[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Sunday, 4 July, 2004, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
When in Rome... move

By Brian Barron
BBC correspondent in Rome

Relocating to a different country is never easy, particularly when you are trying to bubble wrap elephant bones. Brian Barron packs up all his belongings and prepares to move to America.

Anything to declare? Brian Barron faces the hazards of relocation, again
If I can begin by shamelessly mangling a metaphor, it was the elephant bones that broke the camel's back.

They'd been given to us by a game warden, a grizzled veteran baked a wrinkly bronze colour by decades of African sun. He'd found the relics in a vast desert boneyard created by the worst drought in living memory.

So when it came to packing up our belongings in Nairobi just over 20 years ago the elephant bones, until then on our garden patio, proved a domestic - dare I say - bone of contention as we prepared to move to Ireland.

Shipping anything to the USA in the wake of the 11 September attacks means stringent checks
I couldn't visualise any setting for them in the Emerald Island, let alone a sideboard strong enough to support an elephantine femur.

My wife Angela thought otherwise.

The deadlock was resolved by scrutinising the voluminous restrictions the Kenyan government had inherited from its colonial predecessors.

The export of any parts of an elephant was forbidden, we learned. This was a sensible effort to prevent ivory and rhino horn smuggling, still a curse in modern Africa.

So without ceremony the elephant bones were repatriated to a dusty wilderness near the Rift Valley.

'It's never easy'

Now here in Rome the packers are in and our sense of displacement starts in earnest. It doesn't matter how many times you've done this, it's never easy.

New York
Back to New York City
We're returning to New York City, familiar concrete pastures.

But the world never stays still and shipping anything to the US in the wake of the 11 September attacks means stringent checks.

Our Italian shippers say the American authorities might at random choose to examine every item in the container and if they do we bear the extra cost of re-packing and resealing.

One result of periodically relocating is items get left behind and not always by accident.

I had an entertaining colleague called Ronnie who retired, handing me responsibility for covering a large chunk of Asia.

For years after, whenever I stopped in Delhi on assignment, the High Commission would politely ask me if I'd decided what to do with Ronnie's duck guns, which the great man had left at our diplomatic mission, presumably because he felt the fearsome Indian customs officers might create such a fuss his own exit might be delayed.

So Ronnie's firearms are probably still in some cupboard in the Indian capital.

Armed and dangerous

I'd better own up to a weapons saga myself.

Another hazard of moving is how unwanted items turn up
A few years ago on the horsehair sofa of a Pall Mall club I recognised a British diplomat, newly knighted and on his countdown to gracious retirement, whom I'd last encountered in Aden in the late 60s.

His opening words as we shook hands 30 plus years later were: "Brian, I've still got your revolver."

It was a reminder that when I arrived in Aden on my first overseas posting the British colonial administration was being bombed and shot out of power.

British soldiers and civilians were relentlessly targeted by nationalist gunmen. So the security authorities insisted that every British civilian carry a gun in their car.

In fact, one of my squash partners was assassinated as he parked, so being armed didn't save him.

A few months later, as I packed before moving to Cairo, I discreetly handed my unused revolver - the first and last time I've had one - to the post-Colonial British mission.

Bubble wrapped

Another hazard of moving is how unwanted items turn up.

Angela's fondness for hoarding empty jam-jars and plastic containers to store food filled an entire kitchen cupboard when we last lived in Hong Kong.

Unknown to both of us they were bubble wrapped by the movers as if they were priceless Ming porcelain and arrived at our next posting in their own special crate stamped "Handle with care."

Now here in Rome we've begun the ritual fire-sale of domestic items... the mobile air conditioner, the fans and sun-blinds, the terrace garden irrigation system... paraphernalia for surviving the summer heat in Southern Europe - all going for a song.

Could I interest you in a pristine collection of jam-jars complete with lids? Or a pair of rubber flippers, size seven?

No, I'd better stop there because I have the calculator hard at work on cubic capacity... whatever that is.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday, 3 July, 2004 at 1130 BST on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific