On Brits abroad

And then there was Tracie. Tracie had several other descriptive names, and from these monikers much can be learned.

Given, rather than christened, by the god-fearing locals was the rather sinister La Bruja Pallida, or The Pale Witch. Scary Tracie was another, possibly down to her rather forward manner when tired and emotional – an impression most out of keeping with the genteel ways of the average Latina.

Auntie Tracie hinted at the eccentric relative who might educate you in ways too radical for the common-or-garden parent. The possible irony inherent in Doña Angelini – in that nobody ever called her it without smiling – was the source for my favourite sobriquet – Donna.

With a surname that includes the word Angel – it was the loveliest of surprises to hear her sing like one. This I hadn’t expected when one night she snatched the microphone off the lead singer of a band in the Hot Potato. She had sensibly first imbibed a bottle of rum to calm any possible performance anxiety. I was relieved and touched in equal measure by the strength and sweetness of the alto that emerged from her usually X-rated vocal cords. It reminded me of that Susan Boyle moment, but performed with the panache of a plastered Amy Winehouse.

My first sighting of her had been clearing the floor of a party with a voice like thunder. I concluded I would be safest keeping my distance. The second time, we were introduced formally by MJ on a busy Saturday night high street. I was intimidated less by the stentorian tone than being confused by a flow of words and dramatic gestures more complex than any Spanish I had heard that month.

Once I felt secure in her company, I was surprised to realise she was little over 5-foot tall.