The one advantage to having your recently widowed father decide that he’s going to live the rest of his life singing in bars and generally just being on the piss in Benidorm is that you’re never short of somewhere to go on holiday, even if you hate the place.
He took a long term lease on an apartment right at the back of that town that never sleeps, at the top of the street was the weekly market if you know it, the weekly market that sells knock-off and stolen goods to holidaymakers twice a week, it was my fathers Nirvana, a town with more sing-along bars that a man could possibly visit in his lifetime, no licensing laws that we ever noticed, police that cared not if you double or triple parked and/or drove home drunk as long as you didn’t hit anything and a market selling knock-off goods right at the top of his street – you couldn’t have designed a town more perfect for him if you’d tried.
And so a couple of times a year we’d book a cheap flight and take our then very young girls across to Spain to see their Grandad, the Grandad that stayed out very late at night, sometimes didn’t come home until the next morning, the Grandad who doted on them and would lavish them with all sorts of gifts, most of which came straight off the market at the top of his street but never mind, the Grandad who seemed to be known in almost every bar in Benidorm and the Grandad who seemed to own two of them for he unlocked them for the owners and served the bar in one of them most lunchtimes and simply took over everything in the other every night.
The Grandad in Spain would book and pay for an apartment for his two little Grand-daughters, a luxury apartment in a private block which had been recommended by his property manager “friend” Mara, the very same Mara who used to be a dancer on Spanish TV when she was younger in the 1960s, the very same Mara who introduced my childrens Grandad to a group of Benidorm businessmen who were known to all as “The Mafia” although he only found this out after he’d been taking coffee with them every morning for several weeks in a bar on the front – you could drop my father onto the surface of Mars and within days he’d have found a knock-off market and be ingratiated into the local brotherhood of Martian villians – he loved it.
On one of those trips we travelled with our Ned and his wife Jenny and as our party was six strong we ended up being separated on the plane, me and Ned sat together, Suzanne had a row of three seats for her and the kids and Jenny sat, well, somewhere else. It was a daytime flight and quite turbulent and our two small girls along with every other kid on the plane played up all the way there – Jodie would never sit still as a child and she went out of her way not to sit still on that flight, she was a horror and when we got off at the other end, Ned and I half-pissed from copious gin and tonics taken from our position some way down the plane from my screaming kids, I could see that Suzanne was not amused and when she isn’t amused its always my fault, even when it isn’t, its the law.
I was told in no uncertain terms that on the return flight it was she and Jenny that would be sitting on their own getting sloshed on cheap gin while I would have to look after my two horrors, and she hoped that they would play up worse than they had on the outbound flight, much worse.
She went out of her way to wind them up for the return flight, feeding them neat sugar and full strength coca-cola all day long, nipping them to keep them awake as we had an evening flight and whispering to them that just for one night they were allowed to be as naughty as they liked as long as they didn’t run down to the back of the plane and disturb her and Jenny.
We boarded at 8pm for the two hour flight back home, I was resigned to the flight from hell, my kids were buzzing, Jodie was bouncing on the seat and refusing to sit down, and then suddenly, exactly at the moment that they closed the doors and the seat belt sign came on, both of my kids fell asleep.
I could hardly believe my luck, the sugar buzz had dropped back off the scale and they were all tuckered out. I strapped them in and ordered a gin and tonic, they didn’t even move for the whole flight home and I had to wake them up to get them off the aircraft when we landed, as we walked off the plane my wife walked up to me with a smirk on her face and a “Now see what I put up with” look on her face – I can’t tell you how devastated she was when I told her they’d slept all the way back and I’d had a most peaceful time.