It was a very late night, or rather the early hours of the morning. It seemed that after a very good night with a leisurely dinner, a concert and a few drinks that we would have to wait a very long time for the next bus to our home in the south of the island.
The bus station was deserted, our usual cafe bar closed many hours ago, the vending machine was out of order and what I really wanted was a long, cool drink of water. It was rare that we had experienced a time that was so quiet in Gran Canaria’s impressive capital, Las Palmas, which as Spain’s seventh largest city, we had always assumed was a city that never sleeps. This night was the exception.
We sat in the deserted bus station. Stretched out on one of the benches in the far corner was the shape of a body huddled beneath an old and dirty blanket; no doubt one of the many homeless people in the city who had decided to make the bus station a place of refuge until morning. It was going to be a long night.
As my ears adjusted to the near silence, I could hear the faint sound of lively music coming from the far end of the bus station. Maybe it was music playing from one of the many apartments in the area. I decided to investigate further, in the hope that I might find an all night cafe bar.
As I walked towards the far end of the bus station, the music became louder and louder, and I could see that the lights were on. Yes, it was a bar, and the good news was that it was still open. I could get a bottle of water, and maybe a coffee.
Peering through the haze of smoke inside the bar, I could see many people laughing, talking and dancing. As my eyes adjusted to the light and dense smoke, I could see that many people were dancing in the centre of the room in what served to be a makeshift dance floor. Small tables and stools around the edge were filled with middle aged and elderly men and women chatting to each other.
It was as if I had suddenly stepped back in time. I could see men, as well as women, smoking cigars as well as cigarettes. Since the law banning smoking in bars came into force, this was a sight that I had not seen for some time, although I am well aware that small bars, and particularly those open late at night still flout the law, when the owners perceive that they can get away with it.
It was traditional music and dancing, together with strumming guitars, and stomping feet that captivated my attention. It was a little like experiencing a small bar in Havana during one of those films set in Cuba in the 50s and 60s, yet with more than a hint of TV’s ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.
However, this time there were no glitter balls, sequins, flowing flamenco dresses, or talkative judges holding scorecards, but an earthy combination of cigar smoke and sweat. Although trainers and jeans were mostly the order of the day, several woman and men wore sturdy shoes with impressive heels that gave the impressive click that their dance steps demanded.
Although I am not a dance expert, thanks to ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ I could recognise Flamenco, the Paso Doble and Bolero. There were others that I did not recognise, including one where several couples joined hands and danced in a circle, which I was told by one couple was a traditional dance from Catalonia, the Sardana.
I watched the scene unfolding with an increasing degree of admiration for the older members of the group. Certainly, some looked quite infirm, with a few relying upon walking sticks.
However, even they took part in the slower numbers, albeit unsteadily. In their minds, they had become young and healthy once again. What a tonic!
I felt a little like Doctor Who, slipping through a vortex in time to discover something new and exciting that appears only now and again, or maybe I am thinking of Brigadoon? I glanced at my watch; it was time to catch the next bus home. I would love to have stayed longer to witness even more ‘Strictly at the Bus Station’.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his book, ‘Expat Voice’ (ISBN: 9780992767174). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle, iBooks and Google Play editions.
iPhone/iPad and Android Apps: ExpatInfo, CanaryIsle and CanaryGay now available.
© Barrie Mahoney
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