Leaving Lebanon in August after four tumultuous years was an emotional time for me. Amid the traditional formalities, we wanted to see if we could use digital technology to depart in a more modern way, reaching out beyond the protocol and parties.
The first effort was through a walk along the Lebanese coast, taking in everything from army training camps to refugees to commercial projects. LBC tagged along, and captured it in a ‘diplomentary’ here: http://youtu.be/723jcDER5Gk. I also blogged on the experience: http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/tomfletcher/2015/07/20/keep-on-walking-lebanon/
We also thought that I needed to write to the Lebanese people, who had so inspired me over this period. This is always tricky. Here’s the letter and the reactions to it: http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/tomfletcher/2015/07/31/19389/
With the news quiet over August, the letter somehow got picked up in the UK too. Here’s a hero of my Grandmother, Matthew Parris: http://new.spectator.co.uk/2015/08/freedom-of-information-killed-ambassadors-valedictory-dispatches-could-blogging-bring-them-back/
And here is a former (red-socked) Ambassador to Washington who knew more than most about communicating diplomacy: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/lebanon/11788282/How-to-retire-as-an-ambassador-with-style.html
Neither knew that in fact I had also written an internal valedictory with my private thoughts and advice. That’s staying secret I hope, at least for the next thirty years.
Finally, we linked up with the nice folk at BBC World Serice, to do a behind the scenes look at my final days in the country. By that time I was running on empty, but Jo Meek and Matthew Teller kindly edited out most of the exhaustion as they recorded everything from my farewell speech to the team to visits to refugees to the farewell party hosted by Walid Joumblatt, plus a backstage encounter with David Gray and a rooftop encounter with Mr Le Gray. You can hear the documentary here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p030360v
And you can read the brilliant Matthew’s personal (if colour blind) account here: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-34040175
As diplomats (and now in my case an ex diplomat, for a while) we’re hugely lucky to be living in a time when we have the means to connect with a much larger group of people than ever before. Even if it doesn’t quite have the poise of Von Trapp’s Edelweiss. Or the gravitas of the flag coming down and an austere handshake at the departure gate.