Hardcover: 208 pages

Publisher: Eye Books (2015)

ISBN-13: 978-1903070901

Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13 x 2.3 cm

The Ambassador’s Wife’s Tale

Julia Miles

£12.99

‘The last days of the Libya posting are as breathless as scenes in the Oscar-winning film Argo

Daily Mail

Who really looks after British interests abroad? Behind the pomp of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, another powerful force is busily but discreetly propping up the image of UK plc.

For 28 years, Julia was a diplomatic spouse, juggling a growing family while supporting the demands of her husband’s role. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes terrifying, she reveals the realities of life as an ambassador’s wife, from food shortages to terrorist incidents to rubbing shoulders with the Queen, Mrs Thatcher and George Best – and rubbing knees with Mikhail Gorbachev.

Light-hearted in style, The Ambassador’s Wife Tale has a serious core message: that the diplomatic wife stands centre-stage as the drama of world affairs unfolds.

Extracts

Foreign cookers often proved problematic. For an anxious hostess like me bottled gas was worrying because there was no way of telling when it would run out. Anticipating imminent pitfalls, I invited Matthew, the High Commission handyman, to demonstrate how to attach the rubber tube to a full bottle. Matthew was well meaning but none too bright and ran a lighted match round the top of the casing of one of the gas cylinders “to see if it was safe”. He had also hung my new curtains inside out, “so that people in the street could admire them”.

It was only a matter of time before I found myself in a chiffon evening dress rolling cylinders round the garden in search of a full one. I was conscious of the guests gathered in the drawing room, including the High Commissioner and his wife who were, I hoped, unaware of my struggle to cook their dinner, until I made a dishevelled appearance from the garden.

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Extracts

Foreign cookers often proved problematic. For an anxious hostess like me bottled gas was worrying because there was no way of telling when it would run out. Anticipating imminent pitfalls, I invited Matthew, the High Commission handyman, to demonstrate how to attach the rubber tube to a full bottle. Matthew was well meaning but none too bright and ran a lighted match round the top of the casing of one of the gas cylinders “to see if it was safe”. He had also hung my new curtains inside out, “so that people in the street could admire them”.

It was only a matter of time before I found myself in a chiffon evening dress rolling cylinders round the garden in search of a full one. I was conscious of the guests gathered in the drawing room, including the High Commissioner and his wife who were, I hoped, unaware of my struggle to cook their dinner, until I made a dishevelled appearance from the garden.

Our Eritrean maid was the shop steward on the compound, so there was no question of dismissing her. Her face was set in a habitual expression of haughty contempt. Once I found her teaching the boys how to put plastic bags over their heads. She was a strange woman.

Some people hired local cooks and Oliver was keen that we should try one.

“He says he’s cooked for the British Army in the Hindu Kush.”

On

“Right Ali. What do you like to cook?”

“My speciality is…” – he paused for dramatic effect – “… spun sugar baskets. I put fresh fruit inside. Once I put in a live bird and all the dinner guests clapped.”

“Ali, I just need you to cook for the family.”

Andree had been in charge of American interests since the US had broken off diplomatic relations some years earlier. She had been left with the dubious privilege of owning the departed ambassador’s Cadillac which, after a recent highway contretemps, only worked in reverse gear. I never actually saw her backing up the street to a diplomatic function, but I gather that out of desperation she had actually done so. She did not arrive that morning. The first visitors were the Italian wives. “We’ve sold some of your freezers,” they reported. “To our ambassador.”

quotes

reviews

‘Suspenseful and gripping...the last days of the Libya posting are as breathless as scenes in the Oscar-winning film Argo

Daily Mail

‘Julia Miles describes with accuracy as well as with fine humour the varied, challenging and daunting tasks that wives of diplomats have to manage, often under very difficult circumstances’

Express Tribune

extras

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