Monday, September 03, 2007

A Bit of Perspective

Like most magistrates I am often asked to countersign documents such as applications for passports, driving licences, shotgun certificates and the like. It's part of the job, and I am happy to help.
The other day I agreed to sign something for a Chinese national (who has full right to be in the UK) and when I arrived, pen and spectacles to hand, I was surprised to be taken on one side by her English housemate. "You ought to know" he said, "I had to stop her from going out to buy you a present half an hour ago". I was halfway towards asking why when the penny dropped. In China, as in so many parts of the world, if you want an official to do any service, however small, a present is expected, its value dependent on the importance of the matter in hand.
I laughed it off and settled for a cold glass of beer, but it did remind me that Britain is one of the least corrupt countries in the whole world, and that I am very proud of that fact.

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