Friday, July 12, 2013

Diplomats Behaving Badly

Foreigners are used to Brits behaving badly overseas.  We parade our nationality, and regional identity, in gaudy football shirts; get loud when drunk, cause scenes and pick fights with total strangers. Our name is Legion and we are many -- lager louts, football hooligans, the barmy army and feral youth That's us Brits in the corner, a bunch of turds who shouldn't be flushed out the country! 

Diplomatic Impunity


During the years 2003 to 2012, I learned that diplomats were no different to the rowdy exports and Club 18-30 types best forgotten from package holidays of Kodachrome youth.  And, after the brief from the FCO in 2003, I was committed to NOT getting drunk and/or causing scenes or fights at functions with members of the FCO, DFID or UN.


The first incident was minor but it served as a prelude of things worse to come. It happened during our "familiarization visit" to Bangkok -- a one week trip to find suitable accommodation at post. We had been invited out for drinks by a senior DFID staffer to Gulliver's, a large, noisy pub off Sukhumvit Road at the back of the city's Arab quarter. We arrived to discover the man from DFID, a pallid Geordie meat pie in a colonial short sleeved shirt, pissed up and grumpy. He was leaving post and the outgoing diplomat was looking to palm off his motorbike. He put on his Arthur Daley hat and tried his luck with me.  

"You make contact with your customer. Understand their needs. And then flog them something they could well do without."

"You've got to get a bike, mate, it's the only way to get around town, you'll be stuck in traffic otherwise." I told him that I liked traffic jams ("a good opportunity to catch up on meditation,") and that I had no interest in buying his scooter (conveniently parked outside for a test ride). After a short sulk and another pint of Stella, the man from DFID started to rant about his volunteer work with Father Joe and the Human Development Foundation

I waterboard you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirits (hic!)

"This guy does great work with the kids, they've all got AIDS, and he's the only one who cares about 'em! Anyhow," he roared, "I want to get David Beckham down to the orphanage to meet these kids, can you help?" 


"Is Klong Toey near the beach?"

I pointed out to the drunk silly diplomat that I did not know "Father Joe of Klong Toey". Or Mr. Beckham. The man from DFID folded his arms and snarled. "What kind of person are you, you don't care about kids with AIDS? What kind of journalist are you, you don't have David Beckham's contact details? These kids worship Beckham! And if he were to come to the orphanage it would make their fucking day and you don't fucking care! What's wrong with you, for Christ's sake!


Sensing an international incident, the diplomat's wife interceded and he promptly shut up. Later, lying on my all-expenses-paid bed at the Hilton, next to the British Embassy on Wireless Road, I thought about the briefing from the FCO in London. I had been warned about diplomats losing their inhibitions overseas. This was the first meeting with my wife's colleagues. In a strange and paranoid kind of way, it felt like I was being tested.  Would they all be like this chap, were they all belligerent, anti-social drunks?  Shome mishtake, shurley?


No mistake. The answer is "yes". Brits can be riotous drunks and their civil servants are no exception. One incident that sticks out in the mind happened after drinks with DFID staff at a fancy Bangkok hotel in 2005. A legless DFID lovely, in a black dress and tottering red heels, jumped into a taxi home.  As it rolled out of the 5 star luxury hotel, she stuck her upper body out of the window, blowing raspberries and hurling V signs at bemused Thais and shocked guests


"You fucking cunts," she shouted, "what the fuck are you looking at? Wankers! The lot of you!"  


I shook my head. "Tut-tut," I whispered to the wife, "you would never think that she works for the British Government."


Later, in a quiet moment, I pulled her up about being drunk and disorderly in public. "I don't care," she said, "if anyone gives me any shit, I just pull out my dip card. Nobody fucks about with you when you've got that."

Life does not imitate art. It imitates a game of Monopoly. Short of murder, or odd jobs with Victor Bout, we could do whatever we wanted and get away with it because diplomatic status is a get out of jail free card. Our position was unassailable. 



Power and rank goes to the heads of some. One chap who got himself into a spot of bother was the former Defence Attache, Colonel Mustard, a flint-eyed chopper pilot who ran amok on a business class flight from Bangkok to London after mixing drinks with anti-depressants. The Colonel said that he had no memory of the incident and was plagued by PTSD from victim identification duty after the December 26th Tsunami. He got off but Colonel Mustard lost his job as the Defence Attache and went to seek an honorable death in Basra, Iraq.   


Next, a raucous display at a New Year's Eve Party in Bangkok in 2006. Beaucoup FCO and DFID were in attendance. It was an atypical English social gathering. Stilted conversations, heightened or dimmed by copious amounts of booze poured down the neck; sneaky office romances played out in dark corners; take out Hawaiian pizza on the table spread with a cigarette butt stubbed in its pinapple; and last, but by no means least, dirty, drunken dancing in the sitting room to cheesy Seventies disco.  


It was a Satanic display. Boozed up dips from the FCO were simulating sex acts with bacchanalian fervour. A usually reserved female from the FCO was rubbing up to peers and familiars like a pansexual fawn, a man-eating PA from the FCO, and her visiting Father from England, bared their bums for a double mooney to the camera (yes, there were pix).  And an oikish provincial (FCO), fresh from a tour of duty in Iraq, was doggy bonking his spouse to Abba on the wooden tiled floor of the luxury apartment.  


Dec 31st 2006: Thai security forces look for clues

We could not hear the airburst from Siam Square -- a series of bombs had gone off in the city.




What made this significant was that 2 British Citizens had been injured in the blast and rushed to hospital. The FCO staffers pulled up their pants and knocked back Red Bulls to go on duty. There had been 8 bombs that New Year's Eve, killing 2 and injuring 26.  Casualties were "minimal" and the Brits caught in the blast were OK.  


A few days later, when I saw the highly compromising pix of the FCO staffers doing simulated sex and double mooneys on the dance floor, the Male Trailing Spouse shared concerns with an FCO member of staff.


"I don't see what the problem is," X said, "it's a private party and you can do what you want at a private party."


X failed to take into consideration that pix were taken and now in circulation on email. And this occurred just before an emergency, only two years after the Tsunami debacle. I went on to share worries with two other pals in the FCO. Neither of whom had been present at the party but, when they saw the pix, they agreed with me.


"Bloody shocking," said one of them, "you are not going to share them with your mates in the Press, are you?"


"No," I said, "I deleted them."  


The FCO bloke was shocked. 


(Looking back, I rather wish that I hadn't...)


There are many tales in the diplomatic bag but I will conclude this post with an FCO birthday party from May 2008. It started off as a sedate old surprise do for a 40 year old diplomat but soon descended into drunken madness. What made this significant was the presence of the Ambo and his sultry wife. She was stone cold sober and looking slightly embarrassed to be in attendance; the Ambo, on the other hand, was absolutely blotto in a WBA football shirt.


"I was going to come in a curly perm wig," he drawled, arm over the shoulder of a smiling PA, "but I didn't want to look like that twat from The Professionals, you know the one, Doyle."


As the evening wore on, guests got drunker and drunker and stripped off to their underpants.  The chubby, pink males of the FCO were first to go. Who could blame these Suffolk porkers? The night was hot and steamy. This was Bangkok, after all.  


 Several men went one further, stripping off to birthday suits and hurling their y-fronts over the barbed wire fence onto the palm lined lawn of the property next door.


"Where's me underpants?" Barked a Tamworth of pure FCO.  The old English forest pig was totally naked.  "I can't find me underpants! Some bastards had me underpants, I can't find 'em!"


"You threw 'em over the wall, you stupid cunt!" shrieked his mate, a Gloucestershire Old Spots of yobbish pedigree.


The large, meaty porker was flummoxed for a mo.


"Oh aye, I did, didn't I? Never mind."  


Numerous Thai ladies were in attendance. Thai women, to all Western men, it seems, are perceived as loose and do-able. Sud-soaked funsters from the FCO, some of whom were totally naked, made unwanted advances. Others chased them around the perimeter of the swimming pool; or cornered them in the frothing jacuzzi, with the date rape instincts of Pepe Le Pew at the Playboy Mansion.


Foolishly, once again, I shared my social trauma with X of the FCO. X came out with the old party line.


"It's a private function. And we can do what we want at a private party..."


The Male Trailing Spouse should have known better!


To Be Continued...