We never saw a signpost to “Ipswich” until today, our final day. I was beginning to think the place was bewitched and did not actually exist, but at long last we found ourselves crawling through the suburbs towards our finishing point, the Grammar School. It is a fine place perched atop a series of hills so steep my eyes popped as we staggered towards it. Well done Jane for leading the way. And to our dog Moses who has been a delight, and to Markus our driver who has flown from Bulawayo to be at the service of the people of Zimbabwe, to whom he is fiercely loyal.
Reaping the Rewards
A few years back, a British ambassador’s wife caused a raised eyebrow or two when she started to flog her handmade jewellery from a spare room in the Embassy. No one cared sufficiently to stop her on the grounds, I suppose, that the ambassador’s wife is not the ambassador.
Now we read of the vast sums of money being made by Blair and Mandelson through the exploitation of their contacts established while in office. Perhaps we are so used to our rulers touting their little black contact books composed at the taxpayer’s expense that we have ceased to notice it. And it is an international phenomenon; there are agencies flogging the speech-making abilities of these “celebrities” and a list of their prices to anyone with a fat chequebook.
We can read of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s vast fortunes from their tax returns: Hillary alone made some $22m from speeches to the business community during the last year. So we just shrug and get on with our lives for everybody’s apparently doing it.
It was not always thus. When Harry Truman retired in 1953 after an honourable eight-year stint as US president, he went back to Missouri, threw his suitcase in the attic of the house that he and his wife shared with her mother, and started writing his memoirs to make a living. Astonishingly, there was no presidential pension of any kind in the fifties and all he had was $112.30 per month through a military pension.
The Bank of America then asked Truman if he would serve on their board as a director. He replied saying that on reflection he had to refuse. His reason was that the only commercial experience he had was as a failed haberdasher (his shop went bust during the recession in 1921) and therefore it was obvious that the only reason the bank had asked him to serve was because he had been President of the United States – “And taking advantage of such financial opportunities would diminish the integrity of the nation’s highest office”.
What a silly, old-fashioned man! I wonder what Bill and Hillary and Tony and Peter would make of such nonsense?