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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  1. Wow Sam, loved reading this so I had to comment. I've read a few of your blogs now but this one is close to my heart. I remember the day you and Kez went to the New Star for the bar jobs and then seeing you both with my brother working that morning I saw the looks on your faces as the place was rammed. That was the first time I've ever seen so many people in one place with the music pumping and everyone busting moves at 6am in the sunshine and so happy! You both pulled it off!! That's when I knew the season had begun and I was going to fall in love with Ibiza and build some special friendships, including you and Kez, you can see thus from the pic xxx

    1. Farrah! I spent all afternoon yesterday listening to old tunes, watching Ibiza Uncovered to jog my memory, and thinking about you, your bro, and all those fun times in the sunshine! I'm glad you like it xx