A catch-up and a knees-up

Baku, Monday 30th April 2007

If time does indeed fly then I would imagine it has recently turned its back on scheduled services and invested in a very fast private jet with long range fuel tanks.  The month is about to end and I have yet to write a jot about it; time to catch up a bit methinks…

Luckily there is not a great deal to write about for the first half of the month as much of my non-working time after returning from Nepal was divided between catching up on sleep and attempting to capture the fabulous trip in words and phrases that would give it suitable justification.  Approaching mid-month we come to a most enjoyable night out occasioned by the visit of Gunel: a London-based friend of my friend-cum-line-manager, Farah, who had come back to Azerbaijan for a few days to visit family and friends (readers who were with me during last New Year’s Eve may recall both women visiting the party during the latter part of the proceedings).  Obviously it was a joy to catch up with Gunel and others but there was the additional pleasure of meeting her friend, Asad, who turned out to be passionately keen on electronic dance music.  We chatted all night and have started exchanging music; judging by what I have listened to so far I think we are in for a fruitful friendship.

Other notable moments include the evening during which a group of us were introduced to Baku’s brand new, one and only pole dancing club (the performers did not get stripped but when the bill arrived we most certainly did) and the night where I saw a group of visiting French musicians perform a set of ‘famous’ French songs followed by a set of Greek ones (slightly bizarre) before being taken to my second karaoke experience in Baku (brighter than the last one but with an even crazier selection of songs in English to choose from – I refrained from warbling).  By this stage we have reached last week, after which I can report a second and successful jam with David (we might actually have to form a band if we’re not careful) and a brief re-enactment of “The Great Egg Race” that involved four teams each trying to construct an edifice from spaghetti and marshmallows that would support a hard-boiled egg for one minute; highest structure wins (we emphatically did not but a jolly good time was had by all).

All of which brings us to last weekend: a fine, mother’s-best cake of a time if ever there was one and with a most marvellous cherry on the top of it too.  It was my birthday on Saturday and being a person who considers such occasions to be well worth celebrating I had spent some time trying make some plans.  I did not feel I had done a particularly good job but seeing as everything went smoothly in spite of the mild shock to the system I experienced on Friday afternoon I guess I had done well enough.  The shock was provided by my brother, Neil, who telephoned me out of the blue to blithely announce that he had arrived unannounced at Baku airport and was due to arrive in the city centre very soon.  Touched, astonished, flabbergasted – it is difficult to fully describe my feelings at that moment in time.  I was extremely happy though, that’s for sure.

Having directed Neil to a suitable landmark in the city I was less happy with the results of my attempts to get immediate transport from the Terminal to central Baku but I made it eventually and was greeted with a shower of kisses on behalf of friends and family in England (thank you all, you know who you are).  After a quick visit to my apartment to drop off bags we then set off to join colleagues of mine for a leaving-do that encompassed some surprisingly authentic German cuisine and a rather large volume of beer (I am told that the leaving colleague managed to miss his flight the following morning).

After a late rise and a late breakfast on Saturday we struck out into the countryside (I am most fortunate to have legal papers to enable a car-share now) and I enjoyed a sunny afternoon drive taking Neil to the mud volcanoes (see posting of 16/04/07 for details of the route and environs).  I had arranged pre-dinner drinks at City Lights Bar for six in the evening and managed to walk in (alongside two of my guests) well after half past the hour: not an impressive display of punctuality but thankfully excusable.  A table was reserved at Trattoria Olivo for seven o’clock and our full party met there for a what in terms of company was a great meal while in terms of food it was a mildly odd one for me (I had never tasted a curry-flavoured lasagne in my life until that evening).  The majority of us then adjourned to Vespucci – the new bar/restaurant/club run by friends who have recently departed The Philarmonic (sic – see posting of 12/03/07 for details) – and chatted our way into the wee hours over drinks, pool and pistachio nuts.  By the time I finally closed my eyes to the light of dawn and caught a few hours’ sleep I had spent a marvellous day in excellent company and enjoyed myself thoroughly.  To all who sent cards, sent e-mails, sent best wishes, gave presents and joined in the celebrations: a heart-felt thank you.

Spot the siblings… (picture courtesy of Leyla Alakbarova)

Late breakfast at Mozart’s Café provided the mixed experience of a good meal tinged with that fascinating-like-a-car-crash feeling as we ate our omelettes and toast to a sound-track including such songs as Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence” and Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” being covered in a pseudo Turkish traditional style; imagine Mike Flowers Pops from Ankara.  Next was a brisk drive to the airport and an all-to-early farewell to Neil as he had to get back to London for Monday.  From there a sun-bathed drive to Mardakan beach and on round the coast back to Baku helped revive the spirits as I reflected upon a highly engaging forty-eight hours.  On such occasions the passage of time does not look quite as bad and I actually enjoy the process of becoming older.  Is it because I still have a way to go before I grow up…?  “Time waits for no man” as they say.


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