Category Archives: spies

New endeavours . . . .

C'est moi

C’est moi

I have decided to wrestle with a new blog template for my next 100 episodes. And “wrestle” I certainly did, even though I chose exactly the same template (twenty twelve) as I did nearly four years ago. (I tend to try to work out the controls solo and too much eschew the reading of instructions . . .)

So my new blog resides at: http://talesfromperfect.wordpress.com

Thank you Keith Garrett (of “Man of Many Thoughts”) who has found it already.

And a request to WordPress. Please develop a “translation widget” so that the non-English peoples, world-wide, can take more part. As things stand, the readership of all our blogs appears confined mainly to speakers of the English language.

Evangeline

Fallot’s tetralogy . . . (episode 99)

iStock_000021621315Small

November 19 2000

1A The Hole
Hope End Street
CARPOOL C87 4AZ

Hello Auntie

I have been engaged in one of those situations (at work) which give one pause for thought. It is now my second year of study at Carpool University Hospital and I have been allocated to a 6-week-long sojourn in the Coronary Care Unit (CCU). It can be pretty scary, as I expect you can imagine, to be surrounded by potentially blue-looking people and their bleeping paraphernalia. But one man, in particular, engaged my attention. He was in his twenties and had, apparently, had a late diagnosis of a heart condition called “Fallot’s Tetralogy.” I had to go home and look this up! It means that there is a hole between the two bottom chambers (ventricles) of his heart and that the wall of the right ventricle has become thickened under the strain of trying to push blood into narrowed pulmonary veins.

But the issue more to hand, at least to me, was that he looked like he might have an intestinal obstruction. I can say this with some degree of confidence Auntie, because he was only able to manage the occasional lick of ice cream, had a hugely distended abdomen and kept vomiting up (green) bile. So as a – still lowly – student nurse, I toddled off to the nurses’ station to informing the staff nurses of Mr X’s predicament.

But, do you know, they barely gave me an uninterested flicker of the eyelids – and a bored sigh – before returning to whatever notes they were penning in patients’ documentation. I have noticed this type of attitude in the so-called “professional” nurse before; they think they are too high and mighty to engage in some actual thinking – and can’t wait to condescend to someone they perceive to be of lower status. In the absence of any interest in the information I was trying to give, I slithered off to the sluice and occupied myself in some minion-style cleaning of metal bed pans.

However, on my cycle ride home (in the pouring rain and clad in my usual black – rubberized – outfit) I had time to think the matter over. And it did seem to me Auntie that, given the opportunity, I ought to try to do something to help this patient. But what? After all, I am a man who does not even have the funds to drive a basic automobile and who, likewise, has to listen to his music from a “Walkman” strapped to his belt!

The following day, I was on a “late” shift and so arrived on the ward at around 1300 hours. During the course of listening to the staff handover, it transpired that Mr Corcoran – the cardiac consultant – was due to come and do “a round” of the patients some time during the afternoon. A “flashlight” went off in my head at that moment Auntie, and I resolved to try to hang about on the fringes of this event.

It was at around 1500 that Mr Corcoran, plus entourage, swept into the CCU. He started to attend to every patient, in their turn, while a junior doctor expatiated on what they thought was going on. Thule was among them! Eventually, some twenty minutes later, they reached the bed of the patient with Fallot’s Tetralogy and it was obvious, from what I could pick up from the sidelines, that nobody had noticed that he might be obstructed.

I felt so enraged by what appeared to be serious neglect on the part of the qualified nurses, that I found myself speaking up. ‘I have noticed,’ I said, ‘that Mr X is virtually unable to eat and he has been vomiting bile for the past three days. The vomiting is projectile in nature.’

There was somewhat of a pause at this point as Mr Corcoran looked at the qualified nurse who, in turn, glared at me. ‘Has he?’ he said. He then went over to examine the taut, drum-like, abdomen of the patient, listening to it (for interior sounds) through his stethoscope.

‘This young man’ is quite right he said. ‘This patient needs to go off to theatre immediately.’

It was gratifying Auntie to see Thule smile at me from among the group of medical students and doctors gathered around the bed. But it was even more gratifying to feel that I had had the nerve to try to do the right thing, at the right time, and that my actions might result in the saving of someone’s life.

Of course, for the rest of the week, the backs of the qualified nurses were ostentatiously turned towards me whenever I was on duty. But not only were they wrong in the first instance, they have further shown their mettle in this additional display of unkindness. They have not learned. And I wonder what further sins of omission they could commit during the course of their qualified – and “professional” – careers?

Bye now Auntie

Ralph

Mole intelligence: EPISODE 75

Image from Wikimedia Commons Thule Air Base (Greenland) This image was released to Wikimedia Commons by the US government in 2005.  It is the work of a US airman/woman (or employee), taken as part of that person's official duties.

Image from Wikimedia Commons
Thule Air Base (Greenland)
This image was released to Wikimedia Commons by the US government in 2005. It is the work of a US airman/woman (or employee), taken as part of that person’s official duties.

August 7 1999

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

My Dear Ralph

I am sorry dear. I have, indeed, been heavily-occupied in digging a large garden hole and am concerned, in more ways than one, that I might fall into it.

Do, please, be careful not to antagonize your prospective nursing tutor when your course begins in September. You will remember what happened when you got on the wrong side of Miss Fothergill during your (fairly) recent sojourn at the Wortlewell Drug Rehabilitation Clinic? Your escape from surgical lobotomy was by a very narrow squeak indeed – and we don’t want a repeat performance!

Your mention of the lady doctor, Thule Hendrikkson, has provoked several memories of my visit to Thule Air Base in the mid-1970’s. It was just after the conclusion of the Vietnam war and America was once again financially able to catch up with the Russian stockpile of Intercontinental (and submarine-launched) Ballistic Missiles. As I recall it pet, the Russian submarine missiles had an effective range of 3,500 miles and there were 375 submarines deployed in their carriage.

Naturally, the colossal fire power represented by the above was the subject of constant scrutiny by those of us working in the arena of counter-intelligence. I was only an assistant director of the Special Intelligence Service (SIS) at the time, but – one week towards the end of 1975 – I was detailed to fly (with colleagues) to Thule on a liaison mission. You need special attire, believe me dear, to equip you for the bone-frosting chill assailing you when your aeroplane door opens on to the permafrost of NW Greenland. Located at 750 miles north of the arctic circle conditions are unimaginable. And isolated in the extreme.

I myself would not be eager to experience near-permanent conditions of very low light and the probability of sudden white-outs in the form of delta-level storms. It is also very difficult to depart from Thule Air Base owing to the infrequency with which planes land upon the landing strip. We had to stay a whole week and this was certainly an opportunity to observe how some American servicemen whiled away their tour. I was able to discern (through binoculars from our dorm) quite some crates of whisky – and what may have been multiple copies of ‘PlayBabe’ – being stashed in a fairly-proximate aircraft hangar. And, if it hadn’t been for the time it would have taken to don an allocated pair of snow shoes, I would have been importuning for some of these supplies myself (naturally not the ‘PlayBabe’ option) . . .

I do hope that nowadays, in 1998, American servicemen (and women) have more to do during a winter sojourn at Thule Air Base. Perhaps they have built a gym? Perhaps internet technology will have leaped and bounded far ahead? In the summer, of course, for at least four months, there is sufficient daylight for one to join a narwhal-hunting expedition or trips over the ice in a dog-drawn sled. And who could be a philistine (or grump) then?

Yours

Aunt Evangeline

Loping round the rec . . . (episode 67)

mole

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

June 22 1999

My Dear Harriet

Thank you for your fascinating epistle on the subject of the multiple uses to which glass test tubes and water melons might be put . . . And I am certainly pleased to hear that you are eschewing the attentions of the likes of Edgar Hummingway et al.

I have just had to give up on the delights of a morning spent engaged in horticulture, owing to the descent of a non-stop downpour. However, before my rainwear was finally saturated (owing to unfortunately having treated it to a hot wash in my Hot Dot) I did manage to make further progress with my efforts in a shady border. Said border currently contains white-flowering hostas, soft shield ferns, liquorice ferns, the white-leaved lungwort ‘Majeste’ and bulbous arisaemas – the latter of which are currently unfolding their primeval foliage and purple ‘flowers.’ And there are presently five Cimifugas (black snakeroot) in the act of growing larger (prior to planting) in the greenhouse. I can hardly wait to see their long white spikes open in the back of this border! I think my final purchases may well be a number of Astrantia major ‘Hadspen’s Blood’ and Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy.’ No blue. No pink. No yellow.

Also dear, I have decided to embark on an outdoor fitness regime involving early morning runs round the recreation ground and, from there, down to and along the canal. I was rather impelled, I must say, to commence this activity subsequent to a trip down to an Inner Hamlet clothing outlet. Honestly Harriet. I took off my clothing in the harshly-lit glare of a changing cubicle and thought to myself, ‘Who is that giant porker being reflected back at me in the mirror?’ Of course, my abdominal region may only have temporarily swelled in the hours subsequent to the munching upon five doughnuts from a bag. But a lady (almost) past her prime must take precautions!

I have, of course, attired myself in a most svelte outfit for the purpose of this running. Arrayed all in black – with a pair of white trainers upon my feet – I fancied I almost looked like Jane Bond! And the purchase of a black sports bra has put a stop to all that annoying bouncing of the bosoms. I was actually quite surprised that I could run and that, indeed, it was quite easy to run (for up to 30 seconds or so). And I’m sure that, should I keep up these early-morning sessions, I will soon be as lithe and springy as a Spring Bok. Indeed, happening upon my acquaintance, Myrtle, at the entrance to the rec, I certainly observed a discernible dropping of her jaw. ‘Is that really you Evangeline?’ she said, in tones of wonder. Tee hee! It certainly is!

The only slight fly in the ointment is that I have to pass the demesne of my erstwhile friend, Clara, during the course of my run. Said Clara – who used to be at least moderately chummy – has made it quite clear that, should I continue my discourses on the subject of my former activities in MI6, then our friendship would have to terminate. She has made it clear that she doesn’t want to phone me (or have me phone her) in case ‘someone’ is listening in . . . She said, ‘YOU might not want to go on holiday to eastern parts Evangeline, but I do. And I don’t want to be arrested at the airport.’ Well, my own jaw fairly dropped at the receipt of these tidings Harriet, for she is surely displaying fears of a quite exaggerated nature? In any event, my feelings are quite hurt and I am loping past (hoping to blend in with the paving stones) feeling quite the local pariah.

Yours, with love

Evangeline

Another use for a wheelie bin . . . (episode 62)

mole

May 5 1999

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

My Dear Harriet

I have managed to rally dear – subsequent to a trip to see my chum Bunny Fortescue – out in the sticks at Nether Hoppington. Bunny is a retired gynaecologist, whose acquaintance I first made while undergoing a course of helicopter-flying lessons in my capacity of agent in charge of ‘Field Ops.’

Bunny, most usefully, has instructed me to deploy logic in the interpretation of the legion of physical symptoms described in my last missive. “What you’ve got to realize, Evangeline,” he declaimed, “Is that the human body reacts in a quite logical fashion to the presence of a tumour. And, if we take an ovarian tumour as our example, you can naturally understand that one of the first physical signs (given the presence of a mass) will be visible abdominal bloating. Now, it then makes sense, doesn’t it, that the mass might well press on adjacent digestive organs, causing appetite loss, and on the urinary bladder, causing urinary urgency.”

And do you know Harriet. This does indeed make quite excellent sense. One might even deploy the expletive ‘whoopee’ in response as I, myself, am not exhibiting/experiencing either abdominal bloating or any loss of appetite!

Once we’d got all that out of the way, Bunny settled down into his wheelie bin anecdote. It transpires that, just recently, the adjacent county of Littonshire has embarked upon charging £30.00 per annum for the supply of a garden wheelie bin. And Bunny has two of these if you count the one for his (fairly recently) deceased wife Angela. He told me that he’d paid a visit to the council to check upon his wheelie bin charges and that the clerk had solemnly intoned, “Well, there one for you, Mr Fortescue, and it’s free as you are disabled . . . And there’s also one for your wife Angela, who is also disabled . . . ”

Well dear, at this juncture, I did rather interpose, “Disabled Bunny? Are you?”

And Bunny hurrumphed rather, before informing me that he did have a recently-repaired mitral heart valve. “Luckily,” he said, this repair has not prevented me from tramping miles across the fields every week, to visit Angela’s grave, with a posie.”

I gazed across the table. “And what about the second bin, Bunny, also free of charge?”

“Well that’s just the thing E,” he said. “When the clerk reeled off the statement that Angela is ‘disabled,’ all I could do was confirm that she is, indeed, ‘very disabled.’ Death is, after all, very disabling . . . ”

We cogitated, for some minutes, upon this point. And then he said, “Actually, I have been thinking of taking the wheelie bin over there.”

“Where?” I said.

“The graveyard,” said Bunny. “I thought I might try to satisfy the ‘6-week residency condition’ and bring her home every so often. You know, dig her up and bring her back . . .”

“But isn’t the bin rather too short,” I said. “I seem to remember that Angela was rather a tall woman. Wouldn’t she stick out over the top?”

“Mmm,” said Bunny. “But it’s been nearly a year now, since her death, and she may have got shorter . . .”

“Nevertheless,” I said. “Suppose she hasn’t? It might be better to do all this after dark. And then you would only be heard, and not seen, trundling her back over the cobbles.”

“I thought a winter residency might be best,” said Bunny. “You know, the smell and all that. I think there might be room in the freezer.”

We both stared into space at this point, sipping our gins and visualizing this scene and the lengths one might have to go to, to satisfy the council’s garden wheelie bin eligibility conditions.

Anyway dear. How are you? Have you received your Decree Absolute yet and found some suitable activities with which to occupy your time?

Love, as ever,

Mum

A woman is like a tea bag . . . (episode 58)

mole

January 25 1999

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

My Dear Ralph

I came across the above quotation by Eleanor Roosevelt the other day. It is completed by the sentence: ‘You can’t tell how strong she is until you drop her in hot water.’

And this reminded me of my rise through the ranks of MI6 – and final promotion to director general in 1990. Of course, at that time, I could neither confirm nor deny that I was under consideration for this position: the Secret Intelligence Service was, after all, not officially acknowledged to exist. But exist we did, in the building known as Century House, which was located near Waterloo railway station. Along with the existence of MI6 itself, the function of Century House was one of London’s worst-kept secrets. We felt observed – and pointed out – by every taxi driver, tourist bus, and passing KGB agent! Even worse, the building had been recently audited as ‘irredeemably insecure.’ Constructed largely of glass – and with a petrol station located at its base – this was self-evidently true.

I have never been a showy kind of woman. I enacted my role as assistant director with analytical thoroughness and attention to detail, never, quite possibly, feeling fully at ease with my colleagues. I am not good at small talk, despite – at times – demonstrating a quite coruscating sense of humour. Amongst my strengths, however, was an imperative drive to challenge any decision which I felt was weak or wrong. This did not necessarily earn me friends amongst some of my (often male) colleagues. Don’t forget dear, this was still at a time when a woman’s – equal – capabilities could be resented and before equality of pay was introduced. And although I have worked with clever, strong, and decent men, there were, nevertheless, frequent occasions when I had to suffer a chummy paternalistic arm slung around my shoulders and words akin to, ‘Ho ho ho E! You don’t really think that do you?’

Finally, in 1990, the post of Director General became vacant. No-one applied because it was not then customary to do so. And it was not advertised because, in the eyes of the outside world, we were not supposed to exist. One was simply appointed. I still recall the shock I felt upon being told, as there is quite some difference between being one of a cast of hundreds – coming and going – and being head of an institution whose function it is to counter foreign intelligence and terrorism!

Matters were not assisted when it became apparent that the national press had got wind of my promotion, proceeding to besiege me with requests for photographs. I must admit pet that – after the initial consternation had worn off – I thought, ‘To hell with it. Let them have them.’ And that is how articles got into the Lambeth Echo (amongst others) to the effect that the Secret Intelligence Service had appointed ‘a scruffy English woman’ to the chief post and that ‘I might apply a lick of paint’ and ‘attend the hairdressers from time to time!’ I was mortified dear, as you may imagine. In fact, ever since, and certainly after I met Pom-Pom, I have never ventured forth without being immaculately accoutred or, indeed, disguised.

I hope you can tell from this Ralph, that I have not been the weaker sort of teabag. And that, when steeped in hot water, I turned it into the deeper sort of gold.

Yours

Aunt Evangeline

Mole Intelligence: EPISODE 55

Psychedelic-looking Citroen 2CV http://www.istockphoto.com

Psychedelic-looking Citroen 2CV
http://www.istockphoto.com

January 11 1999

10 Forsythia Grove
Outer Hamlet
CORSETTSHIRE ZY6 4GT

My Dear Ralph

Sorry to write out of turn pet, but I really must tell you about my recent endeavours on the automobile purchase front! Having (sadly) come to the conclusion that the under-side of the Banger 0.9L was really too corroded to support the weight of any person unluckily situated in the passenger seat, I decided to attempt to fulfil a long-held dream: the purchase of a Citroen Dyane ‘Piebald.’ As you may know dear, these vehicles positively occupied icon status in the 1980’s (and beyond) with production ceasing in 1985. Really, I think I have been pining for one for years because, unluckily, the Service equipped its agents with the Ford Cortina Mk IV (in black) during the period of my directorship. And, although these are undoubtedly equipped with larger windows – giving an enhanced view through them – I was still oozing envy whenever a colourful Dyane whipped past at the lights. And not even my registration plate – SIS1 – mitigated this sensation!

My first test drive of a Dyane took place last week. The Banger 0.9L and I motored over to Bright Litton early one morning and it did not take long before I was ensconced behind the driver’s seat, keys in hand. Unfortunately, the car’s owner was a little busy and waved me off (in a completely unfamiliar part of the city) with the instructions to simply turn right and right. So off I went dear, into what rapidly became conditions of rapidly decreasing visibility . . . And there I was, no lights, and no idea how to turn them on. I did, eventually, work it out and off we went again. At the top of a very steep hill – and feeling a little spooked in the murk – I discerned a public house and decided to turn round in the forecourt. This was a mistake. The forecourt turned out to be minuscule and I could not turn round without engaging reverse gear. Of course, I could not find reverse gear . . . Naturally, pet, it is unlike a former agent to actually panic – but I must admit to a slight outbreak of perspiration at this point. The problem did, eventually, yield to reason – and multiple ways of twiddling with the gear stick – but, nevertheless, I determined to cut short my drive and set off back down the hill. I don’t know whether I had been breathing rather hard but, after a few hundred meters, I realized that the interior of the windscreen was becoming increasingly obscured by fog. Absolutely no idea how to use the electric windows or windscreen wipers of course! I did get back intact but it was certainly a lesson learned: do not set off alone without having the controls explained to you and without a map!

My second experience of test driving a Dyane, took place in the city of Middle Bit – and this time I went by train. On this occasion, it was a dealer who was selling the car and I requested that he escort me on a test drive. We got in and I turned the ignition. Silence . . . We got out again and he suggested that I went into the dealer’s while he ‘power-charged’ the battery. After about ten minutes had elapsed, we set off again. Do you know dear, we only got about half-a-mile down the A909 before the car stalled and would not start again! There we were, in the middle lane of a busy ‘A’ road in an immobile vehicle. I naturally offered to give the young man a hand in pushing it on to the grassy verge, but it was there that things took a downhill turn. As there was only two of us, we both got behind it in order to run it up and over the kerb. I think we may have run a little too hard dear, as the car sailed across the grass and penetrated the crash barrier. It was certainly unfortunate, I must say, that beyond this barrier was a steep grassy bank leading to the river. ‘GLUG’ went the car as it first settled upon the waters and then started to sink beneath them. We were mortified as you can imagine! I don’t know what the young man said to his manager about this, as I’m afraid I slunk back to the railway station – fortifying my nerves on the platform with a little nip of gin from my flask.

However, you will be pleased to hear nephew, that my third attempt to purchase a Citroen Dyane ‘Piebald’ has met with success. And I am now the proud owner of a vehicle with banana-yellow flanks, red doors, and a blue tailgate!

Yours

Aunt Evangeline

P.S. I will wing you over a photograph at my earliest convenience!

Gracias a la vida . . . (episode 53)

Corda strappata by 'Idea go.' http://freedigitalphotos.net

Corda strappata by ‘Idea go.’
http://freedigitalphotos.net

December 26 1998

Castro Central Women’s Prison
Havana
CUBA

I have been very ill Mum – and frantic with loneliness.

My eyes have ached in the dark. And there has been great pain in my head. I think I have been screaming, day after day. The glands in my neck have swollen.

Eventually, they opened the door: a door which never opens. And I could not bear the light. I think they brought a doctor for, if I died, might it not be embarrassing? The doctor spoke English. She said I had a rash on the backs of my hands, the tops of my feet, and she used the word Dengue. So then they brought tablets, day after day, and water to wet the heat of my lips. But the door, mostly, remained shut and the darkness stayed.

The only beat of a heart, that I have had, has come from the body of a rat. A female rat with babies in her belly. She has not bitten me. And I have not shunned her. This rat has kept me warmer than Austen ever did.

Over and over again, I have tried to remember some words from the Chilean song, ‘Gracias a la Vida’ (by Violeta Parra I think). I have not got it quite right, I know, but these are the words that have kept me alive and wanting, somehow, to vindicate my life, in the eyes I still have, and in the eyes of the world.

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Thanks to the life which has given me so much

Me dio dos luceros que cuando los abro
It has given me two bright stars and, when I open them

Perfecto distingo lo negro del blanco
I can perfectly distinguish black from white

Y en el alto cielo su fondo estrellado
And in the sky above, her starry backdrop

Y en las multitudes el hombre que yo amo
And, amongst the multitude, is the man whom I love

That’s all Mum. The door, which never opens, is opening now. They are lifting me out.

Hasta pronto

Harriet

Note verbale . . . (episode 51)

iStock_000015529331Small

12 December 1998

British Embassy
Havana
CUBA

Dear Dame Tankful

Many thanks for your recent missive, which has been passed on to me by Graham’s secretary. Unluckily, Graham has stepped on a Cuban spiny dogfish while out snorkelling at the beach. Apparently his foot has swollen to quite substantial dimensions and we don’t yet have a date for his return. Indeed, I believe someone has spotted him reclining – foot up – in a deckchair at his residence.

Damn and blast it. Must rein in my post-prandial Rioja intake. I can’t be seen perpetually scuttling off to the privy.

With regard to the current whereabouts of your daughter-in-law, Harriet Tankful, I will – most certainly – pen a Note Verbale to the esteemed head of Women’s Prison Services and hope to receive a reply in the next 60 days (or so).

Which cummerbund shall I disport myself in this evening, I wonder? Perhaps the stripy pink one. I wonder if that little filly from encryption services will be there?

Forgive the brevity of my response dear Dame. Overseas correspondence is stacked before me at the level of my eyeballs.

Dear me. Where has my Alka Seltzer got to. This dyspepsia is certainly causing gyp. Perhaps an early snifter in the bar would be the thing?

Cordial salutations

His Excellency (interim)

Digby Willoughby

AUTHOR’S NOTE

I am naturally having to do quite a bit of research when writing some posts – particularly if the subject matter impinges on international politics. I have therefore consulted one or two authorities on the subject of diplomacy in order to write the post above. I feel it is important to be even-handed in my characterizations of individuals occupying opposing ends of the political spectrum: neither the capitalists nor the communists therefore emerge unscathed.

Mole intelligence: EPISODE 50

mole

December 5 1998

TO: Mr G Greene
Our Man in Havana
British Embassy
CUBA

My Dear Graham

I am writing further to our recent telephone conversation regarding the predicament of my daughter-in-law Harriet. I am rather concerned because I have not heard from her for quite some weeks now. And while I understand that she must serve out her term in the Castro Central Women’s Prison, this total silence is perturbing.

I must say that I feel quite guilty for not having give her some proper advice when she first mentioned her intention to visit, in particular, the Havana Botanical Gardens. She is (was) such an ingénue that I thought she would simply stick to the usual tourist enclave – and not engage in activities of a more dissipated – and dangerous – nature!

And, of course, I was an ingénue myself when I embarked upon my long career with our Secret Intelligence Service. Back in 1957, I was not aware that – as a covert agent in a foreign embassy – I would eventually reach, and remain, on the list of Appendix Z personnel. In fact, in my early days, I don’t think I had even reached my eventual political conclusions. And these are: that democracy enables freedom and that communism – with its lack of freedom of political choices – suppresses it. I frequently think that most citizens in the UK of the present day, simply do not realize how fortunate they are to have: the freedom to choose their religious beliefs; vote for a political party of their choice; migrate freely across the European Union; absolute freedom of speech/expression; engage in self-employed enterprise, and benefit from the free movements of trade. For these opportunities, I believe, enable us citizens of the democratic world to be the best, and most, that we can be.

I am not, of course, saying that a capitalist democracy is without its (large) problems – and the economic (and other) powers wielded by the minority of its citizens looms amongst them. And then there is the greed – and solipsism – demonstrated by so many consumers which is a matter of some considerable distress. But then, in the darkest days of the Cold War, it was thought that greed would sink the capitalist state and this has not come to pass. For, at the end of the day, these governments have shown that they are possessors of values – embedded in the law and in their constitutions – which transcend all others.

But I digress. Exercise your diplomatic powers, would you Graham, and let me know how Harriet fares?

Yours

Evangeline Tankful DBE/ ‘C’ (retired)