As The High Commissioner for Little Britain, the Honourable Evelyn Cartwheel, left for his first official appointment of the day, his faithful spouse Evelyn was standing at the door to kiss him goodbye.
'Where are you going this morning, darling?'
'To see the Minister for Diplomatic Etiquette, Velvet Mango,' he replied, as he gave Evelyn's thin lips an official peck, climbed into his official
limousine, and drove off.
'Thank you for coming so promptly, Mr Cartwheel,' said Velvet Mango, as he ushered his guest into a large leather armchair. 'I just wanted to give you a quiet word of advice. I know that you are a bit out of your depth here, having spent most of your diplomatic career as a passport officer in the Little British Embassy in Dublin…'
'That's right,' said Cartwheel. 'I was just coming up to retirement age when I was given this unexpected promotion, as a reward for years of mindless
service, and to boost my pension. You know that retirement bungalows in Bournemouth now cost over a million.'
'Exactly,' said Velvet, as he flicked a fleck of invisible dust from his Saville Row suit, 'so we don't want to spoil your retirement by having you sent home early. I'm saying this because, as a distinguished former diplomat myself, I was rather amazed by the newspaper reports that you're surprised by Kafupi's acquittal. In diplomatic language, surprised is a very strong word that should be avoided.'
'Well,' said poor Cartwheel, rather bemused, 'I'm surprised that you're surprised that I was surprised, because despite the rule that diplomats are not supposed to be surprised, this has not prevented you from being surprised at my surprise.'
'My dear Cartwheel,' said Mango, putting his leathery old withered hand upon Cartwheel's arm, 'It seems you can't understand your job at all.
Since I am now a minister, I can be surprised at your surprise. But as a
diplomat, you must not be surprised at my surprise at your surprise. Your job is to keep quiet. When Kafupi was
acquitted, you missed a marvellous opportunity to keep your mouth shut.'
'Well,' said Cartwheel boldly, 'I remain considerably surprised, after Little Britain spent five million pounds to try to put this little thief in jail, and we've got nothing for it. What am I going to tell the Little British
'Never mind the Little British
taxpayer,' sighed Velvet, 'he's quite used to having his money completely wasted by the Little British
government. I'm more worried about the Little British diplomat, and the disgrace of being sent home early just because he couldn't adjust to the local
tradition and culture.'
'Stealing public money?' sneered Cartwheel. 'Is that the local culture?'
'As a polite and grateful people,' explained Velvet smoothly, 'it is our tradition to seek favours from the chief by giving him gifts.'
'What about farcical comedies in court?' wondered Cartwheel. 'Is that also part of your culture?'
'You must learn to adjust,' said Velvet wearily. 'In this country we can't afford the luxury of theatre or cinema. The only entertainment we have is the judiciary. Magistrates have to be as absurd and ridiculous as
possible in order to entertain the public. Over the past seven years the weekly comedy of the Kafupi Case has been more popular than Isidingo, and its dramatic and laughable conclusion has proved to be a huge and widely celebrated national success.'
'So is that why you called me in this morning?' said poor old Cartwheel, now looking confused and bemused, 'just to tell me to keep my mouth shut, and to try to fit into the local culture.'
'More than that,' said Velvet grimly. 'Not only must you avoid being
surprised, but you must also avoid being surprising. According to our
culture, your general behaviour is seriously abnormal.'
'Abnormal? What on Earth d'you mean?'
'Well, I'm told that both your spouse and yourself are called Evelyn Cartwheel.'
'Yes, we're both Evelyn.'
'Rumour has it that sometimes your wife is the High Commissioner, and sometimes its you. Sometimes you stay home, put on an apron, and do the
cooking and washing, while your wife puts on the suit and pretends to be the High Commissioner. Such transgender behaviour is entirely contrary to our local tradition, and is in fact illegal. In future you'd better decide which of you is which, and stick to that!'
His beloved spouse Evelyn was waiting for him on the doorstep when he got home. 'How did the meeting go, dear?'
'Something terribly shocking,
darling! At the end of the meeting, when we stood up to shake hands, his trousers fell down!'
'It was his trick, my dear. He was testing you, to make sure you didn't show any surprise!'
'I couldn't control myself! I screamed and ran out of the room!'
'Oh My God! Now he knows you're a woman, and I'm the man!'
'We're finished! Disgraced! That's the end of the bungalow in Bournemouth!'
'We'll be lucky to afford a bedsitter in Barnsley!'
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