Never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, so the saying goes. And especially if that mile is through “muddy slush”, and going diametrically in the wrong direction from Salisbury station, away from the very cathedral and its famous 123-metre spire you had come to see, and right towards the CCTV cameras that would make you, two innocent sports nutritionists from Moscow, the prime suspects in the attempted assassination by nerve agent of a Russian traitor turned British spy.
Not even in the very bleakest case studies on ITV’s short-lived Holidays from Hell series has anyone been quite so unfortunate as Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov. Breakfast buffets would regularly underwhelm. Promises about inclusive jet ski rental would go unkept. E coli would rip through cruise ships and Sicilian holiday resorts would be felled by earthquakes right in the middle of the Around the World cabaret.
But never did two Russian men not only have their short weekend using London as a base to explore Salisbury by train ruined with snow, the bad weather making it simply impossible for them to be among the 1,200 or so people who somehow still managed to visit Stonehenge that day, but six months later their miserable weekend would also land them in the firing line for the most internationally notorious murder and attempted murder in decades.
Ordinarily, this is the sort of thing that would end with at least a strongly worded letter to the tour operator, but in the absence of such a possibility, a sit down interview with your country’s state backed TV channel will have to do.
No wonder they looked so grumpy, in the interview these two innocent civilians, the same ones pictured in CCTV footage released by British police and named as murderers, have now done with Russia Today.
“Just one day changed our lives,” says Ruslan, alternating his glance between the camera and his friend, looking never more like two 14-year-olds in the headmaster’s office. “Our life was turned upside down in a moment.”
At this point, cynics might interject and suggest life was also turned upside down for Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal, Dawn Sturgess, Charlie Rowley, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, a cat and two guinea pigs.
But it turns out, actually, that poor Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov are to be added to the list of victims in this ever more mysterious crime.
Perhaps they are just unlucky. We certainly didn’t hear any more about other holidays they’ve been on that have turned to disaster. It may well be that this was the first mini break they’d been brave enough to take after their ill advised trip to Pompeii in AD 79 also ended in disaster.
It is easy to laugh, and when it is easy to laugh, one always should. In the age of fake news, lies and misinformation, when something comes along that is as palpably ridiculous as this, laughing is absolutely the correct thing to do.
Besides, the louder you laugh, the less likely you are to hear that rising rap of panic in the chest, telling you that, in a few years from now, these things might not turn out to have been quite so funny after all.
The Independent has launched its #FinalSay campaign to demand that voters are given a voice on the final Brexit deal.