles. Dave walks back towards the gate at the northern end of Alexandrovsky Gardens, from where he can just glimpse the beautiful church of Saint Basil’s, the famous onion-domed cathedral at the far end of Red Square. It looks beautiful of course, like everything else on this golden day, with its perfectly preserved whirly-topped domes; a giant cake decoration, a spangly outpouring of swirling colours and counter-pointed brickwork finished with golden trimmings - in short a fairytale.
And Dave starts to amble towards it, not quickly, for he has all afternoon, but slowly, happily and joyfully, with the sound of birdsong in his ears; for he is in a contented dream, counting down the hours until he can see Olga tonight.
('How To Marry A Russian Bride' is now available at Amazon.co.uk , price £8.99)