When it comes to going on holiday, it’s somewhat of a prerequisite to actually like the people you are going with. After all, indulging in a Sex on The Beach with someone you like has to be preferable to sharing a Screaming Orgasm with someone you can’t bear the sight of, right? And so, it was a bloody good job that this year, once again, we were jollying with tried and tested holiday pals. Three years on the trot and any shred of shame had been annihilated, bulging bikini diets abolished and pre-holiday spray tans abandoned. This time round, we were holidaying together as old-timers, besties, bosoms. I say “we”. What I actually mean is “I”. For this year, controversially, I left my Other Half behind. And not simply because I don’t like him.
But just quite how controversial this move was, I hadn’t anticipated. Tongues wagged, heads turned. It was clear there were two schools of thought unfolding on the state of this marriage: Either he’s left her (in a hurricane of hormones, “with child” and two tear-away toddlers) or she’s left him (amid a mid-life crisis, with a 4o-something year old receding hair-line and his very own burgeoning belly – can you blame her?) Either way, with newly-acquired, expectant single-mum status, I was going to enjoy milking this little baby.
And with The Group consisting of one President, his DJ, a harem of three wives and 5.5 children, it was inevitable that we were going to hit this peaceful paradise like a tumultuous tornado. The Windy Isle had braced itself for our arrival. The hotel had vacuumed the red carpet. And Carlos was waiting for us with open arms. Carlos. Caramel Carlos, in whose eyes a woman could wilfully lose herself amid whirl pools of dripping caramel swirls. Carlos, in whose hands anyone with a tip or (let’s face it) tits, was safe. Carlos, the bell boy, on whose back there were no flies where we were concerned and who knew exactly where his bread was to be buttered on that ordinary day in October.
And having checked us out as deftly as he checked us in, he pounced. Like an eagle to its prey. Candies, cocktails, compliments – he had us wrapped around his little finger. Cool and collected, smooth as caramel. His spiel was polished, a dramatic life-story which unravelled as swiftly as we traversed the tangled swirls of red and orange on the battered carpet between reception and room. Corruption, hardship, deceit. Throw in a few impoverished, illegitimate children [conceived right here, by the way] and we have a sensational story-line worthy of some pity and a few extra euros. But no sooner had he realised that there was to be no payment of any kind on offer in room 462, he’d gone. Never to be seen again. And my girls and I could get on with our jollies.
My girls and I. What a joy. Sun, sea and scorching sand by day. Late night movies, bubbly jacuzzis and cosy, king-size cuddles by night. Everything a girl could wish for. And all of this without a man? Revelatory. For what I hadn’t realised was, despite how desperately we “wished you were here” darling, your girls had a tidy little routine going on. Complete control. Without intrusion. Without interruption. Without interference. Forget stressed-out, single-mum abroad. Without another-half present, there was no-one to resent over being late for breakfast. There was no-one to begrudge for serving themselves first. And there was no-one to blame whilst the kids ran amok. This was truly liberating.
Until that is, the entertainment team rocked up, or popped up should I say, out of every nook and cranny, like plastic fantastic jack-in-the-boxes, faces painted with sweaty smiles, a professional polished patter and powered up with more energy than a duracell bunny. “Ola, buenas dias, guten tag! Hello, how are you, comestas? Basket ball, archery, water polo! Aerobics, pilates, tennis?” I mean, honestly? Take a look at us. Do we look like we can be peeled off these super-soft sun-loungers, dragging cocktail and book in hand? Do we look like we’ve come on holiday to engage in anything requiring even the remotest ounce of effort? And finally, do we look like we need the gd’dam exercise? No comment. Anyway, exercise or no exercise, the only carrot that was going to entice me off my bed belonged to Marcos. Muscle Man Marcos, in whose oily embrace a woman could willingly throw herself, amid ripples of tumbling testosterone. Marcos, in whose piercing blue stare, a woman could be penetrated to her very core, over and over again. Marcos, the gymnastics guru, whose magnetic pulling-power attracted scores of Desperately Seeking Susans into the pool every day, at noon, for a splash of routine action (of the aquatic kind, of course.) It’s better than nothing.
But with my expectant waddle, Melinda’s tumbling track-record and Sandra’s token thrusts in the pool, needless to say, the most amount of exercise we participated in, was in the thrice daily walk to and fro, to and fro, to and fro….the restaurant! Ah the restaurant/dining room/canteen/buffet/caf’ [call it what you will], where swarms of self-important Sheraton Suits busied themselves like ants, doing nothing. Where teams of real ants colonised the tables, crawling up and down chair-legs, over and under freshly laundered cloths, in and out of tea-stained cups. That’s right. And if that wasn’t enough to put you off your supper, where succulent skewers of under-cooked chicken were served up with a hopeless “no te entiendo” smile. Move over Carlos. Cue Manuel. It didn’t take long before the Group’s holiday rapidly descended into a dodgy episode of Fawlty Towers.
And with The Group consisting of one President, his DJ, a harem of three wives and 5.5 children, PLUS a surprise visit from my Other Half four days in, the complaints started stacking up at reception. If it wasn’t the air-con, it was noise from the bar. If it wasn’t the broken bath, it was ants infesting the bath. And if it wasn’t the Grand Sheraton Jewellery Heist, it was a near case of salmonella. The GM (Anna) was sick of the sight of us. And with no episode of Fawlty complete without a good old-fashioned punch-up (or threats at the very least), our calamitous stay was enough to send any Basil over the edge. True to script, Assuaging Anna was left emotionally scarred by our visit. Fortunately for us however, this story has a happy ending. With a ‘silencing’, compensatory hand-shake from her Royal Highness (Anna) and The Group’s friendships still very much in tact, we left the Windy Isle satisfied that our work there was done. Same time, same place next year? Needless to say, we shan’t be returning in a hurry.