Lord Inverchapel (pronounced, extraordinarily enough, in-ver-chapel) would never be taken for a precious, blue-veined Evelyn Waugh character. Inverchapel looks and acts like a real, red-blooded Scot.

As Britain's ambassador to Russia, he used to dictate reports in the Embassy backyard under Moscow's boiling summer sun, stripped to the waist. As ambassador to China, during the heaviest Japanese bombings of Chungking, he imperturbably remained in a patched-up bungalow on the blasted north bank of the Yangtze long after most other envoys had prudently moved. His combination of closemouthed diplomacy and forthright bluntness pleases (and somewhat tickles) Britons, who regard him as one...

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