Friday 31 August 2012

A Dog the Size of a Small Horse

One day stepmother had to go in to hospital to have her appendix out. She came home the following day and was put to bed and told to rest. At night time we would sometimes watch a movie together and on this particular night, stepmother being laid up in bed, had decided to watch Turner & Hooch with my dad, the movie with the big sloppy St Bernard. Imagine the look of shocked surprise on their faces when R & I struggled into their bedroom with the big sofa from the living room.                                                                                                                                                     
What on earth are you doing?’ my dad asked.                                                           
‘You’re being very selfish and unsociable!!’ I exclaimed, ‘We’ve come to keep you company!’
I thought we were being very kind and considerate; it didn’t even cross my mind that they might actually want to watch a movie alone! Anyways, that movie spelt trouble of the big, hairy, slobbering kind because not long after someone spotted an ad in the paper for a St Bernard that needed a home.
‘Oh it’s one of those dogs from the movie we watched the other night when you guys invaded our bedroom! We’ll just go and have a little look at it’, my dad said, and he and Kevin took off.
‘Take Rae and follow them,’ stepmother said ‘The pair of them are hopeless, you two go and make sure they don’t come back with a dog!’ Rae and I jumped in my 4WD and gave chase ‘Follow that car!’ we yelled swerving in and out of lanes keeping a surveillance on the other car like a pair of spies.
Rae and I waited in reconnaissance position outside the dog house until my dad came back out. Walking up to our car he said, ‘What are you two doing here?’
‘Kay sent us to make sure you didn’t come home with a dog’, I replied
My dad just rolled his eyes, sniffed and said, ‘Girls, you better go on ahead and warn the War Office so she doesn’t get too much of a shock.’
Rae and I looked at each other – uh oh! We’d only just finished announcing the imminent arrival of one slobbering but cute canine when the boys rolled into the driveway with said pooch – Ben. He leapt out of the car, the size of a small horse. Now for someone I have never ever, ever heard swear before, Kay took one look at him and said, ‘Fuck, he’s big!’

Ben soon settled into the family and everyone learnt to keep a permanent slobber cloth on hand – talk about drool! Rae and Kevin added a permanent sentence to their repertoire 'Ma! Ben's Drooling on me again! Get it off!' He also needed a lot of walking being so big and one day I decided to walk him to the local park as we had done many times before. The two of us sat on the grassy banks near the creek and I proceeded to read my book with Ben ambling around me. I finished my chapter and looked around, something was missing. Oh, the dog! Where the hell was the dog? I ran up and down the creek calling him but to no avail. Bloody hell, where could he be? It was starting to get dark so I thought I’d better go back home, fess up that I’d lost half a horse and enlist some help in looking for him. I got to the lights at the intersection of the main highway we had to cross to get back home and there was Ben, sitting patiently waiting to cross. When I got back home and spilt the beans about what had happened my dad said, “What? How can you ‘loose’ a dog that big?’
Not long after this, Perth experienced a severe storm. My dad sent me down to where the boat was moored to check on it and I took Ben along with me. To get to the boat in its pen we had to walk through a security gate and along a long jetty first. Ben came thru the gate with me and trotted along behind me. The winds were still very strong and I had to lean into them. Suddenly I heard a loud splash. I looked back and there was no Ben. I peered over the side of the jetty and there he was, swimming to shore with a rather startled look on his face – the wind had blown him off the jetty!

Later in the year I had a harem party for my birthday and some friends had come up from Margaret River for it. We had a mass sleepover in the harem tent. Now, my friend Nikki & Barry had brought their little boy Jarrad with them (my fairy godchild) who had just turned 2. In the morning as everyone else slumbered on in the wake of the copious amounts of imbibing that had occurred the night before, little Jarrad woke up and looking around him spied a willing accomplice in the slobbering Ben. The pair of them decided they would go for a walk! Eventually the rest of us woke up Nikki suddenly realised Jarrad was missing. Everyone was frantic. Scouting parties were dispatched. The news came back that several people in the neighbourhood had seen a small boy walking with a very large dog. Then, calm as anything Jarrad comes ambling back in thru the front door of the house holding on to Ben’s collar. It turned out they had taken a walk around a few blocks and the nature reserve and Ben had duly brought him home again once he’d had enough of a walk!

Sunday 26 August 2012

Adventures Meeting Princess Snapperhead by guest blogger Therese Glasgow:The Great Pinnacle Desert and Two Crazy-arsed Friends

In life we meet people who we just click with.  I cant remember what brought Dorit and I together in primary school, she was a tall exotic blonde, only child, who had travelled from foreign places, I on the other hand was short, tubby and youngest of six kids in your everyday Aussie family.

Dorit would quietly glide into a room and sit serenely contemplating the world, I on the other hand walked hard and heavy on my heals (still do) and talked non stop loudly (still do). 

Dorits family ate culinary delights such as chillies, salami, olives and even cavier, my family ate meatloaf, fried fish, sausages and lamb roast.

But hit it off we did in primary school. With the arrival o econdary education our lives headed in different directions.

Fast forward many, many years and we find each other again, I am living in Mandurah (south of Perth), Dorit is living in the Perth suburbs and children are appearing out of thin air ... Good god what happened to the two naked little girls sliding up and down the bathroom floor in Sorrento squealing with laughter.

Its amazing that even as adults with ruggins grasping at our ankles we could still cook up fun times, talk the nights away and enjoy a glass or two of bubbly, when you caught up with Dorit it was like you had seen her only yesterday, conversation and laughter flowed easily.

I always saw myself as the practical fix it girl and Dorit as the self confident, educated, arty girl ... Hhhmmm I wonder how Dorit saw us.

Therese crabbing with Venus, Melinda & John

Time for a holiday. What sort of mischief could two mums get up to with six kids under four years of age in tow and hardly a nickel to rub together between them.

My parents had a house right by the ocean, in front of a great beach and jetty in the sea side fishing village of Cervantes, both husbands busy, so we packed the kids in two cars, food, champagne, games, art materials, towels, bathers, nappies, nappies and more nappies and off we went. 
India, Venus, Melinda & twins on the Cervantes Jetty

Here are some of my memories of our week away.
- Dorit taught me how to draw, I drew a frog on a branch, I still have that picture.
- I taught Venus and India how to fish and catch crabs, but I don’t think they were all too excited about the stinky bait.
- Instead of building sand castles, we sculpted mermaid tails on the kids.
- We made a paper mache volcano with the kids, painted it and then "made it shoot lava into the sky" (bicarb, vinegar and food colouring) before we went back to Perth.
- And the piece de resistance ... our visit to the Pinnacles "Dorit style". 

Merman John Barton Cooney
The Pinnacles Desert, just south of Cervantes in the Nambung National Park, has the most amazing natural rock formations that rise out of the surrounding desert, visited by more than two hundred and fifty thousand tourists from all over the world each year, to some they are spiritual, to others a photographic wonder, to Dorit and I, well ... we headed out for a bit of a lark and a dare conceived over a bottle of champers the evening before.

The eight of us trundled out to the Pinnacles in the early afternoon, six kids, two giggly girls, two champagne flutes and a bottle of bubbly. 

The hardest part of our little arty task was to control six kids under four years of age, strip naked, run madly from van, pose with champers in front of said phallic symbol called Pinnacle all the while trying to look natural and sexy (I failed), take photo and not get caught by Japanese tourists and Park Rangers, we laughed till our sides split, I think in one of the final photos you can see a nappy bum disappearing into the distant desert.

Melinda [Minnie} Cooney doing a 'King of the World'  Titanic pose on a 'Minnie' pinnacle
 One of the fantastic things I love about Dorit is that we can cook up an amazingly silly “idea” and neither of us even consider not going ahead with it ... like the midnight picnic with the kids at Serpentine Cemetery ... but that story is for another day.

Torsten scuttling off into the wild blue yonder whilst mum does a Salvador Dali with Moet at the Pinnacles

Sunday 19 August 2012

Meeting Princess Snapperhead by Guest Blogger Russell d'Scarlett [aka. 'R', 'Occy', 'dr_russell', 'Dr Octopus']

It was with great trepidation I read and re-read the request from Princess Snapperhead.  Would you like to write a guest blog for me?  There were two issues that immediately sprung to mind.  Firstly, time.  Since I am currently travelling for the day and have several hours to spare, (presently somewhere around 36000 feet en route from Perth to Sydney before proceeding onwards to Cairns.), that excuse is totally invalid!  Secondly, content.  What could I possibly write about?  Well, one must confess that there certainly have been many adventures over the years! Where to begin?  How about the beginning?

It was during first year medical school that I became involved with a group of like-minded students who wanted to do something more with our three months holidays at the end of the year.  In those days, there was little clinical contact until fourth year, so we decided that we would send ourselves off during the long summer break.  During the course of the year we held some fund-raising events to help out financially with the travel costs.  We held car washes, bush dances, car rallies to name but a few.  Two of us ended up at Busselton Hospital, a three hour drive south of Perth where we were to stay for a month.  The hospital had kindly agreed to have us there as observers and provided accommodation in the nurse’s quarters.

Busselton is a pretty holiday town on the beach in the south west corner of Western Australia.  As children we spent many summers down there.  Swimming in the beautiful aqua marine coloured waters, playing on the sparkling white sands, walking along the historic one and a half mile jetty, it was idyllic.  Mostly we camped, but when my grandmother and aunt came to visit in 1986 we rented a nice wooden chalet on the beach.  It was another beautiful summer, unfortunately memorable for all the wrong reasons.  We had returned from another long walk on the beach and were greeted by the news that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded 76 seconds after take-off.   It was one of those occasions where you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing at that moment in time.

But I digress!  There were few occupants of the nurse’s quarters at that time.   In fact, it was almost past its use by date.   (These days it has been converted into the mental health clinic of the town!)  But in the summer of 89/90 there were perhaps 6-8 people staying there.   Two or three nurses, a social worker, a rookie police officer, a couple of med students, and for part of the week, a podiatrist.  My friends, I will never forget the day I met her!  There was a common lounge area in the quarters where one could put one’s feet up at the end of the day.  Have a drink, a chat, watch the news.  On this particular day we were doing just that when in walked an angel!  Well, that is not totally true; it was more like she floated in about six inches off the floor.  Talk about “you had me at hello”!  Introductions were made and her name was Dorit, she was from Denmark, and she was gorgeous.  A little later she asked me if I would like a St Moritz.  “Of course!” I said, having no real clue how to smoke.  The things we do!

In the memorable weeks that followed a group of us went out a few times and a great time was had by all.   Copious vats of cognac, the occasional St Moritz all became part of the norm!  One evening we decided to go for a night swim (no incohol was involved, I promise!).  It was a short walk from the nurse’s quarters to the beach and from there we decided we would swim up to the jetty then walk back.

“Best to put on baby oil to stop the jelly fish from stinging you”, said Dorit to the assembled group, as she rubbed it all over her soft pale creamy skin, her golden hair blowing gently in the warm evening summer breeze.

“Wow! Can I help you with that?”, I said - to myself!

Soon, all too soon, it was time to head for home.  Dorit was not around when we left, but I had a small gift that I left her.  Nothing else would do but a couple of packets of St Moritz of course!  I left a short note with my contact details, but in all honesty I did not expect to hear from her again.  So you can imagine my surprise when several months later I received a letter from Europe with details of her exciting adventures there and asking me to write back!!!  How could I not?  The rest is history, but that is a story for another day! 

Tuesday 14 August 2012

How to Get a Sister & Brother in 10 Easy Steps

  1.        You are born an only child and occasionally wonder what having a sister and brother would be like.
2.       Be careful what you wish for, you might create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3.       Have your parents catch you unawares as you float randomly through life by separating.
4.       Get introduced over dinner to your dad’s new girlfriend.
5.       Act cool about the whole deal to show you respect your parent’s life decisions.
6.       Visit your mother who has checked herself into the funny farm for a holiday to cope with the situation.
7.       View this positively as she is learning many new painting techniques, successfully incites other interesting ‘inmates’ to ‘escape’ on day trips [they’re not supposed to leave the grounds] and learns subterfuge in subtle interrogation techniques employed by the psychiatrists – she is now ready for employment by the FBI, CIA and other international spy agencies!
8.       Have your dad marry said girlfriend – new stepmother acquired.
9.       Bonus points for new stepmother having teenage children.
10.   Acquisition of sister and brother accomplished.
My new family - my dad, Kay the evil stepmother (as my dad jokingly refers to her), me, Kevin, Rae
  So, my new brother-Kevin, and sister-Rae, were 14 and 16 respectively – I was 26. I had up until this time been the sole concern and the apple of my dad’s eye. Suddenly I had to make room for these newly acquired siblings. I wasn’t quite sure what one was supposed to do with a brother and sister but they seemed to accept me so I decided the best tactic was just to act normal and re-evaluate as required. I have to say from my perspective I thought we all got along famously. At the time I had my own Podiatry clinic down in the seacoast town of Busselton and spent three days there, then drove the three hours up to Perth to go to uni and party with friends and lived at my dad’s house for the rest of the week.
Me with my new siblings at our first xmas together
Kevin was an absolute breeze; I guess ‘laid-back’ would be the appropriate description. He had a keen interest in photography and cooking and spent his spare time making model air force aircraft that I took great delight in encouraging him to hang from his ceiling [much to stepmother’s annoyance]. He had a veritable air raid happening in his room! I really appreciated his creative talent. He also rather bizarrely got kitted up in super-muscles and went off and played American Gridiron [of all things!] on the weekends just like brothers on those American movies! He even used to annoy the shit out Rae, winding her up til she would go quite puce in the face. His nickname for her which persists to this day [they are in their thirties now] was ‘Scrotie’ – as in ‘scrotum’ which I thought was both terribly funny and terribly awful at the same time [how could a brother and sister be so mean to each other, my ignorant sole-child self wondered? Now of course they’re the best of mates and he still calls her Scrotie!] One night at the dinner table Rae was saying that she needed a tutu for her high school dance class and quick as anything Kevin quipped:
‘More like a two-two by four-four!’ [implying she was fat]
‘Muuuuum!’ Rae would squeal ‘Would you do something about him!’ Ah, it was great fun.
My favourite photo of Kevin when he grew up and joined the army
Rae was not an absolute breeze. At least not at certain times of the month when she would get ultra-moody and grumpy and snipe short-temperedly at everyone. I soon ascertained that she needed regular dosing with a multi vitamin B and this kept her relatively civil. On the odd occasion she would come out in the morning in ‘a mood’, I would just point to the pantry and say,                                                           
 ‘You haven’t taken your bitch-pills have you?’                                                                                                 At which she would look sheepish, take them and we could all continue to play happy families again.  For our first New Years together we all went down to Margaret River to stay with friends.
My Margaret River family we stayed with (L-R: Sue & Pete Stanlake, Nicola & Barry Newton, me, Jamie Ashton)
 On the drive down I took Kevin and Rae in my 4WD and dad and stepmother followed. I had kitted our car out with water pistols and once we were hyped up enough on the coke and chocolate I had stocked in the three of us had great fun driving along ‘shooting’ at passing cars and the ‘Olds’ as Kevin called them[parents] behind us. I also admittedly managed to get the three of us lost by taking some dirt track to nowhere but at least we had supplies with us!
My dad with my fairy godson Jarrad in Margaret River on that visit -feeding him his first pate on rye bread
For New Year’s Eve I absconded with Rae to a night of wild partying with my boyfriend and his mates in the nearby town of Gracetown. They had their own band and set up in the back of a Ute that they drove around and parked in random spots and played from. 'Back at the ranch' in Gracetown, Rae got her first initiation to other people running around unselfconsciously naked.  Kevin, Rae and stepmother were of the ‘cover everything up’ party whereas my dad and I were of the ‘naked is natural’ party and the others would just have to get used to it!

DW & Lulu asleep downstairs in their usual kit
In the following year the Olds   decided to go off to Europe and visit the relies, taking Kevin with them. That left Rae and I home alone….   Oh boy! I decided to act like a dog staking its territory [albeit subconsciously] but instead of pissing I re-painted the bathroom in an arty Greek blue sponge with mustard motifs. It was a surprise for when the Olds came back! Rae on the other hand decided to have a party with her girlfriends who all got terribly drunk and proceeded to throw up all over the lounge room and I proceeded to get really mad with them because they wouldn’t clean it up [they were in no state to, but never mind that!] Phone calls flew between Australia and Europe of the ‘She won’t do this!’ and ‘She’s being mean!’ variety that soon had the olds tearing their hair out. As soon as they got home – and I can tell you they were none too pleased with my ‘present’ of the bathroom – stepmother took Rae into the bedroom and gave her a lecture and my dad took me onto the back veranda and gave me a lecture. The cheek of it! Both us ended up in tears.  Stepmother and dad then went into the bedroom to debrief each other on how the lectures had gone and by the time they came back out, there Rae and I were, sitting at the kitchen table painting each other’s toenails and commiserating with each other on ‘how mean’ the Olds were! After that we got on just fine because we’d formed an alliance against the injustice of it all. I mean, the inhumanity of it all!

Our yacht appropriately named 'Delinquent'

My dad in an effort to reconcile decided to take Rae, one of her friends and I out on his yacht for a day sail to Rottenest Island. We set of in a light breeze and slight swell that soon saw Rae turning a very interesting shade of green.
Rae seasick
She spent the entire sail glued to the floor of the foredeck, finally falling asleep after hours of misery. We finally made landfall, wait, what? Crikey, we’d run aground at Rottenest! Adversity is the best breeding ground for forming strong bonds in a relationship, particularly when it’s life-threatening as we girls surely thought it was – I mean, never mind the fact that we could actually stand in the water we’d run aground on – as far as we were concerned this was it, the boat was going to sink and we were all going to die!
Rae & I on the boat that day
We tried getting onto the other side of the rail and leaning our combined weight over the side to dislodge the boat but it was no use. We three girls decided we’d get in the dinghy and try to pull the boat off but only ended up rowing around in circles collapsed in a fit of laughter.

There was much eye-rolling performed by the captain (shown above) who had remained calm throughout the whole life-threatening ordeal. Obviously the only thing to do was to row ashore and go to the pub. This served a number of purposes;
1) lay in supplies of beer in case we were marooned for a long time
2) ring the wicked stepmother (as my dad jokingly refers to her) and let her know we would be slightly delayed in our return home
3) Solicit help from another yachty to haul us off the sandbar we’d run aground on
As it turned out we had to wait to till the tide came in and with the assistance of a powerboat we could be hauled off the offending sandbar and sail home on a midnight run. It’s fun having brothers and sisters isn’t it!??

Sunday 12 August 2012

Me and the Shoe-Banging Russian President

What does a shoe-banging Russian President have to do with me you might ask? Nothing ostensibly, except that if I had been born a boy my parents intended naming me after Nikita Khrushchev.

Khrushchev was the 1st Secretary of the Communist Party [from ‘53-’64 – I was born in ‘63] preceded by Stalin and succeeded by Brezhnev. Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during the tensest years of the Cold War, backing the Soviet Space program and progressing the Soviet Missile program that culminated in the Cuban Missile Crisis [see my post ‘Cuban Cigars’]. 

If you ask the Russians about their take on the 20th century, only Nicholas II [the last Tsar] and Khrushchev are viewed in any sort of positive light.

Khrushchev was a bit of a naughty boy and I suppose if I had been born a boy, at least I wouldn’t have been named after someone boring. In one famous incident at a meeting of the U.N. [United Nations] in 1960 in New York, he protested a speech by the Philippine delegate who had accused the Soviet Union of having ‘swallowed up Eastern Europe’ and deprived the population of ‘the free exercise of their civil and political rights’. Khrushchev became completely infuriated [possibly aided by a predilection for vodka at any hour of the day or night], calling the Philippine delegate a ‘lackey’, ‘jerk’, ‘stooge’ and a ‘toady of American Imperialism’. When the Philippine delegate kept speaking even after he’d received a reprimand, Khrushchev proceeded to pound first his fist on his desk, then getting nowhere with that he famously removed one shoe and started banging it on his desk in a furious rage instead. You’ve gotta admit the guy had spunk!

Anyways, as I was born a girl my parents chose a name that both my German relatives and my Danish relatives would equally be able to pronounce – Dorit. Apparently my mother had been doing art in Copenhagen with a beautiful girl named Dorit and that is where she happened upon the name. I guess they hadn’t factored in emigrating to Australia at that stage, where no one would ever be able to pronounce my name properly [due to the unusual Danish ‘r’ sound and the different emphasis on the syllables – in Danish Dorit kind of rhymes with ‘sweet’ and the ‘r’ is almost not heard, but in English most people that read it will pronounce it like Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit, so I’m forever educating my fellow humans them to pronounce it ‘Dau-reet’ – still not entirely correct but infinitely preferable to Dickens’s version [that R uses if he really wants to piss me off]. 
Anyways, the amusing thing is that it was only recently that I discovered through befriending a number of different Jewish people travelling and a namesake on Instagram – Dorit Shekef, graphic designer from Tel Aviv – that Dorit is actually a Hebrew name and neither of my parents new this when they chose it! You should have seen their faces when I revealed this to them a few weeks ago – totally astounded, not in an anti-Semitic way, just in a ‘fuck- I never knew that!’ sort of way – priceless! I wonder if this accounts for my long fascination with Jewish history?

Sunday 5 August 2012

Russian Spies?

Back in ’67 my parents knew they were about to emigrate to Australia, so for the summer holidays in July they decided to do a road trip to Russia – the place they thought they would be least likely to travel to once they were settled in Australia.

We set off in our red “Rirumph” as I called the Triumph we had, driving through DDR (East Germany) where my aunt (see the post in my dad's blog called 'My sister, my teacher-my tormentor) lived, she was coming with us, and on into Czechoslovakia. We had rented a cabin in the Tatra mountains at a resort (Soviet style) with hot springs nearby.  

 We were visited by deer who seemed to be quite people friendly and also a group of gypsys who were working at a nearby factory. They wanted to borrow some water from us to cook their gulash in and having shared our water with them they then invited us to share their delicious gulash. After a week in the mountains we drove on thru Prague (Pictured above) which reminded my mother of Copenhagen.

Driving on to the Ukraine border we had terrible trouble being allowed entry despite having the requisite visas. The problem was that my dad had given me a stack of old computer printout paper that I could draw on the back of to keep me entertained. The border guards got hold of the paper and took one look at all the numbers printed on the other side of the paper and immediately realised that of course – it was code and we were spies! My dad had a dickens of a time explaining to them that it was printouts of prime number computations from his workat the university. After many hours of interrogation they finally let us pass. We reached Lvov (Limberg) close to midnight and found our designated hotel. (To travel thru the USSR in those days you had to stay at designated hotels and were expected to arrive at a certain time. We were also issued with food  vouchers) Being so late we were offered nothing but some old cake to eat (they’d obviously heard of Marie Antoinette)  and the ‘swamp water’ as my mother called the tap water was disgusting but mixed with the dreadful Czech whiskey they’d acquired in Czechoslovakia it actually tasted not too bad.

The city skyline of Kiev (population 1 million back then) was dotted with the golden spires of the Russian orthodox churches contrasting starkly to the old grandfathers in the streets pulling their carts along with docile old carthorses here I am below pictured talking to one of them with my dad). 

The people seemed generally happy, they had probably never had it better than at that point in time. Kiosks sold glasses of wine and of course vodka. Apparently I kept running away so frequently that my mother eventually put one of those dog leashes on me – I was four for god’s sake! At our designated hotel that had a sour faced woman sitting guard on each floor we produced our food vouchers for dinner. Naturally we had Chicken Kiev (when in Kiev...)and my dad ordered two glasses of the ubiquitous vodka and some wine, that took so long to arrive that he thought he’d better order another round as well. When the first round finally turned up it was in a karafe that held approximately four (normal 250ml) glasses worth and was 60% proof. I think my four year old self escorted my parents back to the hotel room that night!

Driving thru the streets decorated with their statues to Soviet heros like Lenin, we noticed they were actually designed for trucks rather than cars to use. This meant the traffic lights were  positioned too high up on their poles for the driver of a normal sedan car to see. The sewers often had  no metal lids on them either so you had to be careful you didn’t get stuck in the sewer holes. The Rirumph got a flat tyre and there were only two repair shops in Kiev, one at either end of the city. The tyre repair man was completely gob smacked when he saw our tyre – a hitherto never before seen thing in the Soviet Union – the tubeless tyre! Because getting anything new was also next to impossible we found the repair stations would file down the teeth in old the gearboxes to fit into other makes cars that they didn’t have the parts for, in fact there were no new parts for anything so everything was remade or adapted – they were very resourceful those Soviets! Eventually they managed to adapt an inner tube to repair our tyre and we were once again on our way. Having said that though, the Rirumph was constantly breaking down and mother was forever push starting it - the Russians were remarkably non-chivalrous and never offered offered to help the pretty 22 year old, even right out the front of one of our hotels! I think in all the Rirumph had three flat tyres plus the fan belt went and my dad had to fashion a new one from one of my mothers pantyhose.

From Kiev we had wanted to go on to Minsk and Moscow but were denied passage - possibly because of the Prime number secret code spy thing ;-) so we swapped the last of our food vouchers for a wooden chess set that I still have and drove on toward Brest.  At the Polish border we were told ‘nyet!’ – we were not allowed to cross. We turned back and found another road that led to Brest. This time at the border they looked at the DK (Denmark) number plate and let us thru. Just before we got to Brest we were again stopped by another policeman and told ‘nyet!’ we couldn’t go on. My parents begged him and in the end wore him down so he said ‘Oh ok go on but if anyone asks you haven’t met me!’ The roads in Poland were fantastic compared to the Ukraine roads and we soon got to our hotel where there seemed to be a water shortage - there was only water enough for one bath.
We drove on to Krakow but our designated hotel had burnt down so we stayed privately with an old man on his acreage. He kept water rats to make fur coats from. In the morning he took me out into his yard and we picked cherries together. By the time my mother found me my face and hands were stained  red with cherry juice.  We drove on thru Gdansk to Sweden then back home to Copenhagen, carrying a fascination for all things Russian ever since - we did  stop for 6 hrs many years later in Moscow when we were flying Aeroflot (I know, we actually survived to tell the tale!) and sadly that is the closest we managed to get. Oh, and my mother has always blamed the fact that I scape the butter off my bread so there's the merest coating on our visit to Russia - food was not plentiful in the USSR and butter was always the smallest cube placed on the table for our morning rolls to be shared between the three of us! R and I are looking forward to doing the TranSiberian railway one day and there had better be samovars involved!