TERRENO AND PLAZA GOMILA IN THE GOOD OLD DAYSBy ANDREW VALENTE
WHEN you hear AngloAmericans speak of the good old days in Terreno and Plaza Gomila, they are referring to the area's golden years, which started about 50 years ago. This was the period just before the tourism boom of the early 60s, when Magaluf was a vast tract of countryside with one house far away in the distance. Playa de Palma had only the occasional house or hotel along its sweeping ribbon of virgin sands. AngloAmerican writers and artists had lived in Terreno from the early 20s and even before, but there weren't enough of them to form a cohesive group.
But by the late 50s, Terreno was starting to fill up with a memorable bunch of AngloAmerican characters, a variety of Homo sapiens that Majorca had never experienced before or since. One of the reasons Terreno was able to sustain its own foreign community was that several Britons and Americans wanted to live here, but needed a means of making a living. A popular way of doing so was to open a bar. These bars became the focal point of the Terreno social scene. As we saw last week, one of the early bar managers was Maureen Rowland, who started off at The Ivy House and ended up owning the Africa Bar, which she sold only four years ago. The Ivy House and the Africa were two of Terreno's most emblematic bars. Others were Vera's, Mam's, Larry's, The Carrousel, Loa's, The Local, Olé, Totem, all of them run by Britons or Americans. Vera shocked the life out of me the first time I met her, said Maureen. I stopped at the door of her bar and she was inside looking very pretty in a little cocktail dress. She turned round and said, What the fing hell are you doing there in the doorway? Come in you silly devil.* That was Vera. Every other word she punctuated. I'd never heard a woman talk like that. Vera Dorian had been a Pearly Queen, one of the Cockneys who sold fruit and vegetables from street barrows and who, on special occasions, dressed up in traditional ceremonial clothes covered with pearl buttons. As a Pearly Queen she had appeared on a BBC television show, said Maureen. She had a wonderful personality and as the evening progressed everyone in the bar was laughing and singing along with her.
At one time Vera was living with Vincent Hitchcock, the first Englishman to try his hand at professional bullfighting. He performed under the name of El Inglés but never made a big impression on the Spanish bullfight scene. Vincent always maintained that he was related to Alfred Hitchcock, the film director, although some Terrenoites had their doubts. Vincent was a gentleman farmer type of person, said Maureen, and if he said he was a second cousin of Alfred Hitchcock's, then I believe him. Most of the characters in those days had nicknames. There were Jack the Crack, Jill the Pill and others whose names rhymed. Some people were given names to add a bit of colour, but others, who had the same first name, needed a nickname to make them easily identifiable. There were so many Charlies in those days, said Maureen, that we gave them all a nickname, so we could know one Charlie from another. There was Charlie One O Three, so called because his favourite drink was 103 brandy. Then there was Charlie Puta, Charlie Goodtime and Charlie Horizonte. Charlie Horizonte got his name because he always ended the night flat on his back. Charlie Puta had been in the porno film industry, so that accounts for his nickname. (Puta is a Spanish taboo word for prostitute). The Charlie most people remember with great affection is Charlie 103. He was with the American Air Force and stationed in England when he had to crash land, said Maureen. He was badly injured and had to have his face completely rebuilt. He eventually retired to Majorca. He had a fantastic memory and a really high IQ. He used to sit in Plaza Gomila doing the crossword and frustrate the hell out of everyone by putting only the first and last letter of every answer, so no one knew the answers except Charlie. No one seems to know for sure how much 103 brandy Charlie got through each day, but it was an awful lot. His day started off at nine in the morning in Plaza Gomila with the crossword puzzle, a coffee and a 103, said Maureen. After that he hit every bar in Terreno. He did this seven days a week, never failed. He'd sometimes walk into the bar and say, Could I have a gin, please?* but you automatically poured him out a 103. When a guy called Finn ran the Africa Bar, he wrote to the 103 people and told them about this man who drank all these bottles of 103 and gave them a few details of his past history. They were so impressed they gave Charlie a gold medal. I used to have a photograph of Charlie sitting in the Africa Bar with his medal pinned on, absolutely beaming and surrounded by all these bottles of 103. He was absolutely in heaven. It was a sad day for Terrenoites when Charlie 103 died, because he was one of Plaza Gomila's best loved characters. Maureen still remembers the packed funeral service for him. At one point the priest said, We'll now sing Psalm 102.* We all thought he should have gone one more and made it Psalm 103.
Another wellloved character was Colonel Alvah Terry, a wealthy Kentuckian who lived here with his wife Joan. He was a big drinker who eventually bought the Olé Bar, more as a hobby than a business. He didn't actually need the profits. He was a wonderful character, said Maureen. You walked along the street with him and everybody greeted him. He knew everybody, from Joe Blogg to your majesty sort of thing. He was a good friend of the King's father in those days. His greatest thrill in life was getting an earlymorning lift home to his villa in Son Vida on the dustman's lorry. He thought that was great. But for Maureen the most remarkable character of them all is one who is still living on the island: writer Mark McShane. He published his 51st novel last year and the 52nd is due out this spring. Mark is best known for Seance on a Wet Afternoon, which Bryan Forbes turned into a film starring Richard Attenborough, Kim Stanley, Nanette Newman and Patrick Magee. In those days Mark, one of only four per cent of writers who made a living exclusively from writing books, used to work hard all week long at his home in Génova and then come down to Terreno on a Saturday for a bit of fun. Mark was certainly one of the most notable persons I've ever met in my life, said Maureen. He was a weekend local character. Mark really lived it up during those short weekends and he was famous for getting banned from Mam's. Did Maureen ever ban him? Oh, I think everybody did, but not for long. Because if you lost Mark you lost half of the customers in Terreno. They all followed him around. But there was more to Terreno than sheer hedonism. The bars and their customers used to get together and raise money for charity, for instance.
They once organised raffles at a different bar each week and eventually raised enough money to buy 70 blankets for a children's home. The raffle prizes were donated by Terreno people and one was an abstract painting no one wanted, said Maureen. The winners kept giving the painting back, so it was raffled again the following week at another bar. This went on for several weeks until an American sailor won it. He thought it was a great painting and had it packed and sent to the States. Perhaps he knew something about modern art that we didn't know. Maureen still meets up with some of the old Terreno crowd at a Chinese restaurant just along from Plaza Gomila.
They have a drink and then they split up into teams to play Trivial Pursuit. And there's always time for a trip down memory lane when they remember some of the characters of the good old days in Terreno.
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