1986 was the year of Halleys Comet, a once in 76 year phenomenon that shone like a bright star with a tail in the sky for a few weeks and then buggered off for another 75 years.
And 1986 was the year that all of Suzannes family decided to go on holiday to Benidorm.
When I say “all” of them I don’t literally mean “all of them” of course, for that would be quite ridiculous, Benidorm doesn’t have enough beds for all of her family to visit at the same time, but a representative sample of 20 or so went for two weeks at the Hotel Pueblo, what can I say, it was cheap, I can say that, it was cheap, a flight out there on the very cheap Dan Dare Airline, Dan Air, the airline that made Easyjet look sophisticated, Dan Air, the airline that proved that you can buy aircraft from that aircraft graveyard in Arizona and make them fly again, with or without any interior trim, or seats.
So there we were halfway through our Benidorm torture, sorry, holiday, and Suzanne has a gastric problem for a few days, not to put too fine a point on it she was confined to our room with the shits – I had to entertain myself for a few days.
So I found myself wandering the streets of homage to concrete monoliths that is Benidorm and sometime around late afternoon I wandered, lonely as a cloud, into a new bar, a small shop unit on a back street that went under the name of “Halley’s Bar”.
The bar owner had really gone to town with the Halley’s Comet theme by plastering the walls, ceiling, bar front and some of the floor with thick globs of plaster, concrete and artex, you daren’t touch anything for fear of ripping flesh from your bones on the sharply protruding render – if there was such a thing as a bar on Halley’s Comet then I’m prepared to believe that it would be as hostile as this place was.
I was the only one in there.
I took a stool at the bar and asked the spanish bartender (now theres a novelty, in 1986 the indigenous Spanish still worked in the bars on the Costas), for a bottle of beer.
He brought two.
But he only asked me for the money for one.
I thought he was going to join me in a lonesome drink but he disappeared down the other end of the bar again and continued washing glasses.
I had been introduced to the concept of “Happy Hour”, two-for-one drinks.
He then flicked a TV remote control and MTV appeared as if by magic from behind a stalactite on the ceiling, this was indeed a weird bar and I sat there on my stool clutching my two bottles of beer not daring to let my knees scrape against the sharpened points of artex on the barfront, a person could lose a serious amount of skin and blood in this place and I bet it sounded like such a good concept when they were sat in the bank managers office trying to borrow enough pesatas to buy most of Benidorms cement, artex and chicken wire.
Having finished off my beer and my freebie I ordered another one, two came, I was still the only customer in the bar and MTV was playing videos on a 30 minute loop, I sat there for a couple of hours and watched repeated runs of Paul Simon’s “Call Me Al” and had drunk more than a crateful of beer and only paid for half of it when a small boy appeared at the door of the bar.
I thought I recognised him but by now the vision wasn’t too good, he stepped towards me and spoke something in a tongue that I barely recognised.
Ah yes, it was David, my eight year old Geordie brother-in-law, sent out from the hotel to find me by my wife, his older sister, their family is very trusting like that, I can’t imagine sending an eight year old onto the streets of Benidorm to find a drunken in-law these days, that eight year old young boy is now a huge strapping Metropolitan Police officer and father of twin boys, I bet he wouldn’t send either of his lads into random bars to find me now.
I invited him to sit on a stool at the bar with me, he accepted, I called the bartender over and ordered two beers, one for me, one for my small companion, he looked at David with suspicion and decided that he might possibly be a dwarf but more importantly another customer – and brought four beers over to us.
By this time I was well blathered and so gave my eight year old drinking buddy one bottle and kept three to myself, and there we sat until around ten pm when eventually, after ordering in rounds of four for several hours, I fell off my stool and we both rolled home back to the hotel where my mother-in-law was not overly impressed to see me and her eight year old son fall into the hotel reception area through the revolving door singing “You Can Call Me Al”
None of her family spoke to me again for the rest of the holiday including Suzanne who made me sleep on a chair on the balcony that night.
My drinking days were such fun…