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Mentioning The Beehive bar in Puerto de la Cruz in my last post about travel writing brought back memories of Harry.

Harry appeared in the bar at various times of the year. Whenever we went there to watch Manchester United play, I’d groan if Harry was occupying a stool at the bar, our favoured football -watching spot, especially if he’d chosen a stool toward the end of the long counter, the part closest to the big television. His bulk would blot out part of the screen, while the fug of smoke from the cigar clenched between his big bear paws would obscure the rest. Sometimes this irritation must have manifested itself audibly. Harry told us after we got to know him better, with an amused glint in his eyes, he used to sit at the end of the bar deliberately, enjoying winding us up with that cigar, listening to our huffs and puffs behind his broad back.

Harry was from Liverpool, something else that didn’t endear him to me. There were a couple of Liverpool supporters who turned up to watch Manchester United play every game (a perverse and masochistic thing to do if you ask me) in the hope we’d lose. In those days, that didn’t happen much, so they usually left muttering, disappointed. Still, having a Liverpool supporter between me and the screen wasn’t something I was particularly happy with. But Harry turned out to be an Evertonian and, fug of cigar smoke apart, didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the game. Mostly, he sat there quietly. Any comments he made were considered and fair, something that set him apart from the ABUs (anyone but United) in the bar.

The more times we sat behind him, the more my feelings toward Harry gradually changed; from irritation at his imposing presence to intrigue about this good-natured bear of a man, and then, as we got to know him better, to being quite fond of him. Behind his thick, gold-framed glasses were intelligent eyes. He was quietly amusing and had a calm, confident aura about him. Although softly spoken, he was larger than life. With his big bushy beard and solid frame, I imagined him as a sort of Ernest Hemingway type character. Hemingway’s biographer Jeffrey Meyers described the author as, “tall, handsome, muscular, broad-shouldered, brown-eyed, rosy-cheeked, square-jawed, soft-voiced…” most of which could equally well have described Harry. He also dressed how I imagined Hemingway might have dressed while sitting at a bar in Key West.

At some point over time, we became friends with Harry, discovering with a shock that he was in his seventies – he looked twenty years younger. He was smart, a good conversationalist, and his opinions informed and reasoned rather than ready-made headlines from the UK tabloids, unlike some of the bar’s other transient patrons. Although he wasn’t secretive, it was never clear what Harry’s occupation was in Liverpool. He must have been retired, but he told us that when he was at home, he went to the gym every day to ‘keep himself in shape’, which explained his muscular bulk. I can’t remember why, whether it was something he said, but we had the impression Harry’s life in Britain was, let’s say, somewhat colourful and unconventional.

That suspicion was more or less confirmed after we mentioned, while casually chatting during a game, that a client we worked for in the south of Tenerife hadn’t paid us for many months, and we were owed thousands of euros.
‘Would you like me to have a word with him for you?’ he responded quietly on hearing this.
I think Andy and I both laughed.
‘No, seriously,’ his voice remained as soft and steady as ever, as if we were still discussing football, the perpetual sparkle of amusement at the world in general in his eyes. ‘Just say the word, and I’ll get the money you’re owed, don’t worry.’
I’ll be honest. For a few moments we considered accepting his offer. But we declined, saying, ‘Thanks, I’m sure we’ll get it sorted.’
We knew that was highly unlikely, but accepting we were never going to see the money we were owed was preferable to unleashing this bear of a man.

I suspect that businessman in the south will never know how fortunate he was he never got to meet our friend Harry in person.

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Jack Montgomery

Jack is an author, travel writer, photographer, and a Slow Travel consultant who has been writing professionally for twenty years. Follow Jack on Facebook for information about his writing, travel tips, photographs, and tales of life in a tiny rural village in Somerset.

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Some of the items on this site won’t be to everyone’s liking, I get that. Basically this is my place, my wee studio to mess around in – experimenting with words and thoughts. I’ll be chuffed if you enjoy it, but if you don’t, c’est la vie. As a friend used to tell me “it would be a boring life if we all thought the same.”

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