My first (and penultimate) foray into business was to open a bar in Bédar in 1976, when I was a nipper. The Bar was called 'El Aguila'. I sold Aguila beer and Aguila cigarettes (clever, eh?). The beers, served in small bottles of 20cc (known as 'quintos' or - if you can pronounce it - 'cervecillas') came from a warehouse in Cuevas, and I could fit seven crates of them in my car. Thirty to a crate. The smokes, a brand similar to Ducados (strong black tobacco) came from a shop in Bédar called 'la tienda de Simón', which sold everything - from a wheelbarrow to a shower-bucket. A tin of butter to a postage stamp. Cigarettes and a tot of brandy. A useful place indeed.
Creating a bar takes a bit of work.
I had three old houses in Bédar, bought by my father for ten thousand pesetas (sixty euros) off of Old Gregorio in 1966. My father, whose Spanish at the time was non-existent, wasn't sure if he'd just paid for a very expensive lunch at Pedro's bar or if he was now the owner of three houses bought - apparently - off someone called Hermano. Herman to his friends.
I fixed them up, slightly. Knocked a hole through the walls. Built a kitchen somewhere, brought in a few mattresses and a sofa. The houses, now one, had electric, but no water. I put in a wrought-iron window terrace in the larger room for the bar, placed a plank of wood on top and was about good to go.The cross-eyed water man - who brought supplies in four large clay cántaros on his donkey - kept everything sluiced down, and the lavatory on the terrace was strictly soak-away.
The doctor from Los Gallardos came for an official look. He said the downstairs was fine, but the upstairs was off-limits. Three rooms and a terrace for the public to enjoy: a bit of razzmatazz for the Bédar denizens.
The bar in theory was to be run with EJ Whyte, an Irish American who lived in Bédar and was responsible for bringing Fritz the artist to the area on the back of a BSA in around 1962. However, after enormous trouble getting
work permits (think on this Brexiteers) - many trips to Almería, papers, fruitless visits, long walks up and down looking for obscure offices and people who had 'gone out for a coffee', stamps and photographs... EJ finally told the little man in
the employment office in Almería to shove it up his backside, leaving me, as it were, in sole control. The card in the photo is the official permit to handle food. They give you a nail-brush and peel your eyelids.
Thus, I ran the bar by myself (sometimes
my friend and local builder Juanico joined me - once arriving with a live and evidently stolen sheep which, after meeting a violent end on the bar-room floor, improved the tapas for a
week or so). Beers and tapas. A quinto beer and a really quite horrible tapa cost 10 pesetas (seven céntimos in today's money). Since the local youth liked to play chinos (spoof) for a round, I found that I was drinking rather a lot. Perhaps many bar-owners do. I remember one in Los Boliches who used to surreptitiously finish all the dregs from the returned glasses. I rather doubt he's still going today.
My tapas weren't very good. I had bought a chapa, a large piece of iron plate, off Juan el Fraguero from Mojácar, and this was put on a small gas-fire. I would cut frankfurters sideways, sliced down the middle, with a squirt of hot sauce. I also offered costellitas: the bit of bone on the end of a rib with a nub of gristle hanging off it, also with a squirt of hot sauce. Bédar has long since had trouble with ulcers, apparently - it was good hot sauce. Then there was the mysterious bits of off-cuts in the bag of costillitas from the butcher's daughter in Cuevas. Juanico identified them as being rams' testicles. Apparently she liked me, he reckoned.
I had a record player and four of five records - the most popular being Nat King Cole singing in Spanish. Nat's accent was worse than my father's, but the clientele seemed indulgent.
My neighbours weren't convinced I wasn't running a brothel. One day, old dad came in for a chatico de vino (six pesetas). After about a dozen of these, he was sure that the place was of a moral rectitude seldom found in Spain. Several of the local kids actually carried him, gripping his arms and legs as he sang one of Nat's most popular numbers, home to his missus.
The bar was fun - sometimes. But it wasn't a money-maker. At threepence a beer, I wasn't making a fortune. My girlfriend didn't like it much, once hitting me on the head with a beer-crate.
I rented the place out after three months to some Brit
football enthusiast called Roger for a Greenie - our name for a 1,000 peseta bill (6€) - per month. He of
course never paid, although the tapas improved slightly...
The rest of the house, about two thirds of it if you counted the creaky bits upstairs, carried on as mine. The ceilings were made of beams, cane and plaster. Some of the beams were made of pine and others were just pita, the century plant stalk. I can tell you, they aren't very firm after a few decades...
One day, EJ came to stay the night. I left him the key to the house and went down to Mojácar. EJ relates that he suddenly woke with a terrible thirst, remembered there was a bar next door, and battered down the intervening wall using a butano-bottle as a sledge-hammer. He says he served himself a cool beer from the bar and meekly went back to sleep again. House guests, hey?
A few years later, I fixed up the whole building properly into one large and slightly eccentric house.
It's sold now.