Dennis Higton: dinner parties in the USA

Dennis Higton recalls parties with American scientists whilst acting as a technical liaison to the British Embassy in Washington in the 1960s.

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I was posted to America in a hurry, but the reason for the hurry was the chap I was replacing had been thrown back home. I was told when I got there – well, I was told by the Foreign Office before I left. They said, ‘Look, we’re bringing you over, the last chap in the world we want to see really, but the real reason for getting you there, what they called the social side, was crashing fast and your task is to put that straight. It doesn’t matter what you do on the technical side.’ But they worried about my wife, but they shouldn’t have done. They thought she was – unable to cope with dinner parties every other night and go out nicely dressed, but she was – she was the heroine of the whole trip, I’m pleased to say. In fact the Americans, they all said, ‘We don’t want to see you, Dennis,’ they said, ‘We want old Joy Bells back, you see.’ And these parties, you see, they not only enable you to talk to people in your discipline, but you’ll meet all sorts of people in all the other disciplines, you see. They’d always be... In your house you’ll always have a meal. Sometimes there are little parties. Sometimes the house would be full of people drinking and eating.

What reasons do you have for throwing a party?

Well, to get to know people. There’s no point in shaking hands at the airport, you’ve got to know them so that they talk to you and you can talk to them. It’s all about talking to people and people that you trust and they trust you. And you’ve got the energy to do it. That’s the – that’s the requirement of a Washington chap.

  • Interviewee Dennis Higton
  • Duration 00:01:37
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 2/10/2011
  • Shelfmark C1379/41

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