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April in Paris - 1979 - By Terry Hayes

My 1979 arrival in Paris completed what was a wholesale turnover of embassy technical staff. Only the Sr. technician remained behind to complete his final year. Leger Roy, the second of three techs, arrived weeks before me and was still frantically searching for a place to live.

Roy Lewis, the more senior of our technical establishment introduced me to the staff of the communications centre and from the lukewarm reception received from the 20 or more communicators I felt techs were less than popular in our shared work environment. This was an unusual situation because in the big communications centre of Ottawa we had a warm and friendly relationship. Was it the Paris air? This coolness soon passed and it wasn’t long before Leger and I sometimes went out for Friday lunches with our operator colleagues.

Almost a year later, on April 1, one of our communicator colleagues and several of his associates came into our office / shop and asked me to pass a message to Leger that a Mr. Lyon called and left a message for him to call his hotel as he was in Paris for a quick visit and would like to meet for a drink, if he has time. I knew immediately, by the interest this group showed, that this was an epic April first prank.

I played along with this gag and dutifully scribbled a note to leave on Legers desk.

Leger came in a bit later and seeing the note questioned the name to call. He couldn’t remember anyone by that name but knew someone with a similar sounding name; he asked if that was maybe the name I heard on the phone. I replied that all I could tell him is that the caller had a French accent and that his name sounded like Lyon to me. I added that the fellow on the phone seemed to know Leger well, maybe from a previous posting. Leger was cross posted from the embassy in Brussels less than a year before. 

Our staff of communicators continually poked their head in and out of the office while this dialogue played out. It is a wonder they didn’t give the joke away.

After some hesitation Leger's interest piqued and he dialled the phone number. The lady who answered asked who he would like to talk to and, in French, he said Monsieur Lyon.

The Lady at the other end of the line said "You want to speak to monsieur Lion?”  “Monsieur we had six calls this morning for monsieur Lion, do you know that this is the zoo?"



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© OFARTS Canada 2011 Old Foreign Affairs Retired Technicians, Canada The opinions expressed here are those of the contributors. Accuracy of facts has not been verified in all cases.