Nel 1961, as a very raw third secretary at the British embassy in Dakar, Senegal, I looked after the first four VSO volunteers sent outside the Commonwealth or colonies. Edward Mortimer was the first, and I took him to St Louis du Senegal, the oldest French settlement in Africa. Situated on the boundary between the Sahel and Sahara regions, it had a rich mixture of French, Creole e Wolof cultures.
Mortimer, with his intellectual curiosity and natural warmth, took full advantage of the experience. His fascination with Africa, Islam and France would remain.
Later in the decade we had amusing, long conversations in Paris when he was researching French leftwing politics and then reporting for the Times, and I was covering the left for the embassy. He was a very unstuffy fellow of All Souls.