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A Story In Emails

The First Email

Hi Vicky

It's the middle of the night and as usual I can't sleep. A short while ago I let the cat in to have some food. Now I notice it has scratched the furniture in the kitchen. Also I've somehow managed to make a dirty mark on the bedroom wall. Yuriy and Marina won't be at all happy to see their apartment treated in this way.

Love you lots.

Paul


The Second Email

Hi Paul

Yuriy and Marina probably won't even notice the mark on the wall or the scratch marks on the furniture, and if they do they'll bear in mind that they aren't going to find many people like you who are prepared to rent their apartment off them for weeks on end at time.

Try and get back into a normal sleep routine.

Love you lots.

Vicky


The Third Email

Hi Vicky

I've bought a microwave oven, some cutlery, a knife, a sharpener and a chopping board for the kitchen, so that is some compensation for the damage done to Yuriy and Marina's apartment, but even so I might try to leave Sevastopol today without seeing them. I'll just leave the key to this apartment of theirs at their hostel down the road. Most likely, however, one or other of them will pop into the apartment this morning anyway to see if I'm still here or if I've left for Simferopol today as I said I would so I can catch my flight to Kiev early tomorrow morning and then fly on to London.

Anyway if Yuriy and Marina dodn't want me here again, we can just spend more time at your apartment in Voronezh instead. How is life there, by the way? Was the cat glad to see you back after the two weeks you spent here?

Love you lots.

Paul


The Fourth Email

Hi Paul

Everything is fine with me here.

When I first got home to my apartment the cat wouldn't speak to me or let me touch her, but now I've been back a few days she has become more friendly, so I guess she is not angry with me anymore for deserting her.

I thought you didn't like Voronezh.

Email me when you're in the hostel in Simferopol. I hope there will be nice people there.

Love you lots.

Vicky


The Fifth Email

Hi Vicky

I'm in Simferopol now, staying at a hostel opposite the McDonalds by the train station. It's very noisy with so many people outside and being on a main road and near a junction with another main road, but the girl, Masha, who runs the hostel with her boyfriend, is very pleasant and helpful. I told her I have to get up at 05.00 tomorrow to get a taxi to the airport at 05.15 for the 07.00 flight to Kiev Boryspil, and she said she'd book it for me so I'd only have to pay 53 griven instead of the higher amount taxi drivers normally charge foreigners.

There are two men also staying here at the hostel. Very unsocial individuals they are, but at least it means they don't disturb me.

I gave the leftover food in the fridge to Yuriy when I left his and Marina's apartment in Sevastopol this morning, and I fed the cats for the last time. The poor little grey cat wanted to come in last night because it was so cold and windy outside.

Yuriy was very pleasant to me and hoped I would return … but then he hadn't yet seen the mark on the wall! Actually he hoped we would both return.

The train journey here from Sevastopol on the Kiev train was good. Not many people got on the train when it left Sevastopol, so I had my little platzkart section to myself, so I had a nice little lie-down for the short journey to Simferopol. As I got off the train there, lots of people were getting on it.

Voronezh as a city doesn't make much of an impression on me, but I'm perfectly happy with the little bit of it that you live in.

Love you lots.

Paul


The Sixth Email

Hi Paul

It's good that Masha is being helpful.

Get a good night's sleep. I'll dream about you coming to stay in Voronezh with me again.

Love you lots.

Vicky


The Seventh Email

Hi Vicky

It's evening here in Simferopol. I just went across the road and popped into McDonalds intending to spend 10 or 20 griven so as to break up a 200 griven note I've got so I would have a 50 griven note to pay for the taxi to the airport tomorrow morning. Stupidly I ended up spending over 70 griven because when the boy behind the counter asked me if I wanted twenty chicken nuggets with my fries and cola I just assumed that was the normal amount to have, but actually it's a ridiculous amount for one person. It's enough for about four people.

It's the stress of being with non-English speakers that is beginning to put me off traveling.

I ate four of the nuggets and a few fries, then closed the rest of the nuggets and fries up in their box. I thought I might give the food to an old guy who sleeps outside one of the shops opposite, so I took the box with me when I left . When I walked past him though, he was fast asleep (or dead!) so I decided to take the food back to the hostel. The hostel is in an unlit courtyard, and I'd forgotten there are huge concrete blocks on the edge of it to stop cars driving in. I tripped over one of them and went flying into the dirt on the other side. In the dark I just didn't see it. It was all most undignified and painful. I haven't even got the excuse that I was drunk, because I haven't had any drink today.

I feel very tired now and a bit battered and bruised. I was so annoyed that I put the box of McDonalds food in a bin by the entrance to where the hostel is.

I hope you're feeling better than me and are having a rest.

Lots of love.

Paul


The Eighth Email

Hi Paul

I hope you didn't hurt yourself too badly and everything is OK with you. You need someone to keep an eye on you … me!

You travel quite a lot, and you stay in different places for a long time, and that can be tiresome. I bet you would prefer to stay for a long time somewhere in Europe where people speak English. I guess you should really settle down for some time now and stop traveling. I hope we can settle down in England for a year after we get married, then you can rest after having traveled for so many years. Of course sometimes we can be at my place in Voronezh.

I'm resting after my working day. I'm just having a quiet evening. I've got no plans for tomorrow.

I hope you have a good trip back home to England. Email me when you get there, then I can stop worrying about you so much.

Missing you.

Love you lots.

Vicky


The Ninth Email

Hi Vicky

I'm back home in England!

When I fell in Simferopol I banged my leg and sprained my wrist a bit, but it's nothing that won't mend.

You know, I absolutely loathe being in England. The people here disgust me. Really I mean the lowest class of people disgust me, with their violence and viciousness. They're always shouting and being stupid and doing unnecessary or negative things.

I'm writing this email on my big laptop. Something very bizarre is happening. You know the camera, microphone and speakers on my big laptop don't work, and that's why I use the little one when we talk on Skype or I want to watch videos? Well, very quietly this laptop is playing Queen songs to me. Yet the only webpage I have open is Hotmail (actually Outlook now) so it should be impossible for it to be making any noise anyway, even if the speakers did work.

It's very strange and a bit spooky.

I couldn't get to sleep at the hostel in Simferopol last night, so in the middle of the night I got out of bed and went and sat with my laptop at the table in the kitchen and finished that devtome article on Stalin that I started when you were with me. Then I went back to bed again and just lay there thinking about you and me and where to live and money and things.

At 05.00 I got up again and went and washed and shaved in the bathroom. When I came out, Masha was there in her dressing gown. She told me that the taxi she had ordered for me was waiting outside. She pointed at it through the window. It was obvious she wasn't going to come out to it with me, and I was glad because I had a cunning plan.

I said goodbye to her and went downstairs and out the front of the building. Yes! The McDonalds food was still there in the bin where I had put it last night.

Actually it wasn't in a bin. It was in a concrete urn with a bit of soil in it, presumably for growing flowers in. I grabbed the box of food and went over to the taxi and got in.

It was quite a long drive to Simferopol airport, but, as Masha had said, I only had to pay 53 griven.

At the airport I stood outside and ate my sixteen chicken McNuggets and handful of French fries. Quite a breakfast! I had to force myself to eat it all, but I did it, partly because it would mean I wouldn't need any more food until I got home (I had forgotten that we get served food on the Kiev-London flight) and partly because I'm so mean I just wanted to get the full value out of what I had paid for the day before.

The flight to Boryspil was fine, but once there it got interesting. I had been told we would arrive at terminal B, so I would have to get the free shuttle bus to terminal D and check in there for the London Gatwick flight, which left from that terminal. When we landed at Boryspil there were two buses waiting to transport the people who got off the plane. One was for people who were transferring to another flight from Boryspil. The other was for people who were terminating their journey there.

It seemed to make sense for me to get on the 'transfer' bus, so I did, along with a lot of other people. The bus set off and took us to a building. There we found a woman at a desk offering check-ins for people transferring. But I didn't want to transfer to another flight from terminal B. I wanted to get out of the place as quickly as possible and get over to terminal D, from where my London flight was leaving in an hour and a half's time. So I queued with the people who obviously wanted to do the same as me and get our passports checked and get out of the place.

There was a single official checking people's passports, and he was doing it very slowly.

I thought this was odd. They don't check passports when you get off an internal flight. But what was even odder was that the official, when he had finished scrutinizing someone's passport, would them stamp the passport.

Now, you only get stamped into and out of a country. I had obviously been stamped into Ukraine, so he couldn't give me two entry stamps, and how could he give me a stamp to say I'd left Ukraine if I was going over to terminal D to leave the country from there? The people there would stamp my passport. None of what was going on made sense.

Because he was alone and working so incredibly slowly, and because I was pretty much at the end of the queue, by the time I got to him there was only forty-five minutes left before my flight for London departed, and fifteen minutes left before they closed the gate for the flight. When I got to him I pointed at the entry stamp in my passport from coming into Ukraine a couple of months before.

“But where is your boarding card?” he said.

“I can't get a boarding card until I leave here and get over to terminal D. I'll check in there and they will give me a boarding card.”

He looked at me as if I was half a wit short of a full one.

“But, sir,” he said, “you are at terminal D.”

I couldn't believe it. What they had done was driven us straight to terminal D whereas my confirmation form for my flight specifically said I would be going to terminal B. Nonetheless how foolish of me it was not to realize what they had done with the aim of making our lives easier.

I shook my head, more in disgust at my own stupidity than out of annoyance at what had happened.

“So what do I do now?” I said.

He pointed at a woman official standing nearby.

“Ask her to check you in for your flight. If she does that, she can give you a boarding card. Then come back to me and I'll stamp your passport to say you've left Ukraine and you can go and catch your flight.”

I nodded my head and went over to the woman.

“Can you check me in for my flight to London, please? The gate closes in less than fifteen minutes, so I need it done quickly.”

“No,” she said. “You need to go to that desk over there.”

She pointed across to the now empty desk where the woman had been sitting dealing with check-ins and issuing boarding cards when we had first all come into the terminal off the plane.

“But there's no one there,” I said.

The woman shrugged her shoulders.

“But my plane leaves soon, at ten o'clock, and it's already twenty past nine. Look.” I handed her the paperwork confirming my ticket with Ukraine International Airlines. She looked at the form.

“Eleven o'clock,” she said.

Unbelievable! I pointed at the bit where it said the departure time.

“Ten o'clock,” I said. “It says ten o'clock.”

She looked at me for a few seconds, then said, “You're going to be late. You'd better hurry up.”

“Okay,” I said. “Let's go over to the other desk.”

We went over to the other desk and she went behind it. I dutifully stood in front of it. She still had my paperwork in her hand. This was beginning to look hopeful. She gazed down at a computer in front of her. I smiled encouragingly.

After a while she said, “I cannot check you in. I am only a security guard.”

Have you ever felt despair? I felt it now. I've missed planes a couple of times in the past - once through my own stupidity, and once from getting snowed in for several days in Gdansk - and I can tell that although in such a situation you always eventually get to your destination, it uses up your time and money.

“Can you get the woman who does the check-ins?” I asked. Or was I pleading? Was I perhaps begging? Is there some subtle difference?

Suddenly at my side appeared an elderly man who had been brought over by the passport 'checker-and-stamper', who now explained to the woman behind the desk that this fellow, a Frenchman, had got himself into the same situation as me.

Stupid ass, I thought.

The Frenchman began to complain and get stroppy … in French. At least I could do my explaining and complaining and pleading in bad Russian.

The woman and the passport man talked, then she got on the phone. She said she was going to get the official check-in woman. She held a short conversation with someone on the other end of the line. Then she put the phone down.

“Wait,” she said to me.

She spoke to me! That means she prefers me to the Frenchman, I thought! That means I should get dealt with first.

We waited patiently. Well, I mean I waited patiently. The Frenchman, however, walked up and down, muttering, and then he threw his bag down on a chair and his arms up in the air.

The minutes passed. They seemed like hours. But then suddenly there before us was the woman who had been doing the check-ins earlier. She took my paperwork off the other woman, plus my passport from me, and started earnestly doing something on the computer.

Yes! I was being dealt with. The Frenchman stood beside me looking far from gruntled.

The English had beaten the French. It was Agincourt and Crecy all over again.

There was a glitch. My by now favorite woman dealt with it. Something had to be repeated. She repeated it. Then suddenly in my hand was not only my by now well handled paperwork and passport, but a boarding pass for my flight.

“Quick,” said my super-efficient woman. “Upstairs. Gate three. Hurry.”

I hurried.

That is, I hurried after I had got past the passport man.

Now, my passport is full of stamps and Russian visas, so finding my entry visa for this two-month visit wasn't easy, but either he found it or he didn't bother. Anyway he scanned my passport, checked his computer screen for whatever magical information appears on it, and stamped my passport and handed it back to me.

I was on my way.

Now you know that a civilized Englishman cannot run. It is far too undignified. But I walked as briskly as I reasonably could without attracting undue attention to myself.

It was quite a long way to gate three, past the shops and the eating places, but I got there eventually. Did I find the gate open, or did I find it closed? Did I get on my flight to London Gatwick, or did I not?

Reader, I would dearly like to tell you I got on my flight … so I will. I did get on my flight.

After having my boarding pass dealt with, down I went, and onto the crowded bus that was waiting to take us to the plane. Off we went across the tarmac. We got to our plane, disgorged ourselves from our conveyance, and fought our way up the stairs. There were already people on the plane from a previous busload, but I found my nice window seat reassuringly empty, so I inserted myself into it and relaxed.

When we were all seated and ready to go, do you know what happened? About half a dozen men who had obviously got to the gate even later than me were brought over to the plane in another bus. They boarded the plane and found their seats. As they did so, I tut-tutted disapprovingly at their tardiness.

So you see, Vicky, all's well that ends well. The flight from Kiev to London was uneventful. We arrived on time. From the airport I made my way home.

Love you lots.

Miss you too.

You know, Vicky, I think I might put this story up on www.devtome.com.

Paul


Non-Fiction | Devtome Writers


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