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First posted Wednesday, September 14, 2011 1:30 pm

I am afraid you have the advantage of me, I reply, with an undeserved but long-accustomed civility, distilled from centuries of English breeding.

[Previous Radical's Diary]  

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Warsaw (Poland) -- London (England)

AT five a.m. I find that Jaenelle Antas emailed me from Munich, Germany, immediately after I went to bed. She confirms her flight back from there to Warsaw this morning, arriving here at ten-thirty a.m. She suggests we meet to confer at the airport. "I will have two hours to make the transition and I am saving my remaining phone credit for when I am at Warsaw airport."

At the airport at ten. Jaenelle shortly makes contact with a string of text messages: she has arrived. I buy half a dozen red roses, and advise her helpfully she will find a tall distinguished notorious literary gent seated at the café fifty yards after leaving the security check-in. The jocular word notorious I soon regret. An hour passes without her appearing, however, as the Poles have now declared her Polish air ticket invalid (her outward route from the USA had changed) -- another text message -- and it has to be replaced.

The Minnesota Maiden comes scurrying through finally at 11:50 p.m. A brief chat. She says, "The roses must have cost a lot." (Yes, every zloty I had left.)

12:20 p.m Jaenelle departs for her homeland, the USA. With four hours to dispel before my own flight home, I escort her through her flight's now almost deserted departure lounge to the gate, and reach it a few seconds before it closes. . . I notice a man watching us oddly from a seat a few yards away. He at once walks away with a scowl, a really black look, on his face which I misinterpret.


WITH Jaenelle now safely on her way, I sit down for a few moments and, in a playful but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to destroy all her remaining phone credit before she can make any other farewell calls, I phone her on the plane -- she has been given a bulkhead seat, not good.

At this moment four of the ugliest men and women I have seen come to the departure area, halting ten or fifteen feet away. If Helen had the beauty to launch a thousand ships, one of these four is surely a Golda, capable of sinking them all with one malodorous basilisk glare. She snarls, "Yes that's him." The Scowler then says, "I wanted to bring you here to be sure, so you could see him."

I call out in English, "Yes? Can I help you?" though it is shortly obvious to my trained post-Chicago-Edelweiss eye what they are.

"We know who you are," shouts Mrs Ugly Bitch, puzzled perhaps that I have not yet turned to a pillar of stone.

"I am afraid you have the advantage of me," I reply, with an undeserved but long-accustomed civility, distilled from centuries of English breeding. "I do not know who you are."

"Doesn't matter, we know who you are," repeats Mrs U.B., and I think I hear also a muttered: ". . . should be ashamed."

Ashamed? Are they talking about the Minnesotan's farewell legerdemain? Seems not. They come back shortly with an even larger group of people, some of them with furled light-blue and white flags poking out of their rucksacks.

Say no more, I think: literally. It is one of me, versus fifty or more of them. I can see them beginning to cluster, point fingers, stare, and talk into mobile phones.

I apprehend an international incident looming. Some of the men "wander" down toward where I am sitting. I stroll away into a café, then through the café -- which is not enclosed, unfortunately -- and out the other side. (In the Richoux incident when I was attacked by Jewish thugs in July 1992, I had time to order a pot of tea to my table, and an extra jug of boiling hot water as a defence weapon, as they summoned up reinforcements outside in South Audley Street: but the police arrived first and took the ringleaders away.)

I stroll over to a nearby elevator and go down a floor. That loses these nice folks, but only briefly. I hear noise from the balustrade above, and insults and really crude obscenities shouted in English, or American.

I carry on to the end of this short shopping area. Two security officers are coming out of a door marked Crew Only. I explain that a gang of Israelis upstairs has begun harassing me, and that to avoid further provocation I would appreciate being shown to somewhere more peaceful for an hour, until these unappetising tourists have departed from Polish soil.

"Yes," says one of the officers, "they are always a pain. Always making trouble. The people from Israel."

I text a warning to Jaenelle 's US phone. Her plane is already pulling back from the gate. She will get it when she arrives at New York eight hours from now. "Be slightly on guard at JFK. There was ugly scene with fifty Jews who had seen us and recognised me." Their scowling lookout will have phoned ahead, and they will have plenty of time to arrange things there. Why otherwise was he waiting in that deserted departure lounge? Why did he get up and leave as soon as he saw her boarding? They themselves admitted they shadowed us both all the way by plane from London to Oslo two years ago, where they staged those violent riots.

Arriving in London, I send a more pointed warning to be on the lookout at Kennedy "I don't know if you got the text I sent shortly after you pleaded with me to leave you some phone credit. There was a minor unpleasantness with Jews a few seconds later."

Sure enough, at eleven p.m. my phone buzzes. "Just landed." Then a second message from Jaenelle "I just got detained and interrogated in my own effing country." Ten minutes later: "I was the only American being held. They asked me questions that are none of their business. No doubt the Israeli saw what flight I was boarding."


WHY us? The seldom-asked question ricochets into my mind again. Indeed, why them. Acting as though they own every country they are in. The cheek of it. The chutzpah.


Left: our group's Hugo H-T, ex FO diplomat, exploring a 40-foot high General Staff bunker at "Mauerwald," East Prussia


Wednesday, September 14, 2011
London (England)

I TELL Hugo of this postscript to our Polish tour. As an old Foreign Office hand he is wise to such things. He says: "Of course that's why they stopped her. . . I was stopped only once, when I returned via Delhi from five weeks in Bhutan. I was in dirty clothes, and carrying only hand luggage ('For five weeks, Sir? May we see what's inside?').

"When they saw my H.M. Diplomatic passport, their manner suddenly became deferential and I was sent quickly on my way with apologies, and 'Of course you understand, Sir.'"

Understand. Sometimes we do, and sometimes we don't. "Mr Irving, are you anti-semitic?" -- "No, not yet, but it's not for want of effort on their part!"


[Previous Radical's Diary]  


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