Thursday, 28 April 2016

Our Fifteen Minutes

Until the first episode of Ibiza Uncovered aired on Sky1, the fact that we were about to appear on a weekly television show hadn't fully sunk in. Sure, we'd signed on the dotted line of the contracts, filmed the "before" scenes: packing our cases at my parents' three-bed semi in Sidcup, then another happily skipping out of Harvey Nicks after our last shift. The crew had appeared at our apartment a few days after we'd touched down on the White Isle brandishing conspicuous cameras and big fluffy mics. But it wasn't until that first Friday night episode went out that the reality of the "reality show" finally registered.

By this point we were living diagonally above The Ship Inn, having moved three times already; following our two-week package holiday near The Egg in central San An we spent several fraught weeks at Villa Angelina, although that was the mother of all misnomers, seeing as it wasn't a villa at all, but a damp, stone-walled underground cave with an icy dribble of an excuse for a solar-powered shower slap-bang in the middle of the living area.

This low-ceilinged subterranean dwelling was wholly inappropriate for a couple of lanky six-foot sheilas like ourselves, so we took to crawling about in there like a pair of tipsy trolls, necks craned at awkward angles, constantly cursing as we bumped our heads in the darkness after a boozy night out. It was like a scene from Alice in Wonderland; we'd drunk the wrong potion, clearly. Angelina, the crazy old cat lady who owned it, must have been stifling her sniggers as she pocketed our pesetas after that particular deal.

The darkness in the cave was disorientating too - one day I worked 6am-4pm, and went home to sleep at around five, before waking at seven-thirty and running to work in a blind panic thinking I was an hour and a half late for my 6am start, only to discover on arrival to everyone's amusement that it was actually still the same evening.

The accommodation situation had clearly become untenable, so it was time for home number three. One day we simply pitched up at work with our suitcases in order to take up Juan's earlier casual offer of residence in the flat above The New Star, which, it quickly became apparent, was an even worse idea.

By this time Kez and I were working opposite shifts, one of us on 6am to 4pm the other 6pm until 4am, which meant we shared a lumpy single bed and slept on rotation, with one of us waking the other when we finished work. Being employed at The New Star was crazy enough, living there as chaos. Dodgy characters, shady deals, suspect "ladies of the night" regularly passing us on the stairs...hmm, time for us nomadic numpties to move on yet again.

Our fourth and final residence of the summer was, thankfully, much more suitable - a two-bed apartment at the top of the strip, aka the West End. It was very noisy, obviously, but being above The Ship was a huge selling point for us, and at least our neighbours wouldn't be complaining about us playing loud music.

The Ship was, (and still is, 20 years later), a lifeline for workers on the island. Landlord John and his lovely wife Denise were like surrogate parents to the scores of clueless young Brits washing up weekly in search of jobs and a summer of fun. Their toddler daughter Krystal was similarly adored by us workers. To describe the couple as pub landlords would be a gross understatement; they acted as employers, recruitment agents, agony aunt/uncle, estate name it, they'd be there with a pint and some sound advice. To us workers, John and Denise were Ibiza's A-Team. If you had a problem and no-one else could help, they were the go-to gurus.

The homely pub was a constant hub of activity as workers gathered around the noticeboard scanning the job ads, watching telly or reading their phone messages, since none of us owned a scrap of technology : no TV, mobile phone or landline. (Come to think of it, we didn't have work permits either, but times were different back then).
It was like the local post office, with the added bonus of selling beer. If one of our friends or parents phoned for Kez or I, the bar staff would just shout up to our balcony to summon us down. The same happened when our programme was about to start : the pub packed with rowdy holidaymakers watching the show on the big screen, with Kez and I sat cringing amongst them also watching it for the first time, albeit from behind our fingers.

We shared the apartment with two other London girls we'd met called Sam and Maria, who also got roped into appearing in the occasional episode of Uncovered with us. Being savvy Londoners, we soon had the idea of moving various randoms into our living room for an inflated rent, thereby reducing our own payments considerably, including the bonkers bong-smokers Noah and Kristina, a couple of American body-piercers. It was a bit cosy with six of us in a two-bed apartment, to say the least, and sometimes I'd come home from work in the afternoon to find the door wide open, the flat full of revellers, music blaring and several fully-clothed strangers asleep in my bed.

Anyway, back to our fifteen minutes....

After that first airing we got our first taste of "fame." Maybe notoriety is a better word. Workers and holidaymakers (or "tourists" as us workers patronisingly tagged them) whom we'd never met began calling us by name in the street, asking to have their photo taken with us (I bet there's some horrific shots yellowing in many an attic), giving us their varying opinions of our on-screen personas and situations and generally offering unsolicited advice.

At first, we assumed we'd met them before, perhaps after a few drinks, but nope, they were complete strangers just sidling up for a chat. One family of nutjobs practically camped under our balcony for two weeks with a camcorder pointing up at us, filming us at every opportunity as if we were Hollywood stars. A few of the bars gave us a frosty reception, of the opinion that the programme brought the island into disrepute. I reckon the island was doing a good enough job of that on it's own, thankyouverymuch.

We started receiving calls from various journalists and TV production teams via The Ship's phone service, with regular exciting messages appearing on the noticeboard, leading to some welcome extra wonga from spin-offs and magazine articles. I flew back to the UK several times over the summer to appear on television shows such as This Morning and The Vanessa Show.

By now, we had several jobs on the go. Kez was propping for Amore Mio, an Italian restaurant in the West End. I was still at the New Star, we both did a spot of flyering and also sold tickets for Cream at Amnesia amongst other club nights, plus I was part of the entertainments team at Manumission. This basically involved dressing up as something ridiculous for the themed parties at Privilege on a Monday night, getting wasted and dancing on stage or mingling with the eight thousand clubbers in attendance, doing such random acts as peeling potatoes whilst sprayed head-to-toe in silver paint (over a leotard, of course) or dressed as a milkmaid milking a cow on a podium. The latter was the safer option, as I nearly gouged a few eyeballs out with that peeler as drunken revellers bashed into me. The week I had to hand out melon which I'd cut up in the middle of the club with a machete was a tad hairy too.

My cow co-star was a guy called Ben, who was really beefing up in his bovine attire. He'd get a bit irritable in the heat of a packed Balaeric nightclub in July wearing that full furry costume complete with huge udders. "Mooooo-ve," he'd cry as he negiotiated the crowds in his costume. In exchange for creating a spectacle (the only vague requirement of the role), we got into the club for free and could help ourselves to the workers' bar, plus a small wage. Sweet. We'd do a pre-party parade around San Antonio before hopping on a special disco bus (oh, it was special, alright) and heading to the club for midnight.

I have many memories of those hedonistic nights, my favourite moments involved floating about in the back room drinking a Coco Loco (an intoxicating potion whose dubious ingredients were unknown but the effects were pretty spectacular) and dancing ecstatically as the sun came up through huge glass windows. Then it was onto Space for the Carry-On, where Kez worked for a while handing out fruit on giant platters. Oh, how very civilised.

Space opening fiesta was another stand-out snapshot of the summer. Juan closed the bar, got the New Star team in for free, then the Sky crew rocked up and filmed our day, the joyous scenes of us dancing on the terrace in the sunshine with our fellow worker pals immortalised on celluloid, the many tatty VHS tapes of each episode of the series still lurking in my loft.

To avoid the extortionate bar prices, someone would wrap a load of drinks in a half-deflated lilo and sling them over the wall. The less prepared would simply go "minesweeping" instead, which was the unethical practise of swiping unattended drinks from tables.

And so the summer of '97 passed by - a heady mix of sunbathing, work, partying and general, off-the-charts high jinks, as only one who's been to Ibiza can understand. The daytime parties at Kanya, Mambo and Bora Bora spring to mind, to name but a few. Radio 1 parties. The Funky Room at Pacha. PAs from Sonique at Amnesia, Skin from Skunk Anansie at Es Paradis stand out in my mind. The MTV quarry party on the night Diana died. Morgana. KM5. There are so many anecdotes I could share, enough for a book not a blog (if only I could remember half of what happened). Perhaps these are best whispered in person directly into your shell-like, so I can watch your lips curl upwards and your eyes widen.

The overriding emotion, looking back, was a feeling of good fortune. How lucky were we to have escaped the rat-race whilst our mates slogged away at home like London-based lemmings? How lucky were we to be spending our days lying in the sun, working (in the loosest sense of the word), and going to the best parties and clubs in the world on a beautiful island at the pinnacle of it's popularity?

One of our favourite pastimes was sneaking a peak at our watches and then reminding each other what everyone at home would be doing right at that moment. At 8am on a Tuesday morning whilst people at home were on their silent stony-faced commute, we'd high five each other as we stepped over the threshold into Space.

In 1997 Ibiza was in it's prime, and so were we. It was the most amazing summer. From May til October we'd made firm friendships, most of which endure to this day (largely through the power of Facebook, which reunited us all, years later).

So it was pretty obvious that as we attended our final closing party and packed our suitcases at the end of the summer, the words on every worker's lips as we hugged each other goodbye were:

"Hasta luego amigo....see you next season...."

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Thursday, 21 April 2016

The New Star(t)

Like a cartoon bomb, the lit fuse on our two-week San An 1997 package holiday was getting dangerously close to it's explosive finale, so it was with great relief that Kez and I finally secured the jobs that would diffuse the tense situation, thus allowing us to swerve the depressing deportation back to boring Blighty and instead providing our golden tickets to a great summer of working and partying (but mostly partying) on The White Isle: Ibiza.

With just a small fistful of crumpled mil peseta notes tucked into the back pocket of my favourite faded Diesels, we'd been a-begging for jobs, cap-in-hand, like innocent little Oliver Twists amidst a sea of Artful Dodgers. Finally the grovelling paid off, and we gleefully tore up our return tickets to Gatwick and strutted confidently along the San An shoreline at sunrise, en route to The New Star to start work.

Eager to impress Juan, our Super-Mario moustachioed boss, we arrived early for our six o'clock shift, at around 5.40am. The previous evening we'd physically forced ourselves to stay in for once: barricading the door to our apartment and resisting the pull of the hypnotic house music wafting up to our balcony and beckoning us down.

We focused instead on selecting the most work-appropriate of the various rumpled skimpy outfits dangling from every available surface in the flat, and polishing up our slightly scuffed sandals - much like any other nervous newbie preparing for their first day in a longed-for job. Only this wasn't like any other first day in any other job we'd started. Oh no. This was about to be the most memorable first day ever....

So, it's 5.45am, and all is deserted at the bar, which is what we expected from this benign-looking establishment on the outskirts of town. Leon, Claire, and a few other staff are quietly sipping black coffees, bleary-eyed, as they shuffle about looking subdued, preparing for opening. Kez and I had made a pact on the walk up : to stay together and help each other along, having previously blagged it that we were experienced barmaids, musing
"how hard can it be, eh?"

To our dismay this deal, solemnly sealed with a firm handshake, is instantly broken as Juan stations Kez out at the back terrace bar and me in the main one. There's also a front terrace with yet another bar. Oh right. We hadn't realised there were three bars. We look at each other imploringly as she's led away like a death-row prisoner. Oh well, it'll be quiet so we'll have plenty of time to learn the ropes, I think. How wrong could I be....

The clock strikes 6am, the DJs Jamie and Dave fire up the decks, spin some vinyl and the beat of heavy house music fills the air. Seconds later, the doors of the bar are flung open wide and hordes of Duracell-bunny partygoers come piling through, eager to keep the holiday high-jinks going long into the morning after kicking-out time at the clubs.

Within minutes, the queue at the bar is five deep and a sea of thirsty faces surges forward, tongues lolling, eagerly flapping banknotes at us, vying for attention as they holler their drinks orders over the dance-music din. I'm like a rabbit in the headlights, pink-eyed and petrified. I've never so much as pulled a pint in my life. I'm about to learn, and quick.

The first attempt results in a pint of froth, the second sees me spilling beer all over me. I wipe my hands purposefully on my clean miniskirt and take a deep breath. I need to style this out. Juan is watching his army of trusty bartenders from a rickety wooden stool at the side of the bar, his beady black eyes boring into me, a lit cigarette dangling from his bemused lips. I don't think I'm a contender for Employee of the Month.

I bat my eyelashes, bite my lip and smile through gritted teeth as I try to remember prices, pull pints and locate drinks I'd never even heard of (Hierbas? what?) on sticky shelves, through a thick fug of cigarette smoke. I amuse myself with the mental image of Kez having a similarly stressful situation down at the back bar, but she's got the right idea, availing herself of the limitless supply of alcohol to soothe her nerves. I'm a bit slow on the uptake, but soon have the same brainwave and, following the lead of the other staff, swig a strong vodka limon between serving customers. I start to relax and get into the flow.

Meanwhile, the atmosphere in the bar is getting increasingly raucous. Having mastered the basics, I'm able to a step back and survey the scene : it's 10am on a Monday morning and it's what one might subtly describe as "all going off." There are sweaty bodies gyrating on every available surface, including wobbly wooden chairs and tables, although it's not clear whether it's the furniture or the flailing bodies that are the most wonky. It's a health and safety nightmare.

The sun is streaming through the chinks in the windows and doors to reveal beaming revellers dancing and chatting animatedly, marvelling at their good fortune at passing their Monday mornings partying in the sun rather than back in England (Ming-ger-land?), nose to the grindstone, the post-weekend blues rapidly taking hold. They can't believe their luck, and the energy is contagious. It's wall to wall Cheshire Cats in 'ere.

It's not just the punters throwing shapes, the bar staff and DJs are cutting some serious rug too. With the decks nestled right up alongside the bar, pounding bass and slow build-ups sending shivers up our spines, we have little choice. We are powerless to resist: the music is entrancing and we inevitably submit to multiple eargasms.

By now the bar looks like a bomb has hit it, spilt drinks, half-empty glasses everywhere, overflowing bins and ashtrays....but one look at Juan and I can see he's no longer bothered, as he clumsily pours us all another long line of vodka and lime (wodka lima!) chupitos as he jumps up and down.

The staff yell "salut!" over the music and down them in one, slamming the empty shot glasses back down onto the sticky bar and wincing in unison.
He high-fives me and, catching me off-guard, lifts me high into the air, looking wild-eyed and crazy as he declares that I'm his "favourite girl in the WHOLE of San Antonio!" in his unintelligible Spanish accent, planting a scratchy kiss on my cheek through his thick wiry 'tache. At least I think that's what he's saying. I wipe my cheek with the back of my hand and scrunch up my face.

"I take it I can come back tomorrow then?" I murmur under my breath...

The perspiring throng are, 'ow you say in Eengleesh?..." 'Avinit LARGE mate!"....eyes closed, lost in the music. I even catch sight of Emilio the chef, the palest squid-skinned Spaniard I ever did meet, shuffling to the beat through the kitchen's food hatch. He's having a cheeky dance seeing as there's not much demand for fry-ups this morning; everyone is far too busy dancing to even contemplate the greasy Spanglish menu.

The crowd fist-pump their approval as the DJs drop one tune after another. The unmistakable opening bars of Nalin and Kane's Beachball kick in, my favourite tune of the season, and I punch the air whilst simultaneously pulling yet another dodgy pint...

Then Ultra Nate's "You're freeeee, to do what you want to do...." really gets our juices going. This track will become another of our anthems of the summer, particularly resonating with us as twenty-something's who've escaped the rat-race and feel that right here, right now, the world is our oyster, anything is possible. It's like the song was actually written with us "workers" in mind....

Gradually the bar thins out and the volume of the music decreases, until it's 4pm and only a few straggly hangers-on remain, face down at a table on the terrace, the backs of their necks burnt by the
scorching summer sun, or chatting in tight little groups in the dark recesses and alcoves of the building, cowering from the sunlight, postponing the inevitable painful trek back to their hotel, more battered than last Friday's fish supper.

The following morning dawns and it's time to leave for work once more. I hang on as long as possible at the apartment willing Kez to show up, but these are the days before everyone and their dog owns a mobile and she's nowhere to be seen. Reluctantly, I leave without her, and within minutes of the bar opening, the party is once again in full swing. The place is heaving and we're a (wo)man down. She finally shows hours late for our 6am shift. Oops. Manuel is less than impressed, and later, Juan sacks her. The Uncovered crew show up to film us, loving the scandal. After a lot of grovelling, she's given another chance, although it's short-lived.

It turns out holding down an eight-hour daily bar shift whilst attending every club night and after-party on the island is no mean feat, even for a couple of professional party-girls such as ourselves. If our work timesheet was as good as our reliable Ammesia or Pacha attendance, we'd be model employees. We clock in and out of Space every Sunday with no problems at all, 100% attendance, impeccable records. No disciplinaries needed for chucking sickies or dragging our heels and showing up late when it comes to clubbing. No Siree!

However, it quickly transpires that we are gonna need A LOT of jobs this summer...

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Friday, 15 April 2016

Whatever Floats Your Boat

With my brain still pickled from celebrating (commiserating?) a recent landmark birthday, and having dashed straight from a two-day business conference, it's fair to say that I arrive for my appointment at The Floatworks feeling somewhat frazzled. I've been burning my 40-year-old candle at both ends and despite my best efforts with the make-up, it shows.

I get off the rammed Victoria Line tube at Vauxhall and head straight for my float session, tired feet aching in towering heels, and am relieved to discover it's merely a stone's throw from the station, nestled amongst plush residential apartments in St George Wharf.

I am greeted by two fresh-faced, smiling young staff, who shake my hand warmly and politely introduce themselves, before offering me some water and a comfy seat and handing me a health and safety sheet to read. There is a pleasant aroma wafting throughout and a flat screen TV on the wall plays hypnotic psychedelic patterns enhanced by chilled background music, which all contribute to the relaxed ambiance.

"How deep is the water?....And how much salt?" I ask skeptically, contemplating the enormous corporate buffet I inhaled at lunchtime. It's gonna take a whole load of epsom salts to get THIS body a-floatin'....

Soon, my pod is ready and I'm led into a room where my i-Sopod awaits. Sounds futuristic? Well, it looks it too : a huge shiny egg with a lightweight lid sits surrounded by a calming blue light. The water inside is around 25cm deep, and about half a kilo of magnesium-rich Epsom salts are added to create a super-buoyant detox soup.

I need all the kidney cleansing I can get right now, so I take a quick shower and hop right in, slowly lowering the lid on my watery tomb. I have reservations that the pod will feel as claustrophobic as a coffin, but to my relief it's actually very spacious, and the high curved roof contributes to the airy feel. The water is so salty that it's impossible to lay on the bottom, and I instantly bob on the surface like a careworn rubber duck.

During the first ten minutes the lights gradually dim and soft music is played which fades out whilst I adjust to my surroundings, until I'm left floating in the pitch darkness. Initially, I'm lying rigid with my arms stiff by my sides, but as my tense limbs become accustomed to the sensation I start to unfurl and I'm soon star-shaped and weightless.

As the water is body temperature and I'm engulfed in blackness, it's impossible to feel which parts of your body are submerged, and I have to physically touch them to find out. Fortunately, for a die-hard make-up wearer such as myself, there's no danger of your face getting wet. I already removed my face make-up in the shower, but this means I don't have to worry about panda eyes with mascara ending up somewhere around my knees, plus you're advised to dry your face before entering the pod. With this level of saltiness, you're certainly not going to want to get it in your eyes, much less ingest any!

Similarly, if you have any cuts it's sure going to sting, so those thoughtful reception staff hand you a few packs of petroleum jelly at the outset to apply to those areas. Shaving your legs (or any other area for that matter!) beforehand is a definite no-no.  However, these pre-float precautions are worth the effort, as the benefits of soaking in this high concentration of Epsom salts seem endless: from eliminating migraines to lowering blood pressure, reducing stress levels, improving circulation, concentration, reducing toxins - the list goes on...

I'm no hippified yoga bunny, quite the reverse, so I'm hardly expecting some transcendental spiritual experience - and none comes - but I am acutely aware of both my heartbeat and breathing slowing considerably.

I'm sure meditation experts can zone out and reach a higher plane, but for an uninitiated stress monkey like me it may take a little practise. I'm sure with regular visits even I could learn to reach that level of zen, such is the calming womb-like environment. After a while, my aching muscles feel less tense, my head clearer. I haven't had a single urge to check Facebook for almost an hour now, so something strange is definitely happening to me....

I'm happily floating about contemplating life when, to my astonishment, the ching-ching tunes start up and the blue lights gradually come on, indicating I have five minutes left of my hour-long session.

I reluctantly climb out of my pod and enjoy a hot shower, availing myself of the delicious complimentary toiletries. Then it's time for a quick tidy-up in the Hollywood room using the turbo-powered hairdryers and GHDs. I'm offered a free herbal tea on the beanbags in the chill-out area, but alas, I have to dash, which I do as quickly as my blissed-out bod will allow. Back at Victoria Station there are delays and an accompanying level of travel chaos which would usually make my blood boil, but to my surprise I struggle to even raise a frown.

Finally home, I sleep like a baby and wake up in the morning with the soft skin of one too, which is an unexpected added bonus. Floating has never before been on my health radar, but I think from now on I will be making space in my diary for it. This is one item on my to-do list I definitely won't be pushing to the bottom....

The Floatworks
St George Wharf

 0207 357 0111
Fancy reading my back-story before you go any further? You can find my other blogs at:

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Monday, 11 April 2016

The Dream Becomes A Reality....Show

Following that first girly jaunt to The White Isle, the crew agreed that the trip had been the absolute dog's balearics and were chomping at the bit to get back over to the party girl's paradise as soon as our sixth-form schedules would allow.

The summer of '94 followed a similar pattern to the previous year, only this time we were older and wiser; we swerved the grasping rep's evil clutches, avoiding the welcome meeting and therefore any attempts they'd make to tease the traveller's cheques from our sweaty paws in exchange for a lukewarm watered-down jug of sangria and a tacky talent show.

No cheesy congas through the West End for us this time, oh no, now we were clued-up chicas who frequented Space, Ku Club (now Privilege), Amnesia and Pacha. We could cherry-pick the best nights at the creme de la creme of clubland.

Ibiza became an annual pilgrimage; we'd slog all year, tucking away tenners here and there in between celebrating our eighteenth birthdays or spending nights down at The Moon and Sixpence pub in Welling, The Polo Bar in Bexleyheath, or cheesy local Kent nightclubs such as Bridewells, T's and Zens. These clubs weren't exactly the epitome of cool clubbing, a world away from their Ibizan counterparts, but they were close to home and so convenient for a mid-week mashup, what with school in the morning and all....

Eventually we'd build up enough funds to trot down to Thomas Cook and proudly slap our hard-earned moolah into their mitts, then we'd be counting down the days on the calendar until our skittish excitement reached a crescendo and the big day arrived, stirring fluttering butterflies in our flat teenage bellies.

Aged 19, despite getting top grades at A level, I'd binned the university offers in favour of gleaning some hands-on experience at the University of Life. I wanted to roll up my sleeves, get to work and start earning some dosh. However, here I was, merely a year or so in and already feeling a bit meh....and then later totally disillusioned. Oh well, only another fifty years to go. But then a little seedling of an idea took root deep in the fertile soil of my brain, and I began to formulate a cunning plan. Why was I spending fifty long weeks of the year working in the UK, for the sake of spending just two weeks in the place I really loved? Surely this was all out of kilter? How did other young people get jobs in Ibiza and pop back to the UK for the odd visit, rather than vice versa? I was determined to be one of them...

The monotony of working at WHSmith Liverpool St (which was basically a slow and painful death disguised in a putrid A-line skirt and naff polyester shirt and sold to me as a 'fast-track management program') soon galvanised me into action. It quickly became apparent that the starchy beige uniform and mundane repetition of the role just would not do at all. Not if I didn't want to gouge my own eyeballs out in frustration at having to manually place daily book orders, poring over reams of print-outs of recent books sales and decide which stock to buy in next. My colleagues and I were eager to shrug off our geeky threads and shimmy on down to the local bars and clubs.
We were the Levis Club : always out the door at 5.01.

However hard we tried, and we were very persistent in our concerted efforts to replicate epic Ibiza-style nights out, the grey and drizzly City of London just wasn't cutting the mustard.

Over an Archers and lemonade (hey, it was fashionable at the time!) we'd fantasise about telling Mr Philpott (our boss) to shove his book orders somewhere unspeakable and jet off to the white island, pronto. I'd suggest this poker-faced and deadly serious, but when the dutch courage had worn off the other girls seemed a little less sure. I didn't fancy being Billy-No-Mates on Bossa beach, so the idea was temporarily shelved.

A year on, I saw my opportunity for a new life in the sun and seized it with both hands. It came packaged in the form of a fellow six-foot blonde bombshell colleague. By this point, I'd sacked off Smiths in the name of sanity and was now working in the more suitably glamorous surroundings of Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge as a make-up artist and skincare consultant for Clinique, alongside a new party-loving partner in crime, Kez Wells. Equally passionate about what happened between the hours of 5pm-9am rather than the boring 9-to-5, she listened quietly yet intently to my plans...and to my delight instantly signed herself up.

"I'm in!" she declared with a high five, and off we trotted to the pub to celebrate.

By sheer coincidence, a few weeks later we were working our notice periods and planning our new life in Ibiza when we had a chance encounter that was set to spice up our summer. Kez was chatting animatedly to a customer on our Clinique counter, who happened to ask if she enjoyed her job. "Yeah it's cool," replied Kez casually, but me and my good mate Sam over there are off to live in Ibiza next week."

The customer, it emerged, was in fact Sam Brick, a producer for Sky, who was about to start work on a brand new fly-on-the-wall documentary, the first of it's kind. It was to be called Ibiza Uncovered. Another ballsy blonde who I'm still in contact with, Sam has since found fame as an acclaimed author and journalist, becoming a household name in part due to appearing on Celebrity Big Brother after writing several outspoken articles.

Hearing Kez's words, Ms Brick's eyes lit up and she took our phone numbers, promising to call. And call she did. The very next week, the Sky crew descended on my parents' house in Bexley to start filming, much to the surprise of my family and neighbours, whose net curtains were soon twitching with curiosity at the van unloading huge lights, cameras and microphones outside our three-bed semi.

They filmed us packing our cases, interviewed us lying on my single bed gushing enthusiastically about our plans, which were woolly at best, having simply booked a two-week package "18-to-Herpes" holiday with no onward accommodation...or job, for that matter. Full of the optimism (folly?) of youth, and long before the days of smartphones and social media networking, we weren't remotely concerned that we had not a single solid contact and only one very weak job lead, figuring since we were heading over in May ('97), the season hadn't yet kicked off and we'd have our pick of the barwork.

A few days later, reality set in. We were staying in an apartment block by The Egg, a central landmark in the middle of San An. It was 10th May, the weather was a bit unpredictable and the West End, which I'd raved about to Kez, the Ibiza virgin, was deserted during the daytime, eerily quiet and dare I say it...a tad depressing. A bit like Brighton pier in winter. It became apparent that she thought we'd made a mistake in coming to Ibiza...which she told me, brutally and vocally, during a fraught fracas after a particularly boozy afternoon's sunbathing.

Nerves began to fray as time and money starting running out : we had to find a home and jobs quick-time, or face slinking back, tails between our sunburnt legs, to the UK....and reality....which neither of us wanted.

To be fair, we weren't exactly trying our hardest to find work, as every time we went into a bar to enquire, we ended up stopping for a "quick one" which led to another and another and suddenly it was 6am and we'd be dancing on the bar, the job-hunting as far from our minds as the childhood bedrooms that awaited us again if we failed. With the Sky crew rocking up at our apartment every few days to check on our employment status, it got even harder to find a job, since the huge cameras trailing us everywhere had a Pied Piper effect, a steady stream of lagered-up blokes forming a never-ending procession behind us, eager to get their grinning rat-faces on the telly.

A cheeky money-saving ploy employed by the bar owners seemed to be to invite potential PR staff to work for free on a 'trial shift' basis, whereby you spend several hours bouncing about outside the bar like a deranged goalie, desperately trying to catch every passing holidaymaker swerving to avoid you, then field them into the bar, babbling incoherently about free shots, all under the watchful eye of the owner. Us Brits are accustomed to the tactics of Chuggers (charity muggers) on every high st up and down the country, so are pretty adept at side-stepping the tackles.

Having watched his potential employee springing about like Tigger in the name of good propping, the owner then makes a decision: will he a) employee you and give you the peseta equivalent of a tenner for a good eight hours of nightly sweaty toil?...or b) blow you out in favour of the next desperate hopeful, thus securing himself a whole summer's free labour as a steady stream of expats come begging?

We 'worked' a few unpaid nights here and there in this manner, until one day we happened upon The New Star, a rather innocuous-looking bar on the outskirts of town, up past Bar M (now Ibiza Rocks Bar), near the petrol station. It was early in the season and a very quiet afternoon in the bar, virtually empty, so we chatted to the two young Brits already working there, Claire and Leon, who then beckoned Juan the owner over to us (later photographed below with myself, Leon and other New Star workers). He looked us up and down, asked if we'd done bar work before, to which we both instantly and instinctively lied "Yes!"

"Okay guapas," he said in his thick Spanish accent through his equally thick black wiry 'tache, "come back at 6am tomorrow to start work." Juan's business partner Manuel, looked on, bemused, from across the bar. Emilio the chef glanced up from his newspaper.

We wanted to leap over the counter and kiss him with delight, but instead simply sauntered out of the bar as cooly as we could, feeling a weight lift from our peeling shoulders, erupting into giggles as we rounded the corner.

Of course, being a relatively small venue on the fringe of San An, we calmly assumed it'd be a breeze - a chilled-out first shift whence we'd gently ease ourselves into the bartending saddle. No-one would be any the wiser that we had no idea how to mix cocktails or pull a decent pint. We'd soon learn the ropes.

Little did we know, as we innocently clip-clopped up to work in our heels and miniskirts at dawn the next morning, that in reality the New Star would be one of the most popular and notorious after-party bars on the island, a heaving hotbed of hedonism, a veritable den of iniquity, that would be the backdrop of an unforgettable summer.

Combine that with a stint in the entertainments team at Manumission, plus the television show we were set to feature in weekly with the first episode about to be aired, and it quickly became apparent that this was certainly going to make a refreshing change to the continous commutes and tedious tasking of our lives back in lustreless London. Oh yes, this was going to be an interesting season alright...

....To be continued....

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Tuesday, 5 April 2016

San An Shenanigans: Twelve teens hit Ibiza

I fell in love with clubbing long before I was old enough to set foot in one. Well, legally anyway.

At fifteen, I papered my bedroom walls, door and even the ceiling with flyers for raves and club nights, signing up to the Flying Squad mailing list to have all the latest party invites posted to me. I would eagerly await their arrival, marveling at the trippy graphic designs and poring over the intriguing details of all the upcoming raves in fields, manor houses and other off-limit locations.

Okay, so I wasn't allowed to actually go to any, but it didn't stop me listening to the pirate radio stations on my old stacking stereo system, making my own mixtapes and plotting my escape to run off and join the circus of parties.

I started hand-drawing my own designs for flyers as I lay on my bed listening to tinny happy hardcore, before progressing to painting a giant mural of a psychedelic face on my bedroom wall - lashing paint over the chintzy Laura Ashley wallpaper underneath, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering parents.

It was around this time that I first became aware of a magical little island in the Mediterranean Sea that was set to become an important feature in my early adult life and beyond: Ibiza.

Ibiza (pronounced eye-beef-ahh in my downmarket teen dialect) popped up regularly in the various dance music magazines that I had started buying, such as DJ and Mixmag, and I became focused on the idea of jetting off, sans parents, for a party-packed package holiday with my fellow female schoolmates to this mystical floating clubber's paradise.

One evening, I recorded a TV show called The Rough Guide To Ibiza, hosted by the glamorous Magenta Devine and that was it, I was officially obsessed. I'd sit there in my school uniform, gazing transfixed at the screen as beautiful exotic dancers clad in feather headdresses, towering heels and jewel-encrusted bras paraded through the streets of Ibiza Town, promoting the night's festivities ahead of their later stints in the club, where they'd be gyrating to pumping house music on the stage at Pacha. I'd rewind the VHS and replay that TV show ad infinitum, or until my Dad came in and commandeered the remote so he could switch over to the footy.

To my absolute amazement, in 1993, not only did my parents agree to allow me to go on a two-week jaunt to Ibiza on a Club 18-30's holiday, but so did the parents of my fellow 17-year-old besties....all eleven of them.

Our naive Olds were obviously under the illusion that since we were all intelligent, well-behaved and well-performing grammar school pupils we'd be more than capable of taking care of ourselves. Well, we may have breezed through our Eleven-Plus exams, but we hadn't all got full marks in that most important of life lessons....common sense. Some of us may have even bunked that particular class.

Imagine a room full of hyped-up puppies bounding around, tails wagging furiously, multiply that ten-thousand-fold, and you still won't come close to conjuring up the excitement we all felt as the cheap early-morning red-eye flight filled up with fellow teens and twenty-somethings. As we soared skywards, everyone on the plane was chain-smoking and guzzling alcopops (pilot and crew probably included) despite the early hour. Why? Well, because we could, of course. Duh!

There were no smoking bans in those days, even on tube trains or aeroplanes, so we flipped open our little armrest ashtrays and puffed away. It was an airborne party from take-off.
Rip-off baggage charges had yet to be dreamt up by the money-grabbing airline fatcats, so our suitcases were jam-packed with every item from our wardrobes (I remember opening the doors and just scooping the whole contents out and into the case), along with a ton of make-up, beauty products and about ten pairs of shoes.

My beloved 'ghetto blaster' - a giant black plastic monstrosity - and a selection of my favourite cassettes were also vital items of luggage, the stand-out tunes of the summer being Mother's 'All Funked Up', Nightcrawlers 'Push The Feeling On,' Aftershock's 'Slave To The Vibe' and 'Give It Up' by The Goodmen:

Poems For My Pals

I was just having a Spring clean on this beautiful sunny morning and came across these poems I wrote for two of my oldest mates, Nicolette and Sheryl (the latter nicknamed Pinhead/Ronnie Corbett due to her diminutive frame), on their respective hen nights.

Nicolette's hen do in Marbella was particularly memorable as she ended up slipping over in a club and badly breaking her ankle, leading to her hobbling down the aisle on crutches.

All's well that ends well, and both are now happily married with children.....

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Monday, 4 April 2016

I said Forty not Faulty

A year ago, when the calendar flipped round to March for the thirty-ninth time in my life, I started thinking of myself as forty to give myself a year to get used to the idea. Whenever people asked how old I was I'd say I was forty, with increasing confidence and defiance as the year wore on and the D-Day b-day approached.

It didn't work. Despite being in sunny Spain on 31st March this year, I awoke on the morn of my fortieth birthday feeling a tad....dare I say it.....OLD.

It was as if the Grim Reaper had stood at the foot of my bed in the night, chuckling with glee as he decided not to actually take me, not yet, but just to wave his scythe around a bit and carve a few new deep creases around my eyes.

On that momentous day I woke with a jolt, stumbled bleary-eyed to the mirror and inspected my obviously 40-year-old face in the bright early-morning Spanish sunlight. Ouch! Not only did I have those new 'laughter lines' (I don't know about you, but I don't see anything remotely funny here), but I also had 'pillow face' whereby the once-bouncy cheeks now take a while to return to their smooth state after a restless night's sleep (did I mention that insomnia kicks in around this age?). Oh, and my chest was looking a tad crepey too.

"What the....?" I said aloud to my concerned reflection, jumping in the shower in a vain attempt to steam away some of the creases. Was it my imagination, or did my make-up seem to be making me look older today, the peach-toned Polyfiller gathering like cement in the nasolabial folds despite taking extra care when applying it.

My year of pre-forty pep-talking had failed.

Of course, I don't feel forty. I don't think anyone really feels their age. This is why, working in the beauty industry as I do, I'm confronted on a daily basis by crinkly fifty-year-olds excitedly asking me the question every skincare consultant dreads:

"How old do you think I am?"

Instinctively, I take off ten years, add another couple, take one off again then tentatively say:

"Errrrrrrm. Fortyyyyy...........three?"

The customer beams with pride as she loudly announces "I'm fifty-two."

Personally, I'd have pitched her at around the fifty-five mark, but I allow her the glory, acknowledging the boost it provides when someone, particularly another woman, chucks another credit in your age-o-meter.

Although we all recognise the tell-tale signs whilst pondering our reflections: the lines, the thinning hair, the sparse brows - we tend to skim over these giveaways of our advancing years because on the inside we are still eighteen years old, nervously chewing our nails as we await our A-level results or dancing without a care in the world on a podium in Ibiza.

The outer shell may be changing more quickly than I'd like, but deep down I'm still the risk-taking, fun-loving girl I always was: a self-conscious seething mass of emotions - albeit now cunningly concealed with a bolshie dose of bravado.

Naturally, age and experience has brought wisdom, cynicism and a dry, wry sense of humour, but underneath I'm still the lanky schoolgirl wondering if anyone will ask me to the prom. I regularly give myself the third degree, harshly asking myself if I'm doing the right thing/am I a good boss/a lousy friend? - burning questions that reverberate around my monkey mind at 3am on a wet weekday morning. By and large though, us grown-up gals know who we are and what we want, and we aren't afraid to go out and get it.

It's a well-known fact that women of a certain age wear a cloak of invisibility. As a twenty-year-old, wolf whistles and cheeky car horn toots are a regular annoyance, tolerated with rolling eyes. At forty, we're almost grateful to receive them. "Still got it!" we say to ourselves, with a smile and a flick of the hair.

As a six foot blonde, admiring glances haven't ceased altogether (not yet!) but I occasionally catch a flicker of disappointment when a randy young lad realises upon closer inspection that I'm probably the same age as his mother.

Some women describe a sense of relief at their new-found invisibility, no longer feeling the need to constantly fiddle with their appearance. Not me! I want to be glamorous until the bitter end, groomed to perfection until I draw my last weak breath from a shakily-applied lipsticked mouth. Even if the teeth are not all my own.

Some say age is nothing but a number, merely a state of mind. I say let's get in a state, then we won't mind. Being a sozzled old soak may not be a good look, but boy does a glass of Sauvignon take the edge off a tough day...and when I gawp goggled-eyed into the mirror in the Ladies of the swanky rooftop bar, it miraculously takes the edge off the wrinkles too. Cheers to champers! I'll be quite happy to grow old disgracefully, Patsy from Ab Fab style.

Having a younger boyfriend certainly helps and fear ye not single girls! There are no shortage of fit fellas seeking out a sexy middle-aged cougar. I'm not ready for a guy who likes to lounge in front of the telly with his pipe, slippers and a faithful beagle at his feet. No siree! Give me a hot young action man any day of the week.

A close-knit group of mates is also essential - many of whom I've been bosom buddies with since we started secondary school. Somehow they all still speak to me, which is miraculous in itself, since I'm not exactly known for my tact and reticence...

Throw in owning a modest home, a job I enjoy and a handful of family members and that's all the ingredients I need to swerve a crisis. (And besides, I already had a mid-life meltdown a few years ago).

When I say you feel the same inside at 40 as 20, that's not strictly true. Try spending an evening with a load of twenty-year-olds. You'll soon change your mind. Although the changes may be subtle and you'll always retain some of your youthful ways, at 40 you're a fierce and fiery lioness not merely a pretty kitten. Mess with us at your peril!

In my teens I was on a journey of self-discovery, my twenties were wild partying mixed with occasional property purchasing. The thirties were about marriage followed by a miserable quest for motherhood before tearing everything up and starting my life all over again.

photo credit

Now, with a fresh new decade stretching ahead of me like an open road, I'm ready to pack my bags, travel as far and wide as my bank balance and holiday entitlement will allow, and embrace the future with gratitude. With the awareness that I've passed the halfway mark in my life (probably quite a while ago, let's be honest), every day is a blessing and I intend to grab every opportunity and live every day as if it were my last. Because let's face it, it soon will be.

Of course, we could vow to give up all the naughty-but-fun stuff, but you won't necessarily live longer, it'll just feel like it.

So buy the heels, drink the bubbles, spluge the's time to get naughty at forty, ladies!

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Friday, 1 April 2016

One Foot In The Rave

photo credit

It's Sunday evening after the previous night's clubbing, you're slumped in the local old folks' home wearing a pair of stained, too-big jeans, which you're sure until recently were the perfect fit.
Suddenly, over the course of what feels like only a matter of days, your body appears to have withered and contracted in the manner of a grape morphing into a raisin, any last vestige of fecundity disappearing with the last drops of moisture. As you lick at the spittle in the corners of your mouth hoping for some relief from the dryness, you realise that a couple of young lads are eyeing you with suspicion from across the room, marveling curiously at the events that may have preceded this old vessel coming to be washed up in this depressingly dead part of town.

"S'up lads?" you enquire through glazed, rheumy eyes. They look away, embarrassed. It's at this point you realise with a jolt that these young whippersnappers are mistaking you for.....a resident.

"Nah boys!" you correct them, attempting to laugh through cracking voice. " I don't live here! I'm not a.....whispering in hushed tones as you glance around....geriatric!
Christ, I'm only about twenty years older than you two!"

Their eyes widen with shock as your trembling hand reaches out to show them a recent selfie on your Iphone. There. There it is. You're wearing the same top, same jeans, but you look....decades younger.

"See?" You implore, incredulous. "I'm not a pensioner you fools. I've just been to Clockwork Orange."

The awkward silence is broken with peals of relieved laughter and high-fives as you explain that, overcome with post-party guilt at not having visited your grumpy Gramps in the local care home for a while, you decided to pop along this evening before a busy week back at work tomorrow.

"Blimey, mate, you're doing it all wrong!" one of them laughs, reaching over to pat their  dear old nan's arm, who's looking on, confused, as his brother pops another boiled sweet into her gummy mouth.

"You wanna take a tip or two from our mate Sam. She's as old as the hills but she follows these simple rules that MUST be adhered to as an ageing cheesy quaver."

He pulls his plastic chair in and leans closer as he prepares to share the hallowed secrets.

"Now listen up, and listen good....."

1. Always follow the 1/4 rule
To avoid looking like one of the Rolling Stones' older meth-addicted brothers, only go on a bender one week in four, tops. At 18, someone's only gotta start the sentence "D'ya fancy coming to....? and you're there : showered, flossed, fluffed and waiting by the front door.
At forty, you've gotta be a bit more selective. Pick and choose your nights with care. Whereas before you'd go to the opening of an envelope, now you want the ensuing three-day hangover to actually be worth it. And who wants to bust those well-honed moves surrounded by a load of spotty oiks off their nuts on some random plant fertiliser they've bought off t'internet, eh?

2. Don't peak too soon
 When you're buzzing with excitement about the upcoming festivities, it can be tempting to celebrate the night before with a few cheeky beverages. Big mistake. What starts as a cheeky chupito often ends up surrounded by empty wine bottles on the morning of the big party itself. Fail! On the night before the rave, barricade yourself in the house, turn your phone to silent - smack yourself over the head with a shovel if you need to, but DO NOT, I repeat NOT, get on it! You'll ruin the main event.

3. Be prepared
Remember the boy scout motto. You're old. The post-party hangover is gonna hurt. Fact. Minimise the damage by getting your beauty sleep and eating well beforehand. Take Milk Thistle (liver protector) and 1g Vitamin C (antioxidant) every morning. Oh, and drink hot water with lemon for a few days prior. Aloe Vera juice is pretty good too.

4. Make the most of it on the night
You'll be brown bread soon enough. Get those stylish yet deceptively comfy shoes on and dance like your pathetic little life depends on it. Rave face on, hands in the air, reach for the lasers and grin like a Cheshire cat, safe in the knowledge that most of your mates are tucked up in bed fast asleep, whilst you, you absolute legend, are defying the laws of both nature and gravity and are having it with a largeness those lightweights can only dream of. Take it all in : these memories will need to keep you going til the next party, so make sure you stow them away well.

5. Recovery position
Once you've raved to your heart's content, get yourself rehydrated, chuck a load of multivits and a fistful of 5-HTP down your gullet and hibernate until the next permitted soiree in four weeks' time (see rule 1). By all means make a cheeky foray to celebrate a mate's birthday, have a post-work drink with a colleague, but do NOT be tempted to go flat-out hardcore raving on a weekly basis. That way trouble lies. And remember, what goes on tour, stays on tour. At your age, don't be tempted to overshare. If someone asks "Good weekend?" over the water-cooler on a Monday morning, a simple "yes" will suffice.

"That's it. Simples. You got that mate?"


Having shared these pearls of wisdom, the young lads glance over at the foolish old graver (grey raver) to check he's taken it all in, but it's pointless - the clubbing casualty has succumbed to the heat of God's waiting room (aka Sevenoaks Retirement Village) and is unconscious; furry tongue lolling out of the side of his downturned mouth.

Shrugging, they glance over to acknowledge his spritely grandad, who simply raises his eyebrows and gives them a knowing smile. With twisted arthritic hands, he slips his Dr Dre headphones out of his bedside cabinet, places them atop his wispy white head, then carefully presses 'play' on Jason Bye's latest Clockwork set on his Ipad.

Index finger pressed to his lips in a silent sshhhh, he indicates to the lads not to wake his slumped, slumbering grandson as he double-taps his Google app and with slow, deliberate movements, slips on his half-moon spectacles and types four words into the search engine...



Fancy reading my back-story before you go any further? You can find my other blogs at:

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