Charles Ritchie (1906–95) was a witty, cultivated Canadian diplomat whose voluminous diaries, a blend of anecdote, commentary and confession, were an ‘escape hatch’ from the confines of his profession. Much of what he wrote was too candid to be published. For instance in 1962, when stationed in Washington, he met Harold Macmillan, who was trying to ingratiate himself with President Kennedy. Macmillan, he waspishly noted, ‘drips “manner” like a buttered crumpet’. This must have been the occasion on which Kennedy disconcerted Macmillan, a complaisant husband, by revealing that he got a ‘terrible headache’ if he didn’t have a woman every two or three days. Unlike Macmillan, Ritchie would have understood. In January 1941, having kissed goodbye to his current squeeze, a pretty young ballerina who was off on tour, he looked forward to ‘early and varied infidelities during her absence’.