Ambassador’s Summer Soiree

WE were privileged to be invited to the Ambassador’s residence on Thursday, June 13, 2024, in honour of King Charles III’s birthday on June 15. The anticipation of visiting the Ambassador’s residence always brings a tingle of excitement and a distinct sense of British pride, distinct from our usual European identity.

Despite the very humid but comfortably warm late 20-degree weather in Madrid, our spirits were high as we set off, reporter in tow. After undergoing thorough security checks amidst a sea of Guardia Civil Police, we were welcomed with a cocktail and a refreshingly chilled glass of water with orange slices.

   

The Spanish echelons of society, elegantly dressed as only Madrileños and wealthy foreigners can, were in attendance. The distant sound of a brass band added to the ambiance, creating the charming illusion of an English garden abroad – a thrilling and somewhat disconcerting experience.

The garden buzzed with activity, filled with people and cameras, and the audience was liberally peppered with various groups in uniform. Hugh Elliott, the British Ambassador to Spain, took to the stage and conducted his speech fluently in Spanish. Within minutes, his quick wit had everyone smiling, showcasing his excellent storytelling skills. The Ambassador graciously thanked everyone for their assistance during his unique but arduous time in office.

   

Ambassador Elliott’s role began amidst the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, followed immediately by the execution and implementation of Brexit – never an easy task for a British Ambassador in Spain. He navigated through the war in Ukraine and Russia, and more recently, the horrendous massacre in Israel on October 7, 2023. Though these topics made for sombre listening, they were addressed with sympathy, empathy, and a complete understanding of all events and repercussions.

As the National Anthems of Great Britain and Spain were performed by the brass band, a wave of pride and patriotism swept over us. Thanks were given to supporters, sponsors, and collaborators, including the suppliers of oranges and orange gin from Huelva and Sevilla. The Ambassador drew a fitting analogy between his role and marmalade, symbolising his love for both countries and his professional ability to integrate the requirements of his native land into his work in Spain.

 

The evening’s food was prepared by English chef Marc Fosh, a master of fusion cuisine. Marc Fosh, once a columnist for the Euro Weekly Newspaper during his time as resident chef at the world-famous REED HOTEL in Mallorca, has been an acquaintance for more than 20 years. His culinary talents were once again on display, delighting everyone despite some unconventional combinations. The beer taps flowed, and the gin and tonic bars – quintessentially English yet favoured by the Spanish – were popular spots for conversation.

As the cake to celebrate King Charles’s birthday was wheeled out, the music played softly in the background. The event was a roaring success, with guests lingering long into the night, enjoying the ambiance and each other’s company.

For a girl from Rochdale, standing in this same spot some 10 years ago, I had the honour of meeting the then Prince, now King Charles, discussing the challenges of life facing a foreigner abroad. Celebrating the King’s birthday in such a setting reaffirmed my belief that an Englishwoman abroad can always succeed through hard work, integration, and embracing European thoughts.

It’s not goodbye to Hugh Elliott but adiós and muchas gracias for all that you have done for us in these difficult and unprecedented times. Viva Madrid!

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Marcos Javier Poyastro

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