Thank God it's Friday

1st September 2006 at 01:00
MONDAY Off to Lithuania tomorrow but today it's the Modigliani exhibition at the Royal Academy. My heart sinks as I read about one of his influences, Juan Gris, who invented synthetic cubism. If someone from the DfES sees this there'll be an inquiry as to whether synthetic cubism is superior to analytic cubism and then a report suggesting that infants should have a daily dose.

TUESDAY Vilnius, Lithuania. At the hotel we are given a local guidebook, which is both amusing and in good English. I quickly learn how to greet beggars with "Eik sau!" (sod off) and make a gesture involving thumb, index and middle fingers. The guide does point out that, while this will make it clear that I am not just a gullible tourist, it may result in a fight. We stroll around the old town, which is in the middle of major restoration work, and have a beer, served with smoked chicken stomachs and pigs' ears - better than they sound. We also discover where Britain's missing sparrows have flown to.

WEDNESDAY A sobering visit to the former KGB headquarters and prison. In the basement are padded cells and water torture rooms. In the execution cell the floor has been excavated and glassed over. The bodies have been removed but pairs of spectacles, belts and other belongings have been left as witnesses to the horrors that took place. It is particularly disturbing to note that the last entry in the daily logbook is as recent as 1991.

THURSDAY The concept of reverse parking does not seem to have reached Lithuania. Everyone drives in nose first and leaves their tail sticking out, causing chaos in narrow streets. Car alarms are so sensitive that they go off if someone as much as coughs near them; conversations are punctuated by a succession of honks and bleeps. Contributing to the cacophony are the pedestrian crossings, which emit a squeak like someone stepping on a guinea pig. Perhaps this is why they have a statue honouring Frank Zappa, who wasn't of Lithuanian origin. Frank would have approved.

FRIDAY In the Russian Orthodox Church are the mummified bodies of three 14th-century martyrs, which are taken out and dressed in different outfits for different religious festivals. I prefer my bizarre a little less macabre so we visit Uzupis, a bohemian district of the city that has its own 42-article constitution. I particularly like article 13: "A cat does not have to love its owner but, in times of difficulty, it is required to help its owner."

Uzupis celebrates its independence on April 1, when anyone crossing one of the bridges can have their passport stamped. Perhaps Frank Zappa was an honorary citizen?

David Meaden

David Meaden is an adviser in an outer London borough

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