Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

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  • Edition: Reprint
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2008-04-21
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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What does it take to make us believe in the impossible? For Dr. Alfred Jones, life is a quiet mixture of civil service at the National Centre for Fisheries Excellence and marriage to Maryan ambitious, no-nonsense financier. But a strange turn of fate from an unexpected direction forces Jones to upend his existence and spend all of his time in pursuit of another man's ludicrous dream. Can there be salmon in the Yemen? Science says no. But if resources are limitless and the visionary is inspired, maybe salmon fishing in the Yemen isn't impossible. Then again, maybe nothing is. A bestseller in the UK and aRichard & JudySummer Book Club pick in 2007, this is a wonderful tale of discovering belief despite overwhelming oddsand obstacles.

Author Biography

PAUL TORDAY studied English literature at Pembroke College, Oxford, before embarking on a business career. He lives in Northumberland. This is his first book.

Table of Contents

The origins of thep. 1
Extracts from the diary of Dr Alfred Jones: his wedding anniversaryp. 12
Feasibility of introducing salmon into thep. 34
Extracts from the diary of Dr Jones: his meeting withp. 43
Extracts from the diary of Dr Jones: marital issues may have clouded his judgementp. 63
Correspondence betweenp. 74
Press commentp. 87
Intercepts of al-Qaeda e-mail trafficp. 95
Interview with Peter Maxwell, director of communications, prime minister’s officep. 99
Transcript of Interview with the prime minister, thep. 106
Continuation of interview withp. 111
E-mail correspondence betweenp. 119
Extract from the diary of Dr Jones: his return top. 123
Interview with Dr Alfred Jones: his meeting withp. 133
Peter Maxwell is interviewed for the “Time Off” column of the Sunday Telegraph, 4 Septemberp. 150
Interview withp. 156
Extract from Hansardp. 169
The termination of the employment contract ofp. 176
Correspondence betweenp. 190
Intercepts of al-Qaeda email trafficp. 203
Extract from Hansardp. 207
Extracts from the diary of Dr Jones: he visits thep. 209
Extract fromp. 232
Correspondence betweenp. 234
Extract from Peter Maxwell’s unpublished autobiography, A Helmsman at the Ship of Statep. 239
Script of TV pilot for Prizes for the Peoplep. 249
Extract from Peter Maxwell’s unpublished autobiographyp. 256
Evidence of a marital crisis betweenp. 262
Interview with Dr Alfred Jones: dinner at the Ritzp. 273
Dr Jones fails to find a date in his diary to meetp. 293
Extract from Peter Maxwell’s unpublished autobiographyp. 297
Dr Jones’s testimony of events that occurred at the launch of thep. 313
Conclusions of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committeep. 326
Glossary of Terms Used in the Extractsp. 329
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.


Fitzharris & Price
Land Agents & Consultants
St James’s Street
Dr Alfred Jones
National Centre for Fisheries Excellence
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Smith Square
15 May
Dear Dr Jones
 We have been referred to you by Peter Sullivan at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (Directorate for Middle East and North Africa). We act on behalf of a client with access to very substantial funds, who has indicated his wish to sponsor a project to introduce salmon, and the sport of salmon fishing, into the Yemen.
 We recognise the challenging nature of such a project, but we have been assured that the expertise exists within your organisation to research and project manage such work, which of course would bring international recognition and very ample compensation for any fisheries scientists who became involved. Without going into any further details at this time, we would like to seek a meeting with you to identify how such a project could be initiated and resourced, so that we may report back to our client and seek further instructions.
 We wish to emphasise that this is regarded by our client, who is a very eminent Yemeni citizen, as a flagship project for his country. He has asked us to make clear that there will be no unreasonable financial constraints. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office supports this project as a symbol of Anglo-Yemeni cooperation.
Yours sincerely
(Ms) Harriet Chetwode-Talbot
National Centre for Fisheries Excellence
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Smith Square
Ms Harriet Chetwode-Talbot
Fitzharris & Price
Land Agents & Consultants
St James’s Street
1 June
Dear Ms Chetwode-Talbot
 Dr Jones has asked me to thank you for your letter dated 15 May and reply as follows.
 Migratory salmonids require cool, well-oxygenated water in which to spawn. In addition, in the early stages of the salmon life cycle, a good supply of fly life indigenous to northern European rivers is necessary for the juvenile salmon parr to survive. Once the salmon parr evolves into its smolt form, it then heads downriver and enters saltwater. The salmon then makes its way to feeding grounds off Iceland, the Faroes or Greenland. Optimum sea temperatures for the salmon and its natural food sources are between 5 and 10 degrees Celsius.
 We conclude that conditions in the Yemen and its geographical location relatively remote from the North Atlantic make the project your client has proposed unfeasible, on a number of fundamental grounds. We therefore regret we will be unable to help you any further in this matter.
Yours sincerely
Ms Sally Thomas (Assistant to Dr Jones)
Office of the Director, National Centre for Fisheries Excellence
From: David Sugden
To: Dr Alfred Jones
Subject: Fitzharris & Price/ Salmon/ Yemen
Date: 3 June
I have just received a call from Herbert Berkshire, who is private secretary to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
 The FCO view is very clear that this project is to be given our fullest consideration. Notwithstanding the very real practical difficulties in the proposal from Fitzharris & Price, of which as your director I am fully aware, the FCO feel that we should seek to give what support we can to this project.
 Given the recent reductions in grant-in-aid funding for NCFE, we should not be too hasty to decline work which apparently connects us to excellent private sector funding sources.
From: Alfred Jones
To: Director, NCFE
Subject: Salmon/ Yemen
Date: 3 June
I appreciate the points you have raised in your memo of today’s date. Having given the matter my fullest consideration, I remain unable to see how we could help Fitzharris & Price and their client. The prospect of introducing salmon to the wadis of the Hadramawt seems to me, quite frankly, risible.
 I am quite prepared to back this up with the relevant science, should anyone at the FCO require further information on our grounds for not proceeding.
Office of the Director, National Centre for Fisheries Excellence
From: David Sugden
To: Dr Alfred Jones
Subject: Salmon/ Yemen
Date: 4 June
Dr Jones
Please accept this memo as my formal instruction to proceed to the next stage of the Yemen salmon project with Fitzharris & Price. I would like you to meet Ms Harriet Chetwode-Talbot and receive a full briefing, following which you are to develop and cost an outline scope of work for this project for me to review and forward to the FCO.
 I take full responsibility for this decision.
David Sugden
FROM: <Fred.Jones@ncfe.gov.uk>
DATE: 4 June
TO: <David.Sugden@ncfe.gov.uk>
SUBJECT: Yemen Salmon Project
Can we talk about this? I’ll pop round to your office after the departmental meeting.
FROM: <Fred.Jones@ncfe.gov.uk>
DATE: 4 June
TO: <Mary.Jones@interfinance.org>
DarlingI am being put under unreasonable pressure by David Sugden to put my name to some totally insane project dreamed up by the FCO to do with salmon being introduced into the Yemen. There have been memos flying around on this for days and I suppose I thought it was so bizarre I didn’t even mention it to you last time we spoke. I popped into David S’s office just now and said, “Look, David, be reasonable. This project is not only totally absurd and scientifically nonsensical, but if we allow our name to be involved no one in the fisheries world will ever take us seriously again.”
 Sugden was totally stone-faced. He said (pompously), “This one is coming from higher up. It isn’t just some minister at the FCO with a bee in his bonnet. It goes all the way to the top. You’ve had my instruction. Please get on with it.”
 I have not been spoken to like that since I left school. I am seriously considering handing in my resignation.
PS When are you back from your management training course?
FROM: <Mary.Jones@interfinance.org>
DATE: 4 June
TO: <Fred.Jones@ncfe.gov.uk>
SUBJECT: Financial realities
My annual salary is £75,000 gross and yours is £45,561. Our combined net of taxed monthly income is £7,333 out of which our mortgage takes £3,111, rates, food and other household expenses a further £1,200, and that’s before we think about car costs, holidays, and your fishing extravagances. Resign your job? Don’t be a prat.
PS I am home on Thursday but I have to leave on Sunday for New York for a conference on Sarbanes-Oxley.
From: Andrew MacFadzean, principal private secretary to the secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs
To: Herbert Berkshire, private secretary to the parliamentary undersecretary of state, FCO
Subject: Salmon/ Yemen Project
Our masters tell us this project should be pushed on a bit. The sponsor is not a UK citizen, but the project can be presented as a template for Anglo-Yemeni cooperation, which of course has wider implications for perceptions of UK involvement in the Middle East.
 I think you could quietly drop a word in the ear of David Sugden, whom I believe is the director of the fisheries people at DEFRA, that a successful outcome to this project might attract the attention of the committee putting forward recommendations for the next New Year honours list. Equally it is only fair to point out that an unsuccessful outcome might make it difficult to defend NCFE against further cuts in grant funding in the next round of negotiations with the Treasury for the new financial year. This might help get the right messages across. We have, of course, talked at a senior level to the appropriate people in DEFRA. Keep this off the record.
 Lunch at the club at 1 P.M. tomorrow?
From: Director of communications, prime minister’s office
To: Dr Mike Ferguson, director veterinary, food & aquatic sciences, Chief Scientists’ Group
Subject: Yemen salmon project
This is the sort of initiative that the prime minister really, really likes. We want some broad-brush comments on feasibility from you. We do not require anyone to say absolutely that it would work, only that there is no reason for not trying.
From: Dr Michael Ferguson, director veterinary, food & aquatic sciences, Chief Scientists’ Group
To: Peter Maxwell, director of communications, prime minister’s office
Subject: Yemen salmon project
Dear Mr Maxwell
Monthly average rainfall in the western mountains of the Yemen is around four hundred millimetres in each of the summer months, and mean temperatures at elevations above two thousand metres fall to a range of between seven and twenty-seven degrees Celsius. This is not uncharacteristic of British summer weather and therefore we conclude that for short periods of the year conditions exist, particularly in the western provinces of the Yemen, which are not necessarily inimical to migratory salmonids.
 We therefore speculate that a model based on the artificial release and introduction of salmonids into the wadi systems for short periods of the year, linked to a programme of trapping the salmon and returning them to cooler, saline water during other periods of the year, would not be an inappropriate starting point for a modelling exercise to be carried out by the departments with the relevant expertise. I believe NCFE is the most appropriate organisation for this.
 I hope this brief note is sufficient for your purposes at this stage?
Michael Ferguson
PS Have we met?
© Paul Torday 2007

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