By now several carloads of uniformed constabulary have also arrived on the scene. And Billy Bragg is involved, with the aid of a translator, in a mild verbal fracas with one of Moscow’s finest, a man of around his own age, on whose melancholy, drooping moustache ice is already forming.
The policeman asks for the girl’s passbook. When she takes it out of her pocket Billy Bragg snatches it from her and stuffs it away inside his MA I flying jacket. “If you want it,” he says to the cop, “you’ll have to arrest me.” And he proffers his outstretched wrists, as if awaiting handcuffs being applied.
The policeman’s expression is grave. He turns away and glances at the several patrol-cars parked at the base of the steps, as though seeking inspiration. Then he again addresses Bragg. “If you are a good socialist” he says, “you will give me the passbook.” Bragg is nonplussed; and makes the point that it is because he is a good socialist that he is not handing it over.
The situation is rather precarious. Clearly it has escalated almost out of control. Steps, it is evident, are required to bring it down to reality. Peter Jenner, previously as actively provocative as anyone present, suddenly, with managerial sleight-of-hand, pulls a compromise out of the bag: Billy will hand over the passbook, if the policeman guarantees that he will only check it and then hand it back to the girl who will be free to leave unhindered.
Everyone, including the cop, breathes a sigh of relief at this opportunity to climb down without any loss of face. Perfunctorily he glances at the passbook, and then, unsmilingly, shakes hands with Billy Bragg. And, with a pair of companions, wanders off into the night, drawing heavily on a cigarette he has immediately lit.”
Words by Chris Salewicz from Midnights in Moscow.