Friday, 27 February 2015
Anyone who knows me even vaguely well will probably agree that an awful lot of my adult life has involved stumbling from one piece of stupidity to another. Sometimes it's been pure, unbridled accidental stupidity and on other occasions it's been fully-blown, pre-meditated stupidity. Tonight and tomorrow I'm going to be doing something that falls very much into the latter category.
In aid of those generally wonderful eggs at Comic Relief and inspired by lunatic prince Mark Watson, myself and fellow comic Chris Purchase are going to try and visit every single embassy in London. Why? Well it's the first really stupid, over-ambitious challenge I could think of and also it seemed a lot more manageable when I thought of it before I actually did any research. I mean, I live in London and that's Britain's capital, so obviously all off the embassies would be located here, right? Plus, if you're a self-respecting nation, you're obviously going to put your embassy slap bang in glittering central London, otherwise how would your ambassador get taken seriously when the Queen invites him round to Buckingham Palace for diplomatic tea and crumpets and he turns up late and sweaty because the Metropolitan Line got stuck at Chesham.
All of this seemed so obvious before I started looking into it seriously. Whist some people are doing challenges for Mark that involve next to no prep (writing 'I am an idiot' for 27 hours or simply being the audience's plaything whilst putting on a serious of dresses) this challenge involved more groundwork than a geography field-trip. My initial suspicions were correct: most embassies are in central London - clogging up Grosvenor Square or Piccadilly with flags and brass plaques and official motorcades outside, ready with the champagne and cigars on ice. But notice the key word there: 'most'. It seems that the London property boom hasn't just affected individuals - whole countries have had to downsize and move to more affordable areas of town.
So before me and Chris head into town we're going to have to take a pretty idiosyncratic journey around the world: firstly we'll head up to Highgate to visit Cape Verde, before floating around to north-west London to stroll through Benin, Cambodia, Guinea and Niger. Having popped back and forth between South-East Asia and Africa we'll then head to west London. "Aha!", you might be thinking "a quick de-tour around the north and then into the heart of things." Sadly not, as the poor old Kim-Jon family can't afford to house North Korea's embassy anywhere more exciting than Gunnersbury. Once we've saluted our Dear Leader and popped in on Azerbaijan, St.Kitt, St.Vincent and Belarus, who all shack up together in a classic odd couple double date, we have to get our walking boots on and head on into the dark thickets of SWland.
The south-west is full of embassies and some of the real big-hitters live here: Netherlands, Spain, Malaysia, Singapore and Bahrain. Sadly, the SW postcode goes all the way up to the 20's meaning we're going to have to head down to Wimbledon and Rayne's Park to say hallo to Tuvalu, Sao Tome and Principe (nope, never heard of it either) and of course the representative of His Holiness Pope Frankie.
Then will come the hardest part of our journey, as from the Holy See we'll have a three hour, embassy-less trek back into central London at about 11am tomorrow morning. If you're on social media around then, please for the love of God support us, because we're going to need it. Finally, at about 2pm tomorrow (in theory) we'll head back into town to tick off the remaining embassies smack bang in the centre of town.
Then we'll be done - right? WRONG! Just to spite us, there are twelve countries who don't have an embassy in London or at all in the UK. Somalia is a bit of a mess at the moment, so doesn't have a residency and Madagascar and Vanuatu prefer to hang our with the Eurocrats in Brussels. But, bafflingly, if you need to do some dealings with the Buddhist Republic of Bhutan then you need to head to Guildford, that beacon of enlightenment. Need to contact you friend in the Comoros Islands? You'll need to head to sunny Manchester. But most confusing of all are the embassies for Kiribati and Palau - two tiny Polynesian Islands with embassies in Bately, Yorkshire and Monmouthshire in Wales. I have absolutely no idea how and why they've ended up there. I guess if you come from a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific, a post-industrial Yorkshire town probably resembles London... The upshot of this is that when we return to Mark's show at the Pleasance Theatre tomorrow evening, we hope that he'll have managed to source us suitable representatives from countries like Chad, Burkina Faso and Samoa to welcome us home. Good luck with that one!
Anyway, the upshot of this is that by around 10pm on Saturday me and Chris are going to be exhausted, delerious and possibly on better terms with North Korean Embassy security staff than is comfortable. We also hope we'll have raised a thunderton of money for the real heroes at Comic Relief. If you think this lunacy is worth some of your money, give us a sponsor here (per mile/per embassy/ per blister all welcome):