“I must warn you” I said to the young woman who, two years later would become my wife in a deal that I hadn’t realised would forever leave me impoverished, “my father likes to sing in bars”.
It was I admit something of an understatement, the truth was that my father would not go into a bar UNLESS he could sing, or at least listen to someone else singing, the idea that he should go into a bar only to drink beer and talk to other people had never crossed his mind.
But she agreed and so it was writ into history, the first time that my parents went to Benidorm, they fell in love with the place and returned time innumerable until my father ended up living there for the last seven years of his life.
It could have all been so different, he rang me from the travel agent where he had given the agent one simple instruction, “What is the cheapest holiday abroad on your books ?” and in those pre-internet days the poor girl had had to ring around countless tour operators until finally she had two options on the table, ten days in Benidorm or seven days in some Italian resort for £120 each.
I left the choice to him and so of course he chose Benidorm purely for the dual facts that he had a dislike of Italians since he had three Italian prisoners of war assigned to him in Africa during WW2, and more importantly that you got three more days for your money in Benidorm and in this way he discovered his nirvana, if you wrote down a list of all the things that he loved to do then in the whole world only Benidorm would tick all the boxes, it was like Cayton Bay but with added sun, it was a random fluke that took us there and as far as he was concerned the best £120 each that he ever spent.
“Is … there … a … sing … along … bar … here … love ?” he asked of the hotel receptionist, very slowly as English people are want to do when speaking to Spanish people, in English.
In perfect English the hotel receptionist pointed us in the direction of Sandra’s Bar, much beloved of English pensioner holidaymakers, a place where you could drink cheap beer with no hint of closing times, and be entertained by a professional “turn”, then get up and sing those old songs that pensioners love to sing when they are on holiday and drunk, my father couldn’t believe his luck and he dominated the microphone for ten days with his selection of Sinatra songs and some very dodgy jokes.
My soon to be wife soon realised that we had made a terrible mistake by agreeing to go on holiday with my mother and father for when you have heard him sing “Lady is a Tramp” and tell the Eric Cantona joke twenty or so times then you start to hanker after somewhere quiet, somewhere where people don’t need to sing, or tell dodgy jokes, or be entertained in any way at all and fortunately for our relationship and our sanity we found a tiny little bar hidden underneath a tower block that had a small bar, six stools, a Dutch owner and a game of Connect Four, we spent every night in there not speaking Dutch while everyone else did, and reaching International Championship level at Connect Four, even now we will each take great delight in beating the other at the game of plastic counters and when we’re done arguing we will both sit back and say “Remember that Dutch bar in Benidorm…”
And it was on that holiday that he and my mother discovered their second nirvana, the hilltop village of Guadalest and the habit of the locals of burying their dead into carved out holes in the mountainside, and at a panoramic view from the edge of a graveyard mountain cliff my father made me promise to have himself buried there when he died and I solemnly promised to do so.
Of course when he did eventually curl up his toes I did nothing of the sort, we had him cremated at Rawdon cemetery and threw his ashes on the lawn there one cold wet January and as far as I know thats where he still lays – well have you seen what it costs to have a body transported back to Benidorm from whence its just been sent a couple of weeks earlier on account of its failing health – if he’d stayed there and died I might have considered it but having come home to die in an NHS hospital I wasn’t in any mind to pay to send him back dead just so that we could have him incarcerated in a rocky mountain grave with a nice view – he would have appreciated the cost saving I know.