Flat Earth: Baldry bhaji

A KIND of post-imperial haze over London last week. First at the Red Fort restaurant in Dean Street for the opening of the Rajasthani Food Festival. There it was, all swirling pipes, whirling dancing-girls and speeches by the Indian High Commissioner and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr Tony Baldry.

Mr Baldry has a penetrating eye, gleaming teeth and a tie covered with figures that look like those outlines the police draw on the floor around dead people. But the stern ministerial effect is ineffably softened by a pink and orange turban he is wearing for the occasion, with a train falling gracefully down his back. His appearance gratifies not only the guests but also various passers-by and Soho homeless, who gather behind him on the pavement, beyond the plate- glass window. One man, in a T- shirt inscribed 'General Hospital', begins involuntarily to mimic the minister's gestures, demonstrating the bond of feeling that exists between the least advantaged members of society and their government.

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