Saunter through a wide buff coloured courtyard until you happen upon an eye catching salt and pepper brick wall just past the panaderìa, with its marbled counter tops and glorious cinnamon aromas. Mid-morning and mostly still tourist free, the centuries old courtyard, is finished to a high standard, not usually to be found in the sleepy backwaters of Galacian Spain. The skilled labour that went into the perfectly natural, but seamless angles, took less than a few decades to perfect. An ex Celtic brick-smith, tall, virtually carefree, upright and somewhat tanned, occasionally takes time out to admire the Moorish clay bricks as a preparation for the delightful juxtaposition to be discovered nearby. To the right of an oaken entrance door leading off the courtyard awaits the well dressed, but casual barman, who, if finding you simpatico, will reward you with a genuine smile and a wave into the inner sanctum of a cool, fragrant, hop heaven world. Through a brightly lit doorway, a glass four leaf clover is projected using natural sunlight against a shadowed wall. It shows perfectly the entrance to a dark, cavernous stone flagged cafe. Exposed plumbing, more bare brick and recessed retro lamps highlight the well stocked array of whisky and fine wines shimmering on seemingly floating glass shelves. Here, Colombian beans are ground by hand to excite even the most ardent of coffee loving patrons in the midst of many expectant exotic tea lovers from around the world.
I'd noticed the knee length socks and the khaki safari jacket for probably the best part of two weeks before his face truly registered with me. It wasn't that he was necessarily insignificant, bland or even as uninteresting as some of the other lost tourists venturing off the trail during the early afternoon lull. Occasionally the thrill seekers looking to purge their curiosity in regard to their 4th generation Celtic roots would wander in seeking grand wall hung kilts, great roaring fires and Claymore swords and tales of vociferous clans to titillate and enhance their holiday stories for those ignorant of Gaelic history somewhere back home, wherever that may be. That evening he favoured a stool closer to the broken glass vowels of neat Glaswegian and the aromatic fug of hand rolled cigars, smoked using the correct etiquette without the crass makers band that Hollywood still attaches to its own misguided theory on class. It enticed him. His curiosity was pricked. He nodded briefly in our direction, sat a respectful distance and made the international sign for a large whisky. His heathen request for Jack Daniels and ice had been rebuffed with the raising of an eyebrow by the normally amiable host on his first visit to the cafe. He had learnt quite quickly after that. His new tipple of choice was now a decent Scottish malt. Needless to say it came without the addition of ice to pollute its smokey essence and confuse and disseminate the provocative liquid to the palate.
His name was H, an unfortunate parental choice and one that had obviously been shadowed by mockery since the commencement of many early school yard encounters. His business had been in aluminium, a word of which took us nearly an hour to convince him that it was widely mispronounced by only one country in the entire world. It broke the ice, but sadly not in his drink, some habits are increasingly hard to break it would seem. He joined us on our morning walk most days along the deep blue of the backdrop and declared his mastery in perfecting the ultimate steak, char-grilled, basted with tequila, tossed in fresh marjoram and dusted with a natural unsalted garlic butter. Many barbecue recipes were discussed, chided and chuckled over in the months that were to follow. H joined us on many an evening at our table and even took a turn behind the stainless steel of my man-be-cue out on the sun deck. His humour and grace appealed to my usually suspicious radar, a crucial piece of equipment that well, too be honest, undoubtedly kept me alive during darker times in my former business pursuits in Glasgow.
It was probably a full three months before H finally admitted that he had approached me initially purely on my looks to hopefully encapsulate my interest by way of monetary fees and entice me, by greed, to carry out what I'll discreetly describe as an act of (illegal) justice upon someone who had beaten the justice system in Spain. Not difficult to understand for those people living in this particular European climate. If I'm honest here, I was more than a little put out. I'm still not 100% sure as to my outrage being due to a perfect stranger stereotyping me by either my physical appearance, or worse, my seeming lack of intelligence. What I do know for sure is that as stringent as I am about my true identity, my careful approach to keeping people outside of my immediate circle at arms length, was proven correct the very first time I allowed my personal barrier to be lowered. It goes without saying that I asked H to leave and that he did so on the full understanding that he would not be welcome at my door, no further contact, and of course do not attempt to cross my path for the foreseeable future. In the space of fifteen minutes I said goodbye to a jovial character, a dinner guest, a fellow 'home-skilled' chef, but most of all, trust in human nature. The old adage is true it would seem. Never trust another man with your wife or your precious man-be-cue. It's painful letting either one of them go.
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