I had reservations when Brenda suggested we catch a ferry to Ibiza. Not the kind of reservations that sensible people make when they go on holiday, but more the kind that make you think twice about going to an island renowned for its wild sex and drug-soaked parties.
I was anxious. What if we couldn’t find the parties? Or worse, found the parties but weren’t allowed in because we talked funny and dressed like homeless people?
Brenda resolved my quandary by stepping through the doors of Iscomar’s office in the harbour town of Denia and buying two one-way tickets to this wicked isle of sin. One way? I raised an eyebrow and gave Brenda a quizzical look. She asked if my stomach was playing up again.
The ferry was oddly empty. So was Ibiza. When we landed, a chromium-plated platoon of bikers was waiting at the docks. As we disembarked a police siren cut through the air. Instead of making a run for it, some of the bikers hopped off their Harleys and started grooving to the mad, swooping sound. Then a cop joined in, waving his bullhorn in the air and howling like a dog.
“Yeehaaa!” I shouted, waggling my hips like Britney Spears. Everyone stopped and looked at me. Brenda made the international gesture for mental instability and quickly led me away.
The streets were virtually deserted and everything was shut.
“Maybe these fiesta fiends only get out of bed when the sun goes down,” I said hopefully. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Instead, we had once again run aground in the middle of a public holiday.
This kept happening to us. What were the odds, for heaven’s sake? After all, the country only has 342 public holidays a year.
Wherever we went people were either asleep or drunk in the name of either Jesus or any number of patron saints of flowers, horses, chickens, fish, wine and ham.
We sat down at a pavement café and, surprisingly, got served within five hours. This is the average length of time one spends trying to rouse a waiter in what the Spanish euphemistically call the low season. I think they left the ‘s’ off low.
“I don’t want a tortilla,” I said sulkily. “I want to gobble a fistful of methylenedioxymethamphetamine and dance like John Travolta from dusk to dawn.”
Being the sensitive man that I am, I left out the bit about wanting sweaty, semi-naked Balearic wenches to throw themselves at my feet.
Later, trawling side streets that hadn’t been upgraded since the Phoenicians were here in 654BC, we came across a shop renting out scooters that were last ridden during the Second Punic War.
I chose one that was relatively free of Carthaginian bloodstains and we spluttered off in search of hotbeds of abject hedonism.
Ibiza was bigger than I thought and we both ended up with sore bottoms for all the wrong reasons. Still and all, it’s a scenic enough island and most of the beaches have bars on them, which is more than I can say for our country where metro cops wrestle you to the floor and smash your head in if you open a bottle of wine anywhere outside a designated venue licensed by the state to sell alcoholic beverages.
We had only been there a couple of days when I discovered that the island’s autonomous government had introduced legislation forcing nightclubs to close by 6am. This was outrageous and I insisted we leave before the fascists put us under house arrest.
We fled to Formentera, a far smaller island half an hour’s boat ride away.
A cold front had moved in so we hired a car designed for midgets and set out on a voyage of discovery that took all of 20 minutes.
Formentera makes Craggy Island look like Borneo. I even saw the spitting image of Father Ted pass us on his bicycle.
“This place is deader than a stillborn sheep,” I said over a jug of sangria at a lonely beach bar. Brenda’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped. I thought she was having some sort of chemical reaction to the sangria so I quickly polished it off. “Look behind you,” she gasped.
And there, willy a-flap in the breeze, was the reason people come to Formentera. He was hung like a convicted killer and strolling brazen as you please past the bar.
Quite put me off my tapas, it did.
I dragged Brenda back to the car and we found another beach. This one had naked women on it, which made me feel marginally less appalled.
I took my trunks off and stood there for a bit but the sensation that a police sniper was drawing a bead on the back of my head was too much to bear so I put them on again and went for a swim feeling like an overdressed pervert.
Two days later we arrived in Barcelona. Well, not so much arrived as got sucked along in a raging torrent of cars, trucks and bikes and then spat out at Columbus’s statue at the bottom of the Ramblas.
We parked underground and I took Brenda to see where I had once holed up in the narrow back streets of the Barrio Gottica. I was horrified to see the changes.
“Where are the doe-eyed hookers? The hash dealers? Where are the Moroccan muggers in Nike running shoes?” All gone. Swept away when the city hosted the Olympics, an old man told me.
“It was better under Franco,” I said.