There were wild peacocks in the grounds of the Sheraton Hotel in Tunis' Diplomatic Quarter, which juts out into the circle of calm water formed between La Goulette and the Berges du Lac. Tunisia is still, according to the UK Foreign Office, a "Fragile and Conflict Affected State" (FCAS), with all but essential travel soundly contra-indicated.
Beyond the security fence, serene elderly men in cashmere cardigans, powdery relics of Tunisia's ancien régime, were pottering around their small villas with watering cans, gossiping with their neighbours in that surreal mixture of French and Arabic Tunisians have developed to deal with the labyrinthine complexities of their heritage: Carthaginian, Roman, Phoenician, Arab, French. No doubt former civil servants or government officials, these men had been pensioned off, and were descending into a valedictory slumber as delicious as a glass of sweet tea with pine nuts floating in it.
Just six years have elapsed since the "Arab Spring" was launched here and a world of change has unfolded. Tunisia is no longer a totalitarian State. But, like the twists and turns of the crumbling Crazy Golf course that leads down to the Sheraton's bullet proof Guard House - all part of that most exclusive and reclusive international hotel's curious idea of grandeur - the transition is proving far from straightforward.
Public health, and public healthcare, are pillars of the resilience of any country, whether in transition or not, and when my company Patient Powered Medicine was asked on behalf of the British Embassy in Tunis to contribute to a change management course for Tunisian medics we leapt at the chance despite advice to the contrary. The 'plane clearly felt the same (only TunisAir flies to Tunis from London) its left engine complaining loudly on the ascent out of Heathrow and for most of the three hour flight.
Tunisia's two recent Islamist massacres - one on a beach in the southern resort of Sousse and the latest at Tunis' Bardo museum - have done one thing other than cause untold misery and loss. They have once again demonstrated that Tunisia's ordinary people will not have their country taken back to any version whatsoever of the Bad Old Days. "We Could Fly So High, Let Our Spirits Never Die" was the endearingly blue-sky slogan on the banner carried by students protesting these atrocities. "Not In Our Name".
My own first experiences backed this up. Imed, a waiter in the Sheraton's cornucopia of a self-service restaurant, married to a British Pakistani, glued himself to me like a modern day Jeeves, and would not let me do anything at all without imparting lashings of local wisdom. My first attempt to send laundry for cleaning was accepted by the duty porter, who immediately invited me to accompany him to the underground laundry, where he introduced me to The Man Who Loads The Washing Machines, The Man Who Loads The Drying Machines, and The Man Who Does The Ironing. Not forgetting The Man Who Does The Folding. The staff at "Harry's Bar", spotting a visitor who enjoys his bevvies, shepherded me carefully along a shelf of oddly-named and even more oddly priced spirits. In a country where there is still a popular brand of bathtub gin called Old Lady, this was reassuring.
I was badly in need of refreshment after a day spent cajoling some of Tunisia's grandest medics with a charming local interpreter glued to my shoulder like a parrot. No cake walk, this, especially when negotiating the minefields inherent in any comparison of their system with ours.
I was there when Tony Blair threw all the money he could print at the NHS, and results were understandably pretty spectacular. But how can you even talk about that story in a country where every pip is constantly squeaking, without flinging the peel in their faces?
I left with some beautifully folded laundry and an indefatigable sense of the potential of ordinary, loyal, hard working, committed-to-change Tunisian people. If only Tunisia could find a way to do what we in the UK were able to do for a whole, precious, transformational decade. Management structures. Management training. Putting the people in charge.
That's the way to iron out the crazy golf.