Our Man at the FCO

Many of my clients became good friends and dispensed advice rather than just receiving it over the years. One such case was Tony M, then the CIO at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who I asked for ideas one December on what to get Debbie for Christmas.

Being a shrewd judge of character he asked what I had bought her in previous years.  Now readers, many of you will be aware that actually my memory recall isn’t that great (one of the reasons I’m writing this blog is to record them before they’re gone completely) so I pressed pause and thought hard before replying.

“Car mats, rubber car mats” – for the new Suzuki Swift car I bought her in a moment of madness in 1996, well not that mad really, as it was the cheapest automatic car I could find.  After picking himself up off the floor in “admiration” he dispensed some ridiculously romantic gestures such as jewellery or perfume, that of course I immediately rejected.

Pondering the future of my marriage he obviously was smarting about the lack of take up of his advice and resolved to obtain revenge.  This he did on a subsequent visit to his grand old office at the FCO in Whitehall dear readers, so let me share with you the gruesome details…

One of the security procedures you have to follow when visiting the FCO in Whitehall is to hand in your mobile at reception and get it locked away in a secure locker.  I imagine this was to prevent eavesdropping by foreign powers or journalists, in any event, normally the handover went smoothly.

On this particular occasion I was late due to a transport snafu and an impatient Tony met me in reception just as I arrived to escort me to his meeting that was just about to start.  Being an honest, law abiding citizen I of course informed him that I hadn’t handed in my mobile yet, he replied “don’t worry, as long as it’s switched off that’s ok” so it stayed in my pocket as he headed off to his plush office full of paintings and historic furniture.

His management meeting went ahead as usual with me acting in the role of non-exec advisor.  We eventually came to a comfort break when Tony innocently said to me “oh you can switch on your Blackberry and do some e-mails if you like” and so I did as he left for his ablutions.  A few moments later, an irate security guard popped his head into the room and asked in a loud voice “has anyone got a mobile switched on here as it’s activated an alarm”!

I immediately blushed deep red as an immediate confession of guilt and nervously dropped the phone to the floor.  As the security guard headed in my direction and I lost the will to live Tony poked his head through the door, pointed at me and laughing exclaimed “gotcha”.  He had been in cahoots with the guard all along!

It was a “Belgrano” moment for me for sure but raised a smile this morning over breakfast with Tony at, you guessed it, Bar 163 as you can see in the photo below.

Manners maketh man - I'd ordered breakfast before he arrived..
Manners maketh man – I’d ordered breakfast before he arrived..

Tony left the FCO a number of years ago but we’ve still kept in touch, largely through dinners at Gartner Symposium together approximately once every three years…  Still we’ve always kept in touch so it was great to catch up today.

Tony really is an interesting guy and I’m not talking about work here, like me he’s an “action man” only a little less fit (only kidding), who sky dives, hunts deer, drives Land Rovers and has been in the Territorials too.

Even more challenging to my male ego was that he came to breakfast this morning dressed like “The Terminator” on his awesome BMW motor bike pictured below…

It does way as heavy as it looks - however it has a very low centre of gravity - apparently
It does weight as heavy as it looks – however it has a very low centre of gravity – apparently
With sat nav, headphone built into kevlar helmet, it reminded me of my own Honda Express moped...
With sat nav, headphone built into kevlar helmet, it reminded me of my own Honda Express moped…

Last but not least, halfway through breakfast I took a call from Craig our estate agent saying that our vendor was meeting his solicitor today and things were moving again.  Fingers crossed it all works out and I can invite Tony & his wife up to Abergavenny to make Debbie realise that I’m actually quite normal in comparison!

Our Man at the FCO

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