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Postings from November 2008
From: Nicholas Clark
November 10, 2008 15:30
Message ID: 20081110232955.GG49918@plum.flirble.org
A jumbo jet touched down, with BURANDAN AIRWAYS written on the side. I
was hugely impressed. British Airways are having to pawn their Concordes,
and here is this little tiny African state with its own airline, jumbo
jets and all.
I asked Bernard how many planes Burandan Airways had. 'None,' he said.
I told him not to be silly and use his eyes. 'No Minister, it belongs to
Freddie Laker,' he said. 'They chartered it last week and repainted it
specially.' Apparently most of the Have-Nots (I mean, LDCs) do this - at
the opening of the UN General Assembly the runways of Kennedy Airport are
jam-packed with phoney flag-carriers. 'In fact,' said Bernard with a sly
grin, 'there was one 747 that belonged to nine different African airlines
in a month. They called it the mumbo-jumbo.'
While we watched nothing much happening on the TV except the mumbo-jumbo
taxiing around Prestwick and the Queen looking a bit chilly, Bernard gave
me the next day's schedule and explained that I was booked on the night
sleeper from King's Cross to Edinburgh because I had to vote in a
three-line whip at the House tonight and would have to miss the last
plane. Then the commentator, in that special hushed BBC voice used for any
occasion with which Royalty is connected, announced reverentially that we
were about to catch our first glimpse of President Selim.
And out of the plane stepped Charlie. My old friend Charlie Umtali. We
were at LSE together. Not Selim Mohammed at all, but Charlie.
Bernard asked me if I were sure. Silly question. How could you forget a
name like Charlie Umtali?
I sent Bernard for Sir Humphrey, who was delighted to hear that we now
know something about our official visitor.
Bernard's official brief said nothing. Amazing! Amazing how little the FCO
has been able to find out. Perhaps they were hoping it would all be on the
car radio. All the brief says is that Colonel Selim Mohammed had converted
to Islam some years ago, they didn't know his original name, and therefore
knew little of his background.
I was able to tell Humphrey and Bernard /all/ about his background.
Charlie was a red-hot political economist, I informed them. Got the top
first. Wiped the floor with everyone.
Bernard seemed relieved. 'Well that's all right then.'
'Why?' I enquired.
'I think Bernard means,' said Sir Humphrey helpfully, 'that he'll know how
to behave if he was at an English University. Even if it was the LSE.' I
never know whether or not Humphrey is insulting me intentionally.
Humphrey was concerned about Charlie's political colour. 'When you said
that he was red-hot, were you speaking politically?'
In a way I was. 'The thing about Charlie is that you never quite know
where you are with him. He's the sort of chap who follows you into a
revolving door and comes out in front.'
'No deeply held convictions?' asked Sir Humphrey.
'No. The only thing Charlie was committed too was Charlie.'
'Ah, I see. A politician, Minister.'
[p44 _The complete Yes Minister // The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister by
the Right Hon. James Hacker MP._ ii "The Official Visit" *]
Currently it's at
Please don't publicise that URL outside p5p - instead
once it's had time to propagate to CPAN's mirrors.
* Very very funny, timeless, and scarily topical, even 28 years later. See
by Nicholas Clark