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The British Ambassador to Portugal (Middle) with me and Agada (Nicks wife from the Royal British Legion)

It was time to become a behaved normal socialite and join the escalons of the British Expatriate clan in Madeira. A little over a week ago an official invite from the FCO arrived in my inbox with an invitation to join our new British Ambassador  to Portugal, Jill Gallard, for dinner. I was among 22 other Expats in Madeira to be invited. Our Honorary British Consul, Joy Menezes had the ‘joy’ (and please excuse the pun) of weeding out the suitable candidates and blow me down with a stick of dynamite  I was one of those lucky peeps to be put on the list!

Although I have attended many an important function when I had the newspaper, that was quite a few years ago and I felt a little intimidated at the thought of having to ‘do’ one of these things again as I have since become a bit of a hermit and now enjoy simple dinners with friends, enjoying that relaxed pace of life. So with a little mix of trepidation and nerves, I replied to the RSVP and said I would be there. The down side was that the invite was only extended to me, so I had no option here to take a friend, date or chaperone.

All day I was worrying, as I only knew of two other people I knew, that had been invited, that were going. And for this I was determined to be on time as I am ALWAYS late for EVERYTHING else! And I managed it, and it paid off. As I got out the car, so did the other couple I know and to my relief I now didn’t have to walk into this place on my own! Our venue: The gorgeous 5 star hotel, Quinta das Vistas Palace Gardens.

Joy Menezes (Honorary British Consul to Madeira) and Jill Gallard (British Ambassador to Portugal)

Already, the joke was set, as 3 different hotel employees greeted us, outside the front entrance, inside the front entrance, then at reception, with the last suited butler pointing graciously the way toward where we were being received  with the announcement ” Her Majesty the British Ambassador..this way please”! I felt so sorry for the poor sod, he was Portuguese obviously and we couldn’t help laughing at the very improper announcement.

Madeira Wine was given as we queued up to be introduced personally to the Ambassador, and I got two shocks, one that she was so young (about my age) as one has this vision that Ambassadors are usually men in their 70’s with a whiskey given midriff, cigar in hand, talking non stop about golf. And the other was that when Joy introduced me, “as the lady who has such an enormous contact with the expat community and Sam why not tell her all about it and what you do”……….and as I looked at her in horror not expecting to have to launch into one about myself, she prompted…”Jill has a rough idea as she has read your bio” then she added as my face must have turned to a shade of puce as I was in abject horror at the thought of what my bio said about me, “but its a very short bio, so maybe you would like to explain more?” I muttered a few words about me and then the M3A (And YES folks I gave it a bloody good plug tonight)!

Thankfully there were other more important oiks than me, so my moment was short and sweet and I thought I had left an okay impression. We were duly summoned for dinner and hunted for our seats as we were strategically name placed at the table. When I found my seat, I thought FAB I am right at the VERY end of it, as far away from the peeps I feared the most, so far away that I couldn’t possibly be known as an embarrassment, should I let my P’s and Q’s slip, and if they did, I could slip off the end of the table and no one would notice. BUT, that was a short lived thought, as Joy appeared again, grinning and apologising that the Ambassador was at the other end with her at the start of the meal, but she had arranged for her to sit (in the empty seat next to me) and join us, at our end, for the desert and coffee!

Jill Gallard with Nick and Agada from the Madeira Branch of the Royal British Legion

I was sat next to Nick and opposite to me was Jonathan Fletcher, from Palheiro Golf with Nicks wife, Agada next to him. Remi Moses (Editor of the Brit Newspaper) was next to Agada and some lady whose name escapes me was the other side of Nick. Lots of small talk through the courses that became friendlier and more relaxed conversations as the wine flowed. Then Jill joined us for dessert and coffee. I was completely in awe of this lady, as she had such an enthusiastic personality and was actually good fun and very down to earth. She regaled stories about her meetings with presidents and her role in government, what she did as an Ambassador (which was not the kind of job I perceived it to be or that glamourous) and how she juggled it all with a husband who also worked for the government, whilst bringing up two small children, 2 and 4 year olds and how she can speak several languages including czech, with juggling job, family, work and 24 hour quick trips to meet people like us in Madeira………one word for this woman….WOW!

She gave a speech which flew out her her mouth with ease, sat back down and chatted again, then got up and did another closing speech. In between this, Remi had mentioned that the hotel had refused his request to take photographs for his newspaper and as I was the only person to actually come along armed with a camera, Nick asked Jill if we could do a photo shoot for the Brit Legion, and she was more than happy to accommodate. After the end of dinner announcement we all ventured back into the reception, whereby I lent Remy my Camera to take the important shots, so that Nick could have a copy for the British Legion and likewise for Remi and his newspaper.

And I am now home, reminiscing the evenings events, have downloaded the shots off my camera – some of which you see here and eating crisps as I am starving. Although the food was absolutely divine this evening, its that funny stuff called nouveau cuisine which looks really pretty on the plate and melts when it enters your mouth but some how, doesn’t fill that spot as it is such a small portion! And not helped with me not eating fish either, so I missed out on the starter as it was herring.

Anyway, an evening to remember and another memory to try and hold onto for my autobiography!