A lament for Grumpy’s

Grumpys demolitionI was greatly saddened to day to hear about the demolition of dear old Grumpy’s bar. It brought back so many memories from the early 80s and the carefree, liberated lifestyle we used to lead. In those days there were three main bars where the foreign community congregated – Sandy’s, Fred’s and Grumpy’s.

Sandy’s catered for an odd and anarchic clientele, who used to enjoy passing communal cigarettes around in the hidden garden – ironically almost next door to the Guardia Civil headquarters at the time. It tended to attract the artists and eccentrics.

Fred’s catered for the real old Ancient Brits. Fred himself (who had left the island a few years before I arrived) spoke about 20 words of Spanish and by all accounts was not ashamed of this. Some of his clientele, rumour has it, considered him to be a remarkable linguist.

Grumpy’s regulars fell between these two groups. They were more cosmopolitan than the Fred’s regulars, but refused to countenance the smoking of anything more outlandish than Marlboro’s. they kind of looked down on the Freddists as being too British, but also looked down on the Sandy’s crowd as being drug-crazed lunatics (maybe they had a point).

Fred’s succumbed to the bulldozers many years ago; the actual building that housed Sandy’s is still there (or at least it was last time I was in Ibiza), but with the front wall now demolished and the secret garden open to the outside world, the character of the place has irrevocably changed.

Grumpy’s was the last of the remaining strongholds of the old days. Once known as Los Corrales it was renamed by Mick and Trish Smith, and it seemed to live up to it’s moniker on a regular basis.

I have to take my hat off to Mick, who integrated into the local community very successfully. He spoke excellent Spanish, was a fanatical supporter of the Barcelona football club and celebrated in style late into the night around the local Spanish bars whenever Barcelona won anything, which happened quite often, even in those days.

The barmen in Grumpy’s seemed to take eccentricity to new heights, even for Ibiza. There was Baldomero, the smooth silver-tongued cavalier (in his mind at least) who, it seemed, could not see a woman without trying to chat her up. Then there was Andres with his musical obsessions: to this day I shudder when I hear Dire Straits.

Among the foreign community it was almost an initiation ritual to work in Grumpy’s. Irish Bobby was there for several years, the lovely Marilyn worked there for a long time and I well remember watching, open-mouthed, as the Berlin Wall went down on the bar television while I was waiting from my then girlfriend Gis to finish her shift in the restaurant.

And yes, I worked there myself – I kept the storeroom in order and worked behind the bar one evening a week for a couple of years. Depending on the mood and inclinations of the owners I often found myself running the place.

One of my crowning moments came when I threw the regular barman out of his own bar for rolling a joint in public. That took a bit of explaining when Mick and Trish returned!

Another came when the famous actor Denholm Elliott came in with a group of people from the UK. Now one of the endearing things about Denholm was that he liked being in Ibiza because people did not treat him like a star: he appreciated a joke at his own expense and really hated pomposity.

One of his companions asked me for a Creme de Menthe, which I duly served, with a chunk of ice.

“Oh,” he said in a bitchy tone, “don’t you serve the ice frappé?”
As the great man looked on, I theatrically washed my hands, delicately hooked the piece of ice out of his companion’s drink, added another couple of lumps of ice, carefully wrapped it up in (at least a clean) dishcloth and crashed it hard down on the bartop. The crash caught the attention of the rest of the bar, so I bashed it a few more times for good measure. I tipped a sort of icy mush back into the man’s drink – accompanied by an expectant silence:

Frappé” I announced loudly, with a theatrical bow, as I carefully wiped up the spilt shards of ice.

Fortunately I had gauged my audience well. Denholm Elliott roared with laughter, the rest of the group followed his lead, and his companion was obliged to accept his put-down with good grace. I sometimes wonder what I would have done if Denholm had not seen the funny side!

Thank you to Ibiza Lyn for permission to use her photograph of the demolition. I shall have to have a long drink tonight to toast the demise of Grumpy’s – maybe a Hierbas? What would your favourite Grumpy drink be? Please share your memories in the comments.