Magazine article The Spectator

Bar Talk

Magazine article The Spectator

Bar Talk

Article excerpt

Benalmadena, Costa del Sol molinos is nothin like as horrible as we'd hoped it would be. Twinned with Stockport, Lancashire, and dating back to the 1970s, Torremolinos today has something of a quiet, historic feel to it and is favoured by the elderly. There are trendy little boutiques there now too, and I noticed two places offering tattoo removal by laser. So we pushed on to Benalmadena, a sprawling new development about five miles along the coast, hoping for something brasher, more loutish, and more in keeping with our expectations.

Three weeks ago there was a gangland shooting in one of Benalmadena's bars. A discussion became acrimonious, it was reported in the English dailies, and a man left the bar, returned a few minutes later with a gun, then calmly shot two of his interlocutors. The lady with whom I was travelling suggested it might be fun to find the place, have a few shams, and play Spot the Criminal. Unfortunately, neither of us could remember the name of the bar, so we parked in the Plaza Bonanza and asked around. Outside Barry's Place I interrupted the conversation an old cockney gent with long, nicotine-stained hair was having with a small boy about a pool cue.

`Excuse me,' I said, `we are looking for an ex-pats' bar where they have been shooting at each other recently.'

`Oh, you mean the Grapes,' he said. `Jimmy's pub. I don't know anything about a Pat, though.' The Grapes was the old geezer's local, as it happened. He not only told us how to get there, he told us the victims' names (they were friends of his), plus the name and current whereabouts of the man wanted in connection with the shooting (another friend of his). He also recommended the steak and kidney pie.

You had to be `motored up', as he put it, to get out to the Grapes, which was, to be honest, a bit of a disappointment. Apart from Tina, the landlady, no one in the bar looked remotely thuggish. There were plenty of shaved heads and tattooed arms gathered around the bar, it is true, and everyone over 40 had bright, alcoholic eyes. But everyone was tremendously open and jolly, not threatening at all. The lady with whom I was travelling and I generally relish a hint of violence in the air. We've been in golf clubs with a more intimidating atmosphere than this place, however.

The bar of the Grapes was built of small glazed bricks and resembled a very large and elaborate fireplace. …

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