THE pink champagne was on ice and her favourite corner table was laid and waiting for the first night out of her holiday.
Set to dine with her eldest son Robert, 44, and a close friend, Alex, by all accounts Cilla Black would have been excited about the night ahead.
A three-decade visitor to theatrical Robbie’s restaurant, in central Estepona, the table had been booked for some time.
Everything was set for the start of her traditional summer sojourn on the Costa del Sol.
But then, just one hour before she was due to arrive at 10pm, restaurant owner Robbie Anderson, 72, received a short, poignant phone call from Robert to cancel the booking.
“He said he was really sorry but Cilla was not well and they wouldn’t be coming to eat that evening,” revealed Anderson, clearly close to tears.
Now realising that the feted call had come just hours after the superstar’s untimely death at 72, the Australian added: “I am completely numb as we had the pink champagne on ice, as ever, and we always had so much fun.”
He continued that the British TV and singing star had been a ‘very special friend’ to him and the pair regular lunched together.
The former Blind Date host had also been dining at his popular restaurant for an incredible 35 years.
She regularly brought her celebrity pals, including Cliff Richard, Jimmy Tarbuck, Michael Parkinson, Christopher Biggins and Paul O’Grady.
“They were excellent friends to her and particularly cheered her up after her husband’s death.
“She was a brilliant client and always used to joke that rather than doing exercise while on holiday she needed to drink from heavier glasses.
“She was always such a good laugh and very warm. She really came alive when she was here.”
However, he added, that over the last year her health had somewhat deteriorated and she had not been her usual ‘bouncy, robust self’.
He continued: “The last time I saw her last August she was clearly in pain. She wasn’t the usual Cilla I knew and I was hoping she would be better this time.”
Clearly, however, that was not to be.
For after an accident on Saturday afternoon, Cilla passed away in her Estepona villa in the upmarket El Paraiso area.
The results of an autopsy examination were unofficially released by her sons yesterday showing that she had suffered a stroke after falling over and hitting her head.
Spanish authorities confirmed to the Olive Press last night that her body was due to be picked up as soon as possible for burial in the UK.
Cilla Black had been a long-term visitor to the Costa del Sol since the 1980s, when she bought her four-bedroom villa Casa Roll in a ‘rocked-up’ play on the word ‘casserole’.
“She could never bring herself to sell the house even though it became a burden towards the end, the kids would protest saying it was their home,” explained Robbie.
“When she first bought it, it was surrounded by countryside, absolutely stunning.”
He continued: “I often got invited me to her magnificent summer parties there.”
A true patron of the Costa del Sol, the Liverpudlian, who had a string of Top Ten hits and was a friend of the Beatles, regularly dined at local restaurants.
These included Peggotty’s and Live Lounge bar (formerly Beaky’s Gig Bar).
Local residents said she was never seen out without her high heels and was always immaculately turned out.
Cilla’s death ended up being fitting, given that last year she said she did not wish to live beyond the age of 75 and was suffering from arthritis and hearing problems.
While the international community grieves this loss, local residents in Spain will always remember the national treasure who, in Robbie’s words, ‘refused to be the big star.’