surinenglish

THE MUSIC MAKER

The way we were

Long ago, one balmy summer's evening in Malaga city centre, I was singing in the street to raise a bit of money for charity. About half an hour in, a man in his thirties with a young daughter walked to towards me, encouraging the girl to drop a couple of coins into my guitar case. The fact that she performed a little dance as she did so, only added to the magic of the moment. At the end of the song, the proud father stepped forward again in order to introduce himself. He said that he owned a bar, told me where it was, and suggested I should pass by some time.

Lord knows how many years have elapsed since then, but I became a regular visitor to Manolo's place, turning up at least once a week for a couple of pints and to sample a range of quite exquisite tapas. I wasn't the only one. Every night of the week (except Mondays when it closed) the good people of Malaga would descend on Manolo's bar in their droves and you would need to get there ever earlier to stand any chance of a decent speck.

Latterly, tourists had cottoned on to a good thing and, truth be told, the frequency of my visits had faltered to a trickle. Nonetheless, its popularity with the locals never waned; we're talking about a veritable institution here in Malaga, we're talking about El Cortijo De Pepe.

Sadly, El Cortijo De Pepe announced its permanent closure this week, just a couple of months shy of celebrating what would have been its fiftieth anniversary. Amid the current flurry of businesses pulling down their shutters for the last time, there was, I think, something particularly poignant about this example. Maybe it's simply because of the memories it holds for so many, or maybe its about losing another symbolic representation of how different the city used to be all those decades ago. Whatever the reason, the news of its closure has provoked a profound sense of melancholy which is proving hard to shake.

Generally speaking, I'm not one for dwelling on the past but I've found myself making an exception in this case, taking the time to reflect on some of those memories: of gambas pil-pil, Russian salad and crestas; of toasting friendships and milestones to an unyielding soundtrack of crashing plates and yelling waiters; of reading the newspaper alone at the end of the bar in the early evening heat, clutching a pint glass and feeling like the luckiest man in the world.

And of Manolo's daughter dancing.