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On the fringes – Embassy 14 – January 2009

Credit crunch, what credit crunch?

As each new day brings ever more gloom about the state of the world economy, there is one lucky group doing well out of the financial crisis: London's diplomats. One even confided to me that she was "loving" the credit crunch.

The plummeting pound has meant that for once envoys, who are paid in foreign currency, have been able to enjoy an unexpected pay rise...that is, until their finance departments catch on and start adjusting budgets. So to all those diplomats who have more disposable income - it is your duty to spend the rest of us out of the recession!

Toilet humour

I was rather disappointed to hear that David Cerny's subversive artwork Entropa had been given the artistic equivalent of a loin cloth, covering up the most shameful bits (notably Bulgaria's unfair depiction as a Turkish toilet).

To me, the Czechs  managed a feat that has not been possible since the Treaty of Rome - to bring self-parody to the heart of Europe. We rely on the Czechs to be the enfant terrible of Europe, to poke a bit of fun at European po-faced seriousness. This is, after all, the nation that chose an absurdist playwright as president and voted for a man that did not exist as the greatest Czech ever.

At the official launch of the Czech Presidency in London, a few jokes were traded over the artwork. Simon Fraser, the DG for Europe and Globalisation at the Foreign Office, remarked that Britain was strikingly absent from the artwork, to which Ambassador Jan Winkler quipped, "Perhaps it was better to not to have been included!"

Will she, won't she?

It seems that Caroline Kennedy has abruptly quit the race for Senator of New York. Has President Obama given her an offer impossible to refuse? Such as four years in London in a very desirable address? Perhaps she will, after all, follow in her grandfather Joe Kennedy's footsteps and become Ambassador to London. Let's hope she's a better diplomat. Her grandpa, who served during WWII, was famously recalled after suggesting that Britain would lose the war to Germany.

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On the fringes with Elizabeth Stewart, editor
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