The next morning, our decision was made for us. We turned on BBC news to see video footage of Iranians burning the Union Jack. Apparently, the British Embassy had been attacked by protesters in response to sanctions.
“Death to Britain!” cried the protesters as they set alight to the embassy buildings.
“Georgia?” I asked Michael.
“Georgia”, he nodded.
By the time we’d read a Foreign Office report urging Britons in Iran to “stay indoors, keep a low profile and await further advice”, it was already a foregone conclusion to avoid the country.
The highlight of Aktau, for me at least, was when we stopped for a coffee in a cafeteria.
“Two coffees please,” Michael asked the waitress
“Yes, please. Two,” he said, with two fingers raised.
“Cappuccino?” asked the waitress, in a Russian accent.
“No. Two Americano please. A-mer-i-can-o. Two”
“Yes. Two Americanski,” he said, “with milk”
The looked confused.
“Cappuccino?” she asked again.
“No. Two A-mer-i-can-o with milk”
“Yes, milk. You know: moooooooo,” he said, with his fingers on his head to indicate horns.
The waitress looked at him. She then grabbed a menu from another table, opened it, and said,
“No! Niet hamburger,” he said, losing a degree of his usual calmness. “Two coffee: Americano… with… milk”
“Mike, let’s just get a couple of cappuccinos. They probably don’t have Americano’s here,” I said, conscious that our conversation was gathering an audience.
“No, I got this, hang on,” he replied, with a resolute look on his face.
He looked at the waitress, she returned his gaze.
“Okay,” he said, slowly, “Two Americanski”.
“Two Americanski,” she repeated, nodding.
“With milk,” he added.
“Yes. Milk. You know…Milk. Miiiilk,” he explained, as he got up and crouched on the floor of the café on all fours. When he started mooing, I rolled my eyes and got up as well. I then kneeled at his side and pretended to milk him –because otherwise the scene would have looked ridiculous.
The waitress blushed, suddenly aware of everyone in the café watching.
“Erm.. malakom?,” she asked, nervously.
“Yes! MILK!” shouted Michael, pointing both of his index fingers at her like a pair of guns.
He sat down again looking around the café, with a self-satisfied expression on his face, giving the other diners nods of acknowledgement as if he’d just been bestowed an academy award.
The waitress returned with our coffees.
“Two cappuccino!” she said, smiling triumphantly, as she placed the cups on the table.
Michael’s eye started twitching. He took a deep breath in and a long breath out. I passed him the vodka.