I am alone in a square, surrounded by people. I am crouched over a rucksack connecting an ignition device to an explosive cell that could have an undetermined lethal effect on detonation.
At one end of this long open space is a dark red turreted pile of a building that ought to be decorated with snow a foot thick on its near vertical roofs, and at the other end is a building constructed with brashly coloured children’s building blocks stolen from a Victorian nursery. Along one long side of the square are massive crenulated walls punctuated with huge towers that speak of proud and uncompromising imperialism, and along the other a building with a façade that is more blousy than seventeenth century Paris. There is a definite, if understated military presence in the place.
The cobbles are small, charcoal grey, smooth and homely. They are warm and soft to the touch and have the feel of roadside parking areas in English country towns about them. They are painted with white and yellow longitudinal lines that far from delineating parking spaces are there to guide troops, motorised and rocket propelled armour that are brazenly paraded to the world every May Day.
So there I am about to arm a small nuclear device, in the middle of Red Square in Moscow, which together with Tiananmen and Trafalgar, must be one of the most iconic squares in the world.
Well actually I’m in the fumbling process of charging my cell phone by connecting a foot long 3 cm diameter battery tube to it. The last message I had tried to send from the ailing instrument had remained sullenly in the “out-box” and the screen was fast losing its cheerful lustre. There is nothing more despairing and lonely than watching your e-lifebelt disintegrating before your very eyes - and believe me Moscow is a place that you can feel alone in very easily. My sole connection with the outside world was a limitless travel metro card and the fast fading cell phone umbilical. Clearly a re-charge was vital.
Half way through this deeply suspicious process I realised how deeply suspicious I looked; single unshaven man with furtive worried expression dressed in shabby, foreign clothing, bent over rucksack, in possession of a long thin metallic tube, USB cable and elderly cell phone; in the middle of a capital city of a country that may be controversially at war with a neighbouring state (although they deny this) and that is being viewed with deepening suspicion and unease by its western allies, and with fear by it’s traditional enemies.
Thrusting the now connected bomb components into the rucksack I sidled towards the edge of the square by the facade of the GUM store and furtively looked at the newly energised and cheerful face of the cell phone nestled in the dark of the rucksack. The previous barely legible messages from an hour or so before between me and my companion from whom I’d become separated sprung to life.
". . . . . a façade that is more blousy than
seventeenth century Paris" - GUM Department
“Where are you?” - I had messaged.
"I've found Red Square!” - She'd replied.
“How? Where is it?”
“I just followed the shiny things.”
“Which way?” – In retrospect a pretty daft question, which, with gentle emphasis was answered by -
“Just follow the shiny things.” - Clearly a reference to golden turrets and cupolas.
“See you back at the Hotel.”
I could now join the rest of the world, and triumphantly messaged “I've also found Red Square”, and filled with awe at this amazing place and washed with relief at having avoided arrest for subversive behaviour reluctantly set off on the quest to find a metro line that just might lead back to our hotel.