Where I used to live, I was part of a group of – mostly – Swedes, who met up about once a month, for coffee and cake and chat. It was the language we had in common, and a – mostly – shared background. Otherwise we were as different as you and your neighbours and cousins and the people in your office.
But over the 25 years, or so, you grow fond of people, while being aware of their individual peculiarities. You forge a closer relationship with a few, who suit you best, and others do the same. I’m still in touch with a couple of them, while time and distance mean we no longer do the cake.
Their age means few are on Facebook, but I have two of them as friends on there. Both, incidentally, moved back ‘home’. We never interact, but that’s OK. I know ‘where I’ve got them’ so to speak. Or thought I did, when one contacted me out of the blue, asking if I was the one she suddenly thought I might be. (Considering I look mostly like my old self in the online photo, I felt the question superfluous. Especially along with my personal information on there.)
Anyway, she phoned. We had a – mostly – nice chat (after 22 years). I could tell she was struggling to remember people, and with hindsight I understood it’s because she never invested that much in the group. But she had saved the ‘membership’ list of names. If that had been me, I’d have used it better, as a prop to get people ‘right’.
After an hour she went into sales mode and enthused at great length about a product that would change my life and by my instant calculation would cost me a mere £1000 a year.
Even the cynic in me felt a little disappointed.
No, not the novel by Graham Greene. I read that a long time ago.
This is about the kind of person you sometimes need when in another country, if only to hand out a new passport if that’s what you require. They are surprisingly often not the same nationality as you, nor do they speak your language.
Honorary means not paid, and I’m guessing the post is usually taken for the honour (hah) or for making your business cards look great. The one I have had most experience of said openly – to a very kind and well-meaning person – that they had no interest in things Swedish.
The good news is that the post of Swedish Honorary Consul in Edinburgh has just been given to a Swede. What’s more, he speaks Swedish. And he’s got a good way with people.
OK, so he’s called Mike, but that might work better in an English-speaking environment, the city where he runs a group of bars and restaurants. I’m thinking this is an improvement to the bored monolingual solicitor type.