She was Ms Anne Hedensted Steffensen and she was exactly as you think the model modern Scandinavian would be. She was direct, no-nonsense, didn’t stand on ceremony, and yet was gracious, urbane and polite.
We started with a reception from the Lord Mayor Elaine Boyes, in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour.
Then we did a complete Manchester tour including Sportcity, University and Old Trafford. There was a site visit to the Bridgewater Hall (picture above), where we viewed the Danish made organ. Ooh madam.
We had lunch in the restaurant of the Lowry – the arts complex not the hotel.
There was a moment’s awkwardness when one of the group asked what I thought of the food there. A matter of weeks earlier I’d slaughtered the restaurant in a Confidential review (here).
“Well,” I said, “lots of the regular theatre goers at The Lowry seem to like it.”
“That,” said one of the ambassador’s entourage with a twinkle in his eye, “is not really an answer, I'll proceed with caution.”
The lunch mercifully was fine enough.
Here begins a party political broadcast on behalf of me.
On taking her leave, the ambassador said, “You are the best guide I've ever had, great at communication, and for knowledge. I suppose I should say probably the best guide in the world though like - you know - the famous Danish company Carlsberg's advertisement.”
There ends the party political broadcast on behalf of me.
I’d been asked to do the tour by Christopher Wewer, the Danish Honorary Consul, a Danish-British chap (although British by birth and background), and a real gent.
A couple of weeks later I was invited to the Manchester Consular Association lunch in one of the State Rooms in the Town Hall.
There were the professionals and the honoraries.
The professionals were the career diplomats such as those from Iraq, Poland, Pakistan, China. I sat next to a representative of the Pakistani consulate, Mr Chaudry, and Christopher. Opposite was Danuta Baca from the Polish consulate.
I was also introduced to a Knight First Class of the Order of Finland. I forget his name, but sadly he wasn't dressed in armour.
Close by, on another corner of the table - I didn't catch their names - were the Iraqi consulate staff.
It was a fascinating occasion all round.
Ms Baca talked about how busy her job was with countless Polish people still looking for a life in the UK. Bring them on I say, we are country endlessly galvanised by immigration, only failed states close their borders.
The problem for the Poles was that there were so many people clogging the lifts at Rodwell Tower next to Piccadilly Station, that people in the other offices had complained and they were having to move. Danuta was looking forward to more room to move within, and regretted that the pressure of the job had made it difficult for her to enjoy city life more. Interesting woman with a gently forceful manner.
Chris Bird, representing the We Love Manchester charity, was the speaker. This used to be the Lord Mayor's Charity. He described how the name was altered after the August 2011 riots (looting) in Manchester to help young people, children, families and older people who are experiencing disadvantage in the City of Manchester. It was a good presentation.
But I'd just been talking to the Iraqi consul and asked him about the rebuild going on his country.
"It'll be twenty years at least before the situation is normalised...at least," he said. "We are a very long way from a functioning society." What a hole Britain helped dig for them.
Problems are relative of course, but a night's disruption from a couple of hundred bored, pilfering youths, with the occasional gang-master in control, a night's disruption, that could have been contained by the police if they had done their job properly (click here), seemed impossibly remote from life in a country where civil society needs to be rebuilt from the foundations.
There are 38 consuls in Manchester representing 28 countries and the Manchester Consular Association is the oldest in the world.