The negotiation in 1993 for exploration rights in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea was a baptism of fire for me, and the source of some of my favourite Tales.
On our last night in the Kazakh capital, Almaty, we were honoured with a traditional Kazakh banquet, with interpreters in attendance.
We had drunk large amounts of vodka in endless toasts to eternal friendship. Then a sheep’s head, skinned and roasted but otherwise complete, was carried in on a large silver platter with various knives, saws and hammers, and put on the table in front of us.
We had with us a lawyer who was a fluent Russian speaker and, unlike me, knew exactly what to do.
She picked up a knife and cut off the sheep’s ears, ate one and put the other in front of the leader of the Kazakh delegation, saying in Russian “Mr Kuandykov, we will always listen to you”. Our hosts beamed and applauded enthusiastically.
I was greatly impressed, and delighted that we had people on our side who knew what was going on.
Then to my horror she came over to me, handed me a knife and a spoon, and whispered: “Next it’s ‘we will always look out for your concerns’.”