From Russia, with love.
On Thursday (August 2), Vladimir Putin watched the Olympic judo with David Cameron at Excel, the largest Olympic venue in London.
According to the Financial Times, while Syria, Russian human rights and the countries’ economic relationship were all spoken of, it was the Russian premier’s regard for Mr Bean – the comic Rowan Atkinson – which caught the press headlines.
Russian diplomacy has never been far from London: not even in the Cold War.
In 1664, Charles II had just finished re-landscaping St James’s park, the land first claimed and laid to parkland by Henry VIII.
What this park needs, thought the Russian ambassador, is a pair of completely incongruous pelicans.
And so he gave a pair to Charles for the park.
But their numbers began to dwindle and by 1970 – the heart of the Cold War – things were in a dire state. There was one pelican left, called Daphne.
It was all very awkward. Should the British go cap in hand to the Russians to ask for more pelicans?
Extraordinarily, they did. And equally extraordinarily, the Russian government coughed up: two brand new pelicans delighted park visitors.
But uncomfortable rumours began to circulate. They concerned the new Russian beaked ambassadors eating our St James’s Park pigeons.
It is even fabled that one MP claimed his children had nightmares after watching a pelican eat a pigeon.
Finally a journalist captured it on camera, and Sky News followed suit. A pelican walked up to a grazing pigeon, scooped it up live but protesting vociferously, and gulped.
Mother Russia had spawned red meat-eating pelicans.
They were ushered off hurriedly to the nearest zoo.