The Anglo-Ethiopian Society
Book Review - Destinations Over Water
Reviewer - Julian Kay
Peter Lloyd was the British Council Representative in Addis Ababa from 1960 to 1968 and 110 pages of these truly magnificent memoirs totalling 300 pages cover these years.
From his military service beginning in 1940, manning light anti-aircraft gun sites in Britain, then transferred into infantry then back to university (Balliol) where he meets C.S. Lewis and Tolkien (‘a poor lecturer’) to his final British Council posting in Greece in 1980 there is not one dull page. He attends his examination for B.A. Honours in an M.A. gown (quite legitimately as he explains). He contributes to the Oxford Mandrake journal in 1949 along with Kenneth Tynan and John Wain and this is the man who in the 1980s as a member of the Executive Committee helped so willingly with the Society’s News Sheet (an ancestor of News File).
He played a very big part in the progress of the General Wingate School. Founded in 1948 it was the Wingate School Agreement of 1961 which made the British Council responsible for recruiting teachers and providing backup for their salaries. When one new English teacher could not arrive until a month after his predecessor had left, it was Peter Lloyd who stood in to fill the gap.
He has so many amusing tales to tell and for those who were there in the 1960s this is essential reading. He describes the set-up at Mulu Farm, and Christine Sandford “who could be recognised from afar because of her large broad brimmed white hat” driving Lord Bridges, the British Council chairman in a battered old van through the countryside.
There is the retired Australian wicketkeeper, Bert Oldfield, playing cricket at the Wingate School with the Emperor present and enjoying it. Oldfield’s cricket gear had been held up in customs and there being no Australian Embassy the British Embassy was asked for help in releasing it.
He describes the wonderful occasion (which could have ended in disaster) when Sir John Russell displayed his equestrian skills before the Diplomatic Corps by jumping his horse over the drink and glass-laden trestle tables at a British Embassy reception.
And how would the British Council Representative and his wife Florence seat, and what would they serve, a Minister of Education, Princess Ruth, a senior priest who would probably be observing the minor weekday fast, and the Indian Ambassador a keen meat eater but whose wife was vegetarian. As it turned out the priest had a special dispensation enabling him to eat meat on diplomatic occasions.
The author worked for the Council in Uganda, Poland and Greece as well as Ethiopia. It is a tribute to the British Council and individuals like Peter Lloyd that countries that had very little time for the UK - the old colonial power and what it was supposed to represent - and would have been more than ready to break off relations - were at the same time most anxious not to lose the British Council in their capital city.
Destinations Over Water by Peter Lloyd, published by Memoir Club, 2005.