More Thrills Than Skills – A Half-Life in Journalism, Part 105

Over the next few weeks, is to publish, each weekday, extracts from the memoirs of Scottish war correspondent, Paul Harris. ‘More Thrills than Skills: A Half-life in Journalism’, is to be published March 1 next year, by Kennedy & Boyd, Glasgow, and available from

On Monday morning, I decided to pay a visit to the British High Commission, just a few hundred metres down the road. The tenuous nature of my presence in the country, and the requirement to attempt to get a visa for Sulee, required such a visit. I gingerly made my way out of the building, abjuring use of the lift and sneaking around the back of the lift shaft and out through the rubbish yard at the back.

Peter Hughes, the deputy High Commissioner, was visibly surprised to see me back. He accepted my explanation that I had to return in an attempt to clear up personal and business matters but was clearly uneasy. I expressed my disappointment at the ineffective nature of the protests lodged by the representatives of Her Majesty’s government. Hughes made his excuses: the whole matter was quite irreversible.

“Everything to do with your situation is being dealt with at Temple Trees across the road.” He nodded out of his window to the landscaped grounds of the PM’s official residence, just a hundred metres away. All approaches to the Foreign Ministry which the BHC had made had been futile. It was being dealt with at a rather higher level. And it had got personal.

The BHC was clearly uneasy about my return as a tourist with all its potential for even more drama. I assured Hughes that I would maintain a low profile, not contact the media, keep the blinds fully down – literally and metaphorically, and clear off just as soon as I had things wrapped up. Oh, and could I please have a visa for my girlfriend to come to the UK?

Oh, yes, we’ll see about that. What passport? China? Peoples Republic of China? Gulp. But within three hours the visa was issued . . . and I solemnly undertook to remove myself as soon as possible from the scene.

In the waiting room, the local BHC ‘information officer’, Mahendra

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