Elena and I had been showing a friend around Moscow. Not knowing much about it, we decided to take a guided bus tour. The destinations and the information relayed were both eloquent testimony to what the successful tour operator, targetting Russian speaking tourists, thought that Russian citizens would like to see and know - which was what a great, vast and historic city Moscow is, a city which has borne more than its fair share of adversity, has come perilously close to extinction, a city which has always clung to God even when he was banned.
We did spend quite a bit of time at the memorial to the Great Patriotic War, which whilst completely understandable, must rate as one of the most soul - less and depressing examples of memorial architecture and public space ever constructed. We hope that the ghosts of all the 26 million Russian dead of world war two are harrying and howling at the architect and whoever commissioned and approved this monstrosity as they try to rest, and that they will be chased into their graves by the sheeted dead of the Red Army.
We were also informed, as we raced by them,of the former Soviet leaders who had lived in the various massive apartment blocks near the Kremlin, and finally the solid block of a building that is the Ministry of War was pointed out to us.
We hoped that they had nothing to do in there and that they were sitting around yawning with boredom and playing chess..........but if they were not busy with war, they were probably playing war games on their computers or watching internet pornography.
After this edifying tour, which did succeed in displaying the scale and grandeur of Moscow, which was its main aim in two hours, we walked across Red Square, past St Basil’s Cathedral, which looks as if it should be in Disneyland, to the Tretyakov Gallery.
Of the many stunning works in this treasure trove of art, one which seems so apposite for our times, is the masterpiece by Nikolay Gay, depicting Pontius Pilate asking Christ ‘ What is truth?’
We wonder how many are employed to shape the truth nowadays, on behalf of governments, corporations or celebrities or charities, or to suppress it altogether? It’s called public relations or advertising, and whilst every individual case for someone to make sure that the protagonists’ view is heard seems reasonable enough, the total result must surely be that nobody knows what is truth anymore.
We are with John Lennon, again, on this.
Of course, as a reformed advertising man, I realise that the medium is the message, and that a lot of the time, it’s the way that you say it, not what you say, that gets results. And herein lies the problem: we are too often with our guard down, our critical faculties are on the lookout for the wrong stuff, when we are protecting ourselves from misinformation we are buying a bottle of vodka in a supermarket, and guess what?
Yes, we bought a bottle of Putinka vodka on special offer, and very good it was too!
It’s hard to imagine David Cameron adopting a similar strategy - Cameron Ale, it’s thick and rich, would be my slogan, or Clegg Bitter, will help you to say anything, and still leave that famous bitter taste in your mouth.
Still, Prince Charles manages to sell ridiculously overpriced organic food in Britain, and we reckon that Prince Harry could sell his own brand of cocktails to Russia’s new rich youngsters in their nightclubs.
It would be called Helicopter Harry’s - these will get you up there whilst your trousers remain down here - from the artist formerly known as Prince Harry.