The three ladies look comfortable with their drinks, cigarettes and relaxed chat at Bar la Bolera. Are they sisters? Or neighbours and friends? Perhaps both.
Two tables away sits a dapper gentleman of maybe 70. He wears apple green trousers with a matching belt, and a shirt with stripes that ties in nicely. An elegantly stemmed glass of red wine rests in front of him. Occasional sips, languidly taken, lower its crimson level little by little, but never to the point of nothing.
Discreet top-ups are administered by his adult daughter following covert nods to the lady who owns the bar (let’s call her Lola). The gentleman gazes around, unfocused on any single spot behind his dark glasses, wordlessly content.
Victory cries echo from the covered bowls area whence the bar takes its name. The game of Bola Palma is centuries old – a diverting Cantabrian long-term loan that has taken root with its Celtic neighbours in Asturias. Some suggest that pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela brought it with them.
We order cecina con queso de cabra – cured beef circling a charred round of creamy goats cheese, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil (perhaps a touch too much – but there is always white bread to soak it up). It’s a simple concoction that has us all reaching for more, more and more.
Lola’s bar busies up as the sun descends. The village comes alive with kids trawling the streets in search of pokémon (shattering our rural illusion of an untouched Spain). Others pitch down to the well-equipped playground and football ground close by, leaving their parents to drink in the bar. Ours do the same.
Uninitiated we ask for wine and beer. But all around us families prefer sidra (cider), sharing small amounts with practised pourings from above head-height into one thin-glassed tumbler. He or she who pours takes no sip, but passes it on. The drinker takes the mouthful, and tips the rest to the earth. Slowly it goes on.
When nighttime blackens the sky, ladies arrange chairs in a line at the edge of the bar, facing outwards towards the square. Girls take their places and start to dance to the sound of a drumbeat, in preparation for Friday’s Fiesta. Their mothers and grandmothers clap their hands in encouragement.
Later some boys join their friends, and a bagpiper waits for the nod before striking up his music in accompaniment.
The next morning, we stop by for a pre-playa coffee. The apple green gentleman passes by with his dog, then takes a seat with friends. He looks fresh as a daisy. Without a word, a red glassful of wine appears before him. He takes one slow sip.