Friday, February 09, 2007

The Ambassador's Reception

Back from a boozy lunch with the Codebreakers, filled with stories of Alan Turing and enigma-type things (during WWII Turing used to cycle to Bletchley Park wearing a gas mask - he wasn't afraid of chemical warfare, it was just that he suffered from hayfever. And he kept his mug chained yes chained to the radiator in his office. Whaddaguy!).

Mr & Mrs C also talked about life in Madagascar in the 1960s, including one swanky ambassador's reception they got roped into...

So, the Archbishop of Canterbury was visiting, and a formal dinner was duly held by some high-up Malagasy Minister. The US & UK ambassadors were there, with their aides and wives in tow - a big deal all round. Trying to make conversation, Mrs Canterbury asks Mrs Minister how rice is grown.

This is an error.

Growing rice is peasant work. People like Mr Minister keep the nail of their little finger long and talon-like to make the point: they don't do manual labour. Asking someone about rice work is like asking what cleaner they use to scrub the kitchen floor.

So Mrs Minister declares that she has never grown rice in her life. She's obviously peeved, and silence descends as she plots. Then she's ready.
'How many children do you have?'
'Unfortunately I don't have any', says Mrs Canterbury.
Mrs Minister smiles. 'I have eight.'

At least nowadays there's ferrero rocher to take the edge off.

No comments: