Moscow Winter 1934
We had arranged to meet on the boat and travel together. I was part of an Intourist package to see the November celebrations in Red Square and Desmond was to give a series of lectures in the University of Moscow. We thought that we would somehow wangle for me to stay on. There was a dreamlike quality to the train journey to Tilbury through that flat, forlorn landscape, edged by the backs of warehouses and with masts, funnels and cranes sticking up haphazard out of nowhere. Everything static, nothing quite real, nothing happening. Then suddenly the train drew up at the quay and there was all the fuss and bustle of boarding the ship. I looked around for Desmond but there was no sign of him. I got my luggage stowed in my cabin but still no sign. In consternation I saw that they were pulling up the gangway and then there he was below, wild-haired and shouting to me against the wind. ‘I haven’t got my visa’, he yelled. ‘They haven’t given me my visa. I’ll have to wait. I’ll fly out as soon as I can.’ The hooter brayed and the ship lumbered off. He stood there, waving apologetically, as though it were somehow his fault. It was a first taste of muddled, incompetent bureaucracy, for after all he was the honoured, invited guest, whereas I was merely a tolerated tourist.
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