"What time is it, Stephen?"
"Quarter to nine."
Sunday. Breakfast is on between 7.00 and 10.00 so as we drag our weary, slightly hung over arses out of bed we reckon we have just over an hour to get some food down us before heading to the beach.
Except we don't. At some point while I am in the bathroom (having carefully closed the door so that it might have half a chance of re-opening) the realisation hits me that I have forgotten to put the clock forward on my mobile phone. It was certainly 8.45 in Manchester, but here in Benidrom it was most definitely 9.45. Despite my extra care with the door, we have missed breakfast.
So, the beach it is. A day before the flight, and remembering that the plan while here was to do as much of nothing as possible, I spent an unreasonable amount of money in the Waterstones in Liverpool. Usually I can just wave a gift card around in the likes of Waterstones and WH Smiths. So predictably dull am I that if ever anyone bothers to ask what I might like for a birthday or for Christmas, there is a 90-odd% chance that I will suggest a voucher for a book store. That's not a hint. Nothing I say is a hint, unless you're going to do it.
Anyway somehow I was as good as voucher-less (there was actually about £3-something on my last Waterstones card) when I bought ANOTHER Grisham novel, YET ANOTHER Bill Bryson tome, and one by an author entirely new to me called Jeremy Dyson. I'm trying to broaden my horizons. Or something. I remember wondering how I could have arrived at the point where I needed actual English currency to obtain books in Waterstones, and then I looked into my wallet and found a gift card for HMV that had been there for over a year, and one for Gamestation which may very well pre-date the original version of the Atari.
So where were we? The beach. I'm not good with sand or water so what am I doing here? Correction. The wheelchair is not good with sand or water so what is it doing here? I'm stuck with it, but fortunately there is enough of a wooden ramp to help me get within jumping distance of a pair of loungers and a parasol. Beaches all seem to have those ramps with grooves in which jolt you each time a wheel hits one. I don't know whether it is meant to slow you down so that you don't mow down a passing toddler, but whatever the reason it makes it more awkward. Awkward is the beach's middle name.
We pay 12 Euros for the privilege of lounging around all day in that spot. An old man who knows almost no English other than to ask for money (my Dad used to say that about me and my sister) walks by and collects a small fortune. It's quite busy here, but thankfully everyone seems to have the same idea as us (i.e. to do nothing except maybe read) so we are not disturbed until one of the old man's colleagues, similarly challenged with her English, walks by to check that we have indeed purchased tickets enabling us to do nothing.
Somewhere in the middle of Bryson's first chapter a drinks vendor wanders by. His English is slightly better than that of the man selling loungers and parasols. Aswell as asking you for money, the drinks vendor knows how to shout the names of beverages at you very loudly;
"Coca-Cola, lemon (suspiciously pronounced limon but we'll let him have it), Fanta, beer!" he booms at regular intervals, scouring the beach for someone who might be interested. There is a huge supermarket not two minutes walk from where we are yet he does a roaring trade. Such is the nature of people, they will pay more for their drinks if it means they can have them brought to them by loud, pushy blokes rather than have to cross the street just off the beach.
One particular set of customers are winding our drinks vendor up somehow. They've asked for something that our man hasn't got and it's prompted a bit of a tantrum. He storms off to get the right drink for his bemused customers and as he goes about completing the transaction, he begins throwing items of his belonging to different parts of the beach. One such missile gives a fright to a pair of sunbathing girls nearby, while another lands on the lounger of his customers as he fannies around in his bag, probably looking for the requisite change. The woman buying the drink is not put off by this. There is no way that she is walking the two minutes over the road don't forget, so she calmly picks up his discarded goods and hands them back to him. He walks on grumpily.
In terms of causing a disturbance he's nothing compared to the vendor we encountered on the beach in Alcudia. Every day the same chubby, middle-aged lady would patrol the area trying to sell her liquid refreshment in the same aggressive manner. And her English was worse;
"Melon and melon and melon and a melon and Co-Co!" she would bellow, which we presumed to mean she had some Coke somewhere on her person which might be for sale. We dared not ask. This was a very scary woman. I swear one afternoon I had drifted off to sleep (nursing another hangover, no doubt) and her overly-enthusiastic brand of salesmanship actually woke me up. We lay at different parts of the beach on different days, but there was no escape from her town cryer act.
Back in Benidorm it is time for lunch. Having missed breakfast this is the first chance we get to visit our restaurant. We're full board and at a fairly hefty price too I might add, so it would be nice if there were something palatable on offer. Even better if the service was something approaching acceptable. We wait to be seated and are greeted by a short, balding man we assume to be the manager. Head waiter at least. There is something slightly sinister about him. He reminds Emma of an actor she has seen in films playing eastern European characters. I can confirm that he does. Google Peter Stormare and you will get some idea of what greeted us every meal time.
Lunch is more cheese and ham related products and while Emma has gone back to the buffet for something or other I notice our movie villain head waiter has a slight quirk upon greeting some of his dining guests. A couple walk in and he smiles at them happily, turns to the gentleman and says;
.......before switching his gaze and coming out with the quite brilliantly inappropriate....
He's calling him 'sir' and her 'love'. What's more he is doing it in a such a way that the botched pronounciation only accentuates the faux pas. Or whatever the Spanish is. I have no idea which customer service courses he has been on. Later that day, one of the waitresses manages to top up Emma's glass of Diet Coke with half a glass of regular Coke. She hasn't even asked for a top-up. In fact, she has declined the offer.
Back at the hotel bar in the evening the live music is getting worse. Comparisons to Raw Sex are entirely superflous at this point but that is as best a description I can offer you of the type of entertainment on offer. A very old man bashes away at his organ (oh, really) while half a handful of people scarcely notice. The white-haired grape-face from last night is back again and he has managed to age even more. Again we don't stay long.
The only new bar we visit thereafter is the Western Saloon. My sister had told me that she and her friends had had a 'riot' in there when she last visited Benidorm. That may be an unfortunate term at the moment but that is exactly the one she used before the residents of Tottenham decided to start tearing their neigbourhood apart. Perhaps she is something of a prophet. Anyway, for 'riot' read Irish duo performing the kind of patriotic ditties that one needs to be highly innebriated to enjoy. One of the men consumes a ridiculous amount of lager throughout his performance without really showing any ill effects. It's quite phenomenal.
Aware that they have utterly screwed up the theme by inviting this dubious pair to their establishment, the Western Saloon staff make a bit of an effort by dressing up as cowgirls. Now this is mildly diverting to me but there is no wheelchair access to the bar and so, another ludicroulsy large vodka or two later, we are on our way again. Back to the same old karaoke bars from last night, avoiding Uncle Kracker and trying instead to add to my repertoire.
There's time yet.