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More Ketchup Than Salsa
Confessions of a Tenerife Barman
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When Joe and his girlfriend Joy decide to trade in their life on a cold Lancashire fish market to run a bar in the Tenerife sunshine, they anticipate a paradise of sea, sand and siestas. Little did they expect their foreign fantasy to turn out to be about as exotic as Grimsby on a wet Monday morning. Amidst a host of eccentric locals, homesickness and the occasional cockroach infestation, pint-pulling novices Joe and Joy struggle with ‘Brits abroad’ culture and learn that, although the skies might be bluer, the grass is definitely not always greener. Dubbed ‘Little Britain with a suntan’, More Ketchup than Salsa lifts the lid on the morning-afters as well as the night-befores of life in a busy holiday resort. A must-read for anybody who has ever dreamed about jetting off to sunnier climes.
Summersdale Publishers Ltd.; November 2007
312 pages; ISBN 9781840247886
, or download in
312 pages; ISBN 9781840247886
, or download in
It was whilst holding aloft a not altogether pleasantsmelling mackerel that the decision was made. Blood dripping from a rabbit dangling overhead tinted the cold water from the fish and rolled down a white sleeve. The March rain hammered on the rotting tin roof high above the stall and where there was more rot than metal columns of water plunged onto the shuffling shoppers below. Their faces were drawn and bleak like a funeral cortege following the last remains of hope. From life they expected nothing – save a nice piece of cod at a knockdown price. Northern England in March. Northern England for most of the year, in fact. I was 28. There had to be more. I lowered the fish to eye level, ‘Is this my life?’ The fish said nothing but I already knew the answer. I had worked on Bolton market for six months forcing myself out of bed at 3.30 every morning to spend 11 hours knee-deep in guts and giblets, selling trays of dubious fish and chicken at three for a fiver. The freezing cold and the smell I had grown used to but the pinched expressions of fellow passengers on the bus journey home still brought about a great deal of embarrassment. It couldn’t be denied, in the inverted language of market traders I was lemsy (smelly) from deelo (old) fish. Word inversion was useful when you didn’t want customers to understand. ‘Tar attack!’ would have all the workers scuttling for higher ground onto splintered pallets or battered boxes of chicken thighs stacked at the back of the stall as a rat the size of a bulldog decided it was time for mayhem. Originally dubbed the poor man’s market in what was a working man’s town built on the prosperity of the local cotton mills, Bolton market was subsidised by the council to provide cheap food and clothing for lowincome workers. (In a flourish of affluent delusion it has since been completely refurbished and modernised. The rats get to scamper around on fitted nylon carpets amid designer lighting franchises. An elegant coffee shop offering vanilla slices on dainty china now occupies the spot where once the best meat and potato pie sandwiches in Lancashire were messily consumed by fishy-fingered stall workers like me.) It was an undemanding job both physically and mentally, which suited me fine. Stress was for the rich and hardworking, characteristics that were never going to be heading my way. That’s not to say that I was content. A string of menial jobs had taught me that contentment is not always found on the path of least resistance but I had found myself meandering towards that monotone British lifestyle of school-job-pension-coffin and something needed to be done, fast. I had grown bored with the same old stallholder banter – ‘We’re losing a lot of money, but we’re making a lot of friends,’ or ‘Oh yes love, it is fresh, it will freeze.’ I was becoming unamused by the teasing of old ladies as they stood at the stall with purses wide open, names inadvertently displayed on their bus passes. ‘Hello Mrs Jones. Fancy seeing you here.’ From beneath a crocheted hat the gaunt figure would try to force a vague recollection. ‘I… err…’ ‘You remember me, don’t you, Mrs Jones? I used to come round your house for tea every Friday.’ ‘I… I think I do. Yes, yes. Now I remember,’ she would say with a weak smile. Even the daily competition to land a rabbit’s head in Duncan’s hood had lost its appeal. Duncan was a mentally retarded hulk who, although teased mercilessly by the market crew, was also well looked after by them. They gave him pocket money that he spent on Beano comics and Uncle Joe’s Mintballs, and made sure that no harm came to him from occasional gangs of skinheads that, for want of anything more constructive to do, would try to beat him senseless.