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Simon Atkinson

Deputy Head of Mission, Cape Town

Part of UK in South Africa

14th August 2012 Cape Town, South Africa

Promoting the UK

I love my job – traveling the world, meeting new people, supporting UKPLC amongst other activities. But even when this involves living in a place like Cape Town, I really do miss home – especially when we’ve just put on one of the best Olympics of all time.

I watched the games with great pride, from the spectacular Opening Ceremony to the succession of medals won by our athletes across a host of disciplines. Judging by local media reaction, it’s pretty good for our international image too.My own promotion of the Olympics was ‘capped off’ this month (excuse the pun) by handing out Baby Beanies to new world recruits and future Olympic winners on the maternity ward of Groote Schuur Hospital.

Maternity ward at Groote Schuur Hospital
Maternity ward at Groote Schuur Hospital

My boss is away this month. Having been momentarily elevated to the dizzy heights of ‘acting Consul General’, I’ve tried hard to lead by example and not get too distracted by the Games (BBC Sport’s online live text updates makes this sooo hard!) I’ve enjoyed the extra responsibility of managing the Consulate in general, though slightly less so the number of extra evening and weekends given up to various events (no, not glamorous in any way, but good for business). However, I am looking forward to the event I’m hosting tonight at the High Commissioner’s Residence – welcoming two Brits who have managed to cycle all the way from London, raising awareness for street kids along the way. I’ve given myself a year to train for the famous Cape Argus Cycle Ride – a tour of 106km. Going by my lacklustre training schedule, I would need 160 years of preparation to emulate their 17,000km journey.

Some of last month was management focused. July marks the halfway point in many of our appraisal cycles. I line manage four members of staff, so had what we call ’mid-term reviews’ with each of them. We also celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday (18 July) in fitting style by taking Consulate staff to support the work of the  with Etafeni Day Care Centre. Jobs included painting, helping in the kitchen, and interviewing practice (I opted for the latter) A thoroughly enjoyable morning, which I hope helped cement relationships between our staff, who come from various South African and UK backgrounds.

To round up other highlights for the month: Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham was in South Africa to discuss a range of current foreign policy, trade and investment issues and the UK jointly co-chaired a workshop in Cape Town from 24 to 27 July, aimed at developing regional capacity to combat illegal fishing in Southern Ocean waters.

Next week we look forward to welcoming Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon John Bercow to Cape Town for a series of Parliamentary calls. More about that in the next blog.

About Simon Atkinson

Simon Atkinson was born and spent the first 9 years of his life in New Zealand, before his family moved to the less leafy suburbs of Wallington, South London. After…

Simon Atkinson was born and spent the first 9 years of his life in New Zealand, before his family moved to the less leafy suburbs of Wallington, South London. After university at Leeds and 4 years teaching English and working for NGOs in Europe and South America, Simon joined the UK Foreign Office. His first overseas posting was in India, where he was a political officer covering issues like counter-proliferation and the relationship between India and its neighbours. He was also the Commonwealth Games Attaché during Delhi’s 2010 Games.

Cape Town is his second and current posting. His role here is dual hatted – as Deputy Consul General, he supports the Consul General manage the office, and as the Head of the Political Team, he covers the whole gambit of South African policy (though being based in Cape Town means this is heavily focused on domestic policies and Parliament).

Simon is married to Gina, who also works for the Foreign Office. They enjoy being in South Africa, as both a fascinating country to cover politically and wonderful place to live, allowing them to pursue their passion for the outdoors and perfect their ability to ‘braai’ (not that they’re under any illusion about how often they’ll get to demonstrate this skill once they return to the UK)!