Monday, 20 August 2012

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

by Paul Torday

A tragicomic story of one man’s crazy and wonderful dream, told as a series of e-mails, letters, diary entries, interviews and Hansard extracts. Although I do not agree with Sheikh Muhammad’s maxim that “faith comes before hope, and before love”, I do hope that there is still love in wait for Harriet and Fred. And where is love, there is hope.

Throughout the book, the comic relief is provided by Alastair Campbell Peter Maxwell, Tony Blair’s Jay Vent’s director of communications. In the excerpt below he is being interviewed by Boris Johnson Boris Johnson:

Peter Maxwell: It’s a long time since I had a proper holiday, Boris. My colleagues are always suggesting it, but I don’t think any of them have the faintest idea of what would happen if I wasn’t there to look after their interests. I did go to Ibiza, once, for a weekend, and I suppose I’d like to go back there again if ever I had the time.
Boris Johnson: And what about time off for a bit of exercise?
PM: Well, as you probably know, I’m a bit of a fitness freak so if I can take a few hours off, often it’s all about physical exercise. I think it’s well known I’m a keen salsa dancer. It’s probably less well known I got into the Islington area finals two or three years back. I’m not saying I’m any good at it, but I suppose I can’t be doing everything wrong, to nearly win the North London Salsa Cup.
BJ: Any other sports or recreational activities of that sort which appeal to you?
PM: I suppose the boss and I play tennis a bit...
BJ: The boss being the prime minister, I suppose?
PM: Exactly.
BJ: And who wins?
PM: Well, Boris, I think my job might be at risk if I told you that! Seriously though, it’s pretty even between us, which is great. I think when you have a fairly intense desk job — on the phone or watching the screen all the time — anything that gets you outside and takes your mind away from the daily pressures and stresses has to be good.
BJ: Mens sana in corpora sano — all that sort of thing, you mean?
PM: I’m not following you there again, Boris.
BJ: Any other interests outside work you can tell us about, Peter, apart from sports?
PM: I like music a lot. Of course I like salsa music, that goes without saying. But I also like the classics. The ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ is one of my absolute favourites. I think it is a fabulous piece, so evocative.
BJ: What exactly does it evoke for you?
PM: It always makes me think of that wonderful scene in Apocalypse Now when they play it from loudspeakers on the helicopter gunships while they napalm a Cong village. A really moving bit of cinema history, and the music to go with it.
BJ: We’ve moved on a bit from those days, Peter, haven’t we? I mean, napalming insurgent villages isn’t anything we would do nowadays, is it?
PM: Are we straying from the subject here, Boris?
BJ: Possibly. What about reading? Do you have any favourites?
PM: Hansard.

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