The British ambassador in Washington Sir Kim Darroch had to resign; and our ambassador to Cambodia Tina Redshaw, an old friend, is thriving.
The buzz word ambassador reminded me of a book my friend Alfy gave to me entitled Parting Shots.
Up till 2006, a British ambassador quitting his post abroad would write a valedictory despach circulated widely across government, from other far-flung members of the service to the Prime Minister himself. This was the parting shot, the opportunity to offer a personal view of the country he was leaving: the alcoholic intake of its population, the corruption of its ministers, the state of the capital’s drains, or the impossibility of getting embassy staff to clean British guests’ shoes – whatever he or she wanted to get off their chest.
Parting Shot is the collection of such dispatches. I laughed so much because the notes are ‘often funny, frequently astute and almost always gloriously non-politically correct.’
Here are some examples.
‘There is, I fear, no question but that the average Nicaraguan is one of the most dishonest, unreliarable, violent and alcoholic of the Latin Americans’.
Roger Pinsent, Mangua, 1967
‘The average modern Austrian only thinks about his Schnitzel.’
Sir Anthony Rumbold, 1970
‘They (the Nigerians) are generally cheerful and friendly in spite of their maddening habit of always choosing the course of action which will do the maximum damage to their own interests….But at least they usually make their blunders with an engaging air.’
Sir David Hunt, Nigeria, 1969
‘Seriousness, thoroughness, humourlessness, perfectionism and pedantry’
Sir Julian Bullard, Germany, 1988