Magazine article The Spectator

Havana, Here I Come

Magazine article The Spectator

Havana, Here I Come

Article excerpt

Rougemont

Of all the wedding invitations I've received throughout the years, I can't think of a more romantic one than the following: `Viscountess Bury requests the pleasure of your company at the marriage of her son Rufus to Sally Fadayon at La Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis, Plaza de San Francisco, La Habana Vieja, Cuba.' For any members of the Fourth Estate familiar only with sleazy celebrities and sleazier 'It' girls, Rufus is the Earl of Albemarle, a tall, bearded, good-looking straight-out-of-Hemingway kind of guy, and Sally is a pretty and very talented artist of the Persian persuasion.

Although I haven't exactly built a reputation for Jennifer's Diary kind of arse-licking, in the case of Rufus and Sally I will make an exception. They're as nice as it gets, and I for one have already ordered a tropical white suit to wear in old Havana come the month of May. In fact, I can't wait. Papa Hemingway's finca, the Floridita, where he hung out and drank with his fishing buddies, La Plaza de Armas, El Castillo de la Real Fuerza, La Plaza Vieja, El Palacio de los Capitanes Generales and on and on. Old Havana is the last place left on earth where nostalgia is superfluous. The ghosts are alive and wearing panama hats, and the senoritas are sultry and ready for action. The music is to die for.

Oh yes, I almost forgot. Old Havana is also the last place on earth which American culture hasn't ruined. The closest McDonald's is 90 miles off shore. Although I've been a sworn enemy of Fidel's since 1959, having witnessed the destruction by modernism and commercialism of everything I hold dear where architecture, music, manners, and culture in general are concerned, I am literally jumping out of my skin to get there. The last time I was there was in the winter of 1956, staying at the Nacional, and doing what 19-year-olds from the mainland did in Havana. This time, I'm afraid, my stay will involve more culture than pussy, but then nothing is ever perfect.

Except for the wedding gifts. In lieu of a wedding list, Rufus and Sally welcome donations to a house for children with Down's syndrome in Havana, which will be built in the garden of an existing educational institution and will provide tuition in general skills for children with Down's. …

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