Sat in the car at the airport, doing a swing past the guards every so and along so as not to get stuck in the park and queue to pay and lug the suitcases across and up the steps. It’s worse inside with huge hangers full of marble and Germans. I park on the flowerbed for a piece. They arrive. The girl looks nice. We leave with the windows down and papers blowing around and out. No air-con in this old car.
With friends staying you want to show them around and impress. That’s right. It’s too early though. I was once in there having a drink, you know, and Dennis Hopper came in so I pretended I didn’t know who he was then we bought each other beers and stuff, and laughed at the girls, then it turned out it wasn’t him anyway.
Right, come on, they’re a lot cheaper than on the coast than here and the company is nicer.
Sandwiched between a tour-bus and a cement truck, we pull off the road at the first opportunity. A few houses stand around, looking unconcerned. The car cools down over another flowerbed, this one rather tatty, as we enter a building through an enormous barn-door. We’ll have a couple of beers and tapas. I’m all knowing as the host; role-playing as a tour-guide with witty answers to all the queries.
‘…That’s right, donkeys!’
Some blond fellow watches us from the far end of the bar. He probably works down at the cowboy town film-set. A young girl with a bruised face works the beers and the customers. The blond looks like he wants to start something. The residents here have an easy way to measure themselves against each other: how long you bin living here? You have to watch their eyes when you face up for this one. It’s a kind of pissing contest where there can only be one winner. I try and avoid this, as the loser can get sore.
My friends are looking at the sad range of entrails lying under the glass counter.
‘Sí, una ronda de cañas. ¡Oiga!’ The little barmaid brings the specie and goes ‘t’ree beer?’ and I’m deflating like a spare tyre on a Renault. Kinda place is this anyway? ‘Thank you dear child. And where are you from?’
Rumania. Well I’ll be buggered. All these years living here, trying to blend in with the locals and to pick up a few words, and do you know, I can’t even say: I am a secret policeman, where is your sister?
A Rumanian friend had been telling me about his work permit and the paperwork he’d given in. He’d prepared and written up the document himself on a sheet from a Bucharest cigarette company with fancy headed-paper and had covered it with stamps made with ceiling wax and the metal top from a Chivas Regal bottle. We need people like this in Spain.
We’re into some of those beers in dark glass and feeling the kick. The blond fellow has joined us. It’s too hot to take an attitude.
From the terrace you can see a piece of a wide, sandy riverbed. It was here that they shot the film Lawrence of Arabia in 1966. Well, a small piece of it. A Welshman, cashiered from the Horseguards, once told me the story of how the producer, Sam Spiegel, had obtained a thousand horses and camels to attack the papier mâché town of Aquaba on the Carboneras coast. The Welshman led the charge dressed in suitable togs but for some reason, with no saddle. One mistake and I would have been trampled to death noted the Welshman sadly as I solicitously bought him another drink. It is told that, after the shoot, they asked Sam Spiegel what was to be done with the camels and horses. He answered laconically: ‘Can ‘em!’
A machine gunner shot the whole herd. Some reward for being in an Oscar film.
My friend notices that the bar has a sign to say that This Establishement has Complaining Sheets. We order a few to take away with us.
A man in a string vest comes through a door behind the bar. He’s scratching himself with a kind of reserved enthusiasm. ‘You boys look like you would like the coast. You ever been there?’
It’s about an hour’s driving to get to my place. I reckon it’s going to take us a little longer.