Review: More Ketchup than Salsa- Confessions of a Tenerife Barman; Joe Cawley

Cockroaches, cockroaches, cockroaches… (4 stars)

Source- Bought copy

Summersdale- 2006

Kindle- 374 pages

Ah, Tenerife. Sun, sea, sand… and if this memoir is indeed accurate, lots of cockroaches, shady hit men and seemingly one farcical disaster after another.

In this true memoir from an ex-pat abroad, we meet Joe, his girlfriend, his brother David and his sister-in-law who impulsively decide to invest in a bar venture in Tenerife in the early 1990’s. With no experience, they risk everything and go where many Brits have headed before: for that ever-promised ideology of a better life abroad. Leaving behind rainy Lancashire they take over the Smuggler’s Tavern in an up-and-coming Canarian resort; but is this opportunity really a chance for adventure and escape- and is a life in the sun all it is really cracked up to be?

Cawley’s writing style is really chatty and engaging and it draws you right into the events, from his departure from his fishmonger’s job in Bolton market, to his arrival in Tenerife. Filled with funny anecdotes all the way through, his ways with description are vivid and humorous and make you aware of a side of the Canarian island that the holiday-makers don’t always get to see. (I have to say; that I will be exceedingly cautious now of what is lurking in any pub kitchen should I happen to head over there…)  From the lax approach to health and safety, not to mention kitchen hygiene, this recap of what transpired is a really enlightening read.

Whilst humorous, the tale is also illuminating in places as it draws upon issues that the group had with the finickity bureaucracy of the island, as well as the horrors they had in trying to run the bar itself- not to mention all the hard work the entire process actually entailed and the impacts it had on relationships. It really would make anyone question trading their lives in for the promise of a better life abroad- because as this book demonstrates, it doesn’t always live up to expectations.

The writing in this memoir flowed really well and it was certainly engaging enough to hold my attention throughout. I would definitely welcome reading a follow up to this book and hope one is on the way in future. This is a must-read for anyone looking for a better life in the sun who is maybe seeking a reality check (!) or anyone who appreciates a well-written memoir.

2 responses to “Review: More Ketchup than Salsa- Confessions of a Tenerife Barman; Joe Cawley

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