Pole to Pole
Day 31: Novgorod
In the morning I make the acquaintance of a film-maker and vodka-maker by the name of Edward Ranenko. I find him at the Correspondent Film Centre, situated in a long, low, whitewashed building on a leafy avenue. He is tall and thin and stands as straight as a Guards officer. Long silver-grey hair is swept back from a high, domed forehead, and he sports a moustache. A charismatic figure for whom people will clearly do anything. How else can I explain the fact that we all solemnly follow him to a muddy pond surrounded by housing blocks, a main road and a building site, to shoot a film about crayfish?
Edward is about to offer me a part in the proceedings, possibly as second crayfish, when word comes that I must return at once to the Party Committee Hotel and vacate my room. A VIP is arriving from Moscow. This must explain the onslaught of the lawnmowers. It's no use protesting. The receptionist is firm but apologetic. The Deputy Prime Minister of the Soviet Union needs my room.
'The Deputy Prime Minister of Russia?' I ask.
'No.' She spreads her arms wide. 'Of the whole Soviet Union.'
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