Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Harold Nicholson

The poison of diplomatic nomadism...

Sissinghurst garden-rooms Posted by Picasa

By chance, wanting to christen this blog with the name of a diplomat, for reasons the Honourable Reader will have no difficulty in finding out, if only he perseveres in reading this text for another couple of paragraphs, I just made the discovery that one of the first posts abroad of Harold Nicholson was Madrid.

Now, contrary to popular belief among fellow diplocrats, Harold Nicholson, Esq. should not be taken as the epitome of the professional diplomat. He wrote a very relevant book on this blogger of yours particular line of trade, right. He remains a celebrity in Britain and beyond thanks largely to his wife, Vita Sackville-West, a minor author whose reputation the Feminist-led brigade has blown out of her true merit, that’s a fact. And there’s the garden, of course, at Sissinghurst, which is in fact their most accomplished achievement (when I visited it, many summers ago, I was very impressed with the near-architectural logic of the garden design, which I had never encountered until then).

In his master work of concision “The Pure Diplomacy”, Ambassador Calvet de Magalhães unfortunately gives exaggerated importance to Uncle Harold’s views (as published in “Diplomacy”). One should read the chapter ‘Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West Revisited’ in David Cannadine’s superb book “Aspects of Aristocracy – Grandeur and Decline in Modern Britain” to get a more balanced view on the celebrity couple. (Their sexual-orientation-wise rather unorthodox marriage arrangement, although not unheard of, before and thereafter, in the British Isles, probably enhanced their appeal to the voyeuristic modern masses).

He had a thing for literature himself, and like many other young diplomats he spent his spare time writing. Nicholson pointed out in his “The Evolution of Diplomatic Method” that, in the 1920’s, “..in our Foreign Service… the man of letters has always been regarded with bewildered, although quite friendly, disdain”

The main point on which I disqualify his contribution to the “art and science” of diplomacy, although he was a fellow diplocrat himself, and a son of one as that, is that he resigned Her Britannic Majesty’s Foreign Service before he had attained any Ambassadorial job. Would you give credit to an “inside” book on the skills required for Government from someone who didn’t manage to get himself a ministerial post in the Cabinet? Or about the management of media who never had the Senior Editorship of a newspaper or its equivalent in other media?

Well, I have largely surpassed the allotted space expected for this particular blogtext and I haven’t got yet managed to lay my little story for today.

I have to stick to my promise to Pinkita that details about our grilled chuleton in the Sierra would not be in any way reported in this blogspot domain. But the deal, as long as I’m aware do not cover the brief encounter this blogger of yours had with her DNA-donor, a retired diplomat (as a to-the-finish-line Ambassador, mind you, not as a quitter on lap three like Mr Nicholson). We exchanged some phrases on previous places, the near-canine traditional choreographic sniffing of our respective butts among professional diplocrats. We agreed on the compulsory addiction to move on that is the trademark of our profession. Than the Ambassador evoked a typical triangular story involving a departing Ambassador, a Foreign Minister’s decision to shuffle Heads of Mission around and the Nº2 of the just mentioned Ambassador. The scene takes invariably place in Her Excellency’s grand office in the Chancery, and the young diplomat’s role is something between Witness and Apostle. The Ambassador was happy where he had been living and was asked to move to a different spot, maybe somehow a bit in advance regarding usual length of stay. Having been conceded the rare leeway to give either a positive or a negative answer to the new designation, the Ambassador is respectfully asked by his young colleague if he had made up his mind. The Ambassador answers: “It’s stronger than me, my dear fellow. I’ve already started reading and making inquiries about the new city. Now that there is a different place to go to, this very city, where I’ve been quite happy, has somehow lost its gloss. Ah! This will to move... this need to change…it’s a poison you know… a poison”.

1 comment:

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