How Lenin Made My Day


(Image from biography.com)

(Image from biography.com)

I will have a question in my next post.

But first the story.

In the summer of 1989, two years before I met my husband, my girl friend H and I went backpacking in the Cairngorms in Scotland. We took the ferry from Rotterdam to Hull, hitchhiked to the Cairngorms, hiked up there, camping wild, eating dried food and such for about a month, then hitch-hiked back to Hull.

What was so unusual about the hitch-hiking back to Hull was that we got one long lift from Perth to York. The kind driver who stopped for us was a BBC television producer, named either David or Peter; I don’t remember, so let’s say David.

He was quite a character. His car was very messy. My friend H went to sit in the backseat and I was about to sit in the passenger seat, but it was full of coins. “Oh, just toss those in the back,” he said. So I did.

David was in his late fifties, I think. Not very talkative, but the silence wasn’t awkward. Not that there was much silence in between talking, because he had this great tape of Russian songs, sung by huge choirs, evoking vast landscapes and grandiose dreams.

I don’t speak Russian, so I didn’t understand the lyrics. I also have no personal association with Russians invading my country. It’s quite possible that the songs are about Russian supremacy, and that Eastern Europeans cringe when they hear them, but to me, as an objective listener to the music, it was incredible.

We didn’t need to be in Hull until the next day, and David was in no hurry either, so he showed us the sites. He drove us through Edinburgh, pointing out all the landmarks and giving us some history. We stopped for lunch at the clubhouse of St. Andrews Golf Course. Very posh; we left our hiking boots at the door.

We arrived in York in the afternoon, and we went our separate ways to our accommodations, agreeing to meet at York’s oldest pub for dinner. David wasn’t overly fat, a bit chubby maybe, but he ate like nobody’s business. He would eat really fast, taking humongous bites, and when he was done–at the most five minutes after getting his food–he moaned for about fifteen minutes like he was in extreme pain. We asked him if he was alright, but apparently this was normal.

It was the most fun hitch-hiking experience ever, and it was part of what led me to meet my husband T. Because the next year H and I ended up going to Edinburgh and we got there right before the festival started. We stayed there for nine days and we had a blast. The year after that I went to Scotland alone because H had a conference. I planned to cycle in the Shetlands, but by the time I got to Inverness I was thoroughly bored by myself and went back to Edinburgh to hang out there for a while, since I’d had such a good time there the year before. And that’s where I met T.

A lot of what made the drive fun was that tape. I loved it, so David played it really loud. It was awesome. At the end of the day he gave it to me. He had recorded it from his record at home, so he could do it again. I thanked him profusely, and I have played it many times. He said it was called Lenin’s Favourites.

And the question in my next post will be about the music.

8 responses to “How Lenin Made My Day

  1. Holidays in Britain, the stuff dreams are made of! 😀

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  2. Love it! I had a Russian polka tape that I came across in 1989 and listened to a lot more than you would think!

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  3. ‘ It’s quite possible that the songs are about Russian supremacy, and that Eastern Europeans cringe when they hear them..’ <—–hahaha!!

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  4. Camping and hiking in the mountains for a month sounds awesome. And David-maybe-Peter sounds like quite a character. Great story.

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    • Barbara Backer-Gray

      Thanks! Yes, that’s how I used to spend my vacations: hitchhiking to the Cairngorms, or the Lake District or any other beautiful region of Britain, and spend all day walking around in the hills and then find a good spot to set up the tent, and do the same the next day, and the next, and the next…. I miss that.

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  5. Wonderful tale, Barbara. I’m off to read the next installment.

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