Rose-tinted glasses

Everyone I meet these days seems to have got one of those funny little gizmos that that tell you how many steps you've walked during the day. Despite asking every single one of them how many steps a chap is supposed to walk, I can never remember the answer. It ends in 'thousand' but the preceding number could be anything from two to two hundred. To tell the truth, I don't really understand the concept, anyway. I mean, it's not the same taking a hundred steps up ten flights of stairs as it is doing the same number downhill on the way to the cake shop, is it?

Anyway, you can bet your bottom dollar that one man who doesn't possess one of these odd devices is Paco. Paco sells roses. His modus operandi is to leave his house in the morning with a massive bunch of blooms and then to trawl Malaga's city centre streets and bars until he's sold enough to earn his daily corn or until he collapses in a heap, whichever comes first.

I first met Paco in 1998, one Sunday evening, when he strode into a bar where I was playing a concert. He immediately struck me as one of those humble, hard-working men that the world needs a lot more of, so I called him up to the stage for a short chat over the microphone. It turned out it was his wedding anniversary the next day which endeared him to the crowd no end, and boosted his sales considerably.

I even bought a rose myself and stuck it in my guitar strings like Keith Richards does with a lit cigarette but not quite as rock 'n' roll. Then we all sang You've Got A Friend to mark his anniversary and Paco left, beaming.

Occasionally, I'll still bump into him, plying his trade in the city centre, his gait a little more weary, his work ethic still firmly intact. Whenever we stop to talk, he never fails to mention the evening we met and how delighted his wife was that a hundred strangers had sung a song for them.

As the first seeds of recovery are sewn over Malaga and the vapid holy grail of mass tourism hoves into view once again, I can't help but think about Paco and his decades of hard work. If the stag and hen parties are to return - as they surely will - the least the revellers can do is buy a rose or two from Paco.