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An evening with Manfred

I only had a few dealings with Manfred, the first of which was in Johannesburg in 1981. He appeared unannounced to look into a number of problems in a discordant bureau. Before leaving, he made a few changes but extended my posting for a further year to "maintain stability". Back in London, he called me in. Thinking I would be told I had done a good job, his first words were: "I have been reading your file and all I can say is you have a mixed record.”


When I told a senior colleague about this, he said: "Crikey, you must have done something right”.


I had heard that Manfred had an interest in mass transportation, particularly the tram systems of Europe. But around 1996, I was surprised to find he had a penchant for Scandinavian theatre, something of a gloomy genre.


My son was doing Scandinavian Studies at university at the time, so our family went to the Bridewell Theatre to see a rarely performed play by Strindberg. In the sparse audience, I noticed Manfred. He joined us at the interval, chatting amusingly with us all. As we were leaving, Manfred gave me a page torn from Time Out, on which he had listed all the forthcoming Scandinavian theatre in the London area - the likes of Ibsen and Berger, not a bundle of laughs - and asked if we could go together some time. Afraid to say I took a rain check. ■