Our columnist Boyd Clack explores the dangers of foreign travel – as only he knows how!
I was once accosted by a group of angry, sword-wielding horsemen on the Albanian/Kazakhstan border when they discovered me urinating on what I thought was an old stone wall.
It was in fact the remains of a temple where a great religious leader, their prophet, had preached and performed miracles ten centuries ago. It was a holy place in their culture.
Through a mixture of sign language and mime I explained that I was a professional actor and they let me go.
I was walking through Red Square in Moscow a few years before the fall of the Communist regime, when I saw a man get up from a bench leaving a brown envelope behind on the seat.
I grabbed the envelope to rush after him but he had gone.
I was deliberating as to what to do, when an old fashioned car pulled up and a group of burly men in long coats jumped out, snatched the envelope out of my hand, bundled me into the back of the car and drove off.
I didn’t know where they were taking me as I had been blindfolded with a bag over my head. The car reeked of vodka.
About ten minutes later the car was driven into a courtyard and I was dragged out protesting and taken into a building, up several flights of stone stairs and flung into a cold room with a stone floor.
I laid shivering on the floor for what seemed like hours then the door opened, my hands were tied and I was sat up in a chair. When they took the hood off I saw I was in a bare cell with just the chair and a single unshaded light bulb above.
The men were all thick set and unsmiling. The fattest one stood behind me and broke wind.
One stood to each side and the fourth, a thin, bald man with wire rimmed spectacles stood in front and addressed me. He asked about the envelope. I told him what had happened and asked if they knew the man who’d lost it.
He said that the man had died under questioning not ten minutes before and he asked why I was in possession of the names of all of the Russian double agents in British Intelligence.
I told him I wasn’t aware that I was.
He waved a sheet of paper in front of me and started to shout. He then spoke to the man to my right who took a cloth container from his inside pocket and opened it out to reveal what appeared to be some medical implements.
The bald man told me I had one more chance to ‘come clean’ as he put it or the other man, who he referred to as ‘the good doctor here’ would take over the interrogation using ‘less friendly methods’.
I told him I was a professional actor and they let me go.