It’s the question you’ve got to ask, sitting in a dreary travelodge on a dreary evening with only the buzz of Boeing 747s to keep me company.
To be fair it’s not at all that bad. I’ve checked into the Premier Inn (!) and, as per the name, it’s quite a spruced-up place. Well furnished. Airy. Nice. And though I can see planes coming and going about 500 yards away, I genuinely can’t hear them. I’m writing this with a cool Peroni in the Inn’s bar. There are a good number of people here: enough to keep me occupied by people-watching every 10 minutes.
The two bald blokes in the corner (one of whom is hunched hilariously over a creme brûlée, trying to figure out how to tackle it) – building contractors, I reckon. Who knows. I’d never ask. Given everyone’s in-transit status, we’re all happy to be holed up in our own bubbles. No unsolicited conversation, please.
Yes, so, I’m heading to Moscow tomorrow morning.
(one more moan, sorry: later this month EasyJet are introducing £100 return flights from Manchester-Moscow. Not soon enough! Instead I have to head down to London, stay overnight, and change in Zurich tomorrow afternoon. Needless to say I’m paying for the privilege.)
Anyway, I’m very excited, in a nervous fashion. I’ve been to Russia twice before, first very much as a tourist, and second not so much as a tourist but still with a group of friends.
This time I’m alone and I have actual scary responsibilities: working with the Moscow News, a weekly English-language newspaper, for the next three weeks.
My Russian is, well, ne horosho, though enough vocabulary is latent within me to stumble quite plausibly through uncomplicated prose. It’s the spoken stuff I’m worried about, since I’ve barely uttered a word of the language since A-level – almost two years ago.
Hilariously I’ve been watching these marathon videos to try and resurrect my conversational listening ability. Every year Putin does a sort of Question Time show, in which generally obsequious audience members pose mostly softball questions at the Russian President, prompting him to go off on one about economic statistics and how Russia is outperforming the West etc. Dimbleby would have none of it.
I’m reassured by the fact that I had precisely these fears before visiting St Petersburg last time, and that the trip turned out to be among the best couple of weeks in my life. This is slightly different because I’m travelling alone, something I’ve never attempted before. A couple of friends reassured me that it’s fantastically liberating. Perhaps, but the lack of a fall-back option (namely, just hanging out with a friend) is fantastically daunting.
I’ve made a separate ‘Russia’ tab on my much-neglected blog. That’s a statement of intent as I intend to post fairly regularly for the next three weeks.
Unless I’m having a frikkin’ awesome time, in which case the blog will remain lodged in the backwaters of cyberspace.