Pole to Pole
Day 28: Leningrad
Impervious to a constant barracking of coughs, gurgles and whines, he gives a long opening address before making his way round the gathering to anoint those present on the forehead, base of the neck and ears in the sign of a cross. As he approaches I notice men are rolling up their trouser legs. Nigel, tracking back at a crouch, whispers urgently,
'Better roll up your trousers. They're all doing it.'
I don't imagine the priest will notice me anyway, curled as I am into the curve of the vault. But I'm wrong. Not only does he notice me but brings the entire service to a halt as he looks at my knees with considerable suspicion.
'What is your belief?'
'Church of England' sounds rather insipid in the middle of all this, so I opt for the more general 'I believe in God'.
His anointing brush remains poised in mid-air. He turns to his assistant. They confer. He looks back at me. The Russian congregation look on, quite baffled.
'I have been baptized!' I add, helpfully.
More consultation. The priest regards me sternly, but with faint alarm.
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