That middle-aged women snorting on the subway this past week was me. No, I’m not going senile, or at least not yet, I was reading Cherry Denman’s hilarious “Diplomatic Incidents,” billed as the memoir of an (un)diplomatic wife. Yes, it is a little over-the-top in places, but let’s face it, the life of the average expat, is pretty unbelievable at the best of times.
Although she’s lived in Libya, Cyprus, Hong Kong and China, Cherry opens her story by confessing that she’s not an enthusiastic traveller.
“Abroad means dodgy lavatories and pillows dribbled on by other people. It means taxi drivers in string vests and baby-faced policemen with guns. It’s hard work, and it’s sweaty and uncomfortable.”
Cherry takes us in orderly fashion from arrivals and departures, through transport, entertaining, maids, children, health, visitors, home leave and celebrating holidays away from. If you’ve lived overseas you’ll be familiar with many of the situations she describes, pedantic bureaucracy, unsuitable accommodation, crazy driving and the continual search for familiar foods from home.
And which expat woman would deny the truth in this?
What keep me going are the crowds of slightly lost, homesick, wonderful women I have found wherever I have ended up. Each one is creating her own small version of her homeland around her and wearing it like a protective snail-shell, tying to make the puzzles of everyday a little easer to cope with. The simple cry of “Does anyone know where to buy loo paper?” can bond a group of women in a matter of seconds.
If you like the British style of sarcastic and self-deprecating humour, you’ll find it impossible not to laugh out-loud. This is definitely not a book to read in a quiet doctor’s waiting room.