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Paul Johnston

Ambassador to Ireland

Part of FCDO Outreach

7th August 2013


I don’t have a great deal in common with Lady Thatcher, but my father was also a grocer.

Growing up in Scotland in the early 70’s, I have vague memories of what now seems a very old-fashioned grocer’s shop, as far removed from today’s Waitroses and ICAs, as a Ford Model T is from a Ferrari.

 Spaghetti meant spaghetti hoops in cans and polenta and guacamole could have been dances or diseases for all I knew.

 A friend has sent round some reflections on an even earlier era, what it was like to “enjoy” eating in the UK in the 1950’s. Enjoy!


   Pasta had not been  invented.
   Curry was a surname.
   A takeaway was a mathematical  problem.
   A pizza was something to do with  a leaning tower.

   All crisps were plain; the choice was whether to put the salt on or not.

   A Big Mac was what we wore when  it was raining.
   Brown bread was something only  poor people ate.

   Fish didn’t have fingers.
   Eating raw fish was called  poverty, not sushi.
   None of us had heard of  yoghurt.

   Cooking outside was called  camping.

   The one thing that we never ever had on our table… was elbows.


2 comments on “FOOD FOR THOUGHT

  1. I enjoyed it very much, extremely nice.! I will forward it to my Engliksh speaking firends.

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About Paul Johnston

Paul Johnston joined the UK Civil Service in 1990, working for the Ministry of Defence initially. He has served in Paris and New York and has also had a wide…

Paul Johnston joined the UK Civil Service in 1990, working for the Ministry of Defence initially.

He has served in Paris and New York and has also had a wide range of political and security roles in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Paul joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1993 as Desk Officer for Bosnia. As part of this role he was also Private Secretary to EU negotiator Lord Owen and his representative on Bosnia Contact Group.

His first foreign posting was to Paris in 1995-99 as Second Secretary Political. He was Private Secretary to the Ambassador and latterly part of the UK delegation to the Kosovo Rambouillet negotiations. Then he returned to London as Head of the Kosovo Policy Team, leading work on post-conflict policy in the EU, NATO, UN and G8.

Before his second overseas posting to New York in 2005, Paul held a variety of other EU policy and security appointments in London, such as Head of European Defence Section between 2000-01 and Head of Security Policy Department between 2002-04.

As Head of the Political Section in UKMIS New York, he advised on major policy issues for the UK on the Security Council and the UN World Summit, including the UK EU Presidency in 2005.

Paul returned to London in 2008 as Director, International Security for the FCO. He was responsible for policy on UN, NATO, European Security, arms control and disarmament, human rights and good governance.

Paul was British Ambassador to Sweden from August 2011 to August 2015 and then was Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO.

He was UK Ambassador to the EU for Political and Security affairs from 2017 to January 2020 and became Ambassador to Ireland in September 2020.