New Book: Three Sips of Gin - Mikhail Kalashnikov · March 25, 2011

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By Tim Bax

Readers will recall that ORAFs recently distributed information regarding the subject book, the author Tim Bax, a short extract, available to ORAFs, of his unexpected meeting with Mikhail Kalashnikov and is now circulated to ORAFs with Tim's permission.

MIKHAIL KALASHNIKOV.

“Dr. Kalashnikov expresses sorrow for the pain he caused.”
“Tell him not to worry.”
“He would like to offer a token of his sorrow.”
“He can buy me a double vodka.”
“It’s not enough. He would like to give you his watch.”
(The author talking with Mikhail Kalashnikov: Johannesburg, 1998)

I was rather surprised to be seated opposite Mikhail Kalashnikov at the banquet. After all, it was the culmination of a Sandton exhibition promoting “Quality Weapons”. Seated on either side of the “five times hero of the Soviet Union” where two dour faced Russian colonels who looked more like heavyweight wrestlers than army officers. I thought they might be twins as they both wore the same blank expressions. I was told they were Kalashnikov’s personal bodyguards and interpreters.

“Would you classify the AK-47 as a quality weapon?” I asked twin number one. I might just as well have been speaking to a brick wall. He stared at me vacantly, his brain probably numbed by the considerable amount of vodka he had been imbibing . . . we hadn’t even progressed passed our first course yet. His twin brother was more vocal.

“Of Course,” he injected, swigging back his own goblet of vodka. “It’s the world’s best selling weapon.” His accent was thick and guttural.

“That might be so, but you would also have to admit it’s the world’s most useless weapon.”
I immediately regretted my remark. It even seemed to permeate the first twin’s numbed brain.
He looked at me as if unable to decide whether to lunge at me across the table or have me incinerated into the nearest Russian Gulag. His brother started stammering inaudibly, as if what I had said might be the most insulting thing he had ever heard.

I was saved from bodily harm only by Kalashnikov’s timely intervention. He asked the two colonels what the commotion was about. After a short while twin number two stood up. He paused to clear his throat as if wanting to make an important announcement. When it came, it was trumpeted in a voice louder than the limited capacity of the banquet hall might have necessitated. Guests were hushed into silence. You could have heard a pin drop.

“Dr. Kalashnikov would like to know why you think the AK-47 is such an inferior weapon,” he bellowed sounding like a wounded buffalo.

“Because, old chap,” I responded quietly. “I’ve been shot nine times by an AK-47 and I’m still alive to talk to its inventor tonight.”

“Nine times, that’s impossible,” guffawed the Colonel puffing himself up like an angry bullfrog.

“Nine times,” I replied swigging back my own vodka.

The hall remained silent.

Further whispered discussion took place between Kalashnikov and the two angry twins. Twin number two remained standing as he glared at me across the table. I sensed he wished I had been killed by the first of the nine bullets.

“Dr. Kalashnikov is sorry he caused you so much pain,” he eventually gargled, sounding like a bulldog lapping from a plate of porridge.

“Tell him not to worry. A Rhodesian body is stronger than Russian bullets.”

“He wishes to give you something as a token of his sorrow.”

“He can buy me a double vodka.”

“It is not enough; he wishes to give you his watch.” I saw Kalashnikov removing his watch from his wrist. It was one issued to senior Russian staff officers and had been inscribed with his name.

“Thank you,” I replied reaching for the watch. “I’ll take it and the vodka.”

The banquet resumed, the vodka tasted good and I became the proud owner of Kalashnikov’s personal wristwatch.
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Thanks to Tim for sharing this memory with ORAFs.

Three Sips of Gin An Absorbing Adventure of Stewards, Stengahs, Scandal and Strife set beneath an African Sky.
Available end of March 2011. Advance orders available on http://www.threesipsofgin.com

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