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Hidden treasures of Serbia

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A year’s-worth of free petrol coupons
Brian Aldiss Writer
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We had to report first of all to Belgrade in Serbia, where all the action actually took place. Despite the fact that Tito was not a Serb, he was a Croat, and that was always a quarrel under the surface which eventually contributed to the breaking up, alas, of Yugoslavia.

Anyhow, there we went and we went and saw some very nice people who were in charge of turisticcki savez, of tourism. And we got on well with the elegant woman who ran that. We had a meal with her and we then went back to the offices where she opened a gigantic safe and took out a big wodge of oil-stained petrol coupons, and she gave them to me. And as a result, in all the travelling round we did in Yugoslavia we never had to pay for petrol. Now, somehow, £70 comes into this. I think I'd got £70 on me for all emergencies, and by the time the year was over and we had to head back through Austria and Europe, I still had that £70. I can't quite think of how the logic of that worked out, but certainly at any garage we stopped at, we could pay out these wonderful free coupons. It was an immense help and, yes, and… one felt very grateful.

Brian Aldiss (1925-2017) was an English writer and anthologies editor, best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. He was educated at Framlingham College, Suffolk, and West Buckland School, Devon, and served in the Royal Signals between 1943-1947. After leaving the army, Aldiss worked as a bookseller in Oxford, an experience which provided the setting for his first book, 'The Brightfount Diaries' (1955). His first science fiction novel, 'Non-Stop', was published in 1958 while he was working as literary editor of the 'Oxford Mail'. His many prize-winning science fiction titles include 'Hothouse' (1962), which won the Hugo Award, 'The Saliva Tree' (1966), which was awarded the Nebula, and 'Helliconia Spring' (1982), which won both the British Science Fiction Association Award and the John W Campbell Memorial Award. Several of his books have been adapted for the cinema. His story, 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long', was adapted and released as the film 'AI' in 2001. His book 'Jocasta' (2005), is a reworking of Sophocles' classic Theban plays, 'Oedipus Rex' and 'Antigone'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Yugoslavia

Duration: 2 minutes, 8 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015