Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The remains of the day.

Have you seen this movie, The remains of the day, it's about a butler in a grand English home before the Second World War and what happens before and then after the war. This 1993 film is based on a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, it features Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

Today I attended the Annual General Meeting of my professional Association as Election Returning Officer. The meeting was held at the Foreign Ministry known in Ottawa as the Lester B. Pearson Building named after our Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Prime Minister who helped resolve the Suez Canal Crisis in 1956 and proposed the creation of the famous UN Peace Keeper Corps.
the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson, P.C., M.P. (Prime Minister of Canada 1963-68)

It is in all likely hood my last meeting, I have been active with my professional association all my working life, so I was happy to do this little thing for them.  I arrived a bit early and went to the Cadieux auditorium. The lobby known as the O.D. Skelton room has been repainted and the furniture recovered, it had not been done since 1973 when the building first opened. It is a funny looking building it is shaped like a Sphinx in memory of the Suez Canal Crisis and the man who helped solve the crisis.  The renovations look cheap and everything was done quickly, no money and budget cuts. It use to be such an elegant room. The rooms are named after famous Canadian diplomats who started their careers in academe and then became advisors to Prime Ministers. But all this was a very long time ago in an other era, such people do not exist anymore.

I sat in the auditorium and we went through the agenda, I did my part, half way through I started to feel tired and thought to myself how all this did not relate to me anymore. I remember a time when I would have been happy and excited about being with colleagues who worked as I did on important dossiers and in our Embassies around the world. Today I really had the impression that I was living the remains of the day, no regrets really, simply that all this was now in the past. It is a very strange feeling all together, I feel no connection really. I spoke with a few colleagues, learned that two persons who were scheduled to leave this summer on posting were diagnosed with very serious illnesses. I was working with them just a few weeks ago, I had no idea. One colleague who is also retiring said to me, we were lucky you know, we served during the best of time. I agree because now the future for my younger colleagues is very clouded and uncertain. There was a small reception after the meeting but I did not stay, did not feel like mingling, would not have known what to say. I had that feeling like when you are about to take the train and it is time to board, you do not want to linger.

I do not know if I will ever go back to the Lester B. Pearson building but when I left today the late afternoon sun was  bright and I did not look back. However of my career as a diplomat I remain true to my motto, Non Sibi Sed Patriae. (Not for me but for my country)
    A small sprig of flowers on a Roman Spring day on Peter and Joe's balcony on Via Tronto.

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