I gave him a chance to improve his English by inviting him to visit me on a recent home visit to Yorkshire. He came for a week, in which he left Russia for the first time, had his first flight and, for the first time, saw the sea.
SATURDAY: Kirill, 16, arrived at Humberside airport. The flight had been delayed but he enjoyed the stopover in Amsterdam. "The clouds looked so thick you could ... sleep on them. I picked up a sick-bag to take back as a gift for my English teacher."
SUNDAY: The first thing he noticed on waking in a holiday cottage near Scarborough was that there were no cockroaches in the kitchen. Kirill was stunned at having his own bedroom: at home he sleeps in a room with his two younger brothers. We drove to Scarborough for his first encounter with the sea. Hegazed at the waves; he had not expected the sea to be so vast or so vivid, he said. In Russia he had only ever seen a lake.
MONDAY: Return visit to Scarborough, where Kirill toured the computer- game shops.
By this time he had pocket money but he was just getting ideas, so that back in Moscow he could buy cheaper, pirated versions of the games on Gorbushka market.
TUESDAY: Drove to Runswick Bay, which has a microclimate. Kirill was amazed to see palms, fuchsia and lavender in bloom.
WEDNESDAY: At Sandsend, near Whitby, Kirill had filled his rucksack with pebbles, which he thought he might give to his teacher instead of the sick-bag.
THURSDAY: At Flamborough Head, Kirill was impressed by the lighthouse and white cliffs but the waves were not living up to his expectations.
FRIDAY: Bonfire Night. I asked Kirill if he would like to go to a bonfire party. He said "no". (He later said he feared it would consist of people sitting by a fire telling jokes he could not understand and eating sausages he did not like.) Instead, he asked to go again to see waves. At Scarborough we spotted a bonfire laid on by lifeboatmen. As waves crashed ashore, the men set off fireworks. "It was magic," said Kirill.
SATURDAY: Nature laid on a grand finale in Scarborough. It blew a gale and mighty waves lashed Marine Drive.Kirill prepared to return home. "I missed my friends. I left half my soul in Russia, that is, my friends," he said.