Wednesday, June 30, 2010

EIVISSA - the new arrivals - day 3

The sound of the waves pummelling the beach of Cala San Vincente beckon me slowly from sleep, drifting up out of comforting dreams. The steady rhythm of the waves is intoxicating, soothing, and gently guides me back to the land of slumber.

I sit up in bed with a start. The light peeking out from the edges of the bedroom curtains is bright. I fumble for my watch, blinking rapidly to clear my vision. My watch reads 10 a.m., but I remember it is still set on GMT, having forgotten to set it forward earlier in the year. So it's 11 a.m. No, it's not. We are in Ibiza, Spain - one hour time difference - which means: It's midday!

Christ, where were they?! Where were The New Arrivals?!!

No idea of their flight times, no idea. Kathy rolls over, still deep in sleep. The realisation dawns like the day did six hours ago: It's all up to me.

I stumble out of bed, make my way across the unfamiliar landscape, banging knee on this, shins on that. I spot the green light. Kathy's phone has no missed calls. Okay, okay, everything is fine, they haven't landed yet. There's plenty of time. Dropping back onto the bed, eyes heavy again, images from last night blurring at the beginnings of a dream, the sound of the waves crashing, crashing, crashing . . .

No! I have to stay awake. The New Arrivals will be landing at the airport soon - they might need my help. They might phone asking where the car rental desk is at the airport. They might phone about the best route across the island. They might call about finding their way to Cala San Vincente. They would definitely call about finding their way to Cala San Vincente. Those winding roads, the turn offs, the Nascar section. Christ, they might even be stuck with a manual car. They definitely would be stuck with a manual car. The One Finger Man was still out there, driving around the island, rocking his head back, laughing.

I get up quickly, grab Kathy's phone and head downstairs. I lay out the map of the island on the table, ready to guide them from the airport to the villa, shaking my head clear. When they call, lost somewhere on the island, needing a guiding hand to direct them to safety, I needed to be alert and on the ball.


Who was that?! It was coming from outside. Someone at the front gate? It couldn't be The New Arrivals, no way. They were on the hard shoulder of the C-731, realising they should be on the C-733, just about to call me to ask how to find their way across the intricate roadways of Ibiza. Calling me for my navigational expertise. No, the person at the front gate is an interloper.

Taking a deep breath, I venture out onto the patio, the sun a sharp glare, glinting off the pool. There is movement around the side of the villa; the sound of the front gate falling back into place. My heart is racing. My throat is parched. I need water. A brief flashback to last night makes me think again. I squint. I need my sunglasses. Another flashback. Damn.

"Is anyone there?" someone calls.

It's now or never! This interloper needs to be confronted with confidence. Maybe it is a drug crazed maniac. Maybe it is a serial killer. Maybe it's the black cat that we have been warned about.

"Hello? Is anyone home?"

No, probably not the cat.

I turn the front corner of the villa, body ready for battle, mind ready for anything. Paul and Christy are standing at the other end of the villa, peering through the laundry door. Their heads turn and they spot me. We're all smiles and laughter. Harry is in Christy's arms giggling and wriggling. Paul and Christy - The New Arrivals have made it! I'm too proud to boast about my contribution to that fact - without me, alert and on the ball, their holiday would've been ruined, wandering the villa grounds searching the front door that they would never find - they were looking through the laundry door for heaven's sake!! I'd saved their holiday. What a champ.

I clear my throat.

"Any problems getting here?"

"Not at all."

"Pretty tough place to find though, isn't it? You know with the winding roads, the turnoffs, the Nascar section."

"Not really. Straight forward actually."

"Yeah? Straight forward. Hmm. Driving an automatic I suppose?"

"No. A manual."

"Well, okay. Let me take you into the villa. Through the front door. It's around here."

Paul and Christy walk into the villa and are immediately blown away - the view, the interior, the sounds, the smells. They love it! Kathy and Tam emerge from their respective corners and we all bask in our greatness - smug and content in our holiday villa.

Paul and Christy haven't met Tam before, so introductions are made. No uncomfortable silences here. All good stuff. In fact, by the end of the night, all five of us would be enjoying each other's company over red wine and paella at a restaurant on the beach just down the road - toasting to a great summer holiday in Ibiza.

To kill the time before that, we sit back and relax - soaking up the glorious view, soothed by the sound of the ocean on sand, loving it sick, but this time, loving it sick times five.

Actually, make that six: Harry is loving it too, exploring every corner of his new pad, taking everything in. You could see in his eyes that he is cataloguing everything, clocking this, registering that - the white walls, the sliding doors, the three steps leading into the lounge room. Oh, those steps - plenty of good times ahead there I can tell you. Not only that, he has a new crew - Mum and Dad of course - blood. The tall git who keeps going on about maps and front doors. The two beautiful girls who absolutely adore him and melt like butter with just the slightest cheeky smile. Everything is perfect. The crew. The shiny pool. The deck chairs. The remote control for the television. His toys. Yeah, he thinks as he falls onto his bottom on the floor - I'm one cool eighteen month old!

He slaps his hands on his knees: Come on, Mum! Come on, Dad! Warm up your singing voices - it's party time! Ibiza style!

Monday, June 14, 2010

EIVISSA - agua, agua, everywhere - day 2

Wake up to the sound of crashing waves - wake up in heaven. Blinds drawn against the light in an effort to catch some sleep; blinds open up to a view that takes the breath away.

Cala San Vincente - our home for the next ten days. A small secluded beach, unrestricted panoramic views, a porn star villa.

We walk around the interior of the villa, eyes wide, smiles wide, shaking our heads in disbelief, all the while the sea and the sky in our peripheral, the sound of the waves in the background. Heaven in Spain. Villa is well equipped, well set out. Kath and I take the top floor bedroom with the communal terrace; downstairs double bedroom will go to Paul and Christy (and little Harry); outside apartment will go to Tam and Heidi. Room for a lot more if need be, with spare mattresses, sofas and floor area. Large kitchen with rock star cooker and oven, kick ass fridge and enough cutlery and plates and glasses to cater for thirty. Thumping sound system in front room, cute ass pool overlooking view, complimentary Cava and Rose in the fridge - sorted. Retirement pad will look something like this.

Spend a good thirty minutes lounging on the front patio, looking up at the cloudless sky, listening to the waves, saying nothing. But need to move, things to do.

Take deep breath and head down to the car. The manual. Kath settles in, I grab the map - work out our way to the airport. Trip goes pretty well until the airport - dispute over where to park car - still thinking we could do a swap for an auto. No chance though - the only auto in the fleet is out on the road already, some chap fat-arming it around the coast, driving the car with one finger on the wheel, loving himself. We curse the One Finger Man. We curse the Car Rental. We curse the Gear Stick. But then Tam walks out of Departures and we hug and smile and remember where we are: Eivissa - sun, sand, party.

Tam is a bit wrecked, not unlike ourselves. Her trip started at 3 a.m. in Les Masseries, France and involved trains, planes and automobiles in order to arrive on our island. Already calling it "our" island - already loving it sick. Return to the palace via missed turnoffs and windscreen wiper turns and an off piste supermarket man who stocks us up with wine, bourbon, Malibu, wine, baileys, wine and food. Bottled water also on the list - tap water in villa is not too shabby but leaves a bit of an unsettled feeling in the guts - advisory note: avoid.

Tam's jaw drops at the villa and the view; secures herself down in the apartment for a well earned kip. Not too long after, all of us reasonably well rested, preparations for tonight begin. Preparations involve drinking and dancing and getting suitably dressed. Suitably dressed involves wearing bathers and bikinis under our party gear and packing beach towels.

We're off to Es Paradis!!!

Kath sacrifices herself again and gets in behind the wheel. We're all looking cool as piss - I've got a black hat on and I'm wearing sunglasses - it's just gone midnight. Across the island we go - heading to San Antoni - home to the binge drinkers and ugg boot wearers of the world. Little traffic and some excellent driving and we arrive without incident. Park a little down the way in a vacant lot doubling as a car park. Psych ourselves up. Wet ourselves with excitement at the sight of the illuminated pyramid that is Es Paradis. It's time to party at the opening party of the infamous agua party. Agua, agua, everywhere - but not yet.

Es Paradis nightclub is pretty big - a couple of different levels, dance floors here and there, and in the middle, a Roman bath type scenario with pillars and steps and a small elevated stage where resident hot bod dancers writhe and wriggle to the House tunes. It's reasonably quiet at this stage of the night (morning?) but people are filing in. We head to the bar and spend 30 Euro on a bottle of wine - yeah, pretty pricey, but to be expected. We also get on the tap water to keep us hydrated - risking severe vomiting, but not paying for bottled water - priorities. We take up a possie on the top step of the Roman bath amongst big fluffy pillows and start to boogie.

Hours and hours of dancing fly by - we are loving ourselves - enjoying the music, marvelling at the dancers, blinking not once but twice at the price of a can of Red Bull. Kathy hands out Chuppa Chups like a clandestine dealer of the Next Big Thing and people's heads turn. The Chuppa Chups give us a kick of sugar; the one can of Red Bull shared amongst three does the same, but kicks the wallet too, leaving it screaming in pain (Oh, and for the record: nine euro).

Four fifteen a.m. - Es Paradis is rocking, the columns surrounding the centre of the Roman bath dance floor are shaking, the music is pounding, we three are listing, struggling, but still dancing. I enquire at the bar and am told that things kick off at 5. I groan. I tell the others. We groan. But we keep at it, as the air of anticipation in the crowd is tangible.

Five rocks on by - no movement from anyone except the revellers - bumping and grinding. We wonder when we should shed our party clothes; where we should put them, but we make no move just in case we miss something. The pillows have been removed from the steps in preparation. Anticipation builds. Five thirty - there's movement, the suspended stage retracts up into the ceiling, the hired dancers done for the night. The crowd starts to go wild. Kath, Tam and I take a couple of extra steps down, closer to the main dance floor. People are looking up at the heavens, waiting, dancing, waiting.

"I'm singing in the rain; just singing in the rain. What a glorious feeling, I'm happy again."

The crowd cheers. Gene Kelly keeps singing. People below us start to look down, not up. Water is filling the dance floor from hidden pipes. The party animals below us start splashing and laughing like children. Gene cranks it up. We teeter on the edge of the steps, wanting to get involved. Don't have to wait long - large, long loops of water spurt out from behind us, jets built into the steps, shooting out litres and litres of water. Gene Kelly gives way to deep bass. The dance floor fills up with more party animals and more water. One wrong step and you get a jet stream of water up your shirt or dress. Water sprays down from above. Everyone is getting drenched, including us. No time to change - clothes get completely wet, bathers and bikinis dry underneath.

Water keeps filling up for twenty minutes, up to people's waists. Bodies fly forward into the water; cheeky ones splash water back up at those on the steps. One body tips into Kath, I catch her and go down. Get slightly wet, but not too bad. We decide it's time to retreat a few steps. Tam avoids another falling body. Kath and I stand just outside the Roman bath area - start to shiver. Everyone not involved watch from the various raised floors and dance floors. A spectacle; an amazing spectacle.

We are starting to get cold now, half an hour since the taps were turned on. A decision is reached between the three of us: time to go. Six a.m. and we are wet and tired but thrilled and excited. But shivering. We leave for the cloakroom to pick up our bags - stupidly didn't leave a towel or a spare set of clothes in the bag. All of it is still in the parked car - about three hundred metres up the road - outside. It's cold in the foyer, near the cloakroom - outside, its 6 a.m. and sunrise - and freezing!!!

We make a dash for it, running down the footpath towards the car, water dripping from us, teeth chattering. The rising sun is still behind the hills and mountains but the sky looks lovely - blue and orange. I reach for my sunglasses - not there - lost down the bottom of Es Paradis in murky, dirty water - the first casualty of Eivissa.

The car sits amongst the early morning shadows, waiting for us with its warm interior. We dry ourselves off, some of us change in the carpark into dry clothes, some of us lay down towels on the seats, and we all jump in. Heater on full. Stick into gear. Dust billowing as Kath takes us out of the carpark and out of San Antoni. We wave goodbye to Es Paradis, teeth still chattering, and the light on the tip of the pyramid winks back.

The way back home is relatively quiet as we compose ourselves, the sunrise and early morning drive something to savour. The experience we've just had is too - the build up, the waiting, the expensive Red Bull - it was all worth it for that 30 minutes of pure excitement and wet jocks. It was a great night that gave way to a brilliant morning and finishes with a hot shower and a well earned sleep and dreams of Gene Kelly and floating sunglasses.

Check out photos of opening parties at

Sunday, June 06, 2010

powderfinger farewell

A quick flight from Ibiza to Brixton Academy: Friday night was Powderfinger's second last ever London gig, part of their farewell Sunsets tour. The best selling Aussie band called it quits after 20 years in the industry (and most of that at the top of the local charts); the Sunsets tour being one final treat for their fans.

It was a great night in a very hot and muggy Brixton Academy, but the fans didn't care - the place was packed and everyone knew the words, singing so loud that sometimes it was hard to hear Bernard Fanning's voice. All the hits were played, climaxing with "Passenger", "My Happiness" and "My Kinda Scene" in the final encore.

My memories of Powderfinger are many - from my first experience via a cover band in Melbourne (playing a version of "The Day You Come" that struggled to live up to the original), to driving out to South Yarra to get a copy of their first album, to playing "My Happiness" endlessly when I was pining to return to London in mid-2000, to a very special concert at Shepherd's Bush Empire with Kathy, to the numerous concerts that followed during my time in London, to last night, standing with Kathy, Cathy and Ben, shivers down the spine, as the boys said their final goodbyes.

Even my blog has been influenced by the band, named after one of their songs, "Up and Down and Back Again", except, this time, they won't be back again. So we'll just have to hang on to the memories and play their music loud on hot summer nights, while nursing a cold beer, chatting with mates, and waiting for the chops to cook on the barbie.

Powderfinger Rockin' Rocks!!

Friday, June 04, 2010

EIVISSA - a retrospective diary - day 1

Leaving work for a long holiday is always madness, but thankfully, this time round, it aint. Already packed last night - overpacked as usual - and seems like the to do list for work is under control - well, enough for me to make a hasty exit, waving goodbye to the poor folk still slaving away at their computers. Oh well, can't be helped - there's a party island waiting in southern Spain and someone has to do it!

Luton airport is a tit to get to, takes forever on the train, and then that little pissy bus from the station is so annoying - too excited for all this fluffing about. More fluffing about ensues though - after checking in, passport control, popcorn from Pret, the departures board tries to sneak past the fact that the flight is now delayed by 90 minutes. Ten thirty departure. I do the quick maths for our arrival in Ibiza and come up on the wrong side of midnight.

Flight is fine though, once we get on board, nothing too bumpy, but it's a long un - 2 1/2 hours. Kath got the exit seats using her Speedy Boarding privileges and I'm happy for that. Original plans of going out tonight in Eivissa Town have been scuppered, but not to worry - plenty of good times ahead.

Mona, the agent who looks after the villa we are staying at, is waiting for us at Ibiza airport to lead us to our abode. It's 1 am but she is still very cheerful. Car rental chick less so, obviously well past her siesta. We have our own issues though - prospect of driving on wrong side of the road in the middle of the night is a bit daunting, but I'm up for it - car's an automatic, ordered online, so no problems there.

Jump in the driver's seat of the hire car and wonder what the hell is that thing sticking out between the seats. Ah. It's the gear stick. Manual; not automatic. Great. Last time I drove a stick was in Scotland, 2004. Kath's last time was in Norway last NY, drove in snow and sleet and slippery roads. Kath - you're up.

We follow Mona and her husband along a speedy freeway that cuts through the lower part of the island, then onto smaller roads, then into the hills, weaving in and out of dense forest. Traffic is minimal which helps; driving on the right (wrong) side of the road in a manual doesn't. Kath does very well. I try and take note of the lefts and rights that we negotiate so I can navigate our way out tomorrow, but lose track when we hit the Nascar section of the island - chicanes, hard rights, easy lefts - and the thick darkness around us makes spotting landmarks for reference purposes impossible.

A rev up a steep incline disguising itself as a driveway and we arrive at the villa - a three bedroom house set into the side of a hill overlooking Cala San Vincente - a nice little beach with only a few high rise hotels to spoil the view. A map found in the hire car tells us we are at the furthest north east point of the island.

Mona shows us the ins and outs of our Spanish Palace; throws in a baguette, some ham and cheese for tomorrow's breakfast at the crescendo. We wave her goodbye, adios, and gracias and take stock. The place is empty at the moment, with the other inhabitants arriving over the next few days, so before bed, we enjoy the exclusivity of the pad, sitting in cane chairs on the outside terrace, sipping hot drinks and staring out into the star filled sky, thinking - we've finally made it!!!

Bed time: 3 am.