The Vladimir Putin I knew, by some deluded prick

A MEGALOMANIAC madman mumbling nonsense about neo-Nazi drug addicts to justify a disastrous invasion? That’s not the warm, kind, generous Vladimir Putin I once knew. 

No, when I was Vlad’s art dealer, party planner and confidante for more than a decade, he was an urbane, confident leader who would never think of violently repressing anyone apart from Chechnya. 

I would walk into his simple billion-dollar palace on the Black Sea where he would be lounging beneath a portrait of Stalin – who he admired purely as a person – discoursing knowledgeably on the work of Jeff Koons and the effectiveness of vacuum bombs. 

Other than the single occasion when I saw him beating a member of an opposing political party until his knuckles bled, he was never less than gracious and convivial. And we all have bad days. 

If you’d met the Vlad I met, you too would have enjoyed his witty, lighthearted company and found it difficult to believe he had ordered the agonising poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko with polonium in a London hotel. 

He seemed so rational, so strategic. Not at all the kind of man who would cause the entire city of Salisbury to be decontaminated because he’d ordered enough nerve toxin to kill tens of thousands to be used on one former double agent. 

I’m baffled as to how the former KGB officer who invaded Georgia, backed a coup in Montenegro and annexed the Crimea has come to this. That’s not the Putin I knew. That’s not him at all.

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Six friends who are massive time vampires

HAVE you got certain friends with too much time on their hands who are determined to waste yours? Here are some who’ll constantly be in touch – when it’s convenient for them.

The WhatsApp shitposter

Posts dozens of inane snippets of gibberish and unfunny comments, such as: ‘What up, dawg???’, ‘Just had an excellant piss’, or simply ‘Yo’. You now realise WhatsApp could be used to torture people, because you’ll do anything to make the f**king pinging stop.

The lockdown gardening convert

When Justin got into gardening during lockdown you were pleased he’d found an interest to help stay sane. Now, after endless updates about his garlic, dill, Italian tomatoes, lilies and cacti, you want to rampage through his plants like a mindless teenage vandal trashing a flower display, and possibly leave a nice big turd in his courgettes. 

The kept partner

Their partner earns enough to live on, so they don’t work, or dabble in freelance. Result: an absurd amount of time on their hands. One day they’ll call once too often when you’re busy and you’ll snap, eg. ‘GET A F**KING JOB, YOU F**KING MARIE ANTOINETTE PARASITE!’  

The Machiavellian pubgoer

They’ll guilt-trip you into going to the pub, making out you’re turning into a weird hermit. Then you realise they’re bored shitless or want some moral support while they yap to a woman they fancy. When you really fancy going for a pint they’re ‘feeling lazy’ and staying in to rewatch The Shawshank Redemption for the 14th time on ITV.

The news story sharer

Posts links to news stories with some redundant comment like ‘Terrible’ referring to something that’s indisputably terrible, eg. hundreds dying in floods. Why they think anyone needs their help to read the main stories on the BBC news site remains a tedious mystery.

Endless relationship problems friend

You used to be sympathetic about their crap boyfriends or loony girlfriends. But it keeps happening, suggesting they’re just an idiot at choosing partners. Your advice is gradually shifting from ‘The right person’s out there’ to ‘Have you thought about becoming a barren old spinster?’ or, if male, ’See those testicles? How about chopping them off?’