Volume 6 part 034 2007 could be heaven
We exiled Mitzi to Italy Easter of 2007. Having suffered a minor “event” earlier that year gave us the perfect excuse to invite Howard along as a contingency driver, the real reason being that he was company for Pete as assurance that he might not snap during the car journey he so detests. Howard was an old friend going back years with Pete. Betty and Stella went into kennels. We had ten days of perfect sunshine where I delighted in showing Howard the merits, or otherwise of the Old Country. He smiled and nodded in the back seat the whole way. Pete slept in the front.
After a night in Aachen and a night in Farchant, this was the year we did the “Wank Bahn” despite, unbeknown to Pete and I that Howard suffered from vertigo. Cable cars coming down are apparently scarier than going up! Despite April being too cold for sun bathing Howard took on a great “shiner” over lunch on the terrace of a favourite restaurant in Fiorenzuola overlooking the Adriatic. Pete and I had previously done Christmas Eve there with the family concluding with Brandy outside a Café from where we could watch the village nativity play. The whole village took part including the old ladies who retracted washing lines hung from their bedroom windows each side of the square onto which dangled sequin studded cardboard stars. “Kings” on donkeys followed the principle star as it tracked across the roof of the village square until they reached the manger where the donkeys proceeded to eat the straw. Baby Jesus very nearly lost a leg. It was a different Baby Jesus to the one that Pete nearly incinerated in Rimini the day after Boxing Day.
In addition to slumming it with the rich boat brigade in Porto Verde, Howard saw all the regular sites ranging from Gradara to the dizzy heights of San Marino. The weather for the return through Germany was unseasonably hotter than Italy. By the time we returned to Aachen Pete was in full grouch. A stroll down the Theatre Strasse into town for dinner turned into two beers and a taxi ride back for an early night whilst Howard and I topped up the bar bill at the Ibis, located opposite the church that married Rita some ten years earlier. Howard said it was the best time of his life. John, his partner, took the rejection badly. Mitzi settled in to life in Italy very quickly despite Joe taking in a cat the same week. The Yorkie’s hair grew back within months. Already Granny was going sufficiently gaga to show little concern for the loss of her dog. Betty had replaced the Yorkie in her affections.
Joe came to England for a summer break in late June 2007. She was accompanied by Carla and little Alex. Carla was heavily pregnant with the baby due in Late September. For the most part it was a visit to check-up on Granny in her first year in the old folk’s home. We left Bubble alone whilst the five of us week-ended in Brighton. The weather was pretty foul, even for England. Waves battered the shore line. Beechy Head was shrouded in Fog. We took refuge in a country pub by a log fire lit by Yankee Candles. Pete visited a friend whilst the rest of us toured the cliffs. He joined us in the “Lanes” for dinner in a French restaurant arriving soaked to the skin. The previous night had been Italian. From a chance conversation with a friendly waiter we discovered that he had worked with an Italian for some time. They had stayed in touch after his friend had done time for drugs but now ran a restaurant he owned in Blackpool. All very interesting we thought until it dawned on us that he was talking about one of Josephine’s nephew’s. Small world! We made the trip to Blackpool to eat at the nephew’s expense the following year. His “Italian” was about the only place in Blackpool you can eat without the food coming direct from “Iceland”. We did a detour to Stone-Henge and Warwick on the way home.
Diagnosed with a ”Left Branch Bundle Blockage” and the Consultant’s advice that I needed a proper holiday Pete booked two weeks in a gay Finca on the Island of Ibiza. Ibiza was not really what the doctor had in-mind but it ensured good weather and according to a Skopos Rep. fabulous mushroom cappuccinos. Barely wide enough for the hired Nissan Micra, a dry-stone-wall lined track accessed a tiny courtyard car park off which an enclosed garden housed a series of bungalows surrounding three sides of a pool. The German owners lived in a converted farmhouse that took up one side of the pool along with a restored windmill without sails that served no purpose at all. There were two executive suites on the first floor of the main house. Breakfast was served under the veranda by a Spaniard called “Sybille”. “Throb” had booked the cheap-seats securing us the only bungalow without a pool view or front door that would latch without being locked. A very affectionate black Labrador took advantage of the open door policy by helping himself to drinks most nights before settling down on the bed to enjoy our air-conditioning. Being woken by a French kiss from a slobbering black lab having just extricated its head from a toilet is wrong on so many levels. Our friendship was sealed by the doggy bags Pete brought back from restaurants nightly until reprimanded by the peg-legged manager tired of cleaning up the sloppy consequences.
From the pool-side, the vista spanned a radius stretching from the old town of Ibiza topped by the castle and walls, to The Gay beach just beyond the airport. Despite having the car we used Taxis for the two kilometre drive to the Old town each evening allowing me to match Pete, drink for drink. Beyond the harbour where upmarket tourists thronged the port side restaurants, a spaghetti of narrow lanes behind the city walls hid a plethora of splendid eateries. Trekking up the ramp to the old Market was well worth the climb. We found the mushroom cappuccino on the very first night.
The Amphora Night club was the only Gay venue inside the walls. A compact, dingy place with multiple small rooms over two levels, inhabited sufficiently to appear full and yet empty enough to allow striking up conversations with the likes of bull-shitting Russians professing to be IT specialists on leave from Malaga. Nevertheless, with the exception of the Londoner’s, they were a relatively friendly bunch. The remainder of the Gay scene was concentrated on a single charming alley running parallel to the quayside, outside the walls. The four bars of choice all offered table service and were rarely so full that we couldn’t be seated. Bar stools pressed against tiny high tables hugged the sides of the alley providing excellent vantage points for people watching. Internationally renowned nightclubs vied for trade by sending tribes of scantily clad “beautiful people” through the old town carrying placards advertising the latest offers. The more the competition the less the clothing. “Passion” was carnival scene straight from Rio. “Heaven” were androgynous angels dressed exclusively in pale blue Speedos with “Heaven 2007” stamped across their tiny but perfectly formed bottoms. Each tribe outdid the previous with whistles and horns so loud they could outclass the loudest South African vuvuzela frenzied football crowd. The best and busiest bar was the “Terrace” located in an elevated position pressed up against the citadel. Cascading terraces lead to two other bars and then down into the square at the bottom of the ramp leading to the old city gates. The prominence of the flood lit bars made them the ideal place for the gays to parade. A young crowd of mixed nationalities worked hard at out-dressing each other. Although not twins, two Swedish boys with a remarkable resemblance to the Bee-gees, right down to a set of unfortunate “Mullets” and dressed like extras from an Abba reunion were regular features. Pete christened them Bjorn and Benny. It was not the name but his nightly rendition of “Staying alive… Staying alive” within earshot of their spangled tank-tops that drove them underground.
Throughout the day few residents stayed by the pool. The poolside honour bar and pet Labradors were no match for the allure of the gay beach. Sandwiched between grassy dunes and the sandy beach was the bar- restaurant. Lots of pine and bamboo created a hospitable environment for a more than half decent meal and bucket of overpriced booze. Sangria and ice-cold beers could be bought from a greasy waiter who patrolled the beach beds plying his trade. Those who didn’t fancy a drink could settle for a blow job in his hut for the price of a pint. I suspect that he was the one usually paying. We speculated that the boy’s from “Heaven” got serviced for free. Beach-side-service came-in particularly handy when the bed had sunk so low into the sand that a dismount to walk to the bar became totally unrealistic. I explained the plastic bed legs splaying out at an angle of forty-five degrees like an overburdened giraffe, being down to the heat. Pete put it down to a failed diet. The diet had been responsible for the fainting spell during a viewing of “Blood Diamond” that led to the “left branch bundle blockage” diagnosis in the first place. Sadly for the polypropylene chaise-long I had abandoned the diet some months previous.
On the dot of five-pm the disco exploded into life. The frenetic reeling and writhing by every shape and texture of sun tanned post-pubescent offered the perfect distraction for me to roll off the bed to make a snail’s pace escape back to the car. The sand was very soft. The sea was very wet. The toilets behind the beach bar were exceptionally clean. It was clear why the Cardiac consultant thought a beach Holiday in Ibiza for someone approaching retirement might be ill advised.
Two weeks became a little monotonous but nevertheless I enjoyed Ibiza. Peter and I resolved to return one day…
Following the 2011 Hurricane on Long Island, patience with New York had been tested. Two years into a new life darting almost weekly around the Middle East left little appetite for extensive travel. We settled on Ibiza for a second time. Cheap flights on Jet2.com subsidised the 2012, first floor executive suite for a return to the Finca in style. Floor to ceiling arched windows covered three of the four elevations of the open plan bedroom and interconnected sitting room giving a view centred on the Old town but stretching South all the way to the gay beach and beyond. The lounge overlooked the Pool. The bathroom gave access to a private sun terrace overlooking the local jail to the rear of the property.
We found Volker by the pool. Each day this “thirty something” German from Heidelberg would position himself in exactly the same spot with the same orientation. At precisely the same time of day he would partake in a Bacardi and coke from the same honour bar Pete and I had emptied five years previous. Pete didn’t consume alcohol at all by now, giving ample opportunity between volumes of “Tales of The city” to conduct self-righteous pronouncements on the evils of “Drink”. The sale of Grannies bungalow in Chelsea Court was reaching its conclusion, requiring communications with the UK to be kept open. Volker came to the rescue by showing me how to stop Estate Agents and Solicitors going into junk mail. I was more surprised at the intuition of the lap top than the impeccable English of a computer programmer from “Heidelberg”. His “Little boy lost” appearance appealed to most of the guests. He became particularly well acquainted with a Parisian restaurateur who had been taking summer breaks at the Finca for years. He recognised us from our previous stay, remained polite but like most tourists who had previously met Pete in his inebriation phase, kept his distance.
The single most important advantage of Pete’s abstinence is that he can drive. The single most important advantage of hardly being able to stand after a few Gin and Tonics and full bottle of wine over dinner is that Pete’s driving, in the dark and on the wrong side of the road, ceases to scare the shit of me. Upon landing in Ibiza we waited over half an hour for a shuttle bus to drive us to a remote car-hire depot that after a further thirty minutes of dodgy paper work failed to deliver the pre-ordered automatic gear box. Peter doesn’t do manual… at all! By the time the manager relented and called us a taxi it was well past sun-down. In day-light I doubt I would have known the route to the Finca but in darkness a total impossibility yet, as if by magic I spotted a break in the lime stone walls bordering a dual carriageway to nowhere, recognising the short cut used by taxis bringing us back from the old town in the early hours of the morning, five years previous.
The original peg-legged German resort manager with the incontinent Labrador found us an automatic, Peugeot 306 on the first day arranging for it to be delivered to our door. With less than a hundred millimetres to spare either side between the wing mirrors and the dry stone walls flanking the access lane, the test drive was something else. First we had to negotiate a right angle turn through the archway from the car park onto a narrow private drive, both about as wide as the car. The art was to clear the gate post with the driver’s door and at least one mirror still intact. Suicidal, one-eyed cats and a blind, ninety degree cross roads fringed on all elevations by single storey high boundary walls, added to the excitement.
Each morning I would drive to the beach. An early start meant getting a parking place. A late start resulted in having to park on the road-side so narrow, we risked ending up in the salt marshes that isolate the Dunes from the mainland. The walk from the car to the gay beach with the bar is about a mile. A track borders the salt marshes side of the dunes giving a firm footing. Taking the beach is much more of a slog in the soft sand.
As the residual roadway left over between an endless line of parked cars and a ditch is barely the width of a car the homeward journey is something of a game of “Chicken”.
With the front window fully open, a passenger screaming “too close” as we edged between the dry stone walls, announced our return to the digs each evening. A snooze, a full scrub and dressing before heading off to dinner before sun set was Pete’s opportunity to hone his driving skills.
Sitting on a wall, legs swinging, Volker witnessed, first-hand the entire exit strategy. An erratic forward manoeuvre caused him to retract his under-carriage with astonishing dexterity, only inches away from losing both legs to the flying, front bumper of an out of control bright red Peugeot. The Frenchman had invited the German to see the sun set over San Antonio bay from the terrace of a renowned restaurant owned by a French ex-pat friend. Over Bacardi the following day it transpired that the Frenchman had left Volker stranded, legs akimbo. It was well after dark before he gave up on the dry stone wall. His tale of abandonment was delivered with such tragedy I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with him.
The following evening was a repeat performance but on this occasion, rather than risking the loss of his limbs and with much trepidation, he accepted a lift into town. The running commentary from the pilot in the passenger seat regarding the proximity to inanimate objects followed by instructions on how to navigate a blind cross roads left Volker rightly un-phased. Narrowly avoiding wearing a motor scooter as a bonnet badge was met with equal Teutonic stoicism from the middle of the back seat. Hurtling out onto the main highway, but on the left hand side of the road provoked the most noticeable reaction. Volker’s mild amusement at my mobile tutorial dissipated into outright panic. Despite Peter continuously rebuking me each and every evening for volunteering instructions regarding directions, lane discipline and prohibited access roads he never mastered an unsupported journey between the Finca and Quayside car park. By midnight, the darkness and a bottle of Rioja left the wing mirrors flying blind.
Volker accepted our invitation to stick with us for dinner, and thereafter dinner every night for the rest of his week’s holiday that overlapped with our two. He insisted on paying his way proving to be a good drinking companion. Dinner at a different place each evening including one night at a Tapas bar, so popular we had previously been unable to grab a table and twice to a market restaurant where Volker fancied the waiter made up the set. At one place, this mild mannered Germanic gentleman had the balls to send his inadequate Tuna back to the kitchen three times.
As a treat, we drove to the North of the island to visit a coastal Village recommended by Sybille the breakfast lady. Ibiza is a very small island. Including the scramble over a cliff side track, taking a can of iced coke and re-parking the car on our return, the day trip took all of three hours. We waited for Volker to head off back to Germany before venturing as far as San Antonio, and what a waste of time that 30 minute sprint across the mountain was… very ugly hangovers eating very ugly British Breakfast is not my idea of sightseeing.
We shared the same taste in eye candy leaving Pete to forlornly seek out a non-existent bear. For me it was look, don’t touch. For Volker it was look, fall in love and hope one day to touch. The era of the late night bar crawl was a distant memory for Pete and I. After-dinner entertainment was now a leisurely walk with maybe a spot of shopping, rounded off with a couple of drinks for me and a couple of tonic waters for Pete, maximum. Volker had given up on the Amphora Nightclub having spent a couple of fruitless nights with the place all to himself. Gay bars in the old town were not fairing any better. The terrace bar remained “the place” yet it would only be restricted to standing room only at week-ends. Muscle-Marys swished through the crowd levitating trays like gyroscopes full of cocktails above the heads of the fashionistas. Ordering a drink degenerated into a meticulously planned military exercise. Volker had fallen for a cute young thing called Henrique. Reordering had to be timed exactly to the precise moment that the Muscle Marys were engaged but when Henrique was free. Tired of the subterfuge I called Henrique over for an introduction. It transpired that Volker had spent the previous week admiring from afar the tall, slim, athletic, handsome twenty-one year old and had not actually spoken to him other than to order his favoured Caihapriano which he insisted had to be prepared with fresh mint. Henrique had taken a summer vacation job to supplement his fees at University in Madrid. He was charming, articulate and very, very straight. Poor Volker was devastated. The surprise news allowed Pete to concentrate our attentions on the much more obliging gym bunnies
The “Finca” had evolved from a men only resort in 2007 to a “Gay Friendly” resort by 2012. The arrival of a late middle-aged Lesbian couple who insisted on sun bathing in the buff renewed the otherwise waning appeal of the crowded beach. Such close proximity to fun and revelry fuelled by gallons of free flowing Sangria was considered inappropriate for Pete’s sobriety. The sight of un-plucked mangy minge sliding into the pool was enough to re-evaluate the risks associated with the beach. Disapproving straight couples on short stay stop-overs ahead for early flights, reinforced the appeal of the beach.
A Pretty Frenchman in his early twenties who looked remarkably like a Jesus-poster with long black hair and close cropped beard, stood his ground by repeatedly swan-diving naked into the shallow end of the pool ensuring maximum effect and distraction.
After the disappointment of Henrique, the mission was to get Volker laid. Without duress and contrary to his protestations that he enjoyed neither sand nor sea, he accompanied us daily to the beach. Within minutes of pitching camp alongside my hired sun-lounger he was off into the dunes like a Jack-Russell chasing a ferret, following anything with a pulse as long as it was only just shaving. The lecherous waiter from five years previous was still on the prowl. His desperation had descended to a level where he even made me the offer of seeing the inside his little red hut. Circumcised or not there was nothing little or red of his I was interested in seeing. Despite Volker spending most of the day wrapped up in a towel, after encountering a naked nineteen-year-old at the urinals with dramatic effect, he also declined the offer of a little red, light-relief. We ordered more sangria to mitigate the waiter’s disappointment.
2012 was fairly pleasant but proved you can’t relive a memory. We should have left history undefiled.