No Hats en el Pueblo

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Well, except for two groups. Tourists, of course – and old Campesinos on their visit to town to drink a coffee, maybe call in at the bank or chat to great nieces and nephews parked on the zebra crossing, while traffic backs up and every horn toot creates some avant-garde orchestral piece. These old men congregate on street corners too, eyes as slitted as those of Clint Eastwood under the brim of their hats, a roll up cigarette in the corner of their mouths. Their half-mast trousers flap on their Queen Anne-legs and the suit-jackets may match for colour but not for size.
And yes, the tourists do wear hats; fake panamas with Feria de Moderación2012 on a synthetic hat-band, baseball caps – peaks forward or back depending on how cool the logo might be on the front and – occasionally – something that looks like it should have corks dangling from the edge.
Locals call foreigners Guiris. It means someone who comes from somewhere else. Under Franco they used to use it to refer to the Guardia Civil. Now it means foreigners who live in Spain. That tells us something, I suppose. We Guiris, you might imagine, don’t generally wear hats. We should, we know: the spectre of skin cancer looms over all white boys in the sun. In fact, if you do see an Expat in a hat, they’ve probably already had a brush with the Big C.
I like hats. I like the films they used to wear hats in. A policeman or a gangster in a hat used to be someone to take seriously. Imagine if you saw someone in the street wearing a trilby, a homburg or a bowler hat today! You’d think they were making a film.
So I say a metaphorical ‘hats off’ to the bold campesinos, for they can return the favour with no artifice, using the real thing. Only, well, these bold men in their titfers are also old men, so pretty soon it willbe “no hats en el pueblo”.

A Beer with the Owner


The horror, the horror. Editorial staff on the Daily Mail seem intent on persuading everyone that the new Black Death is coming at us pell-mell out of the heart of darkness. I’d like to know what the Ebola river looks like. Is it a raging torrent through a dark and foetid tropical forest? Is it a tinkling mountain rill? If I were the river I’d be annoyed that my name had been appropriated for a bat-borne morrhagic disease. I’d be a raging rill.

The owner gives me a look as I toss the newspaper on the table next to the empty glasses. Fortunately, it lands sports page up. Mine host doesn’t understand sport, although he has given me his opinions on why it doesn’t matter often enough. Still, God alone knows what kind of harangue he’d give me if he saw the lead story on the front page. That’s not really true: I almost know what he’s going to say before he does. Ebola? Invented by the CIA in a secret laboratory and injected into monkeys’ brains in The Democratic Republic of Congo. This shows a grasp of Geography somewhat better than the one he has on reality.

Still, it’s just me on the Venta terrace. The rain has swept through, laying the dust until the sun evaporates the puddles. If the sun stays out, people might turn up for a late lunch. The British Legion were due today for their monthly ‘meeting’: rain stopped play. Very British that. There being no alternative, the owner sits down next to me, checking his e-mails and talking but not listening to the answer as he does so. I wait. It would be easy to say something flippant, now. There’s no challenge in that. I prefer to get the knife in when he’s off on a rant. He does notice this though, nowadays. You could defend my behaviour by saying that I’m trying to teach him to listen, that conversation is a dialogue. It’s not true though, I do it to wind him up, nothing more.

He’s a rich guy, dresses very well, if a little showily. The kind of man who still has a handkerchief and a lacy one at that. He tells me he has 13 cars, I’ve seen two of them, but they are the kind of vehicle a man who owns 13 would have. Eventually he puts his (I-)phone on the table. About 3 inches from his right hand. He clicks his fingers several times. Severiano comes out with a smile plastered on his face and clenched fists. His Beneficence orders a coffee. I predict this will be too hot or too cold. The man has the most severe case of Goldilocks Syndrome I’ve ever seen. Seve comes back with the coffee, today it’s too hot. Seve turns away from the table to get inside, away from this man. He gets called back,


Most of the time the staff do clear away the empties, their boss just makes them nervous I think.

I look at him, a handsome, well-preserved man, a year or so younger than I am. Even so I wouldn’t trade looks with him for a second. He has a bitter look about him, a smile costs him more than he has in his bank accounts. Andrès, the last owner but one, smiled from morning to night. The archetypal jolly fat man. The service was a joke, and I believed the Venta to be a biological hazard at the time, though it never stopped me going. But it was a happier place. Andrès gave up the bar and died 6 months later. Makes you think, that.

A rant starts: ‘Sometimes they clear the empties, sometimes they don’t. Why can’t they be consistent? It’s really too bad, I simply cannot abide inconsistency!’

‘Neither can I… sometimes,’ I say.