A Russian acquaintance phoned me yesterday about sundowner time because she wanted to tell me that World War Three was going to break out soon.
“My grandfather is in hospital,” she said, “and in the ward there is a Russian Colonel and he says his son, who is serving in the Army, told him that there is a strip of Ukrainian land which the people in Donetsk are going to have to cross to get back to Russia.”
“I see,” I said cautiously, not knowing where this was leading but aware of the basic geography of the region.
“That means war,” she continued breathlessly.
“Between whom: Russia and Ukraine?”
“Russia and America,” she said as if I was stupid. “I don’t know where to go, to the mountains perhaps, in Georgia. You should go to your Scotland.”
“As it happens I have already booked my ticket as I will be attending the Edinburgh Book Festival, which runs from 9th to 25th of August.”
This is convenient because another Russia friend who suspects that we haven’t seen the worst in the Ukraine yet tells me that all bad things in Russia happen in August. He cites the 1998 bank crash, the Gorbachev kidnapping, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and, if I remember correctly, the Great August Socialist Revolution. I presume the Decembrist Revolt in 1825 was given that name due to the confusing relationship between the Julian, the Gregorian and the Ivanovine calendars.
At any event, I hope I will be able to bask in non-radioactive sunshine in Charlotte Square Gardens for those parts of August when I will not be either in Campbeltown working on my secret tunnel into the Springbank Distillery warehouse, or out on the beautiful isle of Barra visiting my delightful, Gaelic-speaking friend, Kirsty. But if I am wrong, then what better than to be drinking a lazy evening beer on the terrace above the wide sands of Kintangaval beach while the sound of the Atlantic surf drowns the thunder of the bombs in far-away Moscow. The sights of both Kirsty and refulgent nature will go some way towards soothing the painful thought that my precious library in Vodny Stadion is being incinerated in order to make the world safe for something that some people mistakenly think is more important than books.