Club 18-30, a cheap holiday package, often for those going abroad without their parents for the first time, has been about since 1970, according to the usual sources on the web. But I am 100% sure, no 99%, all right maybe 88% sure I went on a Club 18-30 package in 1969. Can anybody help me out here? Was there a sort of dummy run? (Incidentally, Club 18-30 is now synonymous with binge-drinking, rampant sex, clubbing, Ecstasy, and copious vomiting, not necessarily in that order. I think I qualify on only two of those counts, but then I maintain that I was involved in a practice run.)
There were four of us, one of whom had a travel agent father. He got a deal, we paid at a good rate, and off we flew from Newcastle, then a really tiny airport, to Palma in Majorca, clutching our brochures and bags. Presumably the paperwork was easy to fiddle, because we were 17, 17, 17 and 16 (me). At five in the morning, having overpaid a taxi-driver by about 9000%, we were dropped in Paguera, and went to Reception. There was a distant sound of tinkling glass. We stood like lemons and waited. We had been asked to ask for ‘Steve’. At one point a woman with a face like a tomahawk came out, stared at us, and reversed through the doorway from which she had first emerged. About thirty minutes later, a drunk came through the glass swing doors, fell back through them, re-entered, and said ‘Who the hell are you?’
We asked for Steve. ‘On the beach with a bird,’ said our new friend, who vanished down the steps. I suspect that the news of local debauchery lifted our spirits a little. At this point, a tubby Spaniard in formal address popped up behind the counter, and asked for our names.
‘Hay, Archer, MacNee, Greenwell,’ one of us said. He inspected his register solemnly, and ran an inky finger up and down its lists. After a small age, he pronounced.
‘Never heard of you,’ he said, and shut the book. And he took a step towards us with a certain venom, as if he had in mind seizing all four scruffs at once. Only the timely arrival of Steve, who looked confident, as well he might, saved us. After much banter in two languages, he explained that there had been ‘a double booking’. He did not at that point explain that the hotel in our brochure had not actually been built, or at any rate completed. However, not to worry, said Steve. There were two rooms we could have. One was in ‘the annexe’. The other was where two itinerant musicians were sleeping. We were promised a change of room the next day. One pair was led to a barbed wire compound three hundred yards away. My pair – I was sharing with Trevor, whom I didn’t know – were shown to a cupboard-sized room, from which we glimpsed the musicians being evacuated at speed.
It was quite exciting. I had never been to a hot country, apart from on the school cruise described earlier this week, and it was about 105 degrees the next morning when we woke, the sun streaming through the slit window, over which the towel had been draped, economically, as a makeshift curtain. I lay back and heard the lap of water. Sun, sea … I was abroad!
‘Trevor,’ I said. ‘Sun, sea … ‘
We opened our eyes. The water sounded so close!
This was because the pipes had burst, and our room had flooded to a depth of about a foot. Our suitcases bobbed uncertainly, and not a little soggily, on the slight tide.
To be continued …