The Bar man, by Jeff Hoyle, October 2

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I was in a bar recently and there were a bunch of non-natives at the next table, probably immigrants, having a bit of a party. I think it was someone’s birthday, and the beer was flowing, the voices getting louder as everyone was had a jolly good time. Everyone that is except the bar owner who had to come running with more drink and food every time the hands were clapped and the shouts were directed his way, reminiscent of the treatment of Manuel in the sitcom ‘Fawlty Towers’. Indeed, he may have been called Manuel as the bar in question was located in Murcia in Spain in one of the urbanisations so beloved of the English Ex Pats, and it was probably these made up the bulk of the party at the next table. It seemed a touch ironic that the snatches of overheard conversation (quite easy, given the volume) suggested, and I paraphrase here, that one of the reasons that they were living in Spain was the detrimental effect on British life of the number of immigrants, especially in some of the cities which are now apparently totally non-native.

We did our best not to blend in with the crowd. Not that difficult as even though I am about the right age, I don’t have any fading tattoos, gold chains or diamond studs. The bar wife speaks fluent Spanish and even her nephew who accompanied us gave it a go, as befits one who was contemplating studying it at A-level when he returned to the sixth form at Eton. I guess it was a bit of a steep learning curve for Orlando, as it was for me. Still, he can go back and boast about being a member of the lowest ever crowd at a Real Murcia football game and sport his Tour of Spain T-shirt, whilst I will also have not so fond memories of cold fizzy Spanish lager.

In the end, we finished our lunch, the barman made some money and everyone moved on with no problem, but it did get me thinking about stereotypes. In truth, the gang of Brits did little harm, but I could not help feeling that I hoped the locals didn’t think that we all behaved and thought like 
them. It can be difficult sometimes to treat people as individuals, rather than as a member of a group of which you may have a negative impression.

The same thought occurred to me much closer to home when we went out to a local pub to arrange a CAMRA branch meeting. The landlady was telling us how a guy had come in recently and asked if there was a CAMRA discount on the beer. There isn’t at that particular pub, but he had decided to have a half of bitter anyway, and then walked out with the glass. As Lizzie said, if he had asked she would probably have suggested putting a donation in the charity box and she would have let him take it. Fortunately, Lizzie knows us and I hope that she realises that not all CAMRA members are minor thieves. I guess the person in question was not a local, so will probably never read my words, but if he does, why not return the glass and apologise, not so much for the cost of a glass, but rather for the damage to the reputation of CAMRA, an organisation you were keen to be associated with when there was a possibility of some monetary benefit. Let’s show a bit of class with the glass.