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ARGENTINA | 26-11-2023 22:14

Ambassador stages grand occasion for royal birthday

British Embassy opens doors of residence to celebrate the 75th birthday of King Charles III.

The British Embassy reception on November 23 to celebrate the 75th birthday of King Charles III was a grand occasion indeed with close to 1,000 guests enjoying a fine spring evening in the spacious gardens of its stately residence – approximately one for every peso the parallel dollar was worth at that time.

Or, as the Embassy would doubtless prefer to express it, one for every native tree to be planted in the Parque Nacional Lanín, thus permitting the reforestation of a surface equivalent to four or five football pitches – the pledge underlying the carbon-neutral certificate obtained beforehand to compensate for the event’s emissions, thus reflecting the pioneering environmental concerns of the royal birthday boy voiced decades before phrases like “global warming” and “climate change” entered the general vocabulary.

The downside of an ambitiously generous guest list was the daunting length of queueing (taking a trademark British virtue to negative extremes) – this journalist needed 35 minutes to enter, subsequently meeting with other guests who had taken close to an hour. 

Feeding this multitude might seem to involve an almost Biblical miracle but both food and drink proved more than ample in both quantity and quality – fish and chips (of which this reporter had three helpings) and cuts of beef may have supplied the basis but were accompanied by a vast range of gourmet canapés and an unprecedented variety of desserts.

The guests came from all walks of life including politics, business, fellow-ambassadors, academics, artists, journalists and leading members of civil society. The British community seemed thinner on the ground than in pre-pandemic years – the Times bumped into Eric Campbell OBE (almost uniquely celebrating the birthday of his fifth British monarch, as born under George V), the Royal British Legion’s John Hunter, local masonry grand master Reginald Cooper, Jimmy Bindon and the Lomas English Social Club’s Andrew Grant, among other, but the Embassy focus seems to be far more on outreach to Argentine society at large.

Among political guests, members of the incoming government seemed more prominent than the outgoing – for example, future ministers Diana Mondino (Foreign Relations) and Mariano Cúneo Libarona (Justice) – and British Ambassador Kirsty Hayes seemed mindful of this fact when she used her speech to congratulate president-elect Javier Milei on his recent electoral triumph.

“From the United Kingdom we are ready to begin writing a new chapter in our long and rich bilateral relationship and to continue boosting the links between Argentines and Brits,” affirmed the envoy in her speech delivered in Spanish while saluting the strong commitment to a democracy celebrating its 40th year shown by Argentines in going to the polls three times this year in elections characterised by their peaceful spirit and high turnout. 

The Ambassador also highlighted the recent bicentenary of Woodbine Parish’s appointment as the first British Consul-General in Buenos Aires.

“Thus was born a bilateral relationship which, with its ups and downs, has doubtless been the fullest and most intense which Britain has had with this region,” she affirmed, while not forgetting the Gaza Strip hostages.

The speech was followed by the actress and singer Lucila Gandolfo, who has some Anglo-Argentine blood apart from being a graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, singing the national anthems of Argentina and the United Kingdom. Afterwards, the group Master Stroke paid a live tribute to the British band Queen, followed in turn by the disc jockey Maxi Martina, who directs The Selector (the weekly radio programme of the British Council), letting loose with a selection of British music across the ages.

Other musical moments were interpreted by the Orquesta de los Barrios, Néstor Tedesco’s project to channel the talents of young musicians from vulnerable neighbourhoods. The traditional bagpiping was maintained by the South American Piping Association (SAPA).

The insistent musical background also had its downside for some, not least for older members of the community sometimes hard of hearing and waiting all year to meet each other (perhaps for the last time) but unable to hear a blind word anybody was saying. The price of reaching younger generations, no doubt.

The event was sponsored by various British companies taking full advantage of this opportunity to promote their products and services.

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Michael Soltys

Michael Soltys

Michael Soltys, who first entered the Buenos Aires Herald in 1983, held various editorial posts at the newspaper from 1990 and was the lead writer of the publication’s editorials from 1987 until 2017.

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