THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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On the road again

I and my worldly goods are on the road. We shall not be reunited for a long time. The movers in Russia need a copy of my work permit for China before they can despatch them, which will take months to arrange.This small matter seems to have been overlooked by my colleagues in charge of logistics.

Fortunately, the apartment in Shanghai is fully-furnished and the landlords have agreed to leave their stuff there until mine arrives. Still, it will be odd to think of Mrs Paine's and my belongings (especially our small but treasured art collection) languishing in a Russian warehouse long after I have left the country. It's all insured, but if I had wanted the money rather than the objects, I wouldn't have bought them.

I had two wonderful farewell parties in Moscow; one with my clients and one with my team. My colleagues gave me a magnificent gift; a movie they hired a professional production company to make at our offices - starring them. It's witty, warm and parodies peoples perceptions of Russia, while making various references to my own quirks. They premiered it at the client party last Tuesday night and presented me with a signed shooting script (in Russian), one of the costumes and a brilliant book of production photographs. I have been showing it to everyone I can. It's brilliant and made an amazing, highly personal gift. I was (and am) very touched.

The following night, we had a final drink at a Moscow bar and a wonderful time was had by all; certainly by me. I have great photographs that I will treasure all my life. I shall miss Moscow and my Russian friends; they have great style and are very kind and thoughtful when it comes to such occasions. Despite its reputation, "the Slavic Soul" is not all dark; trust me. If you have a Russian friend, you have a real friend. I am a lucky man and shall study deserving. Certainly, while aware she too has her quirks, I shall always speak in Mother Russia's defence when she is defamed by the ignorant.

For now, I am in England for some work but - more importantly - to celebrate Mrs P's birthday with the Misses P in London. We are all theatre lovers, so our celebration revolves around Le Misanthrope, with Keira Knightley, at The Comedy Theatre on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, bright and early, I shall haul my own age in kilos of luggage to Heathrow. I shall attend a meeting of my China board in Amsterdam before continuing on to Shanghai and new adventure.

I shall raise the new masthead of The Last Ditch then, with my first post from the Middle Kingdom. In the meantime, posting will continue to be light.

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