It’s five minutes to two and I’m woken from a dream where I’m a conspiracy nut trying to work out a greater picture to the accidental death of Stevie Wonder.
“Get up!” my mother yells. I check that I’m dressed, get everything back in my pockets, turn the light off, turn it on again and put my shoes on this time. It takes me a while, so I’m called a second time. “I’m up!” I shout back.
The dog is given a biscuit ball and we set out in the dark and the rain. It’s soaking wet and freezing cold. Almost like the weather’s reminding us why we’re going to Spain.
“You look like a criminal on the run from the law,” my brother says. I take the compliment. I’m in jeans, a light shirt and t-shirt, but also my suit jacket. It’s my only light jacket and with the midnight flight from Brighton I certainly look the part. My brother’s white hoodie makes him look like he’s in an Assassin’s Creed game and my mother has a transparent blue poncho over her holiday clothes.
The bags are the kind with wheels and a handle. I should learn the name. I need to for a story. Anyway, they’re the loudest thing ever and I can imagine the lights in all the houses behind us turning on. Is that a tank going down the road? Just three hurried holidaymakers. Rolling them in the middle of the road is quieter, and there aren’t so many cars at 2:10.
At the coach station, there are people waiting under a shelter which has a sticker telling us to use the new shelter across the way. It’s more exposed, but unlike the people we inform of the change, we actually go there. The coach stops between us, so we’re even for now, coach people…
I doze on the coach ride and wake at the ocean of car parks before Gatwick. The south terminal is busier inside than it looks outside, like a subterranean society with uptight security. In my mind, of course, I’m saying, “Don’t make terrorism jokes. Don’t make terrorism jokes.”
We drank our bottles of water to go past the security scan and then filled them up on the other side. Al and my bags were searched for the bag of liquids we had each (toothpaste, etc). My mum got away with hers and promptly asked security why they didn’t find it.
Once though, it was time to get a coffee. The time was 4:10 and the gate opened at 5:05. My mum’s retort to Al about how if he was so smart, he could do the chores, became amusement enough for most of the hour, as well as Al impersonating a Bond villain on a swivelling chair.
With one last hurdle, things were looking good. We were worried that Al’s luggage and mine were slightly too big for the hand luggage, which would get us charged £40 each. Al was caught out and asked to put his bag in the testing box. After a couple of abortive attempts to put it in the wrong way, it entered the box perfectly and I was waved on too as mine was the same size (even though it was crammed with way more stuff).
The flight took off and I had a massive grin on my face. It was only the seventh time I’ve flown and the majesty of it was still fresh. We pierced the sky and could relax. We were on our way, finally.
It’s been eight years since I’ve been abroad, or even had any holiday which wasn’t me writing or visiting a parent. After enough time of only going four train stations away for work, then occasionally to the supermarket or the comic shop, the world can seem very small. Adventures seem like something that happens to other people.
As the clouds thinned out and I could see mountains, I felt back in the game. The world was massive. I was just one tiny part, but I was travelling across so much of it. I don’t know why, but that sense of scale and enormity of the world felt reassuring, even with me so small in the sky.
Clouds came and went. There were wind farms slowly moving on mountaintops, towns above and below. Farms with massive buildings as big as nearby villages. Then the plane suddenly veered to the side, replacing all the little towns with sky. The plane dropped through the clouds and the pressure made my mum’s head go odd. She was gaping like a fish, trying to adjust to the change but it just wouldn’t stop. I asked if she was okay, but couldn’t hear myself over my ears popping.
We landed swiftly and smoothly, even though the pilot was playing around with some flashier moves than on his way in. We left and were hit with the heat. My brother finished chatting with the inevitably PR type hipsters who were next to him on the plane. The man was an Australian with all but a tiny quiff shaved off his head and the woman was a thin blonde attempting as my brother put it, “the full Chaplin” in her clothing and walk. They kept dicking around on an iPad even after being told not to, and seemed far too unknowingly awful.
It was at this point we realised how unprepared we were, with out of date directions and a quest for a bus stop. Fortunately a couple of ex-pats were at the stop and going almost the exact same way as us. We stood on the bus through a few villages including one with a statue of a guitar with a tiger’s head on it. Eventually we reached Alimera, through a pair of great fountains and to a huge bus station. It wasn’t long before we hit the coach which would apparently take either one or two hours. Not anywhere from one or the other, and we’d only know an hour in. We put our luggage away in holding and braced ourselves. The initial trip through Alimera took ages, then we hit the desert.
Have you played Fallout? No? Seen any spaghetti westerns? This desert was used for several off them. It looks like a wasteland. Tiny shacks and farms dotted through the countryside, bleached blonde sandy hills, old forts in ruins. Some of the spectacular sights were the… Something Leone, I didn’t get the first word on the sign. It led to one of the prop Wild West towns with a nearby teepee circle and everything. There was a giant black bull on a board on a hill, like a unique Hollywood sign equivalent. There was a town teetering on the edge of a cliff on two sides. It looked mad seeing the buildings on the edge of a massive drop between it and our road, but we turned a corner and they were sticking out even further, looking like the ground had disintegrated from underneath them. A gigantic factory beyond farms looked like the set from the third act in a James Bond film, bigger than any building I’d seen. All through the farms, on several buildings, there were little stick-men with arms held above their head. We realised pretty quickly, this was the two-hour scenic route, and the water was in the baggage section. We received even more guidance from our new friends, with notes on where to visit and ideas about how to get back on Monday. To our horror, it started to rain! We tried to console ourselves with the idea that it would help ease us into the sun and the heat.
We arrived in Mojacar (and discovered that it’s pronounced Moe Hack Are) and started working on priorities. We were all tired and my mother had started getting all unnecessary, so we searched for the information booth. Al and I sat outside, admiring the stormy sea for looking as wild as Brighton’s, but this one was blue instead of a horrible brown. Fortunately the rain lasted ten minutes and then it was baking sun all over again.
With a couple of hours until the house we were staying in would be free, we went onto the next tasks. We had to get bus tickets to Granada for Thursday and acquire food for the first time since about four in the morning. It was midday, so of course we were out in the sun. We went around a mall with too many empty, dark, creepy areas, booked tickets, passed an outdoor gym and went for coffee. The couple of ex-pats, Keith and Christine, had pointed a coffee shop to us before we parted ways, a place which gave free doughnuts and water with every coffee. And oh my gods, I needed coffee.
A short break for food and drink later, we caught a taxi along the beachfront towards our home for the week. It all looked lively and interesting, like how The OC made its beachfront look, but with less Emo music in the background.
The moment we were dropped off, Kevin, one of the couple whose home we were renting, met us. He took us up to the house and, along with his wife Margaret, they gave us the tour. There were three bedrooms downstairs, a living room high up with a pair of balconies. The best of the pair looked over the private garden and to the sea. He explained to me that most people were not here for the summer and maybe six out of the thirty homes were renting them out. The pool would mainly be ours. He said that the currents in the sea were strong and it would be fine to swim unless there was a red flag out. Two people had died in that sea, after all. He pointed ahead and said, “Africa’s that way.”
“So just keep swimming then?” I asked.
“I guess. You might bump into refugees though.”
“All the way from Africa? That’s dedication.”
We returned to cheerier topics with a tour of the garden. They told us about Rex, who lived opposite, had a Cornish accent, a magnificent tree and a company who could drive us to Granada and to the airport on our final day. After they left, my mum spoke to Rex who was, indeed, a dude. He had a massive tree with old stuffed toys tied in its branches and promised to drive us himself as his drivers wouldn’t start that early.
We had no supplies, had barely unpacked, but there was an essential duty. The garden’s swimming pool. For the first time in probably seven years, I swam. I forgot how good it felt and spent way too long in there. All the arm work made my chest and man-boobs ache, which can only be a good sign. The sooner they’re gone the better. The sunlight was starting to go, but it was still gorgeous and warm. My brother and I swam for the most part, and my mum joined for a short while. The depth went pretty far, pretty quick, denoted by what I thought were mosaics of sharks. They were dolphins, sinister looking dolphins. We also saw a first aid tree and a “no telepathy” sign by the pool. Pictures will follow.
I’ll get into other events but I’m writing on my phone at a bar. There is absinthe to get back to, and sunlight. I’ll add more soon.