“I read a book” he says.
“Just the one?” I ask, but the punch line dies as he says: “yes.”
He’s driving a ford, I’m in the front, my son in the back giggling and whispering: “what a twunt” into my ear as I try to focus on what the guy is telling me.
The key point is that I must consider the Kremlin. I do. Then I apparently have to ponder that it was built in the year 546.ad. So I try that, but before I can really pull it off, he is pointing out that Westminster palace was built only in 1927 and it is the only building in England that might be compared with the Kremlin apparently.
He is clearly about to explain how this demonstrates Moscow’s vast historical superiority, but my son chimes in and tell him it was built in the 1200s and was made of wood.
Ignoring the child, he asks me if I know how old London is. I tell him I know it was Roman city once, but I have unwittingly triggered the heart of the theory he is heading towards.
You see the whole of western European history was rewritten by the Pope in the 1600s, prior to that it had been a benighted land of bogs and forests where fur clad men wept at the realization that they were not Russian. Dante, Chaucer, the Magna Carta, the ruins of all those medieval towns? All of them built by a seriously busy pope in the 17th century, a pope whose name escapes my teacher.
“why did he do this?”
Because… because… because of the reformation, that’s when this pope stole all of Germany’s money. Germans eh? Even in a Stone Age wilderness of weeping they had a thriving economy, the bastards.
“What a twunt!” says Zhenya as I look to my new found guru. He doesn’t seem to be obviously insane: he is well dressed and driving a newish car attentively. Nor is he obviously a cretin: he speaks well and in joined up sentences.
I inquire whether he has ever been out of Russia, and he tells me he hasn’t because he doesn’t need to, there’s this book you see, its name escapes him as does the name of the author and he is not forthcoming on the question of whether it was written in green ink and on toilet paper.
The boy in the back is waiting for me to rip into our driver, but I can’t do it: he’s warm and friendly and is clearly telling me all of this because it is helpful for me to know these things.
He pulls up at our destination and turns to beam at me, clearly deeply content at having dragged another poor soul out of the valley of darkness. I tell him I really had had no idea of these matters, thank him for his wise words and wish him all the best.
“what a twunt!” says the boy as we walk off.