After living in Spain for well over twenty eight years now you could say I have seen some remarkable changes.
If you have every read any of my blogs before, you will know what I am an East Midlander that came over to the Costa del Sol with my Dad and Stepmum to open a bar and basically start a fresh.
That didnt mean I was going to leave England behind. My Mum and brothers are still back over there and so are some very important friends and people I have met when going back and forth there.
I have been privelaged to be able to go back a few times a year sometimes and people have nipped over a lot also. One that did manage to come over sometimes every three months was my Dad Roy, who we sadly lost almost three years ago. Our journey would finally lead us in the early 1990s to Montemar next to the Hotel Pez Espada- The Gulls Bar which we subtitled Roy, Dot and Ali on the top of it, placing our mark.
Why did we call it The Gulls Bar? Many had asked us over that four year period that we had the bar and the answer is very interesting - We DIDN´T change it, it was called that before and it cost around a thousand quid to change the name back then so we just kept it!! We took over the lease from a couple that had been there for a year and it seemed the perfect place to be.
We added our own trademark, had new boards painted with our menu from a lovely lady called Gwyneth who her and her husband had already lived in the area, his name was Neville with his big beard who we nicknamed Father Christmas. They were retired and went round the bars doing quizzes for them and they also did one for us.
We were only a small bar with a small terrace but we were a friendly bar that did breakfasts, toasted sandwiches. jacket spuds and other snacks from a little kitchen behind the bar where everyone could see us cook.
Sometimes I dont know how we did it in the summer with the heat and people coming in and out. The worst thing was when you were caught unawares on your own and had to take orders, serve drinks, cook the food, be chatty to the customers and
take their money all at the same time. I was only young then, 19 years old and you just panicked slightly under you breath and then just DID IT!
So we did our thing. We had plastic bar mates printed out, matches and cards all with our names on and the bar, and I drew a little seagull on the card. Bits and bobs of merchandise just like George Lucas did with Star Wars except it was all giveaways and no T Shirts - I still have some of it.
We started doing video film nights and got Sky Tv in where I started watching The Simpsons when it was quiet. We bought a couple of mics and did our own version of Karaoke at night times that people loved.
We REALLY DID make the customers welcome, we had some great ideas - I started doing my own quizzes which helped me come out of my shell a lot. We did the porron thing with the red wine that you poured into peoples mouths from a fair height and saw how long they could do it for. We has people come back to us. we used to buy people a cake from a proper bakery when it was their birthday and I think we did a hell of a good job of making people have a good time. I had help in the evenings, we had three people work with us over that time. Two girls Mandy and Janet who were lovely looking and sweet and the crazy David who was a bit of a character.
So Roy and Dot did the day times and covered my day off and I did the night times and covered their day off.
When I finished at around two or three in the morning I loved to go and visit other bars. On my shift, at that time you would get bar owners in our bar also who had closed up and come in to either be nosey or just do the rounds, mainly it
was to see if you were busy and they hadnt been. As well as other nicer bar owners that would nip down, the odd local that had other businesses and the local pissheads.
I had my rent paid and my food - most of the time I would nip down the bar in the morning anyway to see them and eat there. Most times I would just take 1000 pesetas out
with me - the days when a bottle of beer was only 100 pesetas or less and I would only drink beer anyway.
I would go down the Montemar strip that has changed SO MUCH now. I always say to myself even though we took a lot of photos of people at the bar I wished I had taken photos of the Montemar bars and restaurants as well. I would go past Pepe´s Bar on the corner. I guy was sort - of - ok but he would stand on the corner opposite the hotel and try and grab new customers before they came up the side road to us. Most people would laugh at his efforts and come to us anyway. Loads came past us and went to The Pink Elephant if it was past 11 as that was a disco pub and thats where the owner got lots of Icelantic people drinking shots and dancing, that was a pretty cool place then and the owner John was a great guy. He spoke Icelantic and got lots of Irish in.
His wife worked in tourism as a rep so she got a lot of people to go there and the two lads that worked with them were great guys.
Karaoke I loved back then and I would go along to a pretty cool bar called Stringfellas that just did drinks but got very popular.
Its hard to remember a lot of the bars names now. The Half Moon was there on the main strip and then I would go onto my favourite place. A square that was dubbed 24 hour square above the Benalmadena Costa - Puerto Marina.
Plaza Sol y Mar. There wasnt really many places to go to in the Marina in the early 90s, everyone went to 24 hour square and it was BUZZING most of the year but obviously mainly in the summer.
These places had something for everyone. Karaoke, there was Borsalino Palace, a huge disco where anyone was welcome and the drinks were not bad priced. You had Mr Jules which was one of my favourite bars. Met some lovely people there, a great place to meet new people it was.
Kiu was also there, very well known indeed that always got packed and was still running right up til a couple of years ago I think. Gina´s Bar was the TOP bar there that I found. Gina was a lovely cockney lady, large built and very welcoming. She was a right laugh and drinks were cheap. The main thing
was you were welcomed and it felt like home right from the first day I stepped into the bar. After Gina´s I would go to a burger bar where they did the burgers with a fried egg on the plancha, lovely stuff.
I went back there just over a year ago in the daytime on a Sunday and the place had changed. There was a Linekars Bar, the original one I know opened up in Fuengirola years ago and was started up by
Gary Linekar´s brother so not sure if this one was or not. The general state of the place was saddening. It broke my heart to see a place I loved so much basically abandoned!! How could something like this occur?
And just the other day I passed by there again, trying to keep myself from getting too emotional. This place but meaned so much to me treated like an abandoned dog, left to just worsen. It really got to me.
The places we used to have porron cocktails, the jugs that we used to have in the bar that we poured into customers mouths to see how long they could swallow, were all closed up and dust everywhere.
I dont know if on a weekend they open some of the bars like Mr Jules or the bars opposite where Kiu used to be but this place was busy all the time in the 90s.
The McDonalds that used to be there in the beginning of the naugties is now a large bar, which I think may do well and I saw another large bar opposite that only opened on a weekend. WHY???? So much money is put into stupid things these days.
I mentioned it on Facebook a week or so ago and I was told by a mate there Maihri that it was money badly spent too. Bad administration. I think that is shameless and shocking.
Rich politicians with stupid wages getting even more richer. I agree that money should be spent on buildings and new hotels. The coast is popular again even with Brexit trying to scare the crap out of us.
Get it sorted!! Brexit and places like 24 hour square. I AM BEGGING YOU.
I live in Málaga and there, no matter what time you go for a walk. Weekdays or Weekends, Málaga is so busy. All year round. What they did in Málaga with places like Muelle Uno, new museums, new bars and cool places with great views of the city - they did with style
and they did things for all kinds of people, the young and the old. They made Málaga something very original and classy.
Thats what the politicians should do for 24 hour square. Get their heads into gear and do something for their citizens and for the tourists.
I only I won the lottery and had the cash to buy that area!! Sounds crazy but if you knew me then you would think that was pretty normal with me.
Ali with another crazy idea!! But thats how things get done and its always worth a try, ANYTHING, SIMPLE AS! The GOOD thing that came out of all of this though was the magic of Facebook. There was me talking about my past and my bar and then I got a surprise message from Dennis (in the photo with me and Janet above) - he still came to the coast and we met for a few beers. Cool!!