Now it's not a surprise to even the occasional reader of Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard (yes, that's you, where have you been?) to note that I love a good karaoke bar. Good job really, since they make up the vast majority of your entertainment options in Benidorm. One in particular, the Black Chicken, became a regular haunt throughout the week and so, if Sir or Madam will allow, I should like to take this opportunity to tell you a bit more about some of the vile goings-on therein.
The Black Chicken should carry some sort of health warning. All local spirits are sold two for the price of one, meaning that both Emma and I could consume a generous helping of rhino strength vodka with a mixer for 3 Euros and 50 cents. They are served in large glasses so that lightweight, slow drinkers like us can easily kill half an hour before another trip to the bar is neccesary. A second, third or fourth trip to the bar meant that oblivion was imminent and that we had killed enough half hours to kill ourselves. And any passing Rhino.
Before oblivion there was Justin. Justin was a teenage boy on holiday with his family. He was tucked away in the corner trying very hard to mind his own business, but was doomed to fail in this regard thanks to the spectacularly inappropriate meanderings of the Black Chicken's resident DJ and karaoke compere. A group of four or five girls were sat at a small table in the middle of the room (for the Black Chicken is not much more than a room). Their attempts to mind their own business were similarly ill-fated as with each dodgy pop video, each botched rendition of a karaoke favourite, our compere would make some sort of Justin-related proclamation designed to extract maximum embarrassment from the young man. Totally convinced of his own comic genius, our compere ordered each girl in turn to go and sit next to Justin for a while, all against the backdrop of another lazy sexual innuendo. One or two of the girls were old enough to be Justin's mother but neither they, or to be fair, Justin seemed cowed by any of this. With his eyes almost hidden behind his long, straggly hair, Justin took all of the abuse in good spirits, even suffering the final indignity of having to slow dance with the oldest of the group, Jean.
"She's a very clean lady..............Hi Jean." quipped the DJ, abysmally. We laughed anyway. That vodka really was powerful.
Jean was a character. Somewhere in the middle of Justin's systematic humiliation, she bounded over to the quiet corner of the room that we had hoped to find and introduced herself. She was 38, from Cumbria, and upon learning that we live in St.Helens she thought it might curry favour if she chose this moment to announce that she actually supported Widnes. I let it pass, and it was Emma who ended up catching the full brunt of Jean's bolshy blah-blah-blah. It transpires that Jean has a daughter with multiple sclerosis and she hates it, I mean hates it, when people try to put people in wheelchairs in the corner. You can insert your own Dirty Dancing/Patrick Swayze joke here I'm sure. Now to be fair I had wanted to sit in the corner as soon as I feasted my eyes on the obvious beauty of the Black Chicken. The fact that the DJ dude helped me achieve this objective by moving some tables and chairs around had obviously caught Jean's eye while she, thoroughly and royally, caught the wrong end of the stick. And thus in her mind the possibility that I might have had some influence on my own seating arrangements disappeared in favour of the sinister notion that I was being pushed around by a bad comedian armed with only a microphone.
At some point during our Black Chicken Odyssey Emma slapped me in the face for telling Jean her real name. Twenty seconds later the unthinkable happened as I looked up and saw Emma standing with Jean on what apparently passed for a stage. They were singing something, but I can't remember what it was. I have just asked her and she won't tell me because she does not care to recall the episode. Pity really, it wasn't even 10% as bad as I would have expected it to be if you had asked me about it beforehand. All the while, the unfunny compere moved around the room with Jean's camera, taking pictures of everybody in the room. They were mostly couples who just played along with this slightly odd violation of Jean's holiday momentos. He did not approach me thanks to the temporary absence of Emma.
Another night we met a Scottish man calling himself Foggy, and his wife/partner/whatever they are called these days Jackie. Jackie was from Aldershot and delighted in telling me that she visits Benidorm every year, sometimes twice a year. I remember thinking that, as harmless and fun as Benidorm had been to this point, telling me that I would be visiting twice a year for the rest of my life might very well bring about my demise. If you are going to spend this much money on a holiday then fine, spend it on a tacky blast out every once in a while but please, for the love of THAT BLOKE WHO MAKES EVERYTHING GO WRONG AND WHOSE EXISTENCE I CONTINUE TO DENY, get some culture will you? And yet at the same time there is a case for admiring Jackie's attitude. She's clearly a lady with simple tastes. A two-minute conversation with Foggy, none of which I could understand through the drunken Aberdeen dialect, only served to provide further evidence of how easily pleased Jackie really was. She actually complained at only being able to spend six nights in Benidorm on this particular visit, and began chastising poor old incomprehensible Foggy for his part in that particular booking fiasco. Foggy got up and sang something but again my inability to take notes while drinking too much vodka has let me down on the business of identifying what it was. I can tell you two things about it. First it was categorically, undeniably and unshakeably shit. Second, Jackie dutifully loved it with all of her simple heart.
Only slightly better was Steve. Not me, there is no 'v' in Stephen. Whether or not my versions of 'Valerie', 'She's Electric', 'When You Say Nothing At All', 'Everything Changes', 'Staring At The Sun' and 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' (no, really) were even slightly better than Foggy's efforts is not for me to say. I remember absolutely loathing my 'Staring At The Sun' endeavours while Emma charmingly blamed it on the fact that the words were wrong on the screen. Is this a good time to mention that I wasn't reading the words on the screen? I know that song just too well, sadly. Anyway Steve, well Steve was an ageing rocker of the highest order. He seemed incredibly tall and awkward to me, arms and legs everywhere, although being seated for 90% of the time has led to my developing difficulty in gauging heights. Everyone is tall, are they not? Steve certainly was, and he barked out some God-awful, clumsily delivered Tom Petty number that quite befitted such a tack-filled, desperate, hovel of guilty pleasure like the Black Chicken.
I loved it. Can we go back twice a year, Emma?
That would be a 'no'.