I was sixteen. I’d never been let loose on foreign soil, except in the slipstream of a teacher. Now here I was at a double-booked, half-built hotel, and my bag was underwater.
I loved it. The first day (during which we were moved to a room behind the bar, separated from it, in fact, by a paper wall, and the bar didn’t close till 5 a.m., so who cared), I did almost everything that an idiot would do. The most idiotic thing was to go the beach, to lie down, and to go to sleep for about two hours. Sunburn. It was in the days before Factor numbers and skin cancer warnings. I just roasted my back without thought, and suffered happily for the next few days.
Paguera in those days was in the early stages of what I assume has happened to most destinations to which the British take themselves on holiday. It had turned itself into a miniature Britain (there was also a miniature Germany, although not so crass). There were chip-vans and a ‘pub’ called The Spotted Cow, where you could buy Watneys Red Barrel, probably the only drink ever to run dishwater close for the title of Most Unpleasant Beverage ever. Everything was astonishingly cheap.
The four of us lost little time in finding the cheapest possible alcohol, I am afraid, although it was small, er, beer compared to what teenagers now drink in such places, if television and newspapers are to be believed. The even split between German and British tourists caused one curious problem. In the interests of seeming grown up, I went to one bar and ordered ‘Dry Martini’. Without a word, the barman stacked up three Martinis. (Drei… ).
Paguera had two clubs. One of them had a band which knew about six numbers, and was confident with just one of them – the Booker T. instrumental, ‘Time Is Tight’. They duly played it more or less after every other number. Even now when I hear it, I get flashbacks.
The other club had what was then a new invention: strobe lighting. I was truly astonished by this, especially as the club was completely blacked out, and the effect was spectacularly like being in a succession of photographs. I suspect that, as with sunlight, this too would come with public warnings, In my twenties, I started to react badly to flashing lights (and was erroneously diagnosed as epileptic, but that’s another story), but then they seemed sensational.
As for the rest of the holiday, it passed off without much incident. I preserved my innocence, although, if there were fourteen days, I suspect I fell in love on every single one of them. When the bus came to take us away at the end, I wept while staring forlornly out of the rear window. I was no catch. I could talk, but I couldn’t swim. I floated through the whole holiday on tides of alcoholic nausea and ludicrous sentiment and came back to find I’d passed my A levels (they did everything speedily in private schools).
After then, I never went on a seaside holiday I enjoyed. Not abroad, anyway. Maybe I got it out of my system in one go.