Cherry Denman is the artist wife of a diplomat husband, Charlie, who in the course of his career has been posted to China and Cyprus and Libya and Afghanistan among other places. She describes herself as ‘a diplomatic disaster zone.’ This book, Diplomatic Incidents, subtitled Memoirs of an (Un)diplomatic Wife, is her irreverent and at times bawdy and scatological account of what it is to be a diplomat’s wife whilst also bringing up two children. It is, essentially, a collection of amusing – and at times hilarious – anecdotes, illustrated by the author. It’s an easy read, well-written, in bite-size morsels, the sort of thing you can read by the pool and leave in the rented holiday home afterwards for the next tenants. I read the book avidly and I definitely won’t be leaving it for anybody else. The thing is, when I was Secretary of my Oxford college Junior Common Room, the Charlie who features occasionally in this book was President. He and I had a lot of fun in our year in office. There were our team of racing tortoises* (sponsored, of course, by Shell), our newsletter and a series of events perhaps best left dawdling happily in the mists of time (though many faithfully recorded in my minutes). I sometimes rode on the back of Charlie’s tandem bicycle, taking Cherry’s traditional place, and lived to tell the tale (though apparently even Charlie recognised the limitations of this form of transport in Tripoli). And how could I not recognise the man described in these pages as having ‘asked for his thirtieth birthday present never to have to dance again; a man with a sense of rhythm of a mushroom; a man whose stiff upper lip is spread over the rest of his body’?
* Yes, tortoises. They can move surprisingly fast when they want to. The team captain, Dennis, was a particularly fast mover. Unfortunately, he tended to move more towards female distractions than the finishing line.