Minsk Nostalgia Fest part 2


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September 7th 1990
Published: September 7th 1990
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Friday 7th September 1990
I awoke fretting (no pun intended) about the chords to "Yesterday".
When we got to the school hall for the concert, there were hundreds
of people there. The enormous hall was jam packed with, pupils.
First surprise was a presentation to Trystan to mark his eighteenth
birthday (tomorrow). He was given some flowers, a medal and a
plastic concrete mixer to remind him that the purpose of life is to
build achievements or something like that. This proves that the
Russians do have a sense of humour after all, just that it's very
odd indeed.

A bunch of girls traipssd onto the stage and mumbled the
Byelorussian national anthem to themsslves whilst a man independently
played it on the accordion. He remained whilst a similarly
unenthusiastic crew of boys came on to do their turn. What did they
mumble? Wait for it... "We shall Overcome"'! Next exciting turn was
some English poetry - well, let's call it verse - recited
phonetically by some twelve year olds. Some ball room dancing
followed, backed by a reel to reel tape recorder. Quite who had
payed for the spangly dresses, skintight leather-look trousers and
so on? I fear to ask. Then on came a girl to sing to us, accompanied
by, presumably, her father. She wasn't bad, but her father was
obviously incredibly proud of her, and wanted her in the limelight
as much as possible. I have gathered these opinions from the events
which followed.

Eventually, the time came for our Big Turn. Somehow we had managed
to get ourselves lumbered with doing "Yesterday" first. Bleddyn and
Owain had volunteered to join in and their moral support was much
appreciatad. As I found my way onto the stage, Dima accosted me, saying
that some of the Russians wanted to join in. Glad again, for any
support forthcoming. I agreed. The impostors were three more
guitarists, including the Proud Father, and his daughter to join in
the singing. Now, I've said that the hall was quite large, but it
would take an enormous hall not to be filled by four guitars and
seven voices, so I could see no reason for the Proud Father's
fussing around with microphones and amplifiers before we started.
We were all set, you see. We'd organised a nice little intro, and
knew just how to end it, and all was going to be fine. So, when the
Proud Father launched into an opening chord with no warning, we
were a bit taken aback.. The Proud Father's daughter duly burst
into a "Yee-star-dai" and we had to join in. The Russians didn't
know the ending either, and a thrashing C chord drowned out our
gentle humming to put a finale on a truly awful performance. As you
can probably tell, my blood is still boiling. Ohh!

Those of the boys who knew "Gwin Beaujolais" countered this abysmal
show of rank unprofessionalism with a grand rendition. Sioned had
miraculously jotted out an excellent accompaniment, and happily
plonked away in the background. The lot of us then amassed for "Daw
Hyfryd Fis..." in three groups. Then we finished off with
unaccompanied versions of "Calon Lan" and of course "Hen Wlad fy
Nhadau" A fine finale, I thought. The Proud Father, wouldn't let it
lie. He would not let it lie. Onto the stage he pranced, his
daughter in tow, put his mic lead through a little box to give his
voice lots of echo, than made a trembling voiced cacophony of the
Soviet national anthem. I'm not bitter, though. I hold no malice for
the man. Honest guv.

A load of us then went to try and spend our remaining roubles. A
bookshop provided me with a book of WWII Soviet propaganda posters,
and a book of paintings by an artist who had been a prisoner in a
concentration camp. This set me back an enormous two roubles. Only
eleven to go! The answer provided itself in the form of a record
shop. In a mind-blowingly capitalist mood, Ceri, Owain and I have
blown our last roubles on lots of Paul McCartney "Back in the USSR"
records - exclusive to the USSR. When we get back we plan to put a
classified advert in Record Collector and sell them.

Suddenly I realised that perhaps some flowers were in order for
Mum - they go for flowers here. I had spent my money too efficiently.
Elinor, however, had a hundred roubles to spend, and would have
been only too happy to provide five roubles or so for such an
excellent cause, had she the change. She and Sharon wanted to go to
a certain hotel where the gift shop sold Russian dolls, so I went
with the crowd, with the promise of some money when she got change.

At the hotel, while the girls bought their dolls, Loshi very
generously bought me a Coke at the coffee bar. The bottle was in
good nick, so I kept it. We all had a nice time together, but the
purpose of my tagging along in the first place was defeated, as
Elinor's change did not contain five roubles. Kindly Rhian saved the
day, giving me her last fiver. This looks terrible, of course, me
taking money from people left right and centre, but rest assured I
asked her if she was sure several times, and then thanked her
profusely. There are flower stalls just by Marina's odourbus stop.
Here I bought a three rouble bunch of flowers (don't ask me what
kind - I dropped Biology at the first opportunity) and asked for the
remaining two roubles to be made up in pink carnations. It was quite
nice, too, and Mum seemed delighted.

Time came, eventually, to leave. Ahh! the emotion. A problem reared
its head in the form of my suitcase - I don't want a repeat of last
flight's disaster... They produced some cord, and took it upon
themselves to truss the case up like a broken leg.

The tradition before leaving a house, it seems, is to sit down
silently for a spell. This we did, then I checked each room for
anything left behind, and we left the house to catch a taxi to the
station. I failed miserably to fight off a ten rouble note thrust
into my harnd "to spend on the train and in Moscow". I knew I'd have
no chance to spend it, so it's a dreadful waste. We were first at
the station, and to try and dip into this note, I bought a copy of a
local satirical magazine - for the pictures, and some stamps for
Ruth. This came to under a rouble. Spendinq money's so much easier
at home.

The others arrived in dribs and drabs, and I managed to rid myself
of leftover gifts - pens, pencils and chewing gum.

Much emotion showed on the Soviet faces as we pulled out from
the station, and they ran after us, clutching their autographed
South Wales Echo paper hats (courtesy of Elinor Raw). Supposedly,
now, I'm writing this on the train to Moscow. Actually I'm now on
the plane - writing's hell on the train - but forget that please. As
far as you're concerned it's just me, Ceri, Owain and Julian in a
cabin, and I've just finished writing the day's diary. Long wasn't
it.
Saturday 8th September 1990
We ware woken after a restless night by the sound of soft drinks
bottles clinking around on the floor. It had been hot, and between
us we had about twelve bottles - half of them Coke which Ceri had
been 'given.' We hastily tidied up. I still had nine roubles and a
bit, so I decided to make the hostess'day by leaving it on the bad
with a note saying, "Spasiba". Maybe she didn't deserve it at all,
since we received no morning tea. Shocking, really.

At the station we waited for ages for a porter to come and carry
our bags. Eventually one arrived, and two trolleyloads were pushed
out of the station to the place where we were to meet the coach.
Once finished, the cheeky devil asked for dollars! We refused, or
rather Manon did ("Niet doleri!") so he asked for cigarettes. At
first Bethan Evans said that no-one smoked, but eventually found
herself proffering a handful of ciggies to the man, just to get rid
of him.

We waited ages for the bus to arrive. Only Manon had faith in
its eventual arrival. Indeed, it did come - but very late. This
meant that we had to rush through the airport, and we were given no
hassle at all. Lucky for Trystan and Alistair, that, as their
currencies didn't balance at all due to black marketeering. Now here
we all are on the plane. Ceri is feeling cold and unwell - the rest
of us are okay methinks. Customs could be interesting. Many of us
have been given bottles of vodka to take home (mostly some
traditional Byelorussian stuff which is brown and, according to
Bethan Evans, horrible). All over-seventsens are up to their
allowance and some people, I think, are going to have to smuggle
theirs through. Anything interesting which happens between now and
our arrival home, I shall gleefully report. T'ra for now.

Well here I am again. As it turns out only Geraint and Julian
are having to smuggle booze. Everyone else under seventeen has found
someone to carry it for them. I've found out that baggage carousels
are quite fun just as long as your bag is okay. Mine did alright
today. Co-operation is good between complete strangers - if one
person misses their case, another will grab it for them. We breezed
through customs without event (boo!), and the bus journey home was
also uneventful.

Alistair was the thoughtful fellow who realised that perhaps a
gift was in order for Manon and the two teachers. A quick whip-round got
them an unimaginative box of chocolates each, from a service
station, and we all signed a Russian postcard each for them. Apart
from the service station, where we also ate and telephoned home, we
only stopped to drop off Elinor. All were too tired for any singing
or anything, so it wasn't much. like a coach journey at all! We got
to Plascrug swimming pool in Aber at about half past six, and the
welcoming party had been waiting for around half an hour. Amazing
what can happen in a fortnight - Ruth's hair has grown, and our
car's changed shape and colour. Odd, that.

Well, it's been a packed fortnight and I can truly say that despite
everything, I've enjoyed myself. Above all, it's been an experience
- something to tell the kids about. As Mr. Mitchell commented, if
we were to go back in a couple of years' time, all would be
different. He also thanked us for being such a great load of kids.
Quite right too.

P.S Anyone who notices economy with the truth anywhere in this
edited diary ... Shhhh!


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