Je Ne Regrette Rien

Well, I suppose it was inevitable that it would happen.  I can’t say I wasn’t warned.  So many people told me that to go to a foreign place with the oil business without my wife was just asking for trouble, and they were right.  They told me that being alone weakens ones defences, which it does.  They warned that I would meet strange foreigners who would entice me to do things very much against my better judgement, and they were right about that too.  They said I ran a high chance of waking up in the morning regretting what I had done the night before, but unable to do anything except face up to the consequences and try to move forward when all you want to do is curl up and die.  And they were right about that too.  They were right about everything.  But I didn’t listen, and I fell into the same trap that has claimed many a poor soul, and with my experience I should really have known better.  So there is nothing left to do but to confess.

Yes, on Thursday night I met a Russian guy who had worked in Sakhalin and we went and got hammered in a local bar.  I woke up on Friday morning cursing all things Russian and wishing my head didn’t throb so much and I didn’t have to go to work.

As a rule, I avoid drinking during the week.  I’m an all-or-nothing fella when it comes to drink, a couple of pints does nothing for me.  It’s either get blind drunk or stick to the orange juice.  The main reason for this is that I cannot handle hangovers unless I have nothing to do but sit and drink coffee and vegetate in front of the TV or computer.  Having to do anything which may involve brain activity, movement, interaction with people, etc. I cannot handle, so for some years now I have avoided turning up to work hungover.  But every Thursday our hotel lays on what they call a cocktail party, but is in actual fact an hour of free drinks by the pool to which all guests are invited.  This sounded like a good place to meet people, so I trotted down to see what was going on.  I joined a Frenchman I knew at one of the tables, and got introduced to a young chap called Oleg.  Within a couple of minutes we’d established that I hadn’t forgotten any of my Russian just yet, and for the benefit of the French who were standing around, that not all Brits are linguistic retards.  Oleg was from Moscow, but it turned out he spent four years in Sakhalin before moving back to Moscow and then eventually to Nigeria, where he works for the same company I do.  It was good to meet somebody who knows Sakhalin, and he said he was pretty happy to be able to speak Russian again.

In his 3 months there, he’s barely spoken a word of Russian with anyone.  But that night he was to speak plenty.  There was some professional tennis tournament going on in our hotel, probably featuring third or fourth tier players, so the gathering by the pool included a whole load of young European tennis players.  At some point not long after I’d met Oleg, he was dragged away to meet a Belorussian tennis player who didn’t seem to speak much English; eventually I joined them.  She seemed bored in the hotel, and so did we.  So Oleg, who knew the lie of the land better than I, suggested we march right off to a bar nearby and drink.  The tennis player seemed keen to leave, but not so keen to drink: she had tennis practice in the morning, which made it sound as though we were taking a schoolgirl out.  Anyway, we tramped across sandy lots and broken pathways to a bar nearby the hotel called Michael’s.  At least half the occupants were prostitutes, something I’m used to after seven years in the overseas oil business.  Beer mats would have caused me more surprise.  We found three stools at the bar and Oleg and I proceeded to order large gin and tonics, whilst our Belorussian friend ate an ice cream, which made me wonder if she actually was a schoolgirl (she wasn’t, she was well into her twenties).  We must have been there a few hours, and all but the bar staff avoided us having heard us speaking in a strange and foreign tongue.  I know that by the time we came to leave the bill was $35 (which meant the place was cheap, not our drinking restrained) and I was pretty drunk.  We walked back to the hotel all agreeing that we would meet up on Saturday night.  I have a feeling that Oleg and the Belorussian tennis player met up a lot sooner than that.  They’d started pawing each other an hour before we left the bar, and by the time we walked back they were holding hands and in no mood to end the night there.  Being a good wingman, I left them to it and went to bed.

So, I’m in Lagos barely a week and I’ve already gotten drunk with a Russian.  That’s not bad going.

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10 Responses to Je Ne Regrette Rien

  1. Tatyana says:

    after such a meaningful and long preamble and mention of The Wife I expected a different ending entirely!

  2. In 30+ years in the oil business I only ever mastered Indonesian as a foreign language; this means I get to eat a lot of rice and drink a lot of tea when I meet one in foreign parts.

    Though I am always delighted to see them and refresh my language skills, on balance and on the evidence you regularly present, I do believe I should have followed thru’ on my Russian when I had the chance :-)

  3. Tim Newman says:

    Tatyana,

    That was what I’d intended. ;)

    BtB,

    The good thing about Russian is you can also speak to a lot of citizens from the former USSR (depending on their age and/or specific country), plus you can get by with Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgarians, and Serbs. It’s a lot of people covered by one language, and not half as boring as knowing French or Spanish. :)

  4. Indeed, my Indonesian wife was only able to communicate with our Polish maid in the Netherlands thru’ using her quite decent Russian leaned in Kazakhstan! Fortunately the maid didn’t have the propensity for vodka consumption that the male of the Russian speaking species invariably exhibits :-)

  5. Tatyana says:

    Tim, did J. appreciate it?

    Billy the Brush: wonderful story. May I quote you?

  6. Tim Newman says:

    Tatyana, I don’t think she reads my blog.

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  8. kaahl says:

    yeah, i was worried about where this was heading as well. worried that you were letting your guilt wash over you.

    but yeah, oil men, especially russian oil men, getting drunk together, that’s about as surprising as coasters and nuts at the bar.

    i want to hear more exploits, even some previous exploits from prior places. see if you can pick up a few 419 trophies while you are in country. http://www.419eater.com/html/trophy_room.htm

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