Tuesday, 27 December 2016

2016, the year of Celebrity Death

<rant alert>

So today it's Carrie Fisher and Liz Smith. It seems that popping your clogs is the latest celeb fad, the last ditch way to get column inches when all else fails.

I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I do wonder why some folk get so maudlin each time someone famous moves into the next phase of their career. I know some like to think of Leonard Cohen or Caroline Aherne as a having a special place in their life, but I find it hard to be especially moved by the passing of someone I've never met. If you're a fan of Bowie then you might mourn that there will be no more of his artistic outpourings, but George Michael hasn't had a hit for 20 years despite his 'A list' status and the inevitable flood of "OMG the world has lost a(nother) genius" type gush.

It also seems that there are criteria for mawkishness. In a summary of the 2016 death toll on the radio earlier the presenter listed the names above, but euphemestically finished the list with "and others"; perhaps Lemmy's name wouldn't have elicited the same emotional response, at least not from your average Radio 4 listener.

As each famous name has popped up on the 'BREAKING NEWS' alerts, there has been a gathering sense of 2016 being an annus horribilis, and much debate has been given to this. This attention has been focused on the unusually high celebrity mortality rate, as you might expect given that celebrities are simply people with a talent for getting your attention. This year certainly has been a busy time for the emo groundsman, but his annual crop of actors, singers and well-known persons of dubious merit is but a tiny, if bling-laden cohort in the queue for reckoning. For every celeb there's a hundred talented people who pass away without it being announced via push alerts on your mobile phone. Oh and what about the continuing bloodbath in Syria, Nigeria, Iraq? Oh yeah, that.

If 2016 has been the year of celebrity deaths, then I fervently hope that it also comes to mark the death of celebrity culture. I'm sure we reached "peak twat" some time ago. Let's have a think about the real people, not the fake tanned, HD eyebrowed, shiny white toothed, eating disorder botox monsters that occupy so much of our cultural airtime.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Majorca day 6 and day 7 well really it was day 8

The sun returned on our last couple of days in Majorca, and Emma got out the factor 500 spray again. We’d had a brief respite from her spraying on Thursday when we visited the caves at Porto Cristo, although I had had to point out that the sun doesn’t shine underground. We decided to hit the beach at Puerto Pollença (we had to go there at least once given all the conversations about the place in previous weeks) and do that sunbed thing that normal people do. Emma put on a nice Summer frock (£3 from the charity shop) but then changed it for another one because she thought the first one was a bit revealing. I insisted she change back, on the grounds that nobody wants to stare at her ankles anyway.

She needn’t have worried: arriving at PP we discerned a noticeably more British feel, with lots of mottled lobster and blue-white cellulite on show, replacing the wall-to-wall olive-skinned slim mediterranean healthiness of Pollença old town. We grabbed a shaded table at a seafront restaurant and chose from a typical Majorcan menu - pizza, burgers, fries, spaghetti carbonara etc.

After lunch we tried something I thought we’d never do - paid €22 for the privilege of sitting on a sunbed under a beach parasol all day, in the full knowledge that everyone would get bored after about 3 hours. And that’s about how long our one and only holiday sun-lounge / beach visit lasted, although I did extract maximum chill-out. I even got my shirt off, confident that I would be well camouflaged in the surroundings, and managed to read some dumbed-down physics. I could actually start to get into this “holiday” thing.

Meanwhile the kids splashed about in the sea, until Joseph arrived back complaining of a rash. Next to return was Michael - he’d been minding his own business snorkelling until Gerry started hitting him. When I confronted Gerry about this he was indignant, arguing robustly that Michael has annoyed him on many unspecified occasions in the past. Joseph intervened and started playing with Gerry, but all three were distracted when a couple of less than statuesque women a few yards away decided to have a topless paddle - not something the boys had ever seen at Center Parcs or Whitby. The women came back to the beach and joined their partners, one of them donning a Sunderland football shirt… saying nowt.

Back at the villa I gathered together the dregs of the fridge for an evening meal. In the Spanish sunshine “leftovers” becomes “mezze”, especially when there’s loads of Sangria and San Miguel left. We would have finished off with a magnum lolly each, but it transpired that Michael had eaten nine of the ten in the box (in two days, impressive). Found a bag of orange Doritos in the draw so had these instead - Michael ate most of those as well, although Emma must have got quite a few judging by the docker’s belch she let rip.

I was determined to see the dramatic scenery of the Cap Formentor (the north-eastern peninsula of the island) before we left, so J and I went for a drive up after tea. Basically it’s 40 minutes of crazy mountain road and cliffs, with the biggest danger being that you could plunge to your death whilst gawping at the view. Drove all the way up to the lighthouse, couldn’t buy a cuppa as I didn’t have any cash and they didn’t take cards, so drove back again. We stopped outside the mouth of a tunnel on the way back to take photos. A crumbling old stairway led up the cliff face, a sheer drop on one side; in a lame attempt to show off to Joseph I started climbing up it. Joseph said “Get down dad.” I quickly complied.

When we got back I went for a final swim in the pool in the twilight, almost hoping for a mosquito bite to justify the money we’d spent on sprays and candles. Not a nibble Maybe they were put off by the Dorito smell.

In the morning we crammed the lego, socks and technology into the cases. Poor Gerry had to leave his wooden rubber band-shooting gun behind - if you want to know why, read my 2012 Cornwall blog. Decided to spend the day at the Joan Miró museum in Palma to kill time until the flight that evening, so drove down and parked up. Walking out of the car park, Joseph stepped in the only puddle in Majorca. This time we didn’t get past the tourist junk sellers, and Gerry spend the remainder of his holiday dosh on an orange selfie-stick - I can hardly think of anything more apposite.

Had an organic sarnie in a nice little cafe. The we all needed a loo visit and so wandered into the Fundación Juan March, a very smart modern art gallery. Unfortunately all anyone else wanted to do was have a wee in it so the Dali, Miró and Picasso works hardly got a look. Michael did get told off for touching a painting and an attendant quickly collapsed Gerry’s selfie stick with a brusque “No!”

Unable to find the Joan Miró musem, I did a quick Google and it turned out to be several miles away. Round about this time everything in Palma closed. Bloody siesta. We eventually found somewhere to sit out of the sun on La Rambla, scoffing muffins and apples purchased from a grumpy woman in the nearby Eroski supermarket. There were others sitting around evidently also stuck for something to do on a Spanish afternoon before the flight back to Blighty or Berlin, and without the stomach for yet another church.

Spotted a graffito on a street corner: “Tourists go home!” So that’s what we did. Drove to the airport, forgot to refuel the rental car (bill imminent). Had a shouty panic when it looked like we’d lost one of the baggage tags until Joseph pointed out that we actually only had four bags. Only hot food we could find was Burger King, so found a seat away from where someone had just regurgitated their chorizo cheesy bites. On the plane, I was straining to understand the dialect that the people around me were speaking, until I realised it was “Geordie”. Now I know what it’s like for Southerners…

We’re definitely back home now. The boys have reverted to their mantra of "what can I eat", and tonight we had fish finger sandwiches for tea.


Thursday, 11 August 2016

Majorca day 5

Finally worked out where to take our rubbish, and just as well - this week our villa has been the venue for several episodes of “Man V. Watermelon”, and not even my boys will eat the outer skin so we had a large quantity of ant-food to get rid of. The resident notes warn about the dire consequences of leaving rubbish in the villa too long (rotting smells, more ants, cockroaches) or outside the villa (rats, wolves, wolverines, vampire bats, komodo dragons) and that it’s our responsibility to get rid of it, but doesn’t say exactly where to dump it. Eventually found a site in the lane leading to the villa’s drive, with a choice of three skips for the environmentally conscious: landfill, landfill or landfill. Seems the Spanish don’t share our anxiety about removing the cellophane window from an envelope before placing it and the paper part in correctly colour-coded bins, shortly before the whole lot is landfilled.

Hopefully they won’t mind me dumping the copious quantity of broken glass we’ve generated this week, taking full advantage of the unforgiving tiled floors throughout. Emma first dropped a high-ball glass, then hurled a tumbler across the kitchen, and then for good measure Michael shattered a nice pot pourri jar thing in the bog. Each incident had a wider scatter pattern than the last; maybe if we coat the entire floor of the villa they won’t notice anything. Certainly we need to ensure that the the damage is symmetrical, so the other pot pourri jar has to go.

I volunteered to make lunch, using up stuff we had in the fridge: some chicken breast portions, spuds, tomatoes, an onion and some garlic. Guess what we had? That’s right - chicken, spuds, tomatoes, onion and garlic fried in some Spanish version of Stork margarine the last tenants left behind. It’s like Ready Steady Cook in here - there are theoretically enough utensils to cook with, but somehow it’s just too difficult unless you can fit it inside the tiny microwave oven. I reckon the villa owners have shares in local restaurants. Anyway it went down well enough, due mainly to a jar of ‘Pollo’ seasoning - fresh food just doesn’t work without artificial enhancement.

Bad weather forecast today (only 26 degrees, slight chance of some rain at 5pm for half an hour or so) so opted to visit the Cuevo del Drach, the sweetly named show cave at Porto Cristo an hour down the coast. Another thing about Mallorcans - they’re schizophrenic. Everyone is nice as paella to your face, but put them in a car and they turn into Jeremy Clarkson on a day when there’s no hot food. Driving a rental car, you might as well have a bumper sticker reading “Abuse me please”, as evidenced by the git in a small Fiat who reacted to my overtaking him doing 40 by speeding up to 70 then tailgating me for several miles. Thing is, I knew he would do it, but couldn’t resist taking the bait.

Porto Cristo is considerably less genteel than Pollença, as evidenced by the preponderance of lurid fascias advertising ‘Self Service’ restaurants. I was also unimpressed by the novelty penis-shaped carved wooden bottle openers, hanging from a large penis-shaped wooden stand, to be found in several/all of the gift shops - Majorca’s version of the classic Blackpool hat with a turd stuck on the front, with the strapline “Shit head”. Of course the place was rammed with coachloads in for the day from Alcudia, unmistakably British: all tats and texting.

Turned up in good time for the start of the cave tour. About 200 people arrived after us and the queue was backing up onto the car park, so the staff asked everyone to form two additional side-queues which fed into the, er, same gateway, prompting that unedifying spectacle of folk quickly calculating whether they should stick or twist. These Johnnies just don’t understand the beautiful and ancient art of queuing, the joyous feeling of success when you get in before other people, even though it makes no bleeding difference.

The caves were of course breathtaking, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping etc. at first, but after you’ve seen 5000 or so stalactites you’ve seen ‘em all, and stalagmites are just wannabe stalactites. It’s especially difficult to achieve a meditative state when you’re chivvied along by a stream of bloody tourists. However this tour has a nice touch - at the bottom of the cave you are treated to a short but mesmerising classical concert from a quartet in a boat, yes in a blue-lit rowing boat, floating gently past you on the underground Lake Martel in the dark. A genuinely touching moment, broken only by Michael dropping a large water bottle on the floor which then rolled under the seats in front of us and hit someone on the back of the leg.

Over dinner Emma asked how I was getting on with the book I’m reading about Facetime. I eventually worked out she was referring to Why Does E = mc2 by Professor Brian Cox (and some other bloke) about relativity, and - well work it out. Michael was asking what it would be like if cats could breath life back into dead humans, and suggesting a title for a new series of films: “Lord of the Roast Chicken”. I think we’re all going a bit villa-crazy and it’s just as well we’ve only got one day left.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Majorca day 4

Headed out for a road trip through the Serra de Tramuntana, the range of spiky volcanic mountains that runs across the Northern end of the island. The road had been described in a guide as “not for the faint-hearted”, which presumably referred to the panic that my passengers would experience as I blithely swung round the hairpin bends aside precipitous drops, whistling “The Self Preservation Society”. After a while I commented that Joseph was no longer “weirded out” and had loosened his white-knuckled grip on the door handle, to which he replied “I’ve got past that now; I know I’m going to die.”

Stopped at the pretty town of Valldemossa, did another spot of unsuccessful sunglasses/hat shopping then found a place that did traditional Mallorquin cuisine for lunch. J and I shared an “Arroz Brut”, a hearty stew of cheap cuts of don’t-ask meat, rice and vegetables. Very nice it was, but also rich and filling, and it has cured Joseph of his curiosity about local grub. I later found out that its name translates as “dirty rice”, but it’s too far to drive back to ask for a discount. Michael used the ashtray to put his bread in, and when we asked him to desist pointed out that it was clean so what’s the problem? Typical bloody Dunphy. Afterwards I obliquely hinted that I really wouldn’t mind looking round the Monastery, but was met with cold stares. So that’ll be no.

Continued on the road of death through mind-boggling mountain scenery up to Sa Calobra, surely the hardest-won day out: a 25km round trip of insane loops and bends, even a ‘spiral bridge’, in which the road bends round and loops under itself. At the other end you queue for 20 minutes to get into the car park, operating one-in-one-out with every leaver paying a man in a kiosk in cash only, after he calculates your fee at the rate of €0.0468 per minute. No really. This seems to be typically Mallorquin, having a middle-aged bloke (or better two) do something a machine could do in a fraction of the time. Hmmm….

Once parked you walk down to the port then follow the coast round for 10 minutes, bizarrely though two floor-lit person-sized tunnels blasted through the rock, until you arrive at a stunning cove where a small stream ‘Torrent de Pareis’ empties into the sea. Surrounded on all sides by high mountains is a deep shingle beach with a narrow shoreline in which you can swim in the shallows. Don’t think there were many germans or brits here. We looked whiter than the shingle.

Later I discovered what had been missing from my holiday so far. Sitting outside a restaurant in the Placa Major I asked what beers they had; with a quizzical look the waiter said, “Umm, San Miguel. We have San Miguel.” He might well have followed up with “Of course we only have San Miguel - this is Spain. Most people in Pollença drink wine anyway, you stereotypical English lager lout.” The nameless aching void filled, I slept soundly that night.

If you ever see me without an umbrella, then don your sou’wester because it’s going to rain. Likewise as I have forked out for anti-mosquito outdoor spray, the last (and most expensive) anti-mosquito citronella candle in the supermarket and several types of mosquito repellent body spray, naturally there is a total dearth of the little buggers. We have broken every rule, leaving doors open and lights on and food scraps everywhere, but no sight of our whiny friends. The sprays and candles are pristine.

Ants are a different matter. The villa guidance notes advise that food should be kept only in the cupboards (of which there are none) or fridge, and food scraps such as crumbs (!?) should not be left lying around, especially near beds. Clearly the author was unaware that our kids pretty much sit and sleep on mounds of discarded apple cores, half-eaten bowls of cereal and bread crusts. There is probably a german bloke in the next villa blogging about how despite the warnings there are no ants around; that’s because word has gone out in the Majorcan ant community and they’re having a week-long fiesta in our digs. I’ve told the kids that ants are actually edible so they should stop whinging about the bread moving.

The Dunphy effect seems to propagate to nearby people and objects. The owner of the villa has been hovering around trying to get the lawn mown, but his lawnmower has mysteriously broken down. No doubt it will kick back into life moments after we leave, overheat and burn down the garden shed.

* Getting out of the car, Joseph said “Oh here are my sunglasses.”

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Majorca day 3

Awoke to the Spanish sunrise, a cock crowing in the distance, the faint peal of a church bell drifting on the dewy morning air.

Like sh*te. I was ripped from my slumber by the unmistakeable click... click... ... click of a Lego gun followed by Joseph braying "Gerry shut up man". J is sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor rather than - ugh - share a room with Michael or Gerry (who - ugh - refuse to share with each other). It was just as well because we planned to get up early to visit the weekly market in Pollença.

Emma alerted me to a problem with the TV: Gerry had managed to switch the input to the satellite box and it seems that the previous occupants of the villa had a penchant for low-grade German porn. As I wrestled with the controls, standing in front of the screen to protect Gerry's delicate sensibilities, he was giving it the "Whoa what's that, I'm confused, what's going on" gambit whilst desperately trying to catch a glimpse. The kids forget I was a boy once and can predict every wile and racket. Well let's be honest with boys that doesn't take much, just ask yourself "What would my appendages do if they didn't have to be controlled by a socially conditioned brain?"

Emma didn't want to walk into town so we drove down, spent 20 minutes getting into the car park that we could already see was full so that we could get back out again, drove back to the villa and walked back into town. The place was heaving, tourists drawn from every villa miles for miles and squeezed into the Placa Major so they could shuffle guiltily past the ranks of stalls flogging decorative crockery, jewellery and other useless stuff sourced from the nearest market stall trinket wholesaler. We did have a target purchase - Joseph had somehow lost his sunglasses. We had searched the villa and J had checked the car.* Well I can only assume that Spanish men are born with sunglasses growing from their heads because despite being apparently legally mandated apparel for scooter-riding Mediterranean soccer ultras, every single shop sold only women's sunglasses, and clothes and footwear for that matter.

J offered to cook a fish dish for tea, and so we braved the local supermarket with the faintly comical name "Eroski". The place was rammed with Germans and Brits tensely jostling trolleys and smaller wheeled baskets, clearly designed by someone who has never broken their neck falling over a suitcase dragged behind a Japanese tourist on the London Underground. It was easy to discern nationality: the Germans strode purposefully around whereas the Brits looked deeply uncomfortable, clumsily muttering hybrid continental niceties such as "Scuzi por favor", evidently bowed low by the stigma of Brexit shame.

We wanted some, y'know, white fish for the recipe, but confronted with a glaring array of enormous and unidentifiable sea life on the fish counter, incongruously manned by a slim, pretty blond young lass, J wimped out. I am 46 and therefore have no cred left to lose, so I brazened it out. It was an alarming experience, watching this slightly-built girl enacting a splatter-movie scene, casually snipping large fish open with massive scissors then ripping out the innards, splashing blood and guts all over herself, the table where she worked and the floor. Useful skills.

Back at base, J prepared the tea: fish with crispy topping made from breadcrumbs, pesto, lemon and herbs, with boiled spuds and salad. When he called "Daaa-ad" for about the fourteenth time I wearily trudged into the kitchen prepared to say "When it goes ding", but this time there really was a problem... No gas. We had already become vexatious tenants by repeatedly calling the villa rep to ask dumb questions like how to switch on the water jet in the pool (it's not a water jet, it's for cleaning the pool you noob) and how to find the safe (oh here it is right in front of me). Emma's summary: "it's like being at home, but harder." Quite.

Throughout this trip I have prophesied doom, so it's reassuring when it comes off in a minor way. The boys were getting a bit overly boisterous in the pool, and I said to Emma, "Within half an hour Michael will have had an accident and there will be blood in the pool." Guess what? (OK it was just a bitten tongue). Watched J do somersaults into the water with an inflatable clamped to his backside this evening, counting the hours until we get back on the plane.

Quote of the day from Michael: "Mam, if you had to eat one of us which one would you choose?"

Monday, 8 August 2016

Majorca Day 2

Turned up for hotel breakfast, with nobody checking us off the residents list. Had they known who we were and the devastation we would do to their all-you-can-eat how-many-servings-have-you-had-bloody-hell buffet, they might well have been more cautious. About 3 hours later we left, fed for the day. Nice brekkie, but the hard truth is that the world outside the UK’s borders is a gastronomically barbarous badland, devoid of black pudding.

We had a few hours to kill in Palma before the villa in Pollença was ready, so decided to check out ‘La Seu’, the enormous gothic cathedral in the old town. Fist pump as my newfound reversing technique worked like a dream - car went backwards just as planned. Legend.

Used my usual technique for navigating round Majorca - eschew the modern dual carriageway and instead find the twistiest, narrowest most uneven horse and cart back streets running through the medieval parts of town. That way you can wring the last drop of angst out of your already traumatised spouse, clenching teeth and buttocks as parked scooters and building corners whizz past her ear as I continually fail to judge the width of the vehicle and correct road position. The final comment from the Google Maps lady was “OK, now you’re knackered, I’ve got nothing to do with this. This isn’t even a place.”

Somehow found the car park and joined a slow-moving queue, lining up to descend into something reminiscent of the “Oblivion” rollercoaster at Alton Towers: a sudden drop into a gaping black hole in the ground. If there’s one place even hotter than the scorched streets of Palma it’s the car parks beneath, a hellish conflagration of impatient, stressed tourists and crawling vehicles pumping out fumes and aircon-expelled heat. Bursting out from the pedestrian exit into the full glare of midday sunshine was a blessed relief.

Wafted nonchalantly past the selfie-stick sellers (I wonder how much it costs to get a selfie taken with a selfie-stick seller) and those guys who do caricatures that all look like Tom Cruise with a big nose. The Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma to give it its full name is of course a wonder to behold, a vast, glittering, gilded monument to the virtues of poverty, generosity and self-denial (hint: irony). Opted for the free audio tour, which is basically the same as YouTubing on your iPhone but slightly less educational. Joseph and Emma both looked reasonably interested at first, and Gerry will plug into any device given the chance. However predictably one by one they lost interest and gravitated towards a central pew, having already been advised that THIS TIME Dad is going to do the WHOLE tour TO THE END. To be fair this has never EVER been achieved so I was determined to see it through, and the resigned looks on my family’s wan faces portrayed that they understood the hopeless inevitability of this.

Satisfied and sated with religious architectural trivia, we exited to everyone’s obvious huge relief. Strolling into the old town area, we immediately hit upon another huge church, which of course I couldn’t help staring at and commenting on. I don’t know why I do this; something happens to you at some point between the ages of 32 and 45 that turns you into a total f***ing bore. You know you are, but you cruelly do it to them anyway. It’s a sort of dad duty.

Dragged away by Emma we did a few shopping streets then it was time to make for Pollença. Bombed up the motorway and arrived, finding the villa quickly. As we caught sight of the name plaque, another mental hurdle was crossed - the villa actually exists and I wouldn’t be one of those stories about duped newbies. The key safe worked, we got in, the wifi worked, the pool looks lush, Jesus I’m on a roll. I even got a “Thanks Dad” from Joseph. Meanwhile Gerry and Michael were arguing bitterly about who got the power socket adaptor, the beginning of a conflict that has raged for days. Sodding kids.

Once things had calmed down a bit, Michael disappeared off to his room to do a video blog about the holiday so far (he brought a tripod and laptop with video-editing software for the purpose), and to review other people’s vlogs about the superhero flick “Suicide Squad” which was released the day before. Michael would gladly have skipped the trip to Majorca to be able to see this on the opening day, and has been asking continually about whether he can see it while we’re here. The options are watching it in Spanish or in English with Spanish subtitles at a late night showing in a multiplex 40 minutes away. I might have been swayed, but by all accounts the film is a pile of crap so had to nix Michael. I’m a zero again. I think I’ve worked out how to guarantee the perfect holiday: go by yourself. Or better still, stay in your house and lock all the doors.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Majorca day 1

Well the day has come, M minus zero. For weeks I've been answering the "Where are you going on holiday" question with "Majorca"; followed by "Puerto Pollença" as the reply to the second question "Ooh nice, where?" which is actually a social test - you could answer "Magaluf', eliciting either "Um do you know what that's like" or the "Hmm maybe I should call social services" look. "Palma Nova" or "Alcudia" are acceptable answers but "Puerto Pollença" is definitely what Hyacinth Bucket would say. Only thing is I was inadvertently lying. Checking it out the day before, turned out we were actually staying at Pollença, a few miles inland. Still quite posh apparently, drug-dealer gates and that, but no huge yachts in view.

Those of you to whom I've spoken about this holiday recently know how stressed about it I've been. Seems you have a choice of holidays in the Balearics: package deals where the provider goes bust the day before you travel, or DIY where you arrive at your villa to find it doesn't exist and the website you booked it through seems to have gone down. There was also the spectre of phantom wifi brooding behind my shoulder, smirking at me and reminding me of the disappointed, tear-strewn, zitty little teenage faces staring in horror and disbelief at me in Whitby last year, looks saying "You're a shit dad aren't you."

Boringly, we arrived in time for the flight which was on time; no chats with airport security about firearms or explosives this time around. Maxing out the experience, I had pre-booked an in-flight full English breakfast - Gerry said it was “the best meal he'd ever had”. This raised a titter from the girl sitting next to Emma, a Geordie Shore genius with false everything and who boasted that she couldn’t cook anything. She didn’t elaborate on what she feeds her 2-year-old who had presumably been left with Granny while Mammy goes to Magaluf to get wasted and laid, and returned to chatting with her mate about I’m a Pointless Celebrity Big Brother Bake-Off. Meanwhile I gazed transfixed at a bride-to-be a few rows ahead, as she fixed, re-fixed and positioned one more time a nasty little wedding veil hairpiece.

Landing at Palma, toured the whole of the airport looking for the car rental. Pinched a nerve in my arthritic left big toe making me wince, shout out and limp heavily for about half an hour, completing the picture of a stressed-out overweight pasty white middle-aged English bloke, amid hordes of slim, bronzed, side-parted, gym bunny bas***ds on their way to a stag do or to do the Geordie Shore girl in Magaluf.

Followed the signs for car rental out of the terminal, then was told I had to go back inside to pick up the keys. We'd walked past the office immediately after getting off the plane (Inter-Rent is near baggage reclaim 3, not bloody 18 which is naturally the one furthest away from where we entered the terminal. Not allowed to bring luggage back in, so had to leave it with Emma & kids outside. After half an hour got to the front of the queue, then remembered the passports were in the luggage.

Eventually got the rental sorted, then found that it didn’t cover us for damage to anything on the car that might actually be damaged. For only an additional €170 we could have full insurance and breakdown cover. I reluctantly opted for this, as if I hadn’t then Dunphy’s Law would see to it that the car would be in 1,000 pieces by tea-time. Taking the left-hand drive, manual car (I normally drive an automatic) then driving out onto the ‘wrong’ side of the road and mixing it with Spanish traffic (only rule: get out of the way), I immediately realised I had been wise to pay. In fact I wasn’t at all worried by the open drain recesses I kept hitting as I repeatedly drifted too close to the kerb.

SatNavless, Emma navigated using Google Maps on my phone. Just imagine trying to turn the phone around to orient the map in your head, then... d’oh. Of course I’d forgotten the car charger, so it was like the Italian Job racing against the battery, all narrow back streets filled with irascible Mediterranean types (well in my head anyway). I looked for a cart full of pomegranates to knock over but they actually only exist in caper films.

Arriving at the hotel in one piece, albeit with my marriage hanging by a thread. The tension was broken by the comedy of me stopping the car just too far away from the entrance barrier intercom button, so having to get out to press it, then furiously working up a Balearic sweat trying to remember how to get the frigging Spanish motor going again only to stall then watch the barrier come back down again. And of course someone was waiting behind me. Got in, parked up then trying to straighten up found that I couldn’t work out how to the car into reverse gear.

The Hotel (BQ Augusta, Palma) was very modern, clean, friendly and well-appointed. We scored a free upgrade - adjacent apartments overlooking the pool area. I even managed to work out how to access the wifi, so hero status safely attained for one day. Later we indulged in that most quintessential Spanish experience - eating burgers by the pool while some slim, tanned Germans talking noisily nearby make us look like the white Irish potatoes we are.

Joseph and I decided to walk to the Castell de Bellver, a circular c. 14th castle on the top of the hill. The West end of Palma appears very run down, with lots of businesses boarded up, evidence either of the shocking effects of austerity (blame the bankers), or closing early on a Friday (blame Spaniards). Panting up the too many steps in 33 degree in the deafening and spooky din of the cicadas, we arrived at the top to find a car park, which explains why we didn’t see anyone else on the steps. Tried to sneak in without paying but were rumbled by a reproachful middle-aged bloke who gesticulated towards the ticket office back down the road. Bloody cheek.

Back at the hotel, managed to find a online car forum post from someone else who had struggled to get his Seat Leon into reverse, and taken a MONTH to find that you have to press the gear knob down. He didn’t explain how we managed for a month with a car that only goes forwards. I felt superior.