PASSPORT; SIR LUDOVIC KENNEDY
The writer and broadcaster recalls the tension - and the laughter - of filming in Moscow in the Sixties
Sunday 28 February 1999
Back in the early 1960s, it was different. I had a lovely old black passport. I was working on the BBC's Panorama programmes. When Robin Day and I went to Moscow, we were among the very first TV people allowed entry. In fact we got into trouble for filming vegetable queues and we were hauled up in front of the Board of Moscow Television. There were seven of them sitting in a row facing us. Their boss, in the middle, looking down on us, said: "The path you have chosen is the wrong one". Our producer, Jeremy Murray-Brown, just burst out laughing.
Some hilarious things happened to us in Moscow. One night, Jeremy was out very late at night by himself and he had no means of getting home. In fact he didn't know where he was. But suddenly he heard this huge rumbling noise: it was a Soviet tank coming up the street. So Jeremy decided to stick out his thumb and hitch a lift. The tank stopped. Jeremy asked: "Can you take me to the Hotel Ukraine?" And the tank driver agreed to take him home.
It was also pretty tense. Pretty grim. Climbing the steps to board the flight out we saw two men in trilbies. I thought we were going to be arrested. But they didn't stop us. An hour after take-off, the pilot announced that we were leaving Soviet airspace. The whole plane erupted into spontaneous cheers.
Another trip I did in those days for Panorama was to Saudi Arabia. The flight from Jeddah to Riyadh was extraordinary: there were sheep in the aisles and lots of clucking hens. When we arrived, a prince called Salman took me and my cameraman out into the desert and organised races for the retainers, using his starting pistol and a camera to snap them at the finish. It was like something out of Shakespeare.
We camped out, sitting under the stars with the prince, eating meat with our fingers. One sheep per night. The cameraman and I had a tent to ourselves. This may have been Saudi Arabia but there was a bottle of J&B and a pitcher of cold water waiting for us when we retired to sleep.
My first trip to India was another unusual experience. I was riding a taxi to Bombay when suddenly a man in a sky-blue suit and red teeth stopped the car, opened the door and got in. This was odd enough. Then he began asking questions. "What are you thinking of Harold Macmillan, Kingsley Amis and Charles Dickens?" he asked. There was a long pause. I asked what he was thinking.
"I am thinking of a poem about you," he said. "Happy in Love, Dauntless in Work, is Mr L Kennedy of the BBC."
I complained that it didn't rhyme, so he tried again:
"I seal with a kiss, our heavenly bliss," he began, but at that moment we arrived and I was spared the rest of his poem.
Sir Ludovic Kennedy's latest book, `All in the Mind' was published in January by Hodder & Stoughton, price pounds 18.99.
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