Back in our London heyday, we were regular attendees at the September 15 parties thrown by the Embassy of Guatemala jointly with the delegations of the other Central American nations in the UK capital.
These bashes were always memorable. OK, they featured an open bar, so some ended up being a bit more memorable than others.
One that still stands out in the mind took place at Crosby Hall, a stone’s throw away from my father’s old bachelor pad in Cheyne Walk. Thanks in no small part to the Great Fire of 1666, this property is possibly the most important surviving structure of Medieval London. Yet the extraordinary thing is that it somehow (mostly) survived the conflagration and was later moved in its entirely to its current Chelsea location beside Albert Bridge in 1910.
Whilst still part of the original mansion of Sir John Crosby in Bishopsgate, it featured as a location in Shakeapeare’s Richard III.
This was surely our most indelible Independence Day fiesta, not just for the venue (and the fact that they even invited the Panamanians), but for the moment when the consul asked us to take under our wing a young Guatemalan called Ana who had been dispatched across the pond to London by her wealthy beau, somewhat obviously as a tactic for removing her from his own ambit.
A few days after the party we discovered that the counsul had also entrusted Ana into the care of the local station of Opus Dei and that it was going to be very difficult for us to assist the unfortunate girl without also feeling a bit intruded upon by said organisation. Our new friend eventually found her way back here, and I have always wondered what became of her.
These annual festivities also permitted us to rub shoulders with British citizens that had, one way or another, been doing business in Central America. Tales of corruption, extortion, even amenazas de muerte did, I believe, turn me off the idea of ever having my own business interests here, and for good.
And yet, I have now come to realise that no matter now much you might try to keep your head down, these contagions will eventually come looking for you in Guatemala.
(PS: We've been squabbling a little bit this week over the year this party took place. Was it '93 or '94? Then we remembered we were married in '93 and that the tramites were handled by a new, male, consul called Danilo. So, the Crosby Hall event had to have been held the previous year when Magda was still basically in charge. The sudden change of diplomatic personnel in Fawcett Street was afterwards prompted by the expulsion of Serrano Elias).