ii

I had fixed that day, or rather my long progress home from school, in my memory. And of all people it has taken the ramblings of that old lush, Yeltsin, to re-awaken my duty. 

So now, let’s travel back to that day using the only time machine I have.

It’s the same type of machine my father used to take me across Europe at the end of his five years’ captivity – avoiding the booby trapped German equipment. It was the same one he used to show me the games he played with his guards as the camp interpreter. 

Going further back, he showed me how, as a soldier in the British Raj, he was responsible for sterilising the water supply in the Andaman Islands prison camps and how he longed to return to those cruel but beautiful islands. He took me to the food riots and the grain trains he had to protect in mainland India; but the true horrors of inter-communal conflict in India he did not show me because he dared not return there himself. But he did take me over the foothills of the Himalayas with the Army mule trains and he showed me the incredible bond there was between man and animal. 

He took me to the poverty of his childhood, carrying his brother on his back to school because they only had the only pair of shoes. Stretching back as far as he could go, he took me to watch the first Zeppelin raid on the East End of London as his mother took him back to the house from his nightly visit to the end of the garden.