Lecture at 10am; breakfast at university 9am;. Ham, eggs, bread, cheese?... sounded good to me! But ‘breakfast’ was something different!
Five of us, me, Gerald and three Ukrainian hosts standing in a circle. Breakfast was toast, five in turn! Chocolate covered cherries, washed down with local cognac. Five toasts, five chocolates; five cognacs and one me delivering a lecture at 10am to 50 students.
Enthusiastically I told students about marketing toilet paper.
“Pampered western bottoms expect choice. Softness or strength or fragrance... but your bog paper indicates that you Ukrainians are all a bunch of hard-arses!”
Fortunately, they laughed.
The energy crisis had shut the street lights in Ukraine. We returned from a formal dinner at 8pm to the dingy apartment. TV?... Ukrainian; reading?.. too dim; sleeping?... far too early; drinking?... no booze!
“There’s a hotel across town run by twins I used to teach”, exclaimed Gerald, “let’s go!”
The road was long, straight and totally dark; the welcome warm and bright. Free booze, all night!
Somehow we staggered back, singing.
“You could have been robbed and killed!” was the bollocking we received from a professor next day. My throbbing head didn’t care – might even have been preferable!
We arrived by coach at the Slovak/Ukraine border. There was trouble. My colleague’s visa had the wrong stamps. Armed soldiers beneath hats of enormous diameter shouted, scaring the living daylights out of us. It was their way.
The professor meeting us heard, shouted back and put it right.
Off to passport control. Entering the door, in a cubicle to my right ... the most beautiful woman with the sternest face ever! She was in uniform, bedecked with fur.
“Where are you going?” she demanded.
“State University Uzhgorod.”
Suddenly, a beautiful smile (her alma mater?)....”Welcome Mr Hunt!” (or was it Bond?)