One of my great pleasures and privileges in Kyiv is inviting key senior contacts to a 1:1 lunch at the residence. Over a pre-dinner drink - perhaps by the open fire, if the day is snowy - and a light meal, we can discuss life in Ukraine, or elsewhere; and exchange views on how to make things better.

On one of my first such lunches in Kyiv, I left out in the hallway the table-tennis table I bought to entertain (and challenge) the children on their visits here. So I was delighted when my guest picked up a bat and challenged me to a game. What better way to let off a bit of steam at lunchtime and set the frame for a political debate?  Who says work and pleasure don't mix?

Since then I usually try and ensure that the table is out when a guest is coming to lunch.  While many of Kyiv's business and political leaders prefer other sports, there are a surprising number who are happy to pick up a paddle. In fact, on one occasion when I judged it unlikely my guest would fancy a game and failed to put out the table, she expressed forcefully a desire to challenge me on a future occasion.

Perhaps it would help improve our concentration - and digestion - if table-tennis was more often on the menu for working lunches at different venues?

P.S. I cannot, of course, reveal the scores of any of these games, any more than I can reveal the identity of my guests, or what we discuss.

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

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