I spent many an evening in diplomatic circles, in cocktails, luncheons and dinners, engaging in the small talk, commenting on the current affairs, and what I tried to do as a result was to avoid that scene if at all possible – with a few exceptions of fun Ambassadors’ functions that were usually quite interesting. Yesterday in Madrid was an occasion where I had to be at dinner in a European Ambassador’s residence and the evening took on an interesting twist.
As of late, everywhere I turn, I am accosted with Greece and everything Greek. I have no idea why, but my Greek friends are calling, sending messages on facebook, I turn on the TV and it’s a commercial about Greece, my sister out of the blue informed me that she decided to reconnect with her Greek boyfriend (the same boyfriend she almost got engaged to last summer), our Greek doctor friend called from Athens this morning, also out of the blue. What is the significance of this conversion of everything Greek? Who knows? Going back to the Embassy dinner yesterday, seated on my right was a charming Greek diplomat, who commenced to talk to me about the similarities between our cultures, and how he had been to Beirut and loved it, we even discovered common friends we had. On my left was a Swedish novelist who told me at length about his wonderful house on the island of Hydra, the first Greek island I ever visited, and fell in love with Greece as a result. He told me that his distant neighbor on the island was none other than Leonard Cohen. He also talked about one of the books he has written that had him interviewing a Swede in jail in Stockholm who had been a Russian spy, and who spent years in, wait for it, Lebanon. He was sent there by the Russians as head of security, guarding Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese Druze leader, allegedly saving his life on more than one occasion. One can tell that the dinner conversation was not of the small talk variety, and it was becoming more interesting by the minute, especially when subjects such as the Tribunal for Lebanon was mentioned, and some interesting thoughts were proffered. Israel and Palestine were other topics discussed at length and with a lot of passion, at least from my side.
During the first round of post-dinner coffee and chocolates I was seated next to a senior European lady diplomat who confessed than none of the EU officials could actually pronounce Herman Von Rampuy’s name correctly (the new EU President). I was told it rhymed with the french word “feuille”. You are hereby notified, no more excuses for butchering the poor chap’s name. I also learnt that the Belgian Princesses Astride and Mathilde are not on very cordial terms, them being in-laws and such, as they competed for the same charitable causes. I wish all problems of the world were of such gravity. I also learnt a few secrets about the Spanish Royal household that I am not divulging, except for one more reference that Prince Felipé spoke Greek because of his Greek mother.
Before we knew it, it was 1 a.m. and we were having a last round of coffee in the fabulous residence. I guess this is what life in Madrid is like, late dinners, an interesting community of seasoned diplomats, and fun conversations. So, what of the Greek signs? My interpretation is that someone, maybe the Cosmos, is trying to tell me to stop thinking of all that is Greek, including those fantastic summer nights in Crete, and concentrate on furnishing an apartment in Madrid.