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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Ex-Cavaghan and Gray worker is ambassador to Philippines

He once studied in Carlisle and spent his holidays working at Cavaghan and Gray, but now Asif Ahmad has been appointed as British ambassador to the Philippines.

Asif Ahmad photo
Asif Ahmad

Mr Ahmad, 57, is due to take up his new post representing the UK – his second ambassadorial job – in July.

It’s a long way from his student days, when he lived in Inglewood Crescent, Denton Holme, and studied at Carlisle Technical College in the early 1970s.

And despite his high-profile job now, he told the News & Star it was his holiday job at a city restaurant – the Golden Egg – which was “undoubtedly the toughest of my life”.

Mr Ahmad said it was his sociology lecturer at Carlisle who put him on the path he is now on after convincing him to go to university in Durham.

“I returned to Britain in 1973 – when my father was working in Poland – and he asked his brother Dr Moslehuddin to help me, my mother and two sisters to settle down,” he said.

“He was a consultant psychiatrist in the Garlands Hospital and that is how our link to Cumbria began.”

He went to Carlisle college to do his A-levels, he said, and went on to marry a local girl, Dawn Mason.

“With the family short of money, I started as a door-to-door salesman for Betterware,” he said.

“It was a great way to see Cumbria and the neighbouring counties.

“In the summers when I was away from university I had to work.

“In the hot summer of 1976 I had a great job, cleaning out the chill rooms of Cavaghan and Gray. I was probably the coolest person in the country, wearing a donkey jacket on top of my wide bell-bottom flared jeans.”

He also worked at the Golden Egg, in the city centre, where his interview consisted of only being asked if he could cook.

“I said yes but little did he know that I had only cooked the odd meal at home,” he said.

“This was undoubtedly the toughest job I have ever had to do in my life. The day started at 6am and finished at 11pm.”

His family left Carlisle in 1980 – and he has since remarried – but his sons Ryan and Adam are “forever linked to the north west”, he said.

Mr Ahmad worked for Nat West for 20 years before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1999.

He went on to work for former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2003 as head of his communication and information centre before returning to the Foreign Office.

He moves to the four-year posting in the Philippines from one in Thailand, which he was appointed to in 2010, and he said he has been learning to speak Filipino since arriving back in the UK last September.

He is married to Zubeda Khamboo and has three sons and a daughter.

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