The main holiday season is drawing to a close, with families
returning home from the south coast of Spain, for the new school term. The coast is becoming
our favourite beach had become this summer. Just east of Marbella the beaches have lovely soft sand and the water
quality is better than those near Puerto Banus. In August when it is too hot to
go away for the weekend or be too active, it is great just to spend a day on
of the ubiquitous straw sun shades that dot the beaches, it finally dawned on
me how busy the beach was. However, it wasn’t
the other visitors that were creating the sense of noise and activity – it was the host of weekend beach vendors!
nationals coming down from Madrid or elsewhere inland. Mediterranean families seem to be happy to
spend a day together; children play whilst parents drink wine and read. Usually
weekend beach life is calm amongst the visitors – maybe a ball game played
whilst standing in the surf to cool down; or a huge meal of homemade treats and
delicacies. All very different from the northern
Europeans out for the day, where the kids are usually screaming or crying and
the parents are busy threatening various penalties for bad behaviour.
Instead, the disturbance comes from the regular onslaught of
commercial activity on the sea shore.
For example; sub Saharan Africans (known locally as Negritos)
walk the long stretches on beach in the high temperatures, selling luxury
handbags, sunglasses, watches and belts. They manage to carry so much, through
a carefully crafted system where by bags are held along their arms; sunglasses
are piled up on a home-made cardboard display board; wallets are clasped in one hand;
baseball caps in another.
These items are all “knock off” and everyone knows it, but
the promise of cheap bling is seductive.(Strange isn’t, how Luis Vuitton
continues to be one of the most copied
brands; it is so copied from Asia to Europe, that I can’t imagine anyone
wanting the “real thing” anymore).
These sales men usually have a charming smile and have a
knack with languages. Most speak French already, so target the label conscious
French tourists; whilst English enables them to reach most other people. Their sales technique is to announce their
arrival at your sun bed with the “three Bs” “Bueno, Bonito, Barato!” – “Good, Cute & Cheap!”. This usually
entices some people to lower their newspapers or books to cast a glance as the
merchandise. The more educated and
polite proffer a simple, “no gracias”, whilst the more rude Brits often make
eye contact and then fail to make a verbal acknowledgement of their existence.
have made to get to Europe, paying huge amounts of money to human-smugglers to
get them across the straits to Spain or the Canaries in fragile, barely sea
worthy boats without food or water, I think a polite greeting is the least they
choice of merchandise for these guys too. Although now, I just can’t imagine
that there is much of a market for these in a world of PCs, Ipods and internet
downloads – it’s so easy to pirate you own music and movies! So why pay 5 euros
for a dodgy copy of the latest US blockbuster? When you get it home
you discover that it was filmed using a camcorder, held by a someone with a genetic shake,
standing at the back of a Russian cinema full of customers with heavy colds and
The Moroccans and North Africans have cornered the market in
beachwear, selling flowing white and brightly coloured shirts and other
gaudy bejewelled rings seem to be the typical type of customer that stops the
garment trader. The women put down their cigarettes, and start to
systematically go through the garments and then barter an aggressively good
The bohemian and “surfer” lifestyle products area is “owned”
by the Europeans. Tanned, toned and youthful Spaniards offer all manner of
accessories to make you look the authentic beach bum; from arm and leg bands
with tiny shells and stones to ethnic bracelets, necklaces and trinkets. Young women are also sometimes seen
sporting portfolios, pausing to show you some recent artistic masterpiece
they’ve quickly prepared; inspired by the Mediterranean light, the calming lap
of the waves – and the need to pay the rent.
Foot and body massages are the business ventures of the Orientals. Young, curvaceous oriental girls target men
on the beach, with the promise of a relaxing massage or the subliminal promise
of something just that little bit extra. The girls clutch laminated sheets showing the energy lines along the
body, and the reflexology points of the feet. These they hold up in front of
you as they pass, shouting, “Masaje?! Masaje?!” Massage anyone?
Last week it was just getting too much for me. I was spending so much time politely
declining the products and services of half the world, that I had no time to
just chill out!
I went into meltdown, after the third oriental girl called
“masaje?!” at me. I lost it. “No!!” I
" Tranquilo” interjected Rafa, trying to calm me down,
“she’s just trying to make a living…”
“Yes” I reply, “but these girls pass every 10 minutes! They don’t even have a
system for selling to the beach – they just keep going over the same
stretch every 10 – 15 minutes trying to make us all so stressed out that we
need a massage!”
To escape the Sunday Market that was taking place on the
beach, we decided to partake in our usual beach treat – a Paella “especial”,
full of tasty seafood, meat and vegetables, served at the Chringuito up in the
dunes, over looking the beach and sea.. After
the food, together with a jug of tinto verano I was feeling full, satisfied and
relaxed. I was ready to return to the beach, lie down and
read the rest of the papers laid out on the sand..
minutes had passed before I heard, “Masaje?! Masaja?!” again.
I looked up
and I was greeted by a young guy this time, offering a massage. His clean
white T shirt and white base ball cap gave him the appearance of someone quite professional, whilst teamed with well fitting blue jeans, made him rather cute looking actually. He was
obviously quite commercially minded, as I later noticed he only targeted older
women and guys sitting together – he had figured out what was his best
I was about to the take the bait, when a guy near to me said, “yes, please”. I
had been looking at this person earlier in the day. I thought he must be gay by the fact that he
smiled a lot (straight men don’t smile at strangers, ever) and the way he
prepared his sun bed with such care. Yet
I couldn’t figure out the dynamic
between him and the slightly older man and woman accompanying him on his day
out on the beach. I love people watching, trying to figure out the story of
each couple or family.
With this group of three, it was hard. The age difference of the other two was not
significant enough to make them the parents of the guy – but maybe? However, it became a little clearer later in the afternoon.
After the guy had enjoyed his full body massage his mobile
rang and it must have been a friend from England, to who he recounted his day
on the beach,
“Hiya, yeah, on the
beach, yeah, in Spain. Just had a
massage – umm lovely. In fact it was
quite sexy, I even started to have a ‘twinge’ down below! But then I looked up and saw the saggy tits
on fat old Barbara here, sitting next to me on the beach, and the moment went!….
Okay, see you at work next week, bye!!”
So I guessed that the older woman lying topless near him
wasn’t his mum, but a good friend, able to take a bitchy joke in good humour!
Saturday afternoon at the market with Rafa
The main holiday season is drawing to a close, with families