Selling Magnets In St Petersburg


If all else fails, there are always magnets to sell. Mike continues his Russian escapade with the stoned fox and a manager that barely understands the words 'DJ gig'.


We left it on argument, and you should never go to bed on an argument, but I had no choice. But more important than the fall out with the manager, was whether I could get away with my musical compromise from Swedish House Mafia to some sort of quasi-Deep/Commercial/Vocal House.


Just in the nick of time before I had to vacate the DJ booth for the residents to start the night, I recorded the mix live, edited it and sent it on to Alexey.  A couple of hours later he comes into the bar, gives me a wave, but then proceeds to sit down on another table.  This is probably bad news.  But then, from no more than ten yards away, he sends me an email:





Well that's a result.  It ain't Swedish House Mafia, that's for sure.  And I'll take it on the chin about the last tune – maybe The Russians got just as sick of that Charleston sound as we did.  In fact, what was I thinking?  Anyway, next job.  Flights home.  Still not resolved, and there are about 8 hours left before I want to fly.  I'm used to this now, I must steel myself not to kick off.  There was already the mix argument – I don't want them to think I'm a dick. 


So Manager Katya comes through with the flights… looks like she is on the path to forgiveness. Yes, good, fly out of here at 6am and land in time to drop my passport off at the visa centre in London.  I told her return flight needs to be after lunch time on Wednesday so I have time to pick up my visa in the morning and be able make it to Gatwick or Heathrow… let's just double check what she's booked… and oh no, it's 7:30am on Wednesday.  Another argument ensues, where she confidently brandishes a text message I sent to her about the flights, but alas it says exactly what I thought it said, which was "after 12:30pm on Wednesday".


Then she gets on the phone.  It seems she is out of jail.  "It's okay Mike, I have changed the flights to after 1pm on Wednesday, is that okay?"  Through gritted teeth, it was okay. "I will send you the confirmation tomorrow."


I forgot about this conversation once I was back in England, but then just as I arrived back in London on Tuesday night, ready for my flight the next day, it occurred to me I didn't have it.  I didn't even know which airport.  So I emailed Katya to ask for it.  By the time she replied, I was right at the business end of a game of snooker with my mate Jonathan. 


This was not a good time to tell me that I would be flying a day later than originally planned, for seemingly no good reason. I get paid for every day I'm in Russia, after all.  And the frame was down to the colours.  Not a good time at all.  But I composed myself to win frame and match, or should I say, Jonathan went in off the blue and left me a gimme, having made an heroic comeback from the snookers-required stage… I was hanging on for dear life, fretting about the incompetence of others.  With the frame secure, I whipped the Macbook out and did my finest Angry Of Tunbridge Wells:



This didn't go down too well:



At first this was good news.  But then there was this horribly nervous few hours where I thought maybe I'd overplayed my hand.  As much faith as I had in the righteousness of the argument; in their eyes, who am I, after all?  I was there a month ago for a bit of a jolly, and now I'm talking to them like this.  What if they just pull the plug because it's too much hassle? 


So it was a bit of a relief when they came back to me with some better flights on Thursday.  I hadn't blown it after all.  And it was Gatwick.  Not too far from my uncle Alessandro… I'll give him a call.

"Ahhhh, Michael. I've been meaning to speak to you actually."


"Oh yeah?"


"I thought maybe you could sell some magnetic products in Russia. It's the biggest-growing market."

He's bang into his magnets is Alessandro.  The phrase "selling magnets to The Russians" popped into my head, and I wondered, would that be easier or harder than selling sand to The Arabs?  But I decided not to crack that one on the phone and risk deriding his profession.  He had once sold a magnetic mattress to Sven-Goran Eriksson after all, and Arsene Wenger was all up for getting some of the products in at Arsenal before the club doctor kiboshed it… there was some story that involved Marc Overmars and Patrick Vieira in a hotel in Hertfordshire, wearing sarongs, extolling the virtues of one of these mattresses, but I can't fully remember it.


So off to Gatwick I go with a pair of magnetic insoles in my trainers, a couple of other product samples and a folder of information about various related products, including the benefits of the blood-thinning properties of Alkaline water.  In the context of the last month in Russia, nothing surprises me any more, but I can see how this might look to the outsider.  To be fair, I am open minded about the science on the grounds that people get 'energy' from all kinds of different sources; like protein, carbohydrate, religious faith, meditation, caffeine, cocaine, whatever… so why not magnets?  But to try and explain this in Russian may be beyond me.


Time to check in.  There is no record of me on the flight, and as my confirmation is in Russian, that doesn't help; but it's all plausible given how last-minute the flight booking was.  The other desk should sort me out once I give them the confirmation number. 


"Mr Boorman, your flight has been booked for the 9th of August… it is the 9th of July today" 


"Jonny Foreigner strikes again," I thought.  I was feeling particularly racist at that moment.  But I snapped out of it.  While I would rate the Brits' way of doing business to be more to my liking than the Russians', the factor that cannot be overlooked is the factor of clubland.  All that drink.  All that gear.  All that disrespect of office hours.  There are bound to be cock-ups.  I have signed up for this.  And no doubt when I land, they will be able to give me the £438 it will cost me to get out to St Petersburg at two hours' notice.  No one needs to raise a purchase order and get it signed it off – they will just produce it from somewhere.


Sure enough, they did, but the more pressing concern was the future… who the hell was going to manage this project?  Had Katya really walked? 


It was confirmed that she had. Then I remembered the bus tickets.  She collects bus tickets.  She wanted me to get her one from London, which I did.  Not one, but two.  And I threw in one from Manchester.  I felt concerned that she may never get these bus tickets, because she was actually quite nice.  If Alan Ball came back from the dead and asked you for a bus ticket, you wouldn't berate him about his history of bad management – even if you'd suffered him as a fan of Man City or Southampton – you'd just give him the ticket and be done with it. 


So the new manager is introduced to me by Pasha, the clever diplomat amongst all the chaos.  I see him as the Tom Hagen from the Godfather in all of this.  A quality operator and a great don in the making, but he just doesn't want the hassle.


Hagen: so diplomatic he convinced this man to agree to his own suicide


"This is Kamilla, your new manager – you should communicate better with her than you did with your manager before.  She is working hard for you."


He explains the vision.  And it all sounds reasonable.  Then he goes, but what he said is still ringing in my ears.  It's a clean slate.  Be nice.  Make some small talk.


"So what DJ gigs have I got coming up then?"


"Sorry, I don't understand."


"Errrm, are there any DJ gigs, erm, going to happen?" (I did a bit of air-DJing with my left hand over my ear and my right hand doing some scratching on the table)


"Sorry, could you write this to me please?"


Here we go again.  But I guess if it all goes tits-up, there's always the magnets.


Article: Mike Boorman
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If you haven't already, check out the rest of Mike's Russian-missives here: Fear and Loathing in St PetersburgFear and Starving in St Petersburg & A Diva in St Petersburg