The other night I found myself at an embassy residence being greeted by the ambassador. I had not met him before though I knew his predecessor well, a man of some culture. I was a little taken aback. The new man is unremarkable, almost forgettable save for one thing. His tie. Attached to his collar was a huge, grey, ready made bow, more resembling a propeller blade than a tie. It augured ill for the evening, a music and art event which I shall not attempt to describe now, save to say that afterwards we were served sandwiches made of the thickest type of French bread with an indeterminate filling. Plate loads of this awkward and indigestible stuff remained half-eaten or untouched at the end.
As I watched the untouched mounds of bread being returned to the kitchen, no doubt to be recycled for a future cultural event, I could not help recalling the words of a distinguished British journalist I know quite well and with whom I discussed the subject quite recently in London. He explained that the problem with diplomacy today is that the people who have risen to ambassador level were recruited in the 1970s and 80s, when the best and brightest graduates were more attracted to the glitter of the media or the certain wealth on offer in the City. Public service offered few prizes. As a result, the people who are now ambassadors do not match up to the calibre even of those of ten years ago.
When I first came to Warsaw, the British ambassador was an organ scholar and rode his daughter`s bicycle to church. He would not have been seen dead in a ready made bow tie. And why not? Because gentlemen tie their own ties. Therein lies the difference.