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The London Library


Sabotaged by events
John Julius Norwich Writer
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And, anyway, every morning I went round, the airline offices in Khartoum, all of them, saying have you got anything leaving? And they would say where do you want to go to? And I would say the destination is totally immaterial; I wish to leave Khartoum as soon as I can. I don't care where I go. And eventually, after about a fortnight, I found one and it was going to Addis Ababa. So I went to Addis Ababa, but it was not a great success. I arrived the day the rains began – the Great Rains – and it just poured, and I really didn't see very much. I had a very nice dinner with a charming ambassador who told me how a few months before, his wife had put both children in the car and gassed all three of them, so he lost his wife and both children. You know, they just... she just put them in the car and put on the exhaust and… terrible story.

And, anyway, then I went back, and there was... I flew back, and they said, 'This is going to Athens.' On my way home now; I mean, I'd chucked everything. Flying to Athens. To my horror, we came down in Khartoum, and I thought oh, my God, if anything happens now I can't go back to that embassy, you know. But it was all right. We took off again in an hour and went to Athens, and I spent a couple of days in Athens, and home. But it was a… the whole trip was a total disaster, so I never got anything in the Seychelles. And, of course, I couldn't very well ask my friend to pay it all, so I… because it was entirely due to my own incompetence. If I'd flown straight to Nairobi there'd have been no problem at all and I'd be a rich man now. However, there it was.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Khartoum, Addis Ababa

Duration: 2 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018