Philos and the Russians
One of my stand-out memories of Philos was the time in April 1989, when Rosemary sent him down to D’arros with me and on a strict diet, far from the temptations of home.
Things started off pretty well and we entered into a regime of healthy eating and sport; tennis in particular. On the court, Philos, despite his ample size, showed why he was once a squash champion, demonstrating great agility. Off the court he ate fruits, the odd biscuit for old time’s sake, and a frightening amount of black tea.
So far so good.
Little did we know but, even then, destiny was conspiring to put us to the test in the form of the sudden arrival of a Russian research vessel with the unfortunate name of the Professor Bugarov.
Having pounded our ears for several hours with a manic revving of diesel engines just offshore, some of the crew decided to pay us a visit in a flotilla of outsized lifeboats which appeared very much to us like the invasion of an alien race.
Philos and I met them on shore; we in our swimming trunks and they in military garb with epaulettes the size of ironing boards and peaks to their caps so large it looked as if they might trip over them.
At that hour on that day in that place, our world’s collided and things were never to be the same. We made friends among them who we are still in contact with today and the friendship we established was extraordinary. Philos with his naturally welcoming, gentle, heart, became a firm favourite, especially with some of the gold-toothed women, some of whom seemed to be sizing him up with wizened smiles, gold glinting in the sunlight.
Needless to say, the pace of life changed utterly as they brought a dizzying supply of alcohol to my house with more different types of vodka than you could shake a stick at. For nigh on two weeks, they stayed with us, awakening us at the crack of sparrows with neat vodka and pancakes. With them, even salt and pepper tasted of alcohol. Philos thought he had died and gone to heaven.
They even challenged our island-style team to a game of football; we bare-footed islanders against a bunch of Spetznaz wearing army boots. The result was unimportant because it was just an excuse for another party and the fact that we were bed-ridden for days with our injuries just gave them further opportunity to ‘minister to our needs’.
The piece de resistance came on the evening prior to their departure when they took us aboard their research vessel for a banquet. Even Philos’ eyes bulged at the sight of long tables from which anything vaguely resembling scientific equipment had been removed and replaced by gargantuan quantities of food.
I shot a glance at Philos, now a veritable Obelix, whose mouth hung open in visible shock.
‘Mon Dieu!‘ was all he could managed as his eyes took off on a culinary tour of lobsters, fish, shellfish, crabs, meat dishes fit for an Emperor, pastries, black and red caviar, pates from Siberia, sweatmeats from Khazakhstan, all stretching for as far as they eye could see before starting again on another row of tables on the far side of the room and heading back our way.
To cut a very long story short, the evening commenced with toasts to every member of the Politbureau, swelling to encompass the names of every English king since Ethelred and a whole range of Belgian potentates with unpronounceable names stretching back to the dawn of time.
Philos looked genuinely baffled by the sheer choice of opportunities to gorge himself as he had never done before, aided and abetted by the gold-toothed Russian women who looked, finally, set to pounce on their pray.
We ate until we could physically eat no more. Midnight found us reeling in the ship’s sauna where our session was crowned by being gently whipped with special brushwood which certainly brought tears to our eyes… but not us to our senses.
Three in the morning saw us trying to find the island in one of the ship’s giant lifeboats. D’ arros was no more than 50 metres off and awash with moonlight but might just as well have been in Vladivostok for all the luck we were having in finding it.
We finally drilled another passage through the reef and arrived ashore with Philos bellowing like a lost calf, his considerable frame trapped squarely abreast of the gunwhale.
‘Mon Dieu, mon gren in reste o bord bateau,he continued yelling as I looked on, fumbling for some sense in what he was saying. Had he left his virginity back there among the gold-diggers? It was only when he was lifted free of his torture that I saw that, straddling the side of the boat, his crowned jewels had become trapped beneath his considerable weight. Not a pleasant thought.
Someone put us to bed…mercifully in separate rooms, utterly pole-axed as we both were and dead to the world and its wicked ways.
I awoke some hours later to a high pitched yelling from the other side of the house.
‘Ils sont tous des PILONS!!‘ (they are all queers!) a voice insisted into the night.
It was followed by ‘Hophayyyyyyyyyyyy…j’ai toutes les femmes qui m’amerdent!! (I gotta whole bunch of women giving me a hard time) The vocal range was truly bewildering, I recall
Deliriously drunk, but so impressed by all of this, I managed to stumble to my office, load the tape-recorder and tape the cacophony of sounds now flooding from Philos’ room. Despite my very sorry state, I recall realising that I was experiencing something very special that needed to be recorded for posterity.
He kept it up for hours, with me drifting in and out of consciousness only to be suddenly yanked back to reality by yet another outburst of ‘Ils sont tous des PILONS!!!’
When it was all over we slept for days, unable to stir even to make a boiled egg. I sometimes heard vague rumblings from the other room but that was all.
Finally, after a good 24 hours we surfaced and discovered each other in the kitchen. There was no need to speak, much less recount what had happened. We just stared at each other, pencil line smiles forming on our lips.
“Il faut rien dire a Rose’, (don’t say anything to Rosemary!) Philos proposed, spilling his second egg in a row onto the floor.