The White Isle

ibizaoldtownfrommarinaI never thought I’d ever visit Ibiza, especially considering that I haven’t visited the Mediterranean since my late teens and my only overseas trip in the last decade was a stag party in Germany.

So you can imagine my surprise at being invited on the annual work’s incentive trip – a VIP affair that invites our key business partners to join us for a weekend in exotic or luxurious locations.

Initially, I was cautious – I’m not a clubber, I may enjoy a variety of trance, psychedelic and even some dance music but I’m not a fan of hot, sweaty claustrophobia that a vibrant club environment has to offer.

alternateviewofoldtownThat being said, I have missed travelling and love to explore new areas; the idea of exploring the diverse areas of Ibiza’s Old Town was exciting enough to set aside any fears I had around an unfit, overweight forty-something bouncing around Space during its dying days.

As an aside, it’s only as I type this that I realise, as many men do throughout their lives, that I am slowly becoming my Father, who has kept holiday logs for as long as I can remember and travels frequently.

I hereby set out, in a disjointed and succinct attempt at paternal emulation, my own travelogue.

Being a “VIP” work related trip, the expense wasn’t really an issue.

Actually, money is always an issue but in this context I had to pay for very little out of my own pocket.

Accommodation, travel and sustenance were all covered and the (seemingly) meager €100 I brought in hard currency was largely sold back on my return home.

My biggest worry prior to the trip was clothing; Ibizan fashion allegedly centers on Boho Shabby Chic.

My only exposure to Shabby Chic is through my Sister, who used to buy old tat at auctions and do them up to sell on eBay as “Shabby Chic”.

I’m not the best dressed person on the planet, to be honest I’m not that conscious of my appearance – vanity seems a waste of effort to me – but hippy linens and arty T-shirts are something I can work with; overall I don’t think I let the side down.

The flight out was uneventful, albeit I was subject to a “berenger” whatever that is – I must have looked dodgy to them, even as I stood – arms akimbo and jeans falling down – awaiting for the results of some kind of swabbing.

I was only on the isle for 3 nights, staying at the Destino Pacha Ibiza Resort in a lovely little room designed to feel like a villa-cum-bedsit.

The resort was luxurious and full of beautiful people with more money than sense.  I only paid for a single drink through the whole weekend, and that was a €9 20cl soda water!

On the first day we relaxed at the pool, soaking up the sun and mojitos.

sapuntoOn the evening we dined at a waterside restaurant, Sa Punta, where we were offered an amazing mix of seafood, olives and antipasti.

The selection of food may have seemed limited but the dishes we were presented with were well balanced, flavourful and filling.

Once we had consumed our fill and midnight closed in, we moved onto Club Il Lio in the marina itself.

Now, I’m not a fan of clubs at the best of times but the cabaret in life before us was inviting…

I lasted maybe an hour, if that; offensive and officious security guards constantly moving us out of the way – our “VIP” tickets meaningless in a world of regular big spenders and overly flamboyant dress.

That was my only nightclub experience of the weekend, thankfully; we visited Pacha on Sunday and some of my colleagues had the pleasure of experiencing Basement Jaxx in the dying days of Space but I only ate at Pacha (succulent and satisfying sushi with a minuscule offering of wasabi).

Prior to the visit to Pacha on Sunday, I spent the day exploring Dalt Villa itself.

cathedralI wandered the old town, making my way up to the Cathedral that overlooks the bay and back down through the various boutiques and bars.

I completed my first overseas Ingress mission and discovered that the Pokémon native to Spain are different to those we find in the United Kingdom (Growlithe and Ekans).

This supplemented my morning walks across the bleak, desiccated clifftops surrounding the resort – where the odd lizard and dragonfly skittered away from concealed lovers enjoying the morning after the night before.

Overall my favourite day was Saturday.

bluemarlinWe visited Blue Marlin Beach Club and spent several hours being treated to a selection of edible and potable treats whilst dipping into the warm embrace of the Mediterranean.

I haven’t swum for around 11 years and its been longer since I enjoyed a dip in the sea.

It was during conversations with people on Saturday that I uncovered  a mysterious side to Ibiza.

I’d already reconciled Ibiza with the isle of the Lotus Eaters in my own mind…

I had no idea that Nostradamus had predicted Ibiza as being the only place to survive the coming Armageddon.

It’s hard to dispute the legends of Ibiza’s magic when I came away so relaxed and purified from what should have been a frantic and intoxicating visit – I wasn’t shy when it came to indulging in the food and drink on offer and yet felt no ill effects throughout the trip.

The meal that evening was a long drive away at a “hidden gem” named La Paloma; an illusive array of starters avoided my attention in the dark of the unlit outdoor dining whilst the darkness did little to prevent me from devouring a perfectly grilled steak.

destinopachaduskThe journey back on Monday was hard, not from any kind of lethargy or illness on my own part but the plane was full of casualties suffering from over-indulgence and weak constitutions.

The Ibizan border authorities had not made the same assumptions as their UK counterparts, and so I wasn’t stopped and swabbed for narcotics or incendiaries on the way back.

I was a little disappointed when passing through the depressingly bureaucratic passport control in Manchester – whatever happened to “Welcome back Mr. Sugden!”… miserable jobsworth.



Egged While Walking

eggfaceLast Monday I was assaulted, in a way that both literally and figuratively left me with egg on my face.

After successfully shedding over four stones last year, I have decided to carry over into 2014 in the same vein. So, Monday night I decided to try a new route.

My usual winter evening route has reached its expansion limits, at best I can make 6 miles on a night without straying too far into urbanity but to do more than 6 miles would mean looping over territory already covered and that would become a little too repetitive for me.

The new route takes me down into my local village and then the opposite way to my usual route. A good 7 miles minimum at first estimate.

My plan is a simple one, start 2014 at 5 – 7 miles of mixed walking and sprinting every other night and build up a mile a month until I can comfortably cover 12 miles without too much of a struggle.

Fitness wasn’t the only drive to change routes, I’ve recently started playing the augmented reality game Ingress and the only vulnerable enemy portals near me are on the new route.

So Monday night I started Endomondo and set out, down into Lindley, farming enemy portals in Ingress.

It was a nice start, despite having been relatively idle over the festive break, my fitness levels hadn’t dropped and I made a good pace through the village and up towards the M62.

3.5 miles in I cross the M62 and head on to my planned turning point, a church on route – co-incidentally the last of the enemy portals in Ingress.

The road up from the bridge over the M62 is poorly lit, poorly paved and poorly travelled. The occasional car speeds past on its way towards Rochdale but it’s my preferred walking environment – lonely and isolated.

I’d estimated that a turn around there would result in my returning home at the 7 mile mark – a circuit that could be expanded upon by moving the turning point forward by half a mile in future,

I hacked the Ingress portal and made the turn to start home, checking my progress in Endomondo to make sure I wasn’t short changing myself on distance.

I was suddenly struck in the face, throat and chest by what I took to be a hard snowball – an ice ball even.

Cold, hard and wet, I was knocked back by the blow.

Uttering an expletive, the realisation dawned that we have not had any snow yet this winter; I looked around to check as I wiped, what I thought was snow, away.

My hand came away with a mix of albumen, yolk, blood and shell.

I had been egged.

I think the embarrassment negated the rage and shock somewhat, although the anger seeped back in as my hand came away a second time doused in blood.

I could tell there was a wound, of sorts, bleeding profusely from my chin – and my throat and chest felt bruised.

The egg had hit at a fair speed. My memory, catching up with me, associated the impact with the passing by of a speeding car.

I had been egged from a passing car.

A third wipe and I determined that I was still bleeding.

One hand pressed against my chin and throat to stop the bleeding, whilst the other struggled with my, now egg-bound, phone.

The camera wouldn’t activate and so I decided to make my way back towards home (2 miles away) or hospital – (4 miles away – if needed).

The blood kept streaming, so I stopped at a local takeaway that had just closed for the night. The gentlemen inside let me in but didn’t have a mirror or first aid kit.

They let me stay there until the bleeding stopped and gave me paper towels to stop the flow.

As helpful as they were, the chaps in the takeaway couldn’t really help me identify the severity of the source of the bleeding, so I decided to set out again whilst phoning my other half for help.

When I finally got the phone free of blood and yolk, I managed to take the photograph above and realised that actually I wasn’t badly cut at all.

A swollen chin, minor cuts on the chin and in the mouth; and a chest full of egg.

In the aftermath I called 111 to go through a medical check-list and then 101 to inform the local police – although there is nothing they can do with no description of the assailant or the assailant’s vehicle.

Four days on and I have already made sure that I get out again, albeit on a third route. I did find myself flinching as cars passed but that didn’t last long.

It does seem that I am not alone, this kind of assault appears to be surprisingly common.

I’ve heard of walkers, runners, cyclists and equestrians being pelted with eggs, stones, bottles and cans; even being shot with pellet guns in more extreme cases.

I just count myself lucky that I was not hit in the eye and that I haven’t come across this activity before – hopefully it is quite rare.

Copthorne Hotel Slough-Windsor

The first nightIn my line of work I am occassionally given the opportunity to visit far larger players in the field of telecoms.

On this particular occassion I have the pleasure of making my second visit to Reasearch In Motion (RIM), in Slough. Research In Motion are the Canadian eggheads that turned a simple pager system into the technical wonder that is BlackBerry; the purpose of my visit is to top up my BlackBerry Enterprise Server training, now that BES 5.0.1 and BES Express have been released.

My last trip to Slough was much longer, over a weekend and with company. We stayed in Slough Travelodge last year, and whilst the amenities were basic, it had everything we needed: Bed, hot showers and a barkeep who came and had a chat if you sat in his bar.

This eveningSlough is not the most salubrious of places and last year’s visit was made all the better for friends in the area taking me out on random drive-by searches for booze and food. This year’s trip is too short for that kind of shenanigans and instead of the trusty budget travelodge, our awesome finance/accounts team have booked me into a hotel that is much closer to RIM’s UK head office (assuming that the Egham office isn’t the head office).

I am currently sat nostalgically listening to Megadeth in a room on the third floor of the Copthorne Hotel “Slough-Windsor”; a hotel that has both vexed me and given me hope of a good night’s sleep!

WindowMy earliest experience of hotels (as opposed to B&Bs) was at budget hotels in France. Sometimes, when my family and I traveled to France we would stay in £20 a night auto-hotels; no receptionist to hassle you, just a clean room accessed by credit card. I loved them at the time, something about the starched sheets and the smell of auto-exhaust.

trainingI still enjoy the Uk equivalent of booking a cheap advanced travelodge or premier inn so maybe I am preconditioned to rail against the pseudo-affluence of Copthorne. My initial experience has been less than great.

As I mentioned earlier, our awesome accounts team booked me the room. A week or so ago, well in advance the room was booked, paid for and a second night appended to account for my early arrival. On arrival I was surprised to learn that I had to check out the next morning and then check back in due to the system having initially allocated different rooms to me.

I spent the first night flustered, as I always do after a heavy period of travel. The shower on full heat was frosty, even by my Efreet-esque standards and the evening meal 1 of 9 possible permutations (2 of 3 courses with 3 choices for each) each of which being largely bland an unimaginative (I had the hotel equivalent of baxters soup followed by ‘oops with a few spinach leaves this evening). By this point I’ve added my new Mastercard Debit (replaces Switch/Maestro) to the room to cover sundries, so a couple of pints of wife-beater get added to my room’s tab and I go to bed.

Spackman's WayThat night I have the strangest night’s sleep that I have had in a long time; I was both restless and relaxed. I left the window open as best I can and the curtains parted just enough to let the sodium lights of urbanity filter through; I was up and atom at the crack of Gryphon dawn (opposite of Viper dawn, Gryphon dawn lies between 5 and 6 am).

I think that despite being a country boy, I have a soft spot for urbanity – I have no idea where from. As a youth in Linthwaite, I used to sit with my head out of my bedroom’s sash window and listen to the cars go by whilst staring into the shadows cast by the orange street lights.

So I arise hours before I had planned, leisurely shower (hot water this time) and then dry off before having a greasy, soggy breakfast that has probably undone the year’s efforts at the gym. I take the time to plan the best route to walk to RIM’s offices (10-15 minutes fast walk away) before eventually heading down to check out.

Ninja PleaseOn checking out I find that my room has not actually been paid for yet. A five minute argument and I depart, the room’s payment unresolved. I am staying a further two nights but the reception team can’t seem to make the connection. Needless to say, BES training takes priority over arguing with ESOL staff.

With great thanks to my work colleagues, the situation is resolved; funds provided for room payment and a more sensible receptionist has merged the room bookings so that I can pay Thursday. I still can’t help feeling that the situation could have been avoided by merging the bookings in the first place.

So as far as Copthorne is concerned – There We Are Then, Sorted!

  • The room is traveldoge standard, with a bit more leg room and a window that won’t stay open.
  • The shower is a pikey cracked affair that spews forth ice water any time after early evening.
  • The work desk has no nearby plugs and the TV stand (that holds the locked mini-bar) has more plugs than you would ever need – albeit too low to the work surface for the standard HTC charger.
  • There are so many mirrors in this room that eastern europeans would run out of the family sheets, were there a bereavement;
  • and finally, the room stinks of nicotine – depsite smoking being banned from the entire premises.

There are positives however:

  • The evening restaurant staff bend over backwards to help.  Even if you’re obviously out of place in the rich person’s restaurant (£30 a course – “We can give you a £15 discount with the meal tariff you have booked sir”).
  • The evening restaurant staff are actually wannabe care-home assistants who treat you like a beloved geriatric in need of comfort and beer.
  • There are no other positives.

Wife BeaterI did venture out this evening to look for nearby amenities.  There are none.

Actually there is a throatcutter 10 minutes walk away on “High Street” and a renowned titty bar called The Flags (I was warned about this place by a work colleague this very evening) which you pass on the way to the ‘cutter.

I am in two minds as to whether I would stay here again. They do organise trips to Legoland Windsor, which is nice, but then so do Travelodge. The only real benefit to my mind is that the place is within walking distance of RIM.