Shades of Black Mischief

A recent “Wild Life” column by Aidan Hartley in the Spectator describes how the new British High Commissioner to Kenya has snubbed the few white farmers who remain in that country:

I realised I had fallen from grace when we were dropped from the Queen’s birthday party guest list at the British High Commission in Nairobi. I wondered what offence I had caused to the recently arrived plenipotentiary. I worried that it was because one evening, while jogging in the diplomatic suburb of Muthaiga, I had passed him going at a slack pace and barked, ‘Giddy up!’ I have always been so fond of our British HCs. I picture them to be like Waugh’s ambassador to Azania, Sir Samson, less engrossed with unfolding revolutions outside than with playing with his rubber dinosaur at bath time, which he sat on ‘and let it shoot up suddenly to the surface between his thighs … Chance treats of this kind made or marred the happiness of the Envoy’s day …’

He goes on to recount the decline in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s resources since Sir Samson’s day as compared to other countries. But he also makes a case for some attention being given to the plight of the white farmers who are beset by infringements on their property rights encouraged by local politicians. Finally, he describes what he believes to be the cause of the new High Commissioner’s neglect:

It probably didn’t help things when, as a friend revealed, the High Commish was invited some months ago to a house high on a hill, overlooking the slopes of Mount Kenya. The idea was for him to meet local conservationists, farmers and so on, with the aim of getting him on side early. ‘Unfortunately, most of the eminent, distinguished and celebrity African conservationists could not make it,’ my friend said. Instead, he related, a certain woman turned up in an ebullient state, having just come from a party in the Rift Valley. This woman has a very posh English accent, but with the addition of alcohol the elocution lessons evaporate to reveal a sharp country brogue with plenty of invective. ‘A more shambolic introduction to hard-drinking white ranchers could not have been orchestrated better, with endless curses and profanities as more gin and champers were quaffed,’ my friend lamented. Eventually, the host of the house had to order the woman to go to her room, leaving the British High Commissioner in a state of trauma. ‘The poor fellow was last seen holding his head in his hands … I regret that this visit created a lasting impression…’.

It sounds like a scene from a book that might be called Black Mischief Revisited.

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