I am a night owl. My brain, or what is left of it now, does not function so well during daylight hours, but wakes up around 10pm and is ready for breakfast.
This late night life I attribute to having owned a bar for 7 years, here in Javea. My family and I arrived in Spain just after the mega Gota Fria of 2007, which we missed by just a few days. We had tired of Nanny State UK and the London life and so, as many others have done in the past, we sold our house (to a Spanish family!), packed up our troubles in the old kit bag, a van, “Shogie” my trusty old 4 x 4 and exited the M25 for the last time.
Our journey over the following 12 years has been remarkable, in many different ways and I have several stories, varying from panic mode to unforgettably hilarious that I will probably relate in more of my meanderings in the future as I can see myself digressing yet again.
So, going back to 2007 and being thrown in at the deep end with our “New Life In The Sun”… yes that old cliche…. We set about buying a bar. “Why on earth would you do that?” I hear many of you say. Well, is that not what all ex-builders from London do? What could go wrong? We had some money, we were still young enough to work, we had run small businesses, so, quoting that famous, RAF saying by Eric Partridge, it would all be a “Piece of Piss” !
We were soon to find out how very wrong we were and it would take far more than this one blog to tell all the tales of the totally naive and unprepared rookie couple who landed in paradise in search of a very different life.
Suffice it to say that, after a short break in a lovely rented villa in Altea Hills, we went in search of a bar and found, what we thought would be an ideal venue in Javea. We fell in love with it ( as one does) and had visions of buying a little villa down the road, complete with pool and terrace for when we had our relaxation time plus, something we had always wanted…. a driveway with “chuckies” that made that sort of luxurious swoooshing sound when you drove in. The dreams were so much fun!
What we did not realise, having only ever really been on the drinking side of a bar or helping in the local when they were short staffed.. was that “Life Behind Bars”, is actually exactly that!
From the day we took that key until the day we handed it over to its new owners, 7 years later, we perhaps swam in a pool half a dozen times at 3 am, sat on the terrace doing the books for a couple of hours a week and that swooshing noise.. well that novelty didn’t last long!
For the first few months we didn’t know what hit us, although, I have to say, that as a family of quite, shall we say, “big boned” people, the fact that we lived for 3 months on a handful of peanuts every couple of hours, did wonders for our figures and between my partner, my daughter and myself, I think we managed to lose a whole one of us in weight! We were constantly knackered and Dracula’s eyes looked perfectly pretty compared with ours, but if we kept the “gaffas de sol” on, we all appeared pretty damned fit!
It took us at least a year to stop listening to advice from people… advice such as “You should turn your snooker room into a gym” .. yeah because that wouldn’t cost much would it? “ You should really sell real British Ale”……. “You shouldn’t charge so much for… fill in the blanks….. as we know what it costs and we can buy it in the supermarket”…. “ You should stock X-Brand Quadruple Malt Whiskey ( for when I come in twice a year)” and the famous “OMG you have increased that by 20 cents after 5 years… I can go down to X-Bar and get it cheaper” Maybe so, but you will do €3.00 in petrol getting there and back in that Jag. mate!
Now I know that you are now wondering how on earth we lasted so long, which is a fair question and one which I would answer by saying that in those seven years, as tiring and as financially unrewarding as it was, it was hard to give up as it had become your whole life.
Yes, it can, and did, cause a lot of heartache one way or another, but it also held some of the most memorable and funny moments in our lives. Moments such as when we had to break up a fight by two very drunk men, so drunk in fact that neither could actually manage to grab, or even get near his opponent. It was like watching the fight in the fountain in Bridget Jones Diary and the more they tried, the funnier it became. It was only women on bar duty that night and we took them both down with just one hand, like Ninjas, despite having a fit of the giggles!
Christmas and New Year parties were brilliant…I used to go mad with the fairy lights and one year I replaced all the outside terrace light fittings with red Christmassy bulbs, only to then receive a call from my eldery Spanish landlady asking me to remove them as it looked like a brothel from the road. Ooops!
So, returning to my original intro…. This is the reason I am a night owl, even after 4 years away from life behind bars, I have never been able to return to the “normal” world. My body clock will, I am pretty sure, be breakfast at 2pm, dinner at 11.00 pm and to bed as others are hearing their alarms, until the day I clock out for good.
And so, if there is anyone out there thinking of fulfilling their dreams by taking on a Spanish bar, think very long and hard.. You need to be prepared for long and sometimes boring hours, you need to be able to smile at all times, listen to people’s problems, which, on some occasions, fade into insignificance compared with your own, but NEVER give advice as that comes back and bites you in the bum!
Unless you have a lot of money to employ staff, you need to be able to clean, cook, shop, balance accounts, fix minor plumbing and electrical problems, move furniture, be a DJ and Agony Aunt but most of all, make sure you like peanuts… they keep you alive for weeks!
Oh, now I miss it all…. Anyone selling a bar cheap?