Monday, October 13, 2008

Cuba: part 2

Chris, our man in Havana, works for the Foreign Office, and his employer has thoughtfully given him a four-bedroom mansion to inhabit during his three-year stay in the country. As any fule kno, an exiled man with a big house has needs. I think you know what I'm talking about, but this may clarify things.

Who has this many remotes?

His house had a nail sticking out of the outside wall. I documented this important development with my camera.


Chris seemed fairly sure his house was bugged - one of the downsides of the job, perhaps - and, when, sitting in the living room, we continued a conversation we'd been having in the car about the theoretical assassination of Fidel, he began elaborating to the walls, so the listeners didn't misconstrue our chatter.*

Viva Fidel

After nosing round Havana for a few days, Sarah and I left our host and headed for Santa Clara on the bus. Just one night there, but enough time to check out Che's monument (described by the Rough Guide as "in classic Cuban revolutionary style: simple, bold and made of concrete") and his mausoleum, where I got told off for having my hands in my pockets. I wouldn't be surprised if Che's body had been perfectly preserved, so icy was the air conditioning.

Che memorial, Santa Clara

Chesney, as the man's friends used to call him, even gets a plug at the bus station. The Bicycle Diaries, more like.

Che and some bikes

* From the foreword of Stephen Smith's highly recommended Cuba: The Land of Miracles: "Like his wife, Ulises was working as a tour guide... He told me, 'I stopped being paranoid a long time ago.' He said that he answered the questions of holidaymakers as candidly as he could and Americans often wondered if he wasn't afraid that their tour bus was bugged. 'I say, "Yes, of course it is bugged, there are microphones all over the place. The thing is, the batteries don't work."' A typical Cuban sally (and not so far from the truth, one supposes)."

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