Friday, October 16, 2009

Mercury Rising

I had to meet someone the other night and we had agreed over the phone that I would come along to Paco’s Bar for a chat. Parking in Spain is never easy: the rare parking spaces are filled with any number of items and reasons which will keep you away – unless of course, you ignore them. Parking spaces here have rubbish bins, bell-shaped metal bottle banks, trees, traffic signs, rubble, skips, tables and chairs, elevated wooden bar terraces, disabled parking, old broken cars, some bastard motorcycle taking up a whole space and, of course, everybody else’s cars. So driving in Spain usually involves a fair amount of walking.
Paco’s Bar has one of those wooden terraces outside, which illegally takes up at least four parking spaces, but no one seems to mind much, certainly not his brother Pedro, the mayor. I arrived, slightly out of breath, and walked across the empty terrace and into the bar. Which was full. Full!
There was a football game on the television and what looked like another football game just about to kick off on another TV. My friend was at a table, wedged in with other fans: he gave me a brief wave before returning to the game. I shoved my way to the bar and caught one of Paco’s Romanian girls. ‘Un tercio’, I shouted over the din. A bottle of Beer.
‘Who’s playing?’ I asked somebody.
‘Real Madrid against Tenerife’ he said.
I pushed my way outside again and sat on the lonely wooden terrace to watch the cars go by looking, no doubt, for a parking space. The sound of the football came through the door, with the odd shout and cheer as something happened. Perhaps my friend would mosey out at half-time and we could discuss our business.
I’ve never cared for football, either playing it or watching it. The game is too intense for my liking, and when the bars put up a big screen, the players become the same size as the viewers. It’s hardly conducive to a quiet gargle when there are sweaty people in green or red and white stripes tearing past you shouting ‘mine’.
And then, once the game is over, almost all of its pleasure evaporates. Fans want to see another, but have no interest in what went before, short of a lingering memory of the final score. ‘Who won’, I ask automatically, over and over again.
They say that soccer is one of the few endeavors in life that one can become an expert in a short time. I mean, just watch a couple of matches and listen to the knowledgeable commentators droning on. I sometimes dwell on this as some fellow at my side enthuses throatily about the current game on the telly which I am determined to ignore. ‘Kill the ref.’ is my stock answer, which almost always works.
If I’m still there after an hour, God forbid, then ‘Which ones are the whites?’ can be a satisfying question to the inevitable chain-smoker squeezed in next to me.
There are bars which only cater to these beer-sportsmen. One on the beach has six different household TVs with, presumably, six different sporting events going on at the same time. Who needs to talk about anything else? A new one in the ‘town next door’, called the Sportsbar, has a large screen with a football-green pitch and people rushing about, visible from the door. I hope they do well.
My suggestion for those who like a quiet drink and don’t wish to be pushed in the back by some cretin shouting either ‘goal’ or indeed ‘gol’, is to come along to my new saloon. It’s a ‘Weather Bar’. We show nice and peaceful weather forecasts on the television with the sound turned off. On the wall we have autographed pictures of José Antonio Maldonado, the iconic Spanish weather man who always faces the map and talks to the viewers over his shoulder, of Francis, who has a house locally, of Hazel, Joe and the Black lady with the oversized heels.
It’s a peaceful atmosphere in my ‘Weather Bar’ and I sell a lot of ‘pink gin’. The advantages are, I hope, clear. In the sports bar up the road, they watch their football and they all go home with a headache. In my place, where the entertainment is just as ephemeral (‘did you see the weather forecast last Friday – hell of a thing. When Francis pointed at Spain on his map, I almost fainted’), where the language is slightly technical, yet full of those comforting clichés so beloved by meteorologists everywhere (‘should lift by the afternoon’, ‘somewhere over the Alps, a cup of tea is brewing’ and ‘looks nice down there in Spain’), and where the very greetings themselves are weather-related: ‘Nice day today, might rain later’. Now that’s the kind of bar which does a good round-the-clock trade and you can drink without worry.
‘Just popping down to the Weather Bar, Darling, don’t wait up’. How could anyone possibly be upset by that?
Best of all, you’ll even know whether to bring an umbrella when you return tomorrow.

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