Following my career as a quasi-mercenary in South Africa in the late 1990s (about which I will write more later), I ended up back in London, where I obtained a one-bedroom flat on Queen's Gate in South Kensington. It was within crawling distance, I happily discovered, of Kavanagh's, a dark Irish pub under the hotel across the street.
In it worked a beautiful Mexican woman, Carmena, a graphic artist for a Mexican newspaper who was travelling around the world with her husband, who also worked in the pub. Carmena's aquiline nose, noble face, and long flowing black hair immediately attracted my notice. Every night, whilst I sipped my pints of bitter, I looked for her nose plowing through the cigarette smoke and crowd like a ship's bow. She made fun of the accents of the Spanish people working there.
Also working in the pub was Dermiod, an Irishman, a tall, thin, balding figure, with a crimson face the colour of the insoles of my Grenson brogues. He was 35 and claimed to have been born in Queens, but his family returned to Ireland when he was small. His sudden absence from the pub one day, he later confided to me, was due to his appearance in Portsmouth on charges of hitting a woman. He told us he was bisexual. He was caught drinking behind the bar. We never saw him again.
Another worker was a small Spanish girl with a slim, boyish figure and a freckled, upturned nose, not at all like the aristocratic Spanish, Mexican, and Brazilian women I had met. When I mentioned my interest in Franco, she mock spit on the floor in disgust. She told me she wanted to work in America. Her English professor at university in Spain told her she didn't have to know English to work in America, because the USA would soon be a Spanish-speaking country.