Russia (USSR) - the Golf Lesson, by Peter Richards (1976)

Way back in July 1976 and still in the ‘cold war’ era, the route to Tokyo over Russia was still very much a part of the BOAC network, operated by a couple of 707-336Bs that were the only aircraft with the range for what was only ever ‘a long thin route’. The captain of the crew I was with on that trip was a fanatical golfer who was attempting to patent a device to improve the frequently wayward ‘driver swing’, where maximum energy has to be imparted to the golf ball. He had devised a sort of ‘brace’ that clamped between the biceps across the chest and had a spring bungee in the middle that could be adjusted to suit both the gap in human physiology and also the level of comfort required. He was going to attempt to market this device in Japan and in order to demonstrate it he had invested in a telescopic golf club that he carried around with him in his suitcase.

The company had recognised that catering in the Ukraine hotel was ‘tricky’ and so extra catering stores were always loaded, specifically designated it seemed for the crew to take off and share during some social gathering that always took place after flights in those days. With half-bottles of spirits purchased from the duty free bar and other supplies available from various sources, it was ‘traditional’ to gather in the captain’s suite as his room was considerably larger than those allotted to the rest of us.

As we arrived at our hotel floor level assigned to the crew, we were met by the ‘floor dragon’ who would formally hand out the room keys; with her on this day was a very pretty young lady who was obviously ‘being shown the ropes’. This ancient amazon of a supervisor was obviously an old hand at BOAC crew management and as she handed the captain his key, she also held out an enamel camping mug and made what can only be described as a grotesque sheepish grin. The chief steward promptly whisked a flask containing some tawny liquid out of his coverall and poured a generous libation into the proffered receptacle. The contents of the mug were downed in one.

We went to our respective rooms and changed out of our uniforms into mufti, then trundled along to the captain’s suite. This suite was amply furnished to the extent that there was hardly any room to swing a cat for the number of cabinets of various shapes and sizes all filled with objets d’art. Perching ourselves wherever we could we chatted about this and that and the topic finally got around to the captain’s ‘Swing Track’ golfing device. So he got this out of the suitcase and we all had a good look at it. One of the Japanese stewardesses we had with us admitted to being a keen golfer and asked how it worked. So the captain then put the device on to the stewardess, with considerable adjustment needed between his 6’2” and 44” chest and her more petite dimensions. He also produced a golf ball made of plastic with holes cut in it and weighing about 5 gms. The penny rapidly dropped in the stewardesses’ mind and she ‘addressed the ball’ to aim at the door out of the room into the corridor.

Taking a deep breath and a commendably athletic back-swing, she let fly. The golf ball flew, but so did the club, as the tension in the spring bungee had been too tight and the projectile club sailed merrily across the room to collide with one of the aforementioned cabinets full of small china ornaments. There was the most awful crash and shards of glass went everywhere. Thinking quickly on our feet as all BOAC crew were selected and trained for, clean-up began and most of the sacred objects were found to be undamaged. So a party was dispatched to another room and another cabinet located and populated with the ornaments, while the damaged one was placed in an unoccupied room with an open door.

The captain was concerned that the noise might have alerted the floor dragon and so I was dispatched with the remains of my half bottle of Bells to see if I could placate her. On getting to the work station, the supervisor was not there, but the beautiful student was and very quickly she reached down under the desk and produced the enamel mug. Holding this out to my astonished eyes, she smiled most beautifully - and as a gentleman I could not refuse a lady. So I poured a suitable libation and winked at her and went back to the room.

About an hour later, there was a knock at the door and when opened, there were two men who were obviously ‘not amused’. ‘English’ they said’ 'Who is making the floor supervisor drunk?’ ‘Nothing to do with us chief’ answered the captain.’ Try SAS along the corridor’. With that and with no further evidence, the two men left, but on our departure the next day, sadly the beautiful trainee was no longer there and the ‘dragon’ was looking like thunder.

©Peter G Richards FRAeS

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