Not worth crossing the street for, really

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Not worth crossing the street for, really

IT'S POSSIBLE, I suppose, to live for years without ever having a brush with death. So to hear the soft whistle of the pinions twice in five minutes is worth a mention. I had to go to Moscow for the experience - specifically, to lunch on the Leninsky Prospekt. Leninsky Prospekt, as its name suggests, is an important but dispiriting thoroughfare, enormously wide and stretching away to infinity. On a rainy day, with no crossings in sight and endless traffic skidding past, a pedestrian may well feel that it will take him as long to get over Leninsky as it will take Russia to get over Lenin. But the call of lunch and the lash of rain are powerful forces in human affairs, so we made a dash for the centre strip, then to the far pavement. Death - and I'm speaking quite soberly - was narrowly cheated.

What happened next is not so simple: whether we arrived at a restaurant which was already full, or whether three sodden Westerners burst into a mafia-run club at an inconvenient moment is unclear. However, the man on the door made his meaning plain: there was nothing for us inside. No table, no seats, no food, no nothing . . . Well, it's not so unusual to be turned away by a haughty waiter - try marching into The Ivy for lunch on a weekday without a booking. But even at The Ivy they do not, as they show you the door, point a twin-bore shotgun reprovingly at your belly.