THE BOAT THAT BROUGHT ME: The lively memoir of a diplomat, husband and self-confessed cricket tragic.

AuthorMcIntyre, W. David

THE BOAT THAT BROUGHT ME: The lively memoir of a diplomat, husband and self-confessed cricket tragic

Author: Nick Bridge

Published by: Wayfarer (an imprint of the Cuba Press), Wellington, 2019, 132pp, $30.

This brief, very readable and at times hilarious memoir discusses the author's upbringing and his 33 years as a diplomat, focusing on seven overseas postings between 1969 and 2000. It will be of interest and value to specialists in New Zealand social history and in our foreign relations, especially the practicalities of what diplomats and their spouses actually do.

On the social history plane the outstanding theme is the impact of 1950s New Zealand on immigrant teenager Nick Bridge. He describes his father as 'an English boxwallah from Oxford', sent in the 1930s by his insurance company to Rangoon, Calcutta and Bombay, going on leave first class every few years. Never feeling settled in post-war Britain, Bridge senior took the family to New Zealand in 1956. Nick, who had been at boarding school in Hampshire, recalls the impact of the move: 'I'll never forget that first New Zealand day sailing into Wellington ... I've always remembered the palpable sense of liberation that I experienced in those early weeks in New Zealand. It has never left me and I'm still deeply grateful for it'. Starting in Brooklyn School--'a most agreeable few months'--he moved to Hutt Valley High School. 'It was a fine school and I had some very bright classmates.' Four became professors. He discovered that 'New Zealand did not do class. No one knew or cared what your father did, how you spoke, how well off your family was or where you lived. Basically, in 1950s New Zealand, we were just about all in the same boat. I relished it.'

Soon after joining the Department of External Affairs he had unusual experiences. 'Clearly, I'd joined a rather strange and enjoyable outfit.' The first overseas posting was London, 1969-71, where he was private secretary to the high commissioner, Sir Denis Blundell, who was fighting hard to retain access to the UK market for New Zealand produce as Britain gravitated towards the European Communities. Another job was as extra gentleman usher at Buckingham Palace to look after New Zealand guests at royal garden parties. The next posting, to Singapore 1971-75, involved nurturing relations with a dynamic city state 'seen by its neighbours as something of a Chinese Trojan horse'. Along with Britain and Australia, New Zealand encouraged the...

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