31 Jan 60s night at La Montana
Bar La Montana (BLM), as its name suggests is up a mountain. Well, up a hill might be more accurate, the hill above Bedar, in fact, where it stands in a tiny pueblo called El Campico, reached by a series of sharp hairpin bends. It looks like a great little place, whitewashed walls, terracotta-tiled roof, a terrace outside and an open fire inside, coloured glass wall lights, wooden beams, looking quintessentially Spanish mountain but being anything but. Much loved and patronised by the English in these parts, it is ably run by a couple from the Home Counties. We’d only been to BLM once before and were struck then by the absence of any locals – even among the staff, let alone the punters.
60s night confirmed our sense that BLM caters strictly for the expatriate English. Who’s to blame them? It reflects the local demographic; the people with the money to eat out are the English living here, ‘retired’, owning one, maybe two or even three properties. And, after all, although John Lennon apparently wrote Strawberry Fields Forever whilst staying in Almeria, what did the Spaniards have to celebrate in the 60s? Not much, considering they were deep in Franco’s unlovely epoch.
The food at BLM is good, with the occasional Spanish influence on the regular menu and sensible concessions to the excellent local produce. 60s night was, of course, not the occasion for Spanish influence of any kind. No, it was a trip down gastronomic memory lane, snacks of cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks and bite-size slices of celery cradling cream cheese were offered on arrival and washed down with substantial gins and tonic (for the accomplished drinkers) and a light Lambrusco for the wimps or those charged with the car journey back down the hairpins at the end of the evening! Prawn cocktail was followed by fish pie, with sausage plait or beef and ale pie available for the carnivores.
60s music played gently in the background. We weren’t entirely sure what the format for the evening would be – we’d been told there was no dress code. On arrival, I feared there might be, and that our table would struggle to compete for the ‘Best Dressed’ prize. We were noticeably underdressed compared to the other tables where some telling leather and suede, stylish ankle boots and carefully understated bling were in evidence.
A quiz followed the dessert, itself a multiple choice between Black Forest gateau, trifle or jam roly-poly and custard! Our table/team of 6 finished a proud last, what with two of our team members not having even been born before 1970 and our collective amnesia about Mrs Thursday, the songs of The Tremoloes and the year Englebert Humperdinck got to No 1 with ‘There Goes My Everything’ (it was 1967 by the way), simply proving the point, if the other teams had but realised it, that if you remember the 60s, you weren’t really there!
So, it was a strange but oddly enjoyable evening, perhaps on the basis that you can do anything once. Fascinating to see the English in their social milieu up a hillside and on the edge of a Spanish pueblo – it would be too easy to be scornful. But actually it’s inevitable, this clustering of spirits, kindred at least in terms of language, thrown together by their migration to southern Spain and the joys and discontents that that brings and that they share. To be scornful would be to imagine it could be different, that you could fashion some kind of assimilated existence. To really integrate so that you have more than just neighbourliness, so that you find community, camaraderie, society among the Spanish who belong here would be a miracle and it’s not just about language. No, I can see, if I moved here I’d probably do much the same as the Ingleses (in my Escocesa way, of course), maybe making a bit more effort on the lingo. But it’s the moving here, the making of that choice that defeats me – and especially, corny as it sounds, ‘late in life’. Sure, the wine is cheap and, fortunately, the health care is good; the sunshine’s great but the sun goes down at night; the landscape is big and beautiful but the world seems, you know, small.