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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Ukraine

2nd July 2012

Joining a running club; gay rights and Elton John; and goodbye to Kyiv

I arrived in Kyiv on 14 June 2008 in a rainstorm and saw Paul McCartney perform in Independence Square.  I leave today having seen Elton John and Queen on 30 June in Independence Square; and Kyiv throbbing to the excitement of a classic European Championship final between Spain and Italy on 1 July.  I’d like to say thanks to all those, including the readers of this blog, who have helped me to understand, interpret and enjoy Ukraine over the past four years.

I hope Ukraine can continue to demonstrate in the long term the immense friendliness and hospitality to people of all nationalities, ethnicities and sexual orientations that we’ve seen during these past terrific four weeks of Euro 2012.  On that front I commend the piece in the Guardian by Elton John yesterday.

Finally, on democracy, the EU and the future of Ukraine:

A man walks into a running club and asks to join.  The existing members of the club gather together.  “We’re happy to accept new members,” says a spokesman.  “But we have rules:  no more than 10 units of alcohol a week, a strict diet, no smoking, and a tough fitness regime, supervised by our own people, before we’ll accept your application.”

The would-be new member scratches his head.  “Those are tough conditions.  Can we negotiate about that?”

“No,” the existing members say.  “The rules aren’t open to negotiation.  You have to demonstrate fitness, weight loss, and healthy habits – so that you can keep up when you join, and, before then, to show us that you’re serious about membership.”

“I’ve heard there are other clubs,” the man says, “which have no fitness requirements at all.”

“It’s your decision,” say the members.  “We’d really like to have you in the club, as you clearly have the potential to be a great athlete.  Just to be clear, we’ll explain again exactly what we need for you to begin to move towards membership.  We’ll offer you a huge amount of support if you can show us you’re serious about joining.”

“There’s no need to keep repeating the conditions,” the man says.  “This looks like the club for me.  I can see the results you’ve achieved, and I’m keen to join.”

“OK,” the members say.  “Show us.”

Elton John in Independence Square. Kyiv, 30 June 2012

5 comments on “Joining a running club; gay rights and Elton John; and goodbye to Kyiv

  1. Great end-note on your departure. Thanks for participating in the Oxford Conference. Will you be able to return to Kyiv for the final MODEL UKRAINE Conference on November 23&24, 2012?

    Ihor Bardyn

  2. Interesting analogy, but to take it a step further, what should the club do when the runner who says they are ‘interested in joining’ goes to McDonalds and starts eating burgers instead?

    As you know Ukraine recently seriously debated anti-gay law 8711, that would basicaly make it illegal to be gay!! Do we really want those people to join the EU? Please, I beg you no!

  3. Thank you, Mr.Turner, for your contribution in our mutual development. I do not afraid to state that we have rather close relationship between our countries at various levels.

    I really liked your workshop story!! Very simply but much understandable.

    Sincerely wish you success at further stage of your activity. And please remember Ukraine!!.

    Kind regards,

  4. Nice one. Great analogy. Farewell Leigh Turner and all the best for the future.

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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.