It seems that I have never here satisfactorily explained why exactly (and how) I produced a wallaby at a reception in Belgrade when I was Ambassador there.

Basically, Foster’s Lager looks mighty Australian, but it is also in its European form a fine UK export. So when they wanted to run a senior reception as a promotion in Serbia and were turned down by the then too busy Oz Embassy, I stepped in to fill the breach.

It struck me that by far the best way to make the reception a sensation would be to have a kangaroo there, to celebrate Foster’s Australian roots as nothing else would. Yet where in Belgrade might one find a passing kangaroo, fit for this purpose? They were rarely seen on the streets, even in posh Dedinje.

By chance I met someone from a zoo in Vojvodina who (a) had a wallaby or two, and (b) was pleased to lend me one for the occasion.

So we built a small fenced enclosure in the garden and prepared for the arrival of all the guests, including the main one.

At that time we had a family rabbit called Tibbar. We decided to let Tibbar roam a bit and put him in the enclosure. Along came the wallaby in a box. The zoo-people tipped up the box, and out rolled the wallaby.

Tibbar was a respectable affable Serbian rabbit. When he got up that morning he was just not expecting to meet a wallaby or a kangaroo. That went some way beyond his realm of Balkan experience. Tibbar’s usually floppy ears went straight back over his head, in palpitating cuniculine stress.

Anyway, the wallaby did indeed caused a sensation, not least for Crawf Minima. It was interviewed by a Serbian radio station, if this picture is anything to go by:


Ah. The horror of diplomatic entertaining:


Key point of diplomatic technique?

Think about what they’re expecting. Then don’t do that.

See also my DIPLOMAT piece for other examples:

“Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen!

We all know and love protocol rules.

Tonight I have taken a bold decision. I have dispensed with all protocol hierarchies in the seating plan!

This means we can all enjoy talking to each other in whatever languages we care to use.”