TERRY MANNERS remembers Peter Caney who died on 20th November 2011 at the age of 62. Peter had a successful career on the Daily Mirror and Evening Standard before moving to the Daily Express to oversee the introduction of computer technology. He could have made it to the very top but he gave it all up by taking redundancy in the late 1980s and moving to Spain to play golf
One of my endearing memories of Peter Caney is watching him as he stood in a patch of scrubland on a hillside overlooking La Manga Club in Spain .
There were just the two of us and his old and battered white Fiat car that had barely made it up the hill.
“The windows of my villa will face this way,” he said, waving his hands towards the vast landscape of haciendas, golf courses, roads, dusty wasteland and goat herds.
This was his dream. He had picked the very spot in the club where he would build a home of his own when things got financially better. The sea was at the back of him and the spectacular view at the front.
Cliff Richard, who rented a villa down the road when he came to play tennis, would be a stone’s throw away.
In the real La Manga world, Caney lived in a tiny studio flat in Bellaluz at the heart of the residential resort.
It was loaned to him by a friend and he boasted he could open the door to the fridge from his bed. “I can grab a beer without having to get up Tel,” he would say.
This was the Caney I knew away from the Street of Shattered Dreams … carefree, mischievous, a free spirit and the resort’s odd job man.
From the Express Backbench and the dawning of new technology to the dawn breaking over the mountains of Murcia.
For many years my wife and I would go on holiday at the sprawling golf haven, nestling in the Spanish hills and would always see Caney … who seemed to roll from job to job.
Bar manager; caddy; gardener; villa sitter; local news sheet editor even. I never knew what he would be doing next.
“Did you bring me any books Tel?” he would always ask. “That’s the only thing I miss about England here – being able to buy a good read.”
We would play golf, him expertly, me badly … and drink at the Windmill bar or the Owners’ Clubhouse, where everyone knew him and where he was a renowned bridge player.
But he wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea … and seemed to leave a trail of jealous husbands and boyfriends in his wake.
I was accustomed to seeing the odd black eye or missing tooth. Women were always attracted to his smouldering good looks and aloof, man-of-mystery manner.
I think they thought they could tame him, well, tame him or mother him. He had a sort of boyish way about him and always looked suntanned, quite muscular and slim, and was enormous fun.
A lovable rogue sort of bloke.
Once, I arrived late one evening from our flight and popped into the small supermarket in Bellaluz Square to get some stuff for the villa, only to hear the loud sounds of Caney, who had enjoyed a medicinal dram or two, holding court as two captivated and giggling senoritas on the tills looked on.
He was perched on the edge of an open freezer packed with boxes of hamburgers and bags of peas, clutching a bottle of San Miguel.
On seeing me he whooped with delight. “Tel!” he roared. Then promptly fell back into the peas and burgers and got lodged. The senoritas helped me pull him out as he roared with laughter, along with everyone else.
On another trip to the resort we visited a bar in the nearby village to find him sitting alone with an empty glass at a corner table, looking sad and lost in thought. He was pleased to see us, but not in the mood for company and left shortly afterwards.
“You sure you’re OK Pete? I asked.
“Peaks and troughs Tel, peaks and troughs. That’s my life,” he said and disappeared into the night.
I would meet Caney on sunny mornings for a round of golf on the South Course where he always blagged us a free electric trolly. Everyone knew him from the club managers and captains to the greenkeepers, secretaries and bar girls.
We would stack the boot with cans of San Miguel and drive from green to green with his most valuable, and only possession in the back … a set of well-worn Mizuno golf clubs.
I envied his amazing and powerful skills with the driver. He took the game very seriously, just like his bridge games at which he was something of a resort champion.
I remember the sound of his laughter at the Windmill bar, I can hear it now.
He would sing Spanish songs surrounded by villa owners, who used to take him out after he tended their gardens … laying lawns, planting bushes and trees and even building patios. I often saw him covered in cement dust, standing by the roadside as we drove down to the sea.
But once sadly, we arrived at the resort to spot his old white battered Fiat in a layby with no wheels. It had finally died … and he had just abandoned it.
That fortnight I tried to find him … but he had simply disappeared. No one knew where he had gone. He had just vanished and had been missing for weeks. He hadn’t gone home to England because he told me he never went back. And he didn’t until his mother died, as far as I know. Why? Well, that’s another Caney mystery.
His life in La Manga was just like the books that he craved for … full of chapters … like the time he part-owned the first resort news sheet. He was Editor, of course, but he tried to bring in the stamp of the Street of Shame to its pages.
So it wasn’t long before the publication suffered a sudden death. The movers and shakers of the resort’s wealthy inhabitants did not take kindly to being sent up on its pages … and cartoon caricatures were the last straw.
So Caney, the loner, moved on to another new job.
Don’t get me wrong … I say loner, but Caney had many, many friends both in Spain and England. The one thing that summed him up for me was when we were talking in a bar late one night about Tenerife, another favourite haunt of mine.
“What I couldn’t get over Tel, was laying on the black sands by the sea in the blistering heat and looking up at Mount Teide,” he said.
“The peak was covered in pure white snow, as if it didn’t really belong here. Strange. A bit like me Tel, eh?”