In which Bond and Moneypenny leave Peru 1826 and arrange to meet at Salon Canning
And that is how both Moneypenny and I came to be trapped for a night at Peru 1826 - me in Sabrina’s ageing arms; and Moneypenny in the visceral clutches of Jay.
Fortunately, at 2 am Dr Richard Alvarez was called upon to sing, not a moment too late, and certainly not for the faint hearted, yet one that provided cover for our escape. Dancing the last tanda of Osvaldo Fresedo I whispered into Moneypenny’s ear “Marble entrance hall - 5 minutes”.
She was waiting there when I arrived, half hidden beneath an archway. Racing swiftly across the vestibule, pressing the door release, we exited via the courtyard, through the wrought iron gates and into the street. Within seconds I hailed a passing radio cab and we were away down Peru, through a sleepy San Telmo towards the city, bearing left into Roque Saenez Pena (Diagonal Norte) and out on 9 de Julio towards Recoleta.
Moneypenny appeared pensive but silent in the cool dawn breeze that entered from the open cab window. “We will talk about it later, old girl”, I said, to which she replied, “Right, Mr Bond, have it your own way, but we must talk soon. I need to understand. I need to know. Salon Canning tonight...I’ll see you there, old man”.
Salon Canning is in Av Raul Scalabrini Ortiz in the heart of Palermo, Buenos Aires’ leafy suburb where the smart young set tends to live. Canning, as it is abreviated, is one of my regular haunts - a milonga at which I can meet other regular milongueros and dance with their wives. Unlike La Viruta at Asociacion Cultural Armenia - at Canning I do not have to cope with the hordes of tourists, their salsas and rock-and-roll.
Nancy, my regular waitress smiles as I enter and leads me to my reserved table, central to the pista, but set back one row - for it is not my style to join the egos on the front row. “Nice to see you Señor Bond”, she adds as she takes my order for sparkling water and champagne. “Nancy, lovely to see you too, you’re looking great tonight”, I reply, to which she blushes, as always.
I wear my dance shoes from the taxi to the milonga, for there is nothing worse than seeing dancers change shoes by the pista. From my table I glance around me, looking to identify friends, especially those that dance with skill. By the time Nancy has released the champagne cork, poured a glass and returned the bottle into an ice bucket, I already have planned in my mind my initial tandas. Orlando is guest DJ tonight, so the next tanda will be Rodolfo Biagi, followed by Miguel Caló, Francisco Canaro, Angel D' Agostino, Alfredo De Angelis, Pedro Laurenz, and Ricardo Tanturi. I will cabeceo the elderly milonguera Hilda for the Biagi, for that is what I always do, and what she will expect.
Out of the corner of my eye I notice a slight figure walking briskly towards my table. “Bond, you are here already?”, she gushes. “Moneypenny, I thought you wouldn’t arrive until midnight?”, I reply feigning surprise. Why am I not surprised that she would be here from the outset?
‘Ahora no me Conoces’ rings out from the speakers suspended from the ceiling. I am too late to catch Hilda’s eye, and Moneypenny tips her pale face to one side, smiles and twirls her right forefinger. Is she is cabeceoing me? I reply with a mirada, reversing the codigo in which only the leader uses the cabeceo. Not that it matters with Moneypenny - I suspect she can barely spell the words ‘cabeceo and mirada’, let alone understand their cultural significance to the milonga. Perhaps, sometime I should sit down and educate her on the topic?
Biagi is perfect for a first tanda - it gets blood circulating and energy levels rising with its staccato beat. The floor is open, so we just walk with a long stride that extends Moneypenny’s reach, her hips moving to open with each step making our difference in height inconsequential.
The milongueros at tables along the edge of the pista look up from their conversations to admire her youthful walk and and the sway of her hips. The milongueras shift their critical stare from her dainty feet and Comme il Faut shoes to her body hugging dress and translucent shoulders.
Within the embrace I simply feel her softness and the flexibility of her movement, her simultaneous response to my lead, and warm breath on my neck. We dance the four songs of the tanda, for that is the codigo, after which I lead her to the side of the floor, as is the tradition.
“Bond, tonight do you mind if I sit at your table?”, she blurts.”We still have to have that talk, remember?”.
Intrigued to know what she has to say, and knowing of the gossip that will follow when Canning sees a new young woman at my table, I reply, “Yes, most certainly, Moneypenny, it will be my pleasure”, and escort her across an empty pista to the enquiring looks of the Canning crowd
What did I have to lose really? I had made no real plans, I just bought the ticket, threw a few things in my backpack and ran away....
Moneypenny I take the note, start to walk towards San Telmo while trying to make sense of what I had just seen. Was this a secret...
Mr Bond I flash a smile towards Nancy the waitress, and without a word she arrives with a second champagne glass for Moneypenny, who...