Sir: Early on Friday morning, I embarked on my eagerly awaited long weekend holiday. I chose a small cosy hotel hidden in the rolling green hills of the English countryside. I went there armed only with the novel The Information. I was determined to hear no evil.
I casually strolled into the cosy restaurant where a lazy fire was lackadaisically burning to have my breakfast. I was about to attack my kipper with none of the diffidence that gave a certain novelist the most severe identity crisis in recorded history, when I saw it in all its glory: my name, properly spelled and titled, on the first page of the Independent ("Aitken row provokes Saudi anger", 14 April). As I am usually relegated to the letters page, I was thrilled to discover my name so prominently displayed. The article, written by Michael Sheridan, was even more thrilling. The story speaks about a horrific crisis about to engulf British-Saudi relations. I was to convey "displeasure" to my Foreign Office colleagues - who were laughing and smiling when I saw them last.
I hate to contradict the Independent; a paper that publishes a Daily Poem can't be that failed (sorry Jonathan, old boy!). I hate even more to contradict Mr Sheridan, a journalist with an increasingly rare partiality for the truth. There could be a crisis, I reasoned, belonging to the same category of Churchill's blessing, well-disguised. I decided to delay my reaction until my return. The rest of the weekend passed with nothing more sinister than the rantings of the hero of The Information against successful literary types (among whom I modestly place myself), and the occasional shriek of a fanatical golfer.
Back in my office, and with all the dispatches read and reread, I can assure whomsoever it may concern that Saudi-British relations are as strong as ever. I am fully aware of the rule that good news is no news but I hope that you will see fit to publish this letter from this diplomatic poet.
Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
18 AprilReuse content