Miladis Diaz shows paintings by Cuban artist Fuster at The North Wall of South Parade, Summertown, Oxford
A stroll into Summertown today resulted in a surprise Indian lunch at the Spice Lounge (a bargain at £4.95!), a coffee in Costa's watching Oxford Uni students spilling out of their Prelims in sub-fusc (and pink carnations...we always wore red or white...since when is it pink?) and then a drop-in to an art exhibition on South Parade where one of Cuba's premier artists, Fuster, is showing his work.
(see The Colours of Life, in Oxford until 24th June)
Miladis and I had a nice chat about Havana and Cuban art. I told her I was writing a book set in Cuba and this morning had written a scene set in a 'country school', where high-school students are used as unpaid labour to harvest coffee for the state-owned industry. I admired her name, as exotic as are many Cuban names.
"The truth is, lots of them are made-up," she said, blushing.
"And they're the better for it," I said.
"I'm not so sure. You get all these silly ones, starting with Y... it's a generational thing," she said. "People in their twenties and younger. Ynieski, Yulieski, Yolexis, Yoanni, Yumiel, Yadel, Yonelki, Yunior..."
It was my turn to blush. "I used the name Yoannis for one of my characters," I admitted, "And I know a Yunior..."
Miladis gave me the phone number of her friend in Havana for next time we're there. Her friend is a biologist who writes children's books, as coincidence would have it!