This might have been a villa once, but now it´s "Los Años 50," a cushy hotel bar in the hilly El Pinar neighborhood on the edge of Torremolinos, a town not noted for taste. "The 50´s Bar," I thought -- sock hops, poodle skirts, Whisky Sours -- this would be a weird Spanish take on American pop culture. But I was wrong. The 50s this bar refers to is a mix of flocked foil wallpaper and chrome-and-crystal trim, with Brigitte Bardot posters and overstuffed chairs in the bathrooms. We tucked ourselves into a corner of a 7-foot velvet-striped sofa, ordered G & Ts from the sparkling Swarovski-studded bar, and watched the evening unfold.
It was splendid, deluxe, absolutely fabulous. We were just in time for the music, a little electronic combo set up in a corner by the bar. A big woman dressed for a wedding wailed love songs while a gray little man tapped out bongo beats on a drum machine. From across the room a sun-tanned, double-breasted wise guy watched from deep in his chair, his fancy watch poised just so beneath his starched cuffs, his ankle crossed over the opposite knee. He was, obviously, the boss, and he was lovin´ those sentimental boom-chaka ballads.
The women clattered in, teetering dangerously on their high heels, every one spectacularly plucked, powdered, sprayed-down and patted into place. Not all were pretty, but each was utterly groomed. The men, too, wore suits cut sharp and shiny, their hair coifed, nails and shoes buffed. Some were tall and cool. Others were toad-like in tight Armani, their fingers too fat for their many rings. Two black men shimmered into the place in white Adidas tracksuits, Gabbana sunshades perched on the brims of their ballcaps. They sipped Martel and jangled their ice cubes, chillin.´ Everyone seemed to know one another. Everyone had something fascinating to say to someone else. All of them chattered excitedly and laughed out loud, hoping to be heard above the bongos, hoping to be noticed. A couple of people danced a complicated merengue. The bartender shook a cocktail shaker, and poured out something pink from a great height.
Then She sashayed in the door, a 40-something blonde bombshell, a sloe-eyed woman straight out of a Mickey Spillane potboiler. She wore a tiny knit dress and high-heel sparkly sandals, she smiled a porcelain smile, she worked the room. Everybody greeted her with joy and kisses. Her figure was amazingly impossible, her bottom and bosom round as fruit and perfectly cantilevered over a tiny waist. She was an exotic bird in a chromium cage, sparkling in the pink lights. We were dazzled.
It had been a long day´s drive. We decided against a second drink and took ourselves next door to our own villa-turned-hostel, and went to bed. It was only the next day we realized the Años 50 might be a fancy brothel. (I was glad we did not reserve our weekend rooms there -- it was an option on the booking website, but I shy away from places with jacuzzis in the bedrooms.) The Años 50 is too hot not to cool down. I don´t expect that place to be open when I go back again to Torre.
The following day we went down the hill to join the big O´Gara clan gathering, a 70th birthday party starring many of Patrick´s family members and old friends. Drink was taken, the 5-year-old grandson was chased round the garden by a succession of volunteer monsters. We picked lemons and oranges from the trees out back, cooked up meals, dreamed dreams and reminisced. Paddy and I had driven all the way down to the Meditteranean coast. Two of his sons had flown from England, along with a cousins and aunties and friends. None of us saw the beach.
But we saw one another, something that doesn´t happen so often. We saw a Tottenham Hotspur football game in a pub called Auld Dublin. We shopped for Marmite and Heinz Baked Beans, Basmati rice and Branston Pickle. We had a barbecue out in the yard, with grilled fresh sardines and bream, roast pork loin and watercress salad. It may have been the best barbecue food I ever had.
No hamburgers or hotdogs. I brought the things to make S´Mores, but after the meal no one was much interested in gooey sweet things.
It was three generations of a working-class English family, at play in a down-at-the-heels Spanish beach resort. Someone or other of Paddy´s family has lived there since the 1960´s, and I joined the story only 10 years ago -- and in that time I have witnessed the courtships and weddings and births, jobs worked, quit, lost, won; retirement, illness, death. The family in Torremolinos reminds me of how temporary we are. Health is so fragile, jobs and property so easily lost. Each time we meet there could be the last time. It is precious that way.
|Paddy, Sam, Dan, Matt, & Tom -- O´Garas all|
I don´t want to liken a hoochie bar to Paddy´s fine family, but there are a couple of things to learn from them both. We have to enjoy the show while it´s going on, marvel at the marvellous wonders, taste the tang of the gin in the glass. We can go back over and over, but we can never hope for things to stay the same.