Sunday, April 30, 2006


And there was me thinking the IT industry was the spiritual home of the TLA (Three-Letter Acronym)! The Foreign Office in general and the Embassy in Riyadh in particular is awash with the blighters: FCO, DHM, HMA, CLO, ECO, AMO, even stretching to four letters with RGBB, DSFA... the list goes on. I'm constantly having to stop Karen mid-flow to ask, "What does that one mean?"

For the last few weeks all the talk has been about something called the "QBP", which it turns out is the Queen's Birthday Party - the Embassy's National Day of celebration and a highlight of the Diplomatic social calendar, and with this year being Her Majesty's 80th, this year's party promised to be the biggest and best yet.

The Residence entrance

The QBP was held last week in the garden of the Ambassador's Residence and was certainly a glittering affair, with over 700 guests from the Diplomatic and expatriate communities, and of course many Saudi dignitaries including members of the Al Saud Royal Family.

Sherard with Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Sherard and Bridget with United States Ambassador James C. Oberwetter and his wife Anita

We were surprised and delighted when - a couple of days before the party - Sherard asked Elliot if he would like to attend as unofficial photographer. Needless to say Elliot was delighted and excited to accept and on the night the Embassy staff arrived at the residence early, the adults to don their red rosebud buttonholes (to identify us as Embassy staff and partners), and Elliot to receive instruction from Sherard on proper use of his very large and expensive-looking digital camera. Elliot's sporting a mop of long hair at the moment but despite that he looked quite smart and presentable, and his mission was twofold: take some official shots as Sherard and Bridget greeted their guests, and then wander around the party capturing some less formal, candid portraits.

Karen and me with some friends

I felt quite nervous for him but he seemed to be quite at ease mingling with Ambassadors, princes, and leading figures in the Saudi British expat community, including several teachers from his school.

Yours Truly with Australian Ambassador Ian Biggs

The guests enjoyed a balmy evening of drinks, exquisite finger foods, a small military band, speeches, and a ceremonial lowering of the Union Jack. Karen and I and the rest of the staff spent the evening mingling with and chatting to the guests, and I only saw Elliot a few times during the evening, but each time I did see him he was having a great time.

Listening to Sherard's address

Some Saudi guests

The event was a great success, in Sherard's opinion the best he's attended, and the next day he sent an email round thanking everyone for their contribution, mentioning, "our excellent new photographer Elliot Neal" by name.

Elliot with Principal of the British Internaitional School Dolores McNamara and her husband Bernie - Abigail's form teacher

Karen and I enjoyed it immensely and were very proud of the way Elliot conducted himself. I hope you enjoy these photos - all taken by my boy!


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