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Sian MacLeod » Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Prague

Time to get on my bike: a Valedictory Blog

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“I am, Sir, Yours faithfully. ” So read the final written thoughts of departing British Ambassadors up until 2006. I don’t think there is an approved form of words for Valedictory Blogs.  Confidential Valedictory Despatches, addressed to the Foreign Secretary, protected with a security classification, and intended for a small official readership, could be brutally frank and highly entertaining. It was an Ambassador’s last chance to write what they really … Read more »Time to get on my bike: a Valedictory Blog

Music is GREAT

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The great Prague Spring is here! Last year, our Diamond Jubilee and Olympic year, brought a bumper crop of top British musicians to the Festival, performing in some very memorable concerts. Although numbers are more modest this year, three great British musicians will be centre stage at Prague Castle’s stunning Spanish Hall as Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Festival’s first concert. The Festival’s ethereal first notes will be among the … Read more »Music is GREAT

Bluebell Woods

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I don’t think diplomats are much prone to home sickness. But a picture on our Embassy Facebook page last week captured the British countryside so beautifully that even a seasoned traveller like me could smell the flowers and feel nostalgic. By the time I next visit, the scent of bluebell carpets will have faded and there will be an overpowering smell of wild garlic, equally evocative but less likely to be … Read more »Bluebell Woods

The Iron Lady

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Reading the world’s media, it seems that everyone has a view about Baroness Thatcher, the Prime Minister who transformed British political life, drove a radical economic agenda now known globally as Thatcherism, and played a significant role in supporting historic change in Central and Eastern Europe. Lady Thatcher divided British domestic opinion. Her premiership (1979-1990) came as the UK faced difficult decisions over an ageing industrial base and unwieldy state … Read more »The Iron Lady

Church and State

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Brno theater goers may recall scenes in The King’s Speech set in Westminster Abbey and constitutional discussions between Winston Churchill and the Archbishop of Canterbury. As Cardinal Duka returned from the papal election in Rome, the Church of England prepared to enthrone the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury. Prague Chaplain, Rev Ricky Yates sees Justin Welby’s appointment as imaginative and bold. Like many Anglican clergy these days, Archbishop Welby had a secular career … Read more »Church and State

Pomp, Circumstance and Physiotherapy

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Last week’s working visit by TRH The Earl and Countess of Wessex began in some style at Prague Castle with silver bugles, a ceremonial guard of honour, and an exchange of official gifts. (Our Royal guests brought some fine porcelain from the Royal Collection for the President.) Although Government objectives and a certain amount of protocol are part and parcel of any Royal visit, the key to success is that … Read more »Pomp, Circumstance and Physiotherapy

Behind the Scenes of a Royal Visit

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In the olden days, a household on the route of a ‘Royal Progress’ faced immense demands. Elaborate banquets would need to be prepared, hundreds of courtiers and servants fed and accommodated, carts and horses stabled. The costs could be crippling. These days life is very different. The Earl and Countess of Wessex who visit Prague this week are modern parents of young children. Theirs will be a working visit to … Read more »Behind the Scenes of a Royal Visit

Heritage: the Good, the Bad and the Curious

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Heritage: That which is inherited …… anything transmitted from ancestors or past ages (Chambers Dictionary). Shetland ponies wearing beautiful knitted cardigans were a predictable success. But my favourite was of the mysterious Avebury standing stones. Another showed the mortal remains of vilified King Richard III, discovered beneath a car park. An icon of Moravian heritage, the Dolni Vestonice Venus, slipped in as the ancient lady went on show in the … Read more »Heritage: the Good, the Bad and the Curious

Crime and Democracy

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My elderly parents unexpectedly found themselves at the epicentre of British politics when their Member of Parliament (MP) resigned his seat after being found guilty of lying about a speeding offence. Under the British parliamentary constituency system, when an MP dies or resigns they are replaced through a ‘by-election’. These are often seen as a weather vane of the national political mood. Commentators say that this week’s Eastleigh by-election may … Read more »Crime and Democracy

European Added Value

For the past year or more, much time has been spent in the capitals of Europe in discussion of the EU budget. Last weekend in Brussels those discussions culminated in unanimous agreement between the 27 EU member states on a seven year budget deal. The 48 page European Council Conclusions may not make for light reading. But the outcome is important for us all. Countries like the UK and Czech … Read more »European Added Value