August 1989. Another trip abroad, which I could ill afford or contemplate after a bad month back home. I'd been sacked again and not for anything good even. My job wasn't worth explaining. Unless you're a matador or a hit man or a croupier, your job probably never is. But I found myself on holiday anyway. Benidorm. The omelette isle. I'd have preferred Ibiza but my mates weren't into all that dance bollocks. Pills were expensive then too. 'If you're thinking I'm paying twenty quid for horse steroids,' my mate Pot cat said. 'Then you've got another thing coming'. Pot cat was so named because someone once picked him up outside his house and there was a pot cat in his Mam's window. True story. He also believed everything the Sun told him about what was in ecstasy. He wouldn't be swayed on that one.
Not that I was bothered. I'd put a knee out dancing to the theme from S Express at a warehouse do a few months earlier. I took that as a spiritual sign that acid house was just not for me. I'd watched people throughout the summer months literally lose their minds with the whole ecstasy, counter culture thing. People were packing their jobs in to deal, dj, promote like it was the new summer of love. I kind of guessed there would be a flip side. Just before we'd came away a dj friend of ours, a good one in demand had his fingers slashed because he wouldn't play at someone's warehouse do. It all boiled down to money. Que sera sera. Non smiley face.
In Benidorm things were slower. Thank god. The three of us, me, Pot Cat and an amateur boxer called Tony Clinton had planned nothing spectacular other than getting pissed and having a bit of an adventure. Hmmm. My only slight worry at this time was that for Tony this meant a bit of unprecedented violence. Tony had always been a bit of a loose cannon. He'd once attempted to cut a woodwork teachers finger off at school when he'd criticised his dove tail joint. He'd also once reached an ABA boxing final and lost only on points. He was tasty and volatile. Ying and yang when you're abroad really and not knowing what the next corner brings.
For now though things were good. We were relaxed, doing our best Tony Rome impression as we sat outside one of those god awful bars in Benidorm's main square. A steady steam of human flotsam was building. Hairdressers that squawked like strangled geese, ready to use their sexuality like pub darts on the exotic locals. Well not exactly exotic, the sly spaniard, hunched in the shadows like pillar boxes. Flexing themselves in vests as the English lads got drunker and drunker. The great nationalistic machine. Singing songs about the Germans. Pissing in hollowed out coconuts ( the fishbowl was still a while away ) and not quite savvy enough to see the threat. Not just yet....
People watching is great but it blurs like black mist through the numb of alcohol and the scree of shit European disco. One hour. Two hours. Tick tock. If we'd have looked closely through a forensic eye we'd have seen something building in the bar behind us. Something nasty. The best looking English girl in the bar getting devoured like bad mouthwash by a Spanish guy. Bad enough back home but here. Resentment. Racism. A group of lads beginning to circle. Jealousy really if the truth be told, like an angry swell about to break into mayhem. And here's us unaware. Like boiled eggs in straitjackets. Well, not quite. Tony sniffs it. He'd once told me that if you're accustomed to violence you can smell it in the air. I literally watch him fascinated as he gets to his feet. His whole manner changes.
'What's the matter with yo...' I nearly say, when.
The sound of breaking glass and a girl screaming. The national anthem of violence. Chairs overturned and still the music blaring out which makes it like a weird snuff video. I look back but Tony grabs my arm. He has that look in his eyes.
'No, not that,.....This,' he says excitedly, like a psychotic Suggs and points at an arriving cavalry.
Bouncers. Charging towards us In all different sizes like Russian dolls. In Benidorm they all blow whistles when it kicks off, which slightly takes the edge of the mayhem. It's like a Monty Python sketch. Only this time I know what's coming. An amateur boxer will always want to test his fighting mettle with incoming bouncers. It's an unwritten rule. I brace myself for it. Tony has already planted his feet like a good scrapper does when they're about to unleash. If you're ever in trouble watch how your opponent plants his feet. The art of a good punch comes from the core up. That and timing. I watch fascinated as Tony connects with the first bouncer, sparks him cold. It makes the same noise as when you connect perfectly with a golf drive. Sweet as a nut. Seconds later he does the same to another. They back off then. Size and steroids quickly dissolve into cowardice when the odds match up. It's a stand off. PeCkinpah style. I look back at the fight going on in the bar and see Pot Cat dissolving into the safety of the toilets. Lucky bastardo I think. Cowardice may be sneered at in the macho half light of male masculism but it's basically common sense. Common sense I think. Where is our common sense Tony? We're about to be murdered by Spanish bouncer in a fight that had nothing to do with us in the first place.
And now sirens too. Like depressed robots in the humid air. I instantly panic. I want to cry actually. But Tony just shrugs and does what a complete nutter always does. He thinks irrationally on his feet. He grabs a fat lass off a moped idling past. Her face is all chip envy and dread. She probably deserves it. I watch her fat arse hit the Spanish pavement. If she bleeds it'll only be gravy that will come out anyway I figure. I watch as Tony now jumps on the moped, he sticks a middle finger at all the bouncers and grabs me too. We roar off at 30 mph. It's fucking brilliant really. Hilarious. The bouncers look at us like were maniacs. All the English lads are applauding as we saunter along the strip, past Scottish men in kilts with comedy breasts. A lone mad man, irish probably, barking at the sunset with half a Rollie in his hand. Danny boy a distant memory.
If only....we could be a distant memory too. Soon the sirens become klaxons become blue fireworks up our arse. I glance back to see Manuel from Fawlty towers gesturing wildly for us to pull over in his police car. All madman moustache and hysteric ego, he would be funny in any other circumstance but then he starts fingering his holster like the dead eyed sheriff in Cool Hand Luke and I start to panic. Tony, I figure, will ride me at our pedestrian pace straight into hell without a pause because Tony shares the brains of a box of mad frogs, so I make the only irrational decision I can in the circumstances. I jump off, into an African man selling roses. We collide in inter racial unity in an explosion of petals and cheap Japanese sunglasses and from my position on the floor I see Tony glancing back disappointed, 'you poor bastard,' he mouthes. 'We were so close to the main nerve too.'
I pick myself up and start running then. A voice I can only describe as Speedy Gonzales on a bad one is shouting after me and mouthing obscenities. He's gaining. I wonder if Kip Koech has joined the Spanish police force? Or Yifter the Shifter? Then suddenly, a strange popping noise whistles past my ear like an electric fly in a percussion cage. It isn't a healthy sound. It's surreal. I look back to see a gun being pointed in my direction. I've been shot at. Like those Tj Hooker episodes. Like Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia. I drop to my knees immediately in pure fear. No adrenalin. No mainline. Just gut fear. And I feel it. A primal rumble. All the bad English of culture and arrogance oozing into my boxer shorts. Egg and chips and U2 albums. Wagon wheels and old Minder episodes mixed into a sorry gloop in my Union Jack shorts.The horror. The horror.
Later a Spanish prisoner in a shared cell will look at me in utter degradation with all this. He has seen it all in an Alicante lock down. The pimps and the hookers. The junkies and the immigrants, losers on the precipice of doom and self destruction. None have reduced him to this. Holding his nose and retching into a piss pot both shared. Him and a bit of a dreamer from Hartlepool. El shitty arse.
He kicks me in the balls for good measure anyway. Wipes his nose on his big forearm. It's karma probably.