Now, I’m a writer who likes to use their personal experiences, as well as nabbing those from some of my nearest and dearest, to influence their writing. And seeing as it’s been a ridiculously hot week, I thought I’d reminisce about my family holidays to Spain. We weren’t the sort of family to frequent the cinema, go bowling, spend the day at a theme park, and other such places I purposely try to avoid now that I’m an adult, those family-friendly past-times just weren’t something the Scotts engaged in. When deciding to have my own little bundles of joy, I didn’t consider that I’d have to visit such torturous places and do so with a big fake grin on my face. Put it this way, I feel sick pushing my four-year-old on the swing, let alone going on some mountainous roller coaster that decides to take you backwards halfway through. Suffice to say, I forget the no-cursing rule on these particular trips and just pray to God I don’t run into any of the kiddywinks from my class.
Anyway, we didn’t go on such family outings when I was younger because my dad felt the exact same way about them as I do now, and, unlike me, didn’t feel it necessary to indulge in our childhood wants. Excitement was a trip down the pub or to the local swimming pool. Not that I’m complaining about my childhood, for in all fairness, it was pretty awesome. With the New Forest on our doorstep and an annual trip to Spain, I couldn’t complain. Not only that, but I also went to primary school in the eighties, when children were supposed to learn through a magical osmosis of knowledge; that is we were surrounded by books, told to write a story about what we liked, and followed a maths book scheme that had a nice answer booklet for the teacher. What need did I have for grammar when we had good ol’ Biff, Chip, and Kipper to keep me going? Those bad boys are still knocking about in case you wanted to know. Given the fact my daughter is expected to know what a subordinate clause is, as well as be able to tell you what a frontal adverbial is, I would say we got off lightly.
So, Spain! Every year, about one week before the summer holidays were due to commence, my sister and I were taken out of school so the parentals could save on cheaper flights, and we could avoid the torture of ‘Sport’s Day’. Back then, it wasn’t all about ‘taking part’, it was a chance for the cool kids to show off their athletic talents and the rest of us to sit in a makeshift holding-pen in the peak-day sun, where we would die a slow death of heatstroke and boredom. The bastard of an event seemed to take all afternoon and I swear I only participated in one race. Not one for competitive sports, I would more than likely linger at the back where I would be called a whole host of unscrupulous names that were meant to cause me to question my very existence. To which the teachers would give a half-hearted ‘shush’ because they were too busy chatting. I can’t blame them; at this point of the year, they were officially on count-down. Fortunately, I only ever took part in one or two of these ‘sporting’ events because the parentals usually did me a solid and pulled me out to go on holiday.
The package holiday hadn’t yet conquered the market at this point, so we were considered even smugger because we would rent a private villa every year. Most of the time, they came with a private pool and a secluded spot to avoid the crowds along the Playa. Car hire came in the form of a Mini Moke, the only one the company owned, and which must have been decades years old. It had no roof, sides, or much of a boot, and the leather seats practically ripped your skin off in the Mediterranean sun, but hell if it didn’t make our year to have it for two whole weeks. Driving from the airport was an extreme sport given that Liz and I would be piled high with suitcases, and the wind along the motorway gave everyone an instant face-lift. But let me tell you, it was the best.car.ever!
Practically every year we’d holiday with another family with whom we had been friends for years. My father knew their dad through a diving club they belonged to, and their children were of a similar age to Liz and me. Joe and Martin were the same age as us, and Mia was in the middle. They were sports’ nuts, extremely athletic, and always appeared to be infinitely cooler than us, but somehow it worked. We were pretty much left to explore the terrain of our locality and, as such, got up to plenty of mischief. A few examples included playing epic games of ‘Sardines’, body-boarding in waves that bordered on suicidal, releasing stink bombs on crowded beaches to clear a space, and playing British Bulldog with the local Spanish kids. Times were good. Liz and I may have come close to drowning once or twice, but all in all, we were rarely in any danger.
Now, being that we visited this seaside town nearly every year for near on a decade or so, we got to know some places. Here are a few still in memory:
Yes, you read right; the local naturist beach where the majority of sunbathers were often out in the peak-day sun, roasting their unmentionables for all to see. I can clearly recall traipsing along the shoreline (because my family always had to find a good hideaway spot that is miles away), carrying towels, mats, and iceboxes, with an interesting view of dongs, ball-sacks, boobs, and hairy moos in the background. As a kid, I found it odd, but invariably shrugged my shoulders and took it in my stride. Each to their own; even the guy who was lying on his side with his nuts squished between his legs. That’s an image I’ve never been able to shake.
The other bonus of this beach was the fact that you had to drive around a single-track cliff-top road to get to it. It was nothing more than dirt and sand, and if an oncoming vehicle came your way you basically had to hold your breath and make the sign of the cross in front of your chest. I’ll admit, you invariably had to check your knickers when this happened, especially in a Mini Moke that had no doors and was about half the size of any other vehicle on the road.
2.Old town Mojacar
In contrast to Nudey beach, I cannot jest about this place because it is a truly beautiful location. Sitting on top of a hill behind the Playa, this is where the main village was originally situated and where the traditional side of the fishing village still exists. It contains a mixture of quaint shops, restaurants, cafes, and markets, as well as an amazing view over the Spanish landscape below. Many tourists gather to take photographs of the setting sun that sinks beneath the mountainous horizon. Tapas is served in the local bars and Spanish Flamenco dolls are sold in tourist shops. You will need to be able to exercise your holiday Spanish, for English is rarely spoken. I remember buying many an unusual trinket in this quaint Spanish village but would recommend it purely for the experience and beauty alone.
3.El Cids beach bar
The Playa consisted of one long strip of beach bars, with a few restaurants and nightclubs interspersed between them. Some were more popular than others, but there was little doubt as to which one was considered the best amongst both the tourists and the locals. It was a bar that managed to attract the young and trendy but also families and old guys who sat on their personal stools with a pint of Cerveza and a plate of tapas. Entertainment consisted of a football table, a dartboard, and a hook and a hoop between two of the posts holding the whole place up. Oh, and there was also the whole stretch of beach leading up to the water, that somehow managed to be the best stretch of sand along the playa. This was where Martin had decided to release his French stink bombs, just after lunch when the place was full of topless women sun-bathing and hairy dudes showing off their tats. This was the eighties; it was hairiness and handlebar moustaches galore!
Again, yes, you have read correctly. ‘Poo’ beach was not as gross as its name suggests. In fact, it was only one particularly unfortunate event that led to this poor beach acquiring its nickname. On one of our hikes down to the shoreline, one of our crew happened to step in a steaming pile of human faeces. That’s right, ladies and gents, someone squatted down on a public beach and pushed out a log for all to step in – charming. However, this was one of my favourite places as a kid because you literally had to hike down a small mountain to get to the water’s edge. It was an adventure for us kiddies, like something out of an Enid Blyton book. However, with parasols, towels, and bottles of beer and Fanta underarm, the adults had a somewhat more treacherous journey, and all in a pair of flip-flops and a string bikini. That’s dedication for you.
The water flowed in through a narrow channel of cliff faces which meant the waves were fun without having the danger of drowning because you had got yourself trapped in a washing machine of water. That delight had once happened at El Cids, whereby we ignored the red flag and got caught in a series of tsunami-like waves that dragged you to the bottom, threw you back up, only to drag you down again. My mother terrified the local children with her cacophony of effs and jeffs after she managed to escape this ordeal and vowed never to set foot in the ocean again. The only unfortunate side to ‘Poo Beach’, apart from being called ‘Poo Beach’, was it was full of brown seaweed, whose aim in life was to try and get lodged inside any orifice it could find. To be fair, we only went to the beach once or twice a holiday, and I completely understand if I haven’t managed to sell it to you.
On the way to Nudey beach, there was literally a shack of a restaurant that consisted of a mobile bar, a structure made from driftwood, and an old white sheet that had seen better days perched over the top of it. It’s not the type of place you would think of frequenting, yet for some reason we did. This place made the best paella in all of Mojacar, hands down! And for the grown-ups amongst us, the owner always rewarded them with a free shot (which was actually quite a lot more than a shot’s worth) of liquor. If you had attempted to speak Spanish, you’d be rewarded with one or two extra shots on top of that. It just goes to show you, never judge a book by its cover.
The journey home would normally consist of my dad panicking about making the flight (we are invariably late for everything). I remember being sat at the side of the Departure’s Lounge with some Spaniards, feeling hot and bothered while the mad Englishman marched up and down the airport, turning the air blue with his potty mouth. My sister and mother walked casually behind him, rolling their eyes as they followed his theatrical rendition of a nutjob. He came up to me and started barking instructions with his face covered in sweat and his language still being ‘colourful’ to say the least. The people around me watched on in fascination and when he finally left to go and give some poor security guard hell for whatever reason, they turned and looked for what appeared to be some sort of further explanation. Being only ten years old, I merely shrugged my shoulders with a look of complete bewilderment and muttered, ‘no se’ (I don’t know). I was given a sympathetic nod of my head and left to try and remain hidden behind our luggage. God, I miss those days!
And the good news, it’s all still there! My family returned there a few years ago, before Covid invaded, to visit my parents who now own a villa out there. Even though it’s not the same as when you are a child, like Christmas, it is still one of the best holiday destinations to visit.
Happy summer holidays, everyone!