THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: Craig’s blessed disappointment

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IN the 1960’s, Simon and Chris shared rooms for a period while studying at Oxford University.

Simon was a geology student, with a love for sailing; while Craig took a degree in classical Persian.

Graduating with a stellar first-class degree, Craig was soon recruited by the British Foreign Office. He was posted to various locations throughout Asia, and in occasional letters to Simon he shared his hopes of one day being British ambassador in Iran, with all the decorations and honours which such a post inevitably attracts.

When Simon heard from him in the mid 1980’s his career seemed to be well on track.

But Simon heard nothing from Craig for over twenty years. Then, one morning, when steaming on a Russian cargo ship into Port Stanley , capital of the Falkland Islands, a message came across on the ship’s radio channel.

It was a message from the Deputy Governor of the Falkland IslandS inviting Simon to join him for lunch.

Simon said yes, not having the faintest notion who the Governor might be, let alone the Deputy Governor! But waiting for Simon on the quayside was his old university friend, Craig.

How Craig came to be posted to that fastness in the South Atlantic was due to a cruel twist.

Some years before he had been posted to the British Embassy in Rangoon, Burma, the modern Myanmar. Unmarried and middle-aged, formed a relationship with a middle-aged, single Burmese woman.

The British ambassador (Craig’s boss), didn’t much like his staff fraternising with the locals, and a formal letter to London led to Craig removal from post. Postings followed in places far remover from the centres of power, places like Mogadishu and Ascension Island.

And then came the post in which Simon found him, not only as Deputy Governor of the Falkland Islands but also Assistant Commissioner and Director of the Fisheries of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

In that secondary role, Craig had overseen one of the most successful schemes for the protection of fish stocks in that area.

Did Craig resent the twist his life had taken?

He still wrote in Paris and had a collection of Persian classics in his study, but there was no trace of bitterness in his heart.

Here’s what he told Simon, as related in Simon Winchester’s fascinating recent book entitled ‘Atlantic’: “Five years ago I wouldn’t have known one end of a fish to another.

“I couldn’t tell a krill from a kangaroo. I lived in offices. I went to endless policy meetings. I fretted endlessly about what the London office might think.

“But now, every single aspect of my job has changed. I’m still paid reasonably well. I am still a British diplomat. Burma, for all the short-term misery it caused, ended up doing me a big favour. It got me sent here. And these two years in the South Atlantic have turned me into one happy, happy man”.

Who knows where the seeming disappointments of life may lead us?