Friday, 10 January 2014

Hot in Havana

There is a huge showground near us in Maidstone.  It hosts wedding fayres, car fayres, country fayres, antiques fayres and even military fayres; everything apart from an actual fun fair and no toffee apples more's the pity.

However, once in a while it stops being a fayre and turns into something rather more special.  By special I mean something that I am a bit more interested in.
We had tickets for an evening in the heart of Havana whilst still in the heart of Kent.  RV had called us a little while beforehand as his birthday was coming up and asked if we fancied doing something completely different this year.  Steve and I both jumped at the chance, especially as it is not often you get the chance to get completely glammed up!  I was wearing the biggest dress I own.  It's bigger than my wedding dress (the one I bought the morning I got married, not the ruined one I was supposed to wear).  I originally bought this 'little' grey number for my 30th birthday and it is now a little big on me but sod it, I feel swishy (swishy, not squishy thank you) in it.  I should probably wear it with higher heels as well as walking on lower ones does require the much practiced 'stamp and kick' to ensure I don't (gracefully) stack it.  It probably meant I walked like a deer in deep snow all night but a few glasses bottles of wine later and I didn't really care.
Tables were booked in groups of 12 and we had an entire table to our party.  As well as RV's birthday it also happened to be Charne and Peter's wedding anniversary so as celebrations went, this was a double whammy
Babysitters were booked, hair quaffed and tuxedo's donned and we came out for an evening of pure escapism and entertainment.

I have to say, Steve does look rather dapper in his white tuxedo jacket.  All the boys were supposed to be wearing them with pride but the others *ahem* forgot.
We entered the transformed showground and were entertained by aerial acrobats whilst sipping on cocktails in the foyer as we waited to be called through for dinner.
The whole place was a riot of colour with large scenery bought in to represent the colourful Hispanic streets of Havana with iconic wall art, classic cocktail bars and the must have Chevrolet.
Latin beats thrummed throughout from the Cuban band as people danced and talked, providing a backdrop to the wannabe starlit night sky above.  It was pouring with rain outside.  This was as close to a starlit sky as I was going to get.
As dinner was ready to be served the great gates were opened and we were led through to our tables which circled the large dance floor and performance space.  Aerial ropes and hoops dangled from the ceiling, giving tantalising hints of what was to come.
We sat down to a starter of antipasti; seared asparagus tips, roasted peppers and aubergines, cured meats and mozzarella all drizzled with a basil oil.  There were garlic dough balls and bread rolls doing the rounds as well but I didn't fancy any of them.  It was nice, although the mozzarella was a little watery.  Still, not bad when you consider they are catering for 400 people at once.
As we ate and talked the dancers came out, giving a dazzling display of Cuban salsa in extravagant costumes.  I spent most of my time wondering how the ladies managed to keep those big bird esq wigs on their heads whilst being spun about by men in very tight shiny pants.
We chatted and drank, utterly relaxed and transported away from the everyday worries and stresses of life. 
The main course was a breast of chicken with the best Dauphinoise potatoes I have ever tasted, drizzled in a Rioja jus. Tables around us were starting to get rowdier as the night progressed and there were some definite breaks for freedom towards the dance floor, only to be ushered by burly, unsmiling bouncers back into your seats as the dancers returned for another spin.  Apparently mixing with the artistes is frowned upon.
It wasn't just the dancers hogging the dance floor though.  Throughout the main course the aerial entertainers were back out in a beautiful and graceful hoop routine hanging high over the heads of the diners.  You know that hula hoop I wanted after seeing Pride at Brighton?  Yeah I still want it, only now I want it suspended from the living room ceiling, a bit like a smaller version of the tire swing I fell off periodically that hung over the river in the park near my house as a kid. 
Dessert was an incredibly sharp lemon tart with a red berry coulis.  This was lovely but so sharp I could only manage half of it!
The weather was particularly bad on this night and two of our party were delayed by an accident on the motorway.  We held onto their food (and resisted eating it ourselves) for as long as possibly but eventually the wait staff had to clear it away.  Luckily there was the cheese course and the survivors breakfast of bacon butties served at midnight to try and tide them over when they finally managed to arrive.  Is it just me or is a 'survivor's breakfast' at midnight a bit of a cop out?  Survivors breakfast when I was a student used to be served at 3am at the earliest.  I always thought food at midnight was just called a kebab.
The rest of the entertainment was a bit more interactive.  Steve and I can never resist a casino, especially a charity one, even though my track record with them is, shall we say, less than impressive.  I was once entrusted to look after Steve's winnings in our student days and managed to lose the lot in about 15 minutes.  I am a Casino proprietor's dream customer.  I cannot resist the shiny spinny things; classic magpie syndrome.   Ever since then I have been closely regulated when I am near a table as I clearly do not have the self-restraint required by the true virtuoso gambler!
Easily my favourite entertainment of the evening was the dodgems though.  It has been years since I have been in a dodgem car!  I don't have a particularly great track record with these either - I once managed to split my sisters lip open when I lost control and drove the dodgem face first into the safety barrier, making her head bounce off the wheel and cutting her lip.  I didn't mention this to Steve before he agreed to go head to head with me behind the wheel...and don't even get me started on the time I went go-cart racing and lost control, ended up off the track, down a corridor and crashing the car into a store cupboard.  Apparently the man who came racing to get me could just see a hand waving from the bottom of a pile of brooms, mops and spare go carts.
After chasing Steve around an electrified circuit for a happy few minutes I then kicked off my heels, making my dress drag along the floor even more and hit the dance floor until the wee hours, pausing only at regular intervals to wrench my skirt out from under some woman's heels.  I haven't checked the condition of the bottom of my dress yet - I dread to look. I felt the dancing next day - my feet were sore and bruised and it took 3 lots of exfoliation wash to get the black marks off them but it was worth it!

We enjoyed this so much we are thinking of making the Havana Ball an annual tradition for us.  I wonder if I could learn fast enough to do an aerial performance at the next one?

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