Lessons from the dirty Virgen!

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IT was the nearest eating place around. Well, it also was the only eating place around. Today it is just an unnoticed relic on the beach.

But it was once the centre of the entire universe of the beach of Mojacar. I must have spent half my early Spanish life in the place. The day began with breakfast there and you just didn’t go home at night unless you had one last ‘copa’ with the family.

The Flores family that ran it were soft and kind and very receptive to the differing entourages of constant visitors that frequented their establishment. And it was there that I learned an important lesson in life. Now that I’ve grown older I have decided to relinquish the secret and pass it on – before I forget.

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The place was really called the Virgen del Mar and it wasn’t dirty at all. We only called it that as they had the custom of sweeping up the joint 4-5 times a day. During the intermittent hours they served a good rural cuisine to the visiting world that came in droves.

Once their meals were over everything from the table was dumped to the floor wherein with perfect erratic timing the floors were swept, drunks lifted back up and placed in their chairs and business went on late into the night. Bad luck for you if you were eating during one of the sweep up operations, but that goes with life’s bad luck and how things happen.

Now on one daily occasion I was waited on by one of the younger sisters. I noted it as I had to tell her what I wanted whereas the older sister Rosa always there and always took my order knew the same combination daily for the last four years—a slice of tortilla, pan and a café con leche. (Hey, you’re reading Spanish — EXTRA drink at sundown tonight).


All went normal and without variance until I asked for the bill. Josephina nodded and strolled away to the food hatch to shout at her mother: “Mama, how much for a coffee and tortilla?”

Now I thought that was a dumb and stupid question as that was pretty much all they ever sold there in those days for breakfast. There wasn’t bacon and eggs, nor croissants, nor anything else but the occasional brandy with the café.

You’d think she would know what that meal cost?—but she didn’t. And in her mother’s reply belted out from the far recesses of the kitchen became a golden nugget on my path of garnering wisdom.


Came the bellowed reply: “Para quien es?” Who is it for? Such is the law of the land. This land and many, many, others. Learn it well as it helps when balancing the scales of justice. Who said Life was fair?

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