I headed to the Yusupov Palace again, this time to sit in the cafe and make a start on writing the play. There is still a lot more research to go and a lot of planning as there's so much to get my head round, but I liked the idea of writing the first page or so in the very building that so much of the action happened. I was maybe 20 metres from the murder scene. Maybe if I took a wrong turn on the way to the loo I might go down a passage that would lead to 1916 and I'd be able to witness the events for myself. I hoped so. That would make writing the thing a lot easier. Unless it turned out that I was Rasputin and the reason I could help Alexei was because I had access to modern medicines. I am not sure I should make this play a Goodnight Sweetheart crossover.
They sold Yusupov cakes in the cafe, which I didn’t sample, but which from the menu on the wall looked a little bit like the ones that were used to poison (or in fact not poison) Rasputin. If I ran this cafe I would make a lot more of that. I’d offer a whole Rasputin experience, with the cakes and some madeira and maybe some cyanide in one in a hundred meals, just to give a sense of jeopardy. I would certainly have paid to experience Rasputin’s last meal. “Can you survive the Yusupov Feast?” There’s the tag-line for you, folks. Come on. Get with it.
I managed a bit of writing. The first few words of the play (at the moment) are "Irina." "Irina". "Irina". "Felix. Felix. Felix"" and "Why won't you die?" That's what I call a good day's work. But even if none of this makes it into the final draft (and all of those words will definitely be in there somewhere) then it’s cool to say that the play began its life on the page in the Yusupov Palace.
I decided my time was better spent working than traipsing across town to the Museum of Erotica to see Rasputin’s severed 30cm penis. Mainly because it’s pretty unlikely that it really is his penis. So I’d be wasting two hours going to see something that wasn’t what it was. And yet I felt by not doing so I was missing out on some possible adventure (and maybe a Metro column). My life is such that travelling across town to see something that in all likelihood is not even a human penis (or maybe a penis at all) would be a useful thing to do for my job. I may regret not going. But I have had to try and balance research with work on this trip and so will miss out on more important sights than this.
I did some more reading too. My favourite revelation from Yusupov’s memoirs was that Rasputin’s apartment contained some high-backed armchair. So there’s another thing we have in common, along with my 30cm dismembered penis.
On the recommendation of Peter we went back to the Haymarket to have some traditional Russian food at Khochu Kharcho. You never know if a tour guide has some arrangement or connection with a restaurant when they do this, but I am glad we trusted him as we had a great time here and the food was good. I ate some purple coloured pickled vegetables and felt like I was dining on another planet in Star Trek. I drank some beer and some vodka and we had some more unusual space food as a desert, hazelnuts inside what looked like peas in a pod of some dark coloured confection that may have been made out of fruit or something like liquorice. We’re been eating mainly at the hotel and not been too adventurous so it was great to get out. I would recommend this place if you're in town. And it's not far from the Thieves Market if you need to pick up an iPhone afterwards. The sun was still shining when we left the restaurant, even though it was late, thanks to our northerly position, though it was colder today.
Our time here has whooshed past and I’d love to come here again and do everything properly. I think it’s been a useful thing to do. It's been fun, though we haven't been sleeping that well, maybe due to the vodka or maybe because we've both had too many ideas spinning around in our heads (my wife is in the middle of a project too). Still rather terrified about what I've got to get done over the next few months, but looking forward to seeing if I can pull it off.