Mr Putin Requests the Pleasure…

5 mins. to read
Mr Putin Requests the Pleasure…

It is 07 October 2017 – an auspicious day in Russia. We meet at the Presidential dacha somewhere deep in the woods outside Moscow. For, an important party is in preparation…

“Theresa, so pleased you could come. I thought you’d be too busy”. The President greeted the Prime Minister, who was resplendent in her favourite ball gown, warmly.

“It was so nice of you to invite me to your birthday party, dear Vladimir. Sixty-five today; goodness me. I can’t believe it – you look great”.

“Oh, you know. I take the dog out and swim every morning. Karate twice a week. It works for me. You know Jinping don’t you”.

Jinping, who had arrived early, was holding a sort of silver casket in his left hand and was spooning caviar furiously into his mouth with his right. He acknowledged Theresa with an almost imperceptible nod.

“Yes – we’ve met. It’s always so nice to see you two together” said Theresa. “I do feel that, as one grows older, old friends become more important, not less”.

Vladimir froze. He fixed Theresa with eyes the colour of Lake Baikal. Jinping stopped eating. “Great nations do not have friends” Vladimir uttered softly. “They only have interests”.

Theresa felt a chill run down her spine. Then, an instant later, she saw Vladimir’s face soften and a kind of deadpan smile appeared.

“Just kidding”, said Vladimir. And with that Jinping erupted into manic laughter, pointing a finger towards Vladimir, as if to say: This guy really cracks me up. Theresa felt herself relax.

“You are such a tease, Vladimir. Now, I’m intrigued. Who’s coming tonight?”

“Just a few friends. Mostly lady friends, actually”.

“You’re incorrigible, Vladimir. I don’t suppose you’ve invited Hilary?”

“No, I haven’t invited Hilary. But, you know what she’s like. She doesn’t like to feel left out and she’s coming anyway”. Vladimir exchanged looks with Jinping and they guffawed, as if at a private joke.

“If Hilary is coming, there is something that you should know” offered Theresa. “She hasn’t been seen for a week and the American media have been asking: Where is our President? Well, just between ourselves, you see, she had a Botox procedure – you know it’s her seventieth in a couple of weeks. And it all went horribly wrong. If she appears to be grimacing at you it’s because she is completely unable to smile. Not that she was a great smiler in the first place”.

“I know”, said Vladimir. Across his stern face there flickered just a hint of the deadpan smile again. “The surgeon was one of our guys”.

And with that, Vladimir and Jinping, exchanging looks, collapsed into uncontrollable laughter, almost choking from an excess of mirth. Theresa could not help but be swept up in the hilarity. This, she thought, was going be a fun evening.

The torrential laughter was pierced by the sound of a woman clearing her throat. The 45th President of the United States had already entered the room unseen.

“I am obviously missing the joke here. Good evening Mr President; Mr President; Madame Prime Minister”.

“Good evening, Hilary. Sorry but it’s all Theresa’s fault. She’s into funny cat videos on the internet. Hilarious.”

“And funny pug videos”, added Theresa. “Did you see the one with the pug wearing goggles while floating on an inflatable…?”

The President grimaced. “I am surprised, with the situation in Europe so grave, that its leaders are discussing funny cat and pug videos”. Her words conjured a mood of solemnity, as intended; though Jinping still had to put one hand over his face to hide a smirk.

“Well”, said Theresa, “It is a birthday party. And frankly, we’ve all had it up to here with Europe”.

Hilary, ignoring Theresa, squared up to Vladimir, who now wore the expression of a little boy caught in the act of stealing apples. “Have you invited Angela?”

“Mmm…yes; I invited her”. A long pause. “But she’s not coming”.

“Is she unwell?” Hilary asked.

“Actually” – this was Theresa speaking – “she’s horribly depressed. In fact, she doesn’t go out very much at all these days. I hope she’s getting all the support she needs”.

“And you have invited the French woman?”

“Yes. Marine will be here shortly” Vladimir replied. “And it’s no good looking at me like that. Marine is the elected President of her country, fair and square.”

At that point there was a commotion at the doors as an elegant woman swept in evidently carrying a large fury parcel under each arm. “Vlad-i-mir” she called, savouring each syllable of the name – “Darling, you look merveilleux”. Mwhh, Mwhh, came the sound of lavish kisses bestowed on the presidential cheeks.

“And I ‘ave bought you a little gift from the great people of France. Oui, ils sont des caniches – poodles – how to say in Russian? And they are pedigree – absolutely one hundred percent French blood – unsullied by other breeds. They are not mongrels” – this with a glance towards Theresa – “as English dogs often are…”

As the party proceeded down the corridor towards the dining room, Theresa found herself alongside Hilary.

“My, oh my,” said Hilary. “Leopard skin boots again, Theresa. It seems like we ladies are taking over the world. I suppose, after David lost the EU referendum, you were the natural choice. For you, it must have been like catching a ripe plum”.

“Let’s say I wasn’t entirely surprised. Poor George had completely lost all credibility. I was more shocked by what happened in France in May. Mind you, the male candidates were pitiful. Not only has Marine closed France’s borders and blown up the Channel Tunnel, you know she’s planning to ditch the Euro. It’s making my job a lot easier, I can tell you.”

“She’s all over Vladimir, isn’t she? And he seems remarkably pleased with himself. They are going to announce an Alliance for a New Europe…”

The dining room was in the traditional Russian style, a simple but elegant room lit only by candlelight and a large wood-stove. Theresa observed immediately that the dining table was laid for six.

Vladimir stood ready to take his place at the head of the table and gestured for Jinping to sit at the other end.

“My dear Marine, if you would be so kind to sit here on my right. We have much to talk about…”

Vladimir poured six glasses of vodka and placed them on the table. Theresa checked herself, but the question that she ached to pose would soon be answered.

“Ah”, said Vladimir. “At last. Here is my final guest”.

A tall, thin, awkward-looking man entered the room, his aquiline features just visible in the candlelight. He mumbled an apology. Hilary grimaced. Or did she? It was difficult to tell.

“Sit down here, on my left, Bashar. And now”, continued Vladimir, “a toast, as is our custom”.

They all stood up, clutching their glasses.

“To ever closer union…”

This time Jinping laughed so violently that he dropped his vodka.

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