It must have been a perverse element in my nature, but I have to admit that the KGB provided me with a lot of light relief. Apart from the ubiquitous mics in the wall to which we addressed frequent epithets as an antidote to frustration, I found in my own case that frequently the KGB ‘goons’, as we called them, would put me under intensive surveillance. (…)

I recall on one occasion accompanying Les Castors de Sherbrooke to Smolensk for a hockey game. This was back in the days when the only Canadian teams visiting Russia were amateurs – and not very good ones at that – whom the Soviet squads routinely gobbled up and spit out without a hiccup. The team, including myself, went for a walk in the afternoon through downtown Smolensk where, as usual on my out of town trips, I was accompanied by my shadows. One persistent fellow followed me into a department store, keeping a distance of about fifty feet. I sauntered along until he was passing a table of lingerie, at which point I suddenly turned and retraced my steps. The Soviet goons all seemed to have a pathological fear of being confronted by their quarry. This fellow was faced with the choice of either meeting me face to face or of feigning profound interest in women’s undergarments. He, of course, chose the panties and bras. I thought it only reasonable to give him adequate time to make a selection, so I stopped immediately behind him and waited there for some two or three minutes. He didn’t move a muscle for the entire period, at the conclusion of which I muttered into his ear in Russian, “amateur”, and moved on.