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An under-researched but interesting beer

Ventura and me
Ventura is a pal of ours. He often turns up at the door of the flat bearing some local delicacy. Last week it was one of the traditional varieties of Cartagena Christmas buns, cordiales, and the week before it was piles and piles of toast. He's lived in Cartagena for a long time and he knows lots of people. They give him things and he hands on the excess to poor unfortunates like us.

We know Ventura, Buenaventura Albaladejo Meseguer, to give him his full name, because he taught at the school Maggie now teaches at. His past is intimately linked with the development of football in Cartagena.

He turned up at the door tonight to ask if I fancied a beer. He had a friend in tow. One of his old footballing pals. They were killing time before watching a footie match on the telly between Barcelona B and Almería. It didn't sound like a big match to me. More Halifax Town v Blyth Spartans than Espanyol v Atlético.

We had the beer outside "el Pani" a local bread and cake shop cum bar. Ventura pointed out a photo on the wall. The owner's actually called Francisco Hernández Solano but everyone calls him el Pani. He used to play for Tarragona, for Nástic, or Gimnástic de Tarragona to give the team it's full name.

I had been served a Galician beer. The feeling was that we should be drinking a more local brew, Azor (Goshawk) was mentioned. I've just checked. Azor was bought out in 1971.

Another man joined us. He was called Paco. He asked why we were drinking Galician beer. Ventura pointed out that he wasn't guilty; he was drinking peach juice. It turned out that Paco used to play for Valencia Football Club.

I was asked if I'd ever heard of a footballer called Di Stéfano. It's just possible I had but I said no, in case there was a follow up question. Apparently Di Stéfano was a famous player particularly during his time with Real Madrid in the late 50s and early 60s. Indeed he was so good that FIFA have him listed as one of the top five players of the 20th Century. I probably should have known his name! Ventura told me that Paco's job was to stop Di Stéfano when Madrid and Valencia met.

It's strange who you can end up having a beer with outside a cake shop in Cartagena on a Friday evening.


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