UK & World News
Hague's Whirlwind Diplomatic Tour Of Europe
When you travel with the Foreign Office, you travel at speed.
Foreign Secretary William Hague lives his working life in blocks of time allocated according to timetables, worked out by staff, who liaise with their counterparts around the world.
For his trip around Eastern Europe they had arranged 21 meetings in four countries over four days.
To achieve that they had chartered a 13-seat charter jet. It's expensive, but the RAF planes sometimes used by government officials were unavailable or didn't have the range required.
The view was that if they travelled on scheduled flights they couldn't make all the meetings.
On board were the Foreign Secretary, several advisors, his private secretary, security men, and a two-person Sky News team including cameraman Pete Milnes.
We were inside what is called "The Bubble".
On Monday the first call was to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, where we were met by various government officials and whisked into town in an eight-vehicle convoy, with lights flashing and sirens blaring.
The trip was about signalling to the countries he visited, but also to Russia. The message was that the UK will support Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia.
Britain sent a similar but stronger message to the Baltic States and Russia when it flew four fighter jets to Lithuania last month, but they are Nato members. On this tour he only had political and economic weapons at his disposal.
For the Moldova leg he had penned an article for a leading newspaper and acknowledged to Sky News that is was written for two audiences.
"You have to get through to the publics of the countries you visit, but you also know that the Russians are reading it ... Moscow needs to understand that there is a long-term price for violating the sovereignty of other nations," he said.
After a series of meetings, Mr Hague was back in his vehicle and preparing to return to the airport.
At this point it is essential all 13 of us, and the 30-odd pieces of kit and luggage, are all ready to move because the only people the convoy will wait for is the Foreign Secretary and his security detail.
After each meeting there is a flurry of activity with people throwing bags into cars, which occasionally might even be moving.
We get back to the plane and head for Vienna.
On board the protocol is that on the rare occasions a reporter is travelling with the Foreign Secretary he or she sits at the back, thus allowing the diplomats to spend the flight time working and talking privately.
Their area is for the duration of the flight their private office. Occasionally the Foreign Secretary will come back for a chat.
This is usually a mixture of everyday pleasantries, light humour over an incident which may have occurred at the previous location, and genuine insights into aims and strategies of HMG.
At dusk we land in Vienna and are two-thirds of the way through a 15-hour day.
In the Austrian capital the following morning Mr Hague attends the Council of Europe meeting on the Ukraine crisis.
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is present, but there is no meeting of minds.
Back at the airport the Foreign Secretary meets the acting Ukrainian Foreign Minister who is hitching a lift to Ukraine.
Mr Hague jokes: "We've thrown someone off to make room." He then takes the rare opportunity to spend the 90-minute flight to Kiev for a proper and private conversation with his opposite number.
When we arrive there is moment of light comedy.
The Minister, Andrii Deshchytsia, gets off first, followed immediately by Mr Hague, before the Ukrainian turns around, and as protocol demands, shakes hands with Mr Hague and welcomes him to his country.
The Bubble moves into Kiev where the Ukrainian Acting Prime Minister is in his own bubble which is running five minutes late.
For the first time in two days things slow down. We wait in a huge meeting room with the UK diplomats chatting to each other in a relaxed manner before the Prime Minister arrives and its back to business.
The following day the convoy passes the Ukrainian revolution The Maidan where most of the fighting during the winter took place. It's a reminder of just how serious the trip is.
Back on the plane I ask the Foreign Secretary what his favourite part of the job is and he replies: "It's knowing that we are not dealing with trivial stuff here. This matters, and it matters what we do."
On to Georgia, a country where a lot of people have long names, which for a native English speaker can present difficulties.
I ask Mr Hague if he ever forgets anyone's name.
"No, but then I've usually got people's names written down and I have a team of people to help me.
"If you are unsure, then the first thing you do when you land is ask the ambassador to take you through names and pronunciations."
Tbilisi is an attractive city with excellent wine and food, but Mr Hague can't concentrate on the architecture due to work, and says he's learned over the years not to enjoy the food too much.
Most meetings involve at least coffee and biscuits, and more usually a meal at which the host will pile up every local delicacy as a way of showing off their country's food.
Towards the end of day four we end up back in London after a five-hour flight. During the flight, the Foreign Secretary was slightly more relaxed for the first time.
He was still working but his mind was now clear of the 21 meetings. As we approached RAF Northolt the focus was returning.
On the tarmac, under grey skies, he greeted an air force officer with the words: "What have you done with the weather while we were away."
The sunshine of the previous weekend had given way to a chilly breeze, but in Ukraine the temperature was rising.
I worked out that most of us had, by Thursday afternoon, worked for about 55 hours so far this week.
I was now out of The Bubble and so drove home. The Foreign Secretary got into another car, in another convoy, and headed for the Foreign Office.