End of story

ONE OF MY old man's favourite bars in Marbella is the Rose and Crown pub, run by Brian and Rita Lampard. Sid gets in there all the time. For one thing they serve Mann's brown ale (Mann's brown is a human right as far as El Sid is concerned) and, if he's coping with solids, they do a nice cheddar ploughman's with Branston pickle too.

The pub is popular with the British ex-pat community. They have bingo three nights a week, a sing-song round the old joanna on a Friday night, and there is always a friendly game of three-card brag upstairs in the private bar on Sunday lunch-times. Dad won a JCB digger with a pair of tens there once.

Last winter there was an English barmaid called Eve Waller working there. In her early fifties, Dad reckons. She and her husband had lived in Marbella for several years, but her husband was away on business a lot and Eve didn't much care for her own company, so she took a job there in the evenings for something to do. She didn't need the money she said - she just did it as a way of getting out and meeting people.

Inevitably perhaps, given his strangely potent power to fascinate certain women, it wasn't long before El Sid had got his kippers under her grill. As I said the other week, although he's just turned 70, and no oil painting, my father is still pulling the birds. To look at him, the only way you can account for it is that he's made a pact with the devil.

"Very ordinary to look at, Eve was," Sid said, when he told me about it afterwards. "She looked like someone you'd see on the District Line. Very obliging, though. You only had to ask. 'Eve Ho Me Hearties' was what we used to call her. When she'd cleared up after work, she loved to get me back to her apartment and have me play the harmonica for her."

Believe it or not, El Sid can play the harmonica. An odd accomplishment for a very odd man. The "Old Rugged Cross", "Moon River", "Ob-la-di-ob- la-da" - you name it, he can play it. No wonder I never took him seriously, even as a child. Personally, I find it difficult to watch anyone play the harmonica without wanting to laugh. Anyway, during an Xmas party at El Rabioso's, Dad had to go and be sick in the lavatory, and he'd pulled the chain before he'd realised that his false teeth had gone down the bowl as well. But the silver lining was that he found he could play his harmonica much better without his Hampsteads than he could before. And since then he's taken up the instrument with renewed enthusiasm.

Eve said that when she heard Sid play the harmonica it made her want to give all her money away and swim naked in the sea. Whenever she stayed the night at Sid's place, she'd always get him to get his harmonica out and play it for her. According to Sid, she had this thing about it apparently. A sort of a kink. Sid reckoned that he would just have to lie there playing "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" on his Lee Oscar with plenty of glissando, and Eve would do the rest.

Well, this particular weekend El Sid had stayed the night at Eve's place, and Eve didn't want Sid to go home. Sid said he felt uncomfortable as he didn't have anything clean to wear, so Eve looked him out a pair of Mr Waller's blue pyjamas and a silk Paisley dressing-gown and they spent the day just lazing around in Eve's apartment, and every now and then Sid got his harmonica out.

The way Sid tells it, on the Monday morning he disentangles himself from Eve's sleepy embrace, gets up, and has a shower. Afterwards he puts on Mr Waller's pyjamas and dressing-gown, steps into a pair of Eve's fluffy slippers that look like big smiley puppy dogs, and goes downstairs to the kitchen.

He fills the kettle at the tap and plugs it in. He takes two slices of white bread out of the Cellophane packet in the bread bin, puts them in the toaster and presses the spring down. He pulls a chair out from underneath the table and sits down to wait. While he is waiting he pulls out his harmonica and starts tootling away.

And while he is tootling away, a key turns in the front door and Mr Waller walks into the kitchen with an overcoat over his arm and carrying a briefcase.

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