Foreign Office's diplomatic deficit

A RECENT survey (News, 22 March) finds that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is institutionally "mediocre". Some of its representatives can also be diplomatically challenged, and not only with foreigners.

At a dinner party in London recently, a British Ambassador present clearly imagined it was his convivial obligation to "draw in" to the conversation the two visitors from Edinburgh. "What's it like living in Scotland?" was his opening gambit. As our jaws started to drop, he followed it up with the equally unanswerable "is it still as parochial?".

We shouldn't have been surprised. On an earlier visit to a country east of Suez at the invitation of the British Council we were asked to tea at the British Embassy. The Ambassador spoke ceaselessly for an hour, answered questions we had not asked, offered advice we did not need, and told us things we already knew. He did not address me directly, preferring to engage my male colleague to whom he referred throughout as Donald. My colleague's name is George.

Geraldine Prince, North Berwick