Archives for September 2011

A Farewell to Arms

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 15:17 UK time, Thursday, 29 September 2011

Journalists who are exposed to the news every minute of the day, I guess, must be subject to the same professional deformation as any other profession.

I've heard some of my colleagues saying that when they come home in the evening they can't remember what the leading news story of the day was, and are reminded of it when they watch the 10 o'clock news.

But some news somehow sticks to mind and to the great irritation of your family you find yourself telling them about the same piece again and again.

This happened to me this week with a news story from Russia: The Russian army have stopped buying Kalashnikovs because they have so many of them and also because they want to try something new instead.

I never thought that I would write about Kalashnikovs, let alone sing its praises. But that story has made me think.

Does it stick in my mind so much because the facts of the story have been kept from the machine gun's inventor - the 92 year old Kalashnikov himself?

Those who have dealt with the history of modern Russia might know that at the very beginning of the Bolshevik regime, when its founder Lenin fell terminally ill with irreversible brain damage, his closest comrade Stalin ordered special daily copy of Pravda to be published for Lenin's exclusive consumption and to keep him happy in his madness.

So did I see some ominous parallels in it?

Or was there something else which made me come back again and again to the same news?

Then I understood what exactly the cause of my reminiscence was.

The AK 47 machine-gun itself.

There are books devoted to it, which compare Kalashnikov to an atomic bomb, to the ubiquitous 'fast food' chain of the battlefield, to any most popular invention of the 20 century.

It even became one of the icons of the last century.

My story is a different one.

In my young days I served in the Soviet Army and the AK 47 the serial number LA 8276 belonged to me for three years.

That weapon is etched into my memory.

In the nights of the field camps during the exercises I used to put it under my head, cushioning it with a rucksack. While I was on guard on my own in freezing Prussian nights it used to protect me, at the firing range while I was aiming a cardboard figure at 300m it was my extended sight, extended arms, extended breathing.

I knew every smallest part of it, being able to deconstruct it to bits and pieces and reconstruct again in 11 seconds.

I spent hours and hours cleaning it to perfection, because according to our old colonel commander there were two parts of soldiers ammunition which must always be absolutely clean and ever ready for action and one of those was the AK machine-gun.

I know that AK 47 is a killing machine.

One of the most efficient ones.

Therefore I can't be proud of my sudden nostalgic reminiscence.

However exactly this point made me write this piece.

Recently a friend of mine, a well-known Uzbek writer wrote a novella which nostalgic about the Soviet era.

I know for a fact that he hated and hates the Soviet system.

But at the same time such a big chunk of his life - dare I say the best (young) part of his life - has been left forever in that period of time.

So his nostalgia, I guess, for his youth, for his life, rather than missing the Soviet past, made him write that novella.

In the novels of the great Russian writer of the 20 century Andrey Platonov, one can find many vagabond characters, who while wandering aimlessly along the earth ploughed by revolution, collect all sorts of unnecessary things: a bolt, a cork, a nail.

In the time of losing the big sense of life those characters tend to stick to small random things which are witnessing their existence in this world.

This bolt, this cork, this nail could stay much longer keeping the trace of your touch when your short presence in this world ceases to be.

So with age one understands clearer that not any 'isms', be it communism, capitalism, patriarchalism, primitivism or anything else, but the human life has the value which gives birth to our nostalgia, which may be attached to anything: to a silly song, an out-of-fashion dress, or indeed the AK 47 machine-gun.

Here's a fragment of a poem, which more succinctly makes this point.

On your road there are nails, staples,
rusted corks, the dried apricot of time,
a concrete path, the railway, grass here and there,
a living snowdrop or simple, ordinary wire...

In actual fact, in fact all this
leads one to think then, but at the same time your premonition
realises: your life in its complete uselessness
can be tied in with these things.

Do not grieve about this,
death in fact is neither high nor low.
It is not death that is greater
but the thought of the road to death
that overcomes death itself.

Media and Academia: do they speak a common language?

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 17:04 UK time, Thursday, 22 September 2011

This week I was invited to Cambridge to take part in a European Society panel, which discussed the above mentioned question at the Central Asian Studies conference.

The discussion took place in Churchill College and the presence of the legendarily sharp-minded British Prime-Minister was felt everywhere: in bas-reliefs and coined phrases on the walls, during debates and in the wit of the seminars, and in the intellectually thick air of the entire conference.

Therefore, this piece on media and academia will obviously be peppered with Churchill's quotes, though it is not academically long, since the 'very length defends itself against the risk of being read'.

So first all of all let's set up the scene. Journalism and academic research are in a way opposite trades.

Churchill once said that 'broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all' and this phrase is quite applicable to those two trades.

I'm deliberately simplifying it, but if journalism is by it's definition speaking about the 'here and now' events ('jour' is 'a day' in French, isn't it?), academia on the other hand seeks universality, aiming for findings that can be applied 'ever and everywhere'.

Interestingly, the current dominating tendency is that the life span of that 'here and now' of journalism is becoming shorter and shorter.

With the blossom of social media in shape of Facebook and Twitter we are now talking not just about 'journalism' but rather 'houralism', 'minutealism' and 'secondalism'.

At the same time the academic research is moving in the opposite direction, towards the increasingly more detailed specialties.

So if we revisit Churchill's former saying, in essence: the short is becoming shorter, and the old is becoming older.

To put it completely in a Churchillean manner: Journalism is becoming a trade which knows something (not saying 'nothing') about everything, whereas academia knows everything about something (quite specific and particular, sparing again the word 'nothing').

Alexander Pushkin, the most famous of Russian poets said: 'It's impossible to put a horse paired with a hesitant doe to draw the carriage' and on the surface it seems that the journalism - the fast and furious horse in our metaphor indeed can't be paired with the hesitant academia full of doubts and reflections, unless both of them turn into some kind of mules.

Even if we leave the field of metaphors and talk pragmatically about how to bring together the two forces of two trades, there's a great deal of hidden rejection between those two professions: journalists label researchers as 'talking heads', whereas from the researchers' high-brow perspective the journalist must look like a 'headless chicken'.

However Churchill comes to mind again: 'A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty'.

Journalists and researchers covering Central Asia have decided to not just discuss the issues which separate them, but also to find ways how to cooperate for the sake of audiences in Central Asia, and the English speaking audiences.

As the witty Sir Winston would say: 'It is always wise to look ahead, but difficult to look further than you can see'.

So what would be the middle ground where academic researchers could meet the journalists and vice versa.

We journalists could make our half of the way by covering not just the news, but also tendencies and trends, which are behind the news.

We could expand our genres to those, in which the specialists and experts could take part: discussions, panels, question and answer sessions, thematic packages, blogs, etc.

The researchers could also make their half of the way, writing not just academic books, which cost hundreds of pounds, but also blogging, engaging with the broadcasting audiences through the short and succinct summaries of their findings, being more accessible and available on daily topics of the target area.

'Personally, I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught' - Churchill said famously.

Even though both journalists and researchers need some kind of 'Guide for Dummies' from each others' perspective, maybe the best type of learning would happen around a small project on the themes and issues which interest both sides.

Taking the example of the same Central Asia for instance - why the increasing number of Tajik brides are getting married to Chinese grooms and Uzbeks to Koreans?

Or why do the Kazakh nouveau-rich buy land on the further Southern shore of the Kyrgyzstan's Issyk-kul lake, rather than on the closer and more convenient Northern shore?

There, at the ESCAS conference we were also discussing more pragmatic things like creating a database including both media outlets, covering Central Asian news and current affairs, and researchers dealing with this area, forming ways of cross-fertilising our trades, creating a web-portal accessible to everyone interested in that area.

And to finish this piece on a common language between media and academia on a tongue-in-cheek note I'll slightly rephrase the unforgettable Sir Winston Churchill: 'A researcher needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And a journalist - to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen'.

Anecdotes of Bush House

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 15:10 UK time, Friday, 16 September 2011

Last week I announced a new project to my colleagues here in Bush House, the BBC World Service headquarters. Here's that announcement.

Dear colleagues,

As you all know by now, by the end of next year we have to have left Bush House - the building that's been home to the World Service for the last 70 years.

The great history of Bush is coming to an end. But as one famous philosopher said: 'Humanity should part with its past cheerfully'. So should we.

As the World Service Writer in Residence I'm collecting anecdotes about life in Bush House, which could be published as a book. Everyone of you must have at least one funny story (if not more).

Don't keep it to yourself, email it to me. If you are too shy, you can send it under a pen-name.

The format is free, but it should be an anecdote.

Snazzy titles are also welcome. The deadline is the end of October this year.

Let's celebrate the legacy of Bush House with a witty, funny, joyful and cheerful book, written by all of us.

Soon after the announcement I started to receive contributions from my colleagues and I would like to share some of them.

Most active were the studio managers. Here's a piece from Kate Howells.

When I was a studio manager at Bush house in the mid 1980s, we used to cheer up our long nightshifts by sometimes agreeing to come to work in fancy dress.

When the theme was 'vicars and tarts, a World Service announcer came as a cardinal and chased a friend of mine, dressed as a vicar, all round studio C21.

One night the dress code was 'pyjamas' and in a flimsy night-dress I went to work on 24 Hours (the predecessor to Newshour).

Sometimes there was the chance to sleep for a few hours in a dormitory in the basement of the NE wing when you were doing this shift.

I was working with a colleague who had a mini teddy bear and toothbrush in his top dressing gown pocket. When we got to the studio the current affairs producer looked worried, and said 'You can't go to bed yet, we've got work to do.'

These two anecdotes are also from the studio manager Barry Mitchell.

A newly-trained Bush studio manager was concentrating on his live broadcast one day, when he became aware that someone had slipped quietly into the cubicle behind him and was watching him.

It went like this:- "Who are you?" - "Curran" - "What do you want?" - "Just having a look" - "Where are you from?" At this point the intruder made a triangle with both thumbs and forefingers, saying "BBC?" while tapping its apex. It was in fact Charles Curran, the BBC director general!

One day, I was approached by my boss, Brian Matcham in the Studio Manager's common room, who said "Barry, we've changed your schedule a bit, could you put the Bulgarians on the air - Oh and keep your wits about you."

This I did, noting that the announcers were not quite their usual selves. On returning, I asked Brian what that was all about. "Haven't you heard? the dissident broadcaster, Georgy Markov has been killed with a poisoned umbrella while crossing Waterloo Bridge, and there was just a chance that the Bulgarian Secret Service could invade the studio." "Why did you send me" I asked. "Well, I've always regarded you as a bit of a gangster, and if there were any problems, you were the best one to deal with them!"

Some of the anecdotes are quite nostalgic and personal like this one from Lisa Robson, who works for the BBC World Service Trust:

When Alan Johnston returned to Bush House after being kidnapped in 2008 he addressed a large crowd of World Service staff. He was standing on the very grand set of stairs leading down into the car park where the listeners assembled. I was so moved by his strength and humour that I remember that moment every time I pass by. ‬ ‪

Andrew Whitehead sent me a poem written in the mid of '80s by Andrew Moreton, who used to work in the Newsroom. Here's a fragment from the poem called 'God rest your merry SDEs' (I think that SDE stands for Senior Duty Editor).

God rest your merry SDEs,
Some news has come along.
Our own Bob Jobbins
Has been kidnapped in Hong Kong.
We use a quote from Austen Kark,
But has his first name wrong.
Oh, next week you'll be back on NAB,
Oh, next week you'll be back on NAB,

God rest your merry SDEs,
There's worse to come we fear.
The copytaster's drunk again
And Princess Margaret's here.
The shiftsleader has just rung
She's got a poisoned ear.
Oh thank God you knock off at half-past three, Oh thank God you knock off at half-past three.

Bush House has had a great many language services at one point or another, and so I would like to finish with an anecdote from our own Central Asian service.

In the early '90s when the service had just been set up, we used to translate quite a lot of news from English.

The Newsroom's usual way of writing the stories at that time was never to mention names in the first sentence, ie 'The President of Russia has met today the President of the USA.

Mr Yeltsin and Mr Clinton discussed the issues...' etc... So once on a night-shift an Azeri colleague who worked for our Central Asian Russian programme received some news from the Newsroom: 'A member of the Kyrgyz Parliament - Jokorgu Kenesh has died today at the age of 48' and started to translate into Russian: 'A member of the Kyrgyz Parliament - Mr Jokorgu Kenesh has died today at the age of 48'.

But the second sentence was quite confusing, because it went: 'Mr Mambetov had a fatal accident in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek.' So the Azeri colleague looked at the third sentence, which made perfect sense: 'The member of Parliament was doing so and so, he was well known for this and that, etc...'

'What is this Mr Mambetov doing in the report?!' - the colleague thought with a certain deal of irritation. 'These Newsroom writers know nothing about our countries and muck up everything!' - she continued her rage and irreversibly changed Mr Mambetov for Mr Jokorgu Kenesh, not suspecting that Jokorgu Kenesh which translates Supreme Council was the name of the Kyrgyz Parliament.

Thus that night the entire Kyrgyz Parliament was buried alive by the innocent colleague.

For all its magnanimous seriousness Bush House is a funny place, isn't it?

A return Hodjent, Tajikistan for Urunboy Usmonov's trial

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 09:39 UK time, Wednesday, 7 September 2011

I returned to Hodjent, Tajikistan for the trial of our reporter Urunboy Usmonov.

In June he was arrested , I visited him in prison, and eventually he was released and was able to see his family.

When I've written about central Asia before, I've explained that the city of Hodjent is believed to have been built by Alexander the Great. Here Alexander got married to a local princess called Roxana.

Perhaps it is inspired by this context that my thoughts take on the Hellenic features of a Socratic or Platonic dialogue. Waiting for the trial I ask myself: is the BBC - in which I include myself - entirely objective in the coverage of Urunboy's case? Do we take one side over the other because the case involves our own reporter?

And my BBC side replies: yes, we were - and we are - objective throughout the whole case. We have reported the position, the logic and the allegations of those on the other side: the security services investigation team, the prosecutor's office, and the Tajik central and local authorities.

However if this is a Socratic dialogue that requires a formal answer, I should probe myself further.

My BBC side develops its argument. It says: sometimes objectivity is not about dividing equally the rights and wrongs - here's your half of praise, here's your half of blame.

There's an Uzbek joke about a hero from folklore called Mullah Nasreddin.

Once Mullah Nasreddin was mediating a dispute between two men. One of them put his argument forward and Mullah said: "You are right". The other man came forward with his argument and the Mullah said to him: "You are also right". The Mullah's wife, who had been listening to the mediation, blustered in and said to her husband: "They can't be right both at the same time!" To which Mullah Nasreddin exclaimed: "It seems that my wife is right too..."

So objectivity is not about distributing equally the rightness.

Very often, my BBC side says to me, objectivity is about following the truth, the objective truth.

During the trial so far we have learnt:
that Urunboy Usmonov was tortured into making statements about his (I should say non-existent) links with the members of the Hizb ut-Tahrir Party, a political party banned in Tajikistan;
that the head of investigators dictated a "confession" to Urunboy even though the General-Prosecutor had already decided to release Urunboy from prison;
that in the week of the beginning of his trial Urunboy had been denied access to his lawyer;
that the others that stand accused in this case are all saying that Urunboy has never been the part of their organisation

All of these things add up to an objectivity that one should not try to justify the other side with their portion of righteousness, but to report the facts as they are.

The devil's advocate in me - or rather my Socratic side - challenges me further: Would you cover the case to the same extent or would you put the same amount of effort in freeing Urunboy Usmonov if he weren't your own reporter?

Here my BBC side thinks a bit longer and replies: Yes, you are right. There's a corporate side to this case. We are contractually obliged to protect our employees and I can't deny the fact that BBC will go far to protect the innocence of Urunboy Usmonov.

Pay attention to those last words: "the innocence of Urunboy Usmonov". Until now we haven't been shown a single fact of any wrongdoing, no evidence of criminal acts.

Because of this we have good reason to believe in - and uphold - his innocence. There's also a moral point to our argument, my BBC side says: if the list above of all the wrongdoings of the security services (ie the torture, being forced to write a confession, etc) are happening to a BBC reporter under the watchful eyes of diplomats, NGOs, human right organisations, and the BBC itself, you can imagine what happens to others in the similar situation, who are less protected or not protected at all.

The case of Urunboy is a showcase, which exposes the current state of judicial practices in Tajikistan. By scrupulously following and reporting it we are raising the issues that apply to hundreds of other cases.

My Socratic side seemingly agrees with this position, but its provocative nature is heated by the extremely hot weather in Hodjent (up to 40 degrees in the shade where I'm typing this on my Blackberry) and it asks: It seems that the Tajik authorities dislike the international pressure and would love to sort the case out, however they don't want to lose face either. There's a local saying: "One falls from the horse, but still clings to the saddle". So can't you find a compromise, to accept some guilt, and be pardoned by the Amnesty law which has just been adopted?

Despite the heat my BBC side tries to keep its cool and says: At the first glance it seems reasonable. But when you look at it a bit deeper, wouldn't it create a harmful precedent, which will leave the entire journalistic community of Tajikistan at risk of future cases like this one? Wouldn't the compromise which you are suggesting be at the expense of free and independent journalism in Tajikistan?

And last but not least. I have spent long hours with Urunboy while I've been in Tajikistan this time and he is determined to fight his case to the end.

Now that Urunboy and the trial itself have disclosed all the wrongdoings of the security services and judicial practices, wouldn't we be betraying him if we decide to pull back from our position of defence?

As he is determined to fight for the establishment of his innocence, so should we, my BBC side says.

And as well as for his sake, and also for the sake of other journalists in both Tajikistan, and all over the world.

While I have been writing up this Socratic dialogue, I have received news that the trial of Urunboy Usmonov will be postponed until 19 September because of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of Tajikistan's independence.

Which will give me more time for Hellenistic thinking in the city which is believed to be built by Alexander the Great.

A castle in Hodjent, Tajikistan

Summer of Englishness: Loyalty to Royalty

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Hamid Ismailov Hamid Ismailov | 13:27 UK time, Thursday, 1 September 2011

This is the last piece in the series Summer of Englishness. I started the series with my recollections, and so I'll end the series with a description of one of my first days of living in London.

You know, I've got a friend. A very decent person. Extremely nice character. He is actually His Royal Highness Prince Charles.

I met him once. And I've got a photo of our meeting to prove it.

I was told I would meet the Prince the evening before.

I was a newcomer to the UK and at that time I didn't know the words "that's very short notice", otherwise I would have declined the meeting.

The shops were already closed and I didn't have an appropriate suit to wear, so I decided that first thing in the morning I would go to out onto The Strand, round the corner from Bush House to buy something to wear.

So this was my plan: quick breakfast near the train station, quick travel, quick popping in to the bank, quick hair cut and finally buying a suitable suit.

I hadn't slept that night. Juggling the running order of what I had to do in my mind in different variations kept me awake.

Somehow I got myself ready in the the morning and rushed to the station.

"You know, I'm meeting Prince Charles today" I said proudly to the Malaysian breakfast bar owner.

"Who that?" asked he, wrapping up my Danish pastry and offering a cup of coffee.

I silently and arrogantly passed him a twenty pound note and - in a rage - grabbed the extra-hot cup and completely forgot to take my change.

I remembered about it at the station, while queuing for a travelcard at the ticket office.

"You know, I'm meeting today Prince Charles, so I must to be in the city centre as soon as possible!" urged I, realising that I didn't have any money with me...

"Who that?" asked the ticket-man and senselessly added: "Three sixty..."

I was searching all my pockets for a penny. Everything else was there: a comb, three chewing gums and - I'm sorry to say - an odd 'Durex' condom, but not a penny.

The queue started to become impatient. I was embarrassed.

Luckily my friend the train station newsagent - a very decent person and extremely nice character - noticed me and called me over. I told him "I'm meeting Prince Charles today and left my change with the Malaysian take-away man".

He asked how much I needed and I asked for another twenty pounds, but he gave me the money in coins - this small change had come from all for The Suns and Daily Mails that people had bought from him. With my pockets full of coins I took my place in the ticket-office queue once again.

Just as I got to the front of the queue, they announced my train.

I dropped a handful of copper coins - and both the queue and the ticket man damned me aloud.

He refused to count out the money and I did it myself, whispering the count in my native and obscure language.

Finally I made it and ran away from the embarrassment towards the moving train.

My pockets felt no less empty and they moved of their their own accord, like some sort of overlarge breasts.

Sweating and swearing I crashed into the closing doors and tore my sleeve.

The train driver was ruthless, he didn't stop the train and took a part of my shirtsleeve into the city centre without me. I was left sweating and swearing at the empty station.

When I finally got to the city centre I made it to my bank swiftly, but because I was rushing to the suit shop, I forgot to get rid of the rest of the change at the bank.

At least at this point I had two hundred pounds to buy a new suit. Plus the change, of course.

I came to a 'Someone & sons' suit shop and said to the elderly and nice shop-keeper:

"I'm meeting Prince Charles today and I need a suit, suitable for the occasion!"

To my amazement he seemed to be aware who Prince Charles was, since he replied: "I've got a wonderful suit for just such a rare occasion! A noble gentleman like you is worthy of the highest treat".

As if contrary to these grand words he took me down to the basement, as though to the most precious of his treasures and pulled out of a dusty box a typical English suit, which reminded me of the silent films of Charlie Chaplin.

"That is the one!" one of his sons solemnly said and urged me to try it on.

"Undo your sleeves." he suggested, but I said to him that I would leave them as they were as I had a skin rash.

I saw a clear note of disgust on his face, which he immediately replaced with an unnatural smile and helped me with the suit.

Either because of my bulky sleeves, or because the suit was a bit tight on me, I looked like a waiter in a restaurant - ready for swift and neat actions attention.

"Wonderful!" - said the shop-keeper. "As if it was inherited from your father!" he added (a remark which I'm not sure what he meant).

"Now please try on the trousers!" Then I was hesitant: because my socks were usually different sizes and differnt colours.

I waited for him to turn away, but he carried on staring at me and nodded.

In one deft move, I took off my socks together with my trousers, but because the pockets of the trousers were full of copper coins and I was struggling with everything, my socks bounced into view in all their differently-sized and coloured glory.

He tried not to notice.

"A wonderful suit for a wonderful occasion! Congratulations!"

"Do you think it's a good suit to meet Prince Charles in?"

"Not just him, but even his father and grandfather!" - said the shopkeeping offspring to his shop keeping father.

I didn't pay much attention to his words because I was already thinking about the price. "How much does it cost?" asked I cautiously.

"Two hundred and fifty pounds" he automatically replied and noticing some confusion on my face immediately added:

"But for a gentleman like you - two hundred and forty pounds only!"

"I have two hundred... and ten... fifteen... pounds" - I remembered my change, hanging in my pockets.

"Give me a minute!" he said taking his calculator started to begin counting something.
In a while he said: "Two hundred and twenty - that is least I can go, all my other suits cost not less than three, four hundred pounds..."

There was no way to retreat, the suit was on me and the meeting with Prince Charles was in two hours, so I said: "All right".

We came to the ground floor, while the shopkeeper was praising my taste and I counted my 200 notes.

Then I put my hands into my old pockets.

When he saw my hands full of coins, he said: "I don't look like a beggar under Waterloo Bridge, do I? And funny enough, you don't like a beggar either..."

I tried to explain, but he said: "Look, why don't we agree a gentlemen's deal: I take your 200 pounds now and you bring me another 30 quid after you've met your friend? Done?"

The "bargain" offer of two hundred and twenty pound had evaporated "Done!" I had lost another tenner, for the sake of my loyalty to royalty.

As a pay off he gave me a plastic bag to put my old trousers in, still full of change.

I had one final deed to do before the meeting - a trip to the hair-dresser.

I told the Italian barber I was meeting Prince Charles I announced once again, that I would be meeting His Royal Highness Prince Charles, to which the witty man replied: "Of which country?"

I decided to change the conversation and switched to talking about football: Scuadra Asdzurra and Girro d'Italia.

The conversation touched a nerve and he became so overexcited that he began to cut my hair with a passion. If I had given him another five minutes, I would have left without eyebrows or eyelashes, let alone my moustaches and beard.

Wisely I asked him to leave it there, which seemed to make him furious and so he even didn't brush my hair from my shoulders.

Neither would he take two handfuls of my coins, saying that he hadn't balances to weigh them and I stupidly put them - not into the pocket of old trousers, which I left at barber's - into my new gentleman's pockets.

How stupid it was I realised, when I entered the building, where I was to meet finally His Royal Highness Prince Charles of Wales.

I went through the security check, and then in front of all my curious colleagues I had to empty all this scrap metal along with keys, three chewing gums and the odd condom...

What shame!

I've got a historic picture, where I'm standing in front of His Royal Highness, who is a very decent person and extremely nice character.

He is curiously asking me a question. I thing he said was: "How do you do?"

And I remember I replied: "Thank you Your Royal Highness, absolutely marvellous..." and then he moved to another person, and I thought for a moment how he must get bored meeting so many people like me, who has nothing interesting to tell him, or to entertain...

Hamid Ismailov (left) and Prince Charles (right)

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