THOSE of you of a certain age will remember a famous advertisement for an upmarket brand of chocolate.
A luxurious cocktail party was in full swing, the women all wore shoulder-padded power dresses and the men white tuxedos. At a given wink from the suave ambassador, an ancient manservant appears with the aforementioned chocolates arranged in a pyramid.
“Oh, Ambassador “ one of the guests exclaims, “With these chocolates you are spoiling us”.
It’s an advert so bad that it’s good and has stayed with me since the 90s, with the catchphrase “The Ambassador holds such memorable parties,” used on the odd occasion.
One Friday afternoon I was casually trawling through my email, when a message from the Foreign Office landed in my inbox. It was an invitation to a garden party to be held at the British Ambassador’s residence in Madrid, in honour of the Royal Wedding, and I was being invited in recognition of my work in the British Community.
I was a little stunned, to put it mildly, and quietly relieved that the Ambassador hadn’t done a background check into my, ahem, ‘colourful’ past that mainly involved being run out of town by angry villagers carrying burning torches…
Since my ‘lifestyle change’ however, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing British Ambassador Simon Manley on several occasions, especially on the run up to the Brexit referendum. Our Man in Madrid is a thoroughly good guy with an excellent sense of humour, so I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity of a trip to Madrid.
As the invitation was a plus one, I took fellow Olive Press columnist and ‘proper writer’ Natalie with me, who looked fabulous for the occasion, although due to my frankly rubbish organisational skills, rather than an effortless AVE ride we ended up driving to Madrid in Zappa the Ford Focus. We left Marbella at crack of sparrow fart, getting to the event at 1.30pm. I fumbled into my jacket and trousers outside the Ambassador’s Residence, while Natalie pulled off that female trick of managing to look as if she had just stepped out of a salon.
The first people that we bumped into were, of course, the Olive Press crew. “You just had your name called out,” they announced. I hadn’t realised that they would be giving awards and had missed the Ambassador’s welcome speech. The good news was that the wedding was being shown on flat screen TVs throughout the residence and that the Ambassador was pleased to see us. As highly trained, professional journalists we all decamped to the G&T bar, debated how to pronounce the word ‘scone’, wondered what trouble a single man might get up to in Malta, and feigned outrage when one of our number was refused a second slice of wedding cake – an incident we christened ‘The Great British Bake Off Sod Off”.
And then Natalie spotted the podium where the Ambassador had spoken in a quiet corner of the garden. Not wishing to waste a great photo op, we made sure that no one was looking before she leapt on the small stage, doing her best ‘Live from the UN’ pose.
“Caught you!” came a voice from behind me as Simon Manley strolled around the corner.
Natalie looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights, but the Ambassador burst out laughing, a possible Olive Press related diplomatic incident was narrowly avoided.
And no, there were no luxury chocolates, but the Ambassador does, indeed, hold memorable parties!