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Destiny's Child

by John Connolly

 

My first holiday with the lads is bizarre tale of destiny. I was 17 and on the dole when my mates booked a two week jaunt in Calella. A few of the older lads had de-camped there at the end of the togger season for a spot of holiday work and a plot was hatched for the others to pop over to visit. I didn’t pay too much attention as, to be perfectly frank, I was green with envy. For many of the lads, this was their first beano away and they were really whooping it up in the weeks leading up to their departure in July. I had no chance of going because I didn’t have a job. I had tried my hand working in London but being young and naive (I used to bunk the train home every weekend to get my washing done) I didn’t last long. The only jobs going in Liverpool were via the nepotism route, it definitely was not what you know (not I know anything, I’m thick) but who you know. I wasn’t brave or desperate enough to be a thief or drug dealer so my chances of getting away to sunnier climbs with the lads were limited to say the least.  

 

The day the lads were leaving, they asked me to tag along for a pre-holiday bevy in town before the van picked them up for the short run to Manchester Airport. I know they weren’t rubbing my nose in it, but there was no way I was going for a drink only to watch them jump in van and bugger off to Spain. I sat in the house on a Saturday afternoon with the mother of all sulks. Needing some milk I popped down to the garage and guess who pulls in? Yep, 10 skinny sombreroed up Yankee Bar renegades, Sympathy for the Devil blasting from the transit vans stereo and plumes of rocky smoke rolling out the windows. Their off-key ‘woo-woos’ grated all the more and I tried to hide behind a petrol pump before being spotted. ‘John! Is right!’ they all piled out, stella bottles clinking and grins wider than the ganges. My heart sunk as they grabbed me in bear hugs, telling me how the afternoon had gone. ‘If you get a chance to come out, we’ll be staying at…’ my mind switched off, I just smiled and nodded, knowing there was no way on earth I’d be joining them. They told me they were smuggling loads of purple mics (el, es, deee), ‘Imaging tripping on the beach as the sun goes down la, it’s gonna be fuckin boss!’ I was imagineing this as I trudged back home with my pint of milk, waving to the transit van as it sped up Aigburth Road, the lads sings ‘WE’RE OFF TO SUNNY SUNNY SPAIN, GOODBYE THE YANKEE’. Bastards!

 

That was the Saturday, roll on Thursday and I was woken by the usual alarm call of our demented Jack Russell trying to eat the mail before the postie could get it through the letterbox. I scampered down the stairs and could see a brown envelope with the tell tale green cheque peering out of the window, ME GIRO! I wrestled the letter from the dogs mouth then realized I don’t get a giro until next Tuesday. Indeed, the cheque was addressed to my next door neighbour. I opened it up and to my surprise, found the cheque was for a whopping £188. Think man, think. Here was a nice little bonus if I could get the bastard cashed. The next door neighbour was horrible smackhead, he’d get a replacement so fuck him. I needed ID to cash the GIRO so I got my old school bus pass and soaked it in water. I then carefully removed the name and address with a razor and wrote the neighbours name and address in, popped it back in the sink so it looked convincing and made my way to the post office. I got a new bus pass as my old one had been 'damaged in the wash' and made my way to another post office to cash the giro. Now I used to cash my own giro at the post office so I was on tenterhooks as I approached the counter. I knew a few of the tellers and they knew me so the trick was to pick a window with a stranger. The little old lady cashed the cheque and I had succeeded in committing fraud. Now, I’m a quite practical soul so the idea of blowing my new found bonus on a holiday didn’t cross my mind. I wanted a CD player and all the CD’s the change could buy.

 

I put off my shopping expedition until the next day and after informing my mate Largey of my little score, agreed to take him on the ale. We done the usual route of Yankee Bar then the Harrington. I was planning on the going the State when in walks Will. He told me three of them were going to Calella tomorrow via knock off Inter Rail cards to meet up with the Saturday gang. After a few pints, the idea really appealed to me. I remembered how I felt when the transit van had pulled out of the garage and into the sunset. Fuck it, I’ll do it! They were getting the 10:00 train and I’d arrange to meet them and Jack, who was supplying the knock off Inter Rail. I didn’t have a passport and I hadn’t told my mum of my plans. In another twist of fate, it was my sisters 21st in a few days but being the selfish prick that I was, I opted to go away with the lads. When I told my mum, she immediately made me feel guilty by questioning where I’d suddenly got the money from (I couldn’t tell her the truth) and if I did have ‘that kind of money’ shouldn’t I be giving it to her for keeping me in bed and board? Nobody lays a guilt trip on you quite like your mum, she was right of course and I was feeling terrible as I heard her and my sister discussing where they thought I’d got the money from, and how much of a twat I was for missing her 21st.

 

The Friday was a break neck race against time to get a passport, get packed and get going. My best mate ran me around, far beyond the call of duty (god bless you Iggy) and I eventually made it to Lime Street with 15 minutes to spare. Trouble was Jack, who was providing the Rail card, was late. Ste, Will and Dave couldn’t wait so they told me what I had to do. Get the train from Victoria to Dover , get the train to Paris, change at Austerlitz, train to Portbou, coach to Calella. Jack turned up, gave me an idiots guide on how to use the Inter Rail then I jumped the train, two hours late, to Euston. Going with the lads would have been great, but hot footing it through the continent on your own is a much bigger and more enjoyable adventure. For a start, Jack had spelt my name wrong on the Inter Rail and failed to tell me that two cards should be separated, just incase you lose one. The P&O chap in Dover gave the skinny on what was what then proceeded to bad mouth tour operators for selling Inter Rails without proper instructions, I nodded suppressing a grin. When I got to Paris, I found I had a few hours to spare so did the touristy bit, Palace of Versaille, Eifel Tower etc. etc. all of which I’m sure would have been swerved in favour of getting chonged in that park full of brasses if I’d gone with the lads. I eventually made it to Portbou, which is right on the border situated on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. Now, I’d been to Spain five or six times with the folks and every waiter, hotel receptionist, bar man and maid spoke English. Obviously, because all the gaffs I’d visited were tourist hotspots, the workforce there spoke a few languages. Unfortunately for me, Portbou is not a tourist hotspot. I could have sworn Will told me you need to get a bus from the border to Calella. I traipsed around Portbou, asking in café’s and bars ‘coach to Calella?’ All I received were blank stares and shrugged shoulders. In keeping with the spirit of my little adventure, I decided to try my hand at hitch hiking. I found what passed for a major road and stuck my thumb out.

 

No vehicle passed for 20 mins until a large black coach with smoke black windows came thundering down the road. I noticed a large sign in the window, squinted and done a double take when I realised what it said…PINK FLOYD! Floyd had started a marathon world tour and were now plotting their way around Europe . I stuck my thumb out but the coach whizzed straight past. I decide to do what any giddy scally in this situation would do and proceeded to chase the coach…on foot! I lost the coach in the winding streets of the border town and found myself thirsty and exhausted back at the train station. Buying a bottle of water I notice a couple of girls who were thumbing a copy of a ‘Thomas Cook rail timetables of Europe ’. I encroached and asked if they knew how to get to Calella. ‘Easy, just get the coastal train’ Doh! I felt like such a rube. The girls were really helpful, wrote the timetable out, next train tomorrow 07:00! The girls were off to Nice to watch Pink Floyd, they were camping and asked me to tag along. Now, I know reading this you probably thought, neigh hoped, I’d get picked up by Pink Floyd, end up ‘getting my creative rocks off’ with Dave and Nick. After the realisation that I didn’t, I’m sure you thought, and once again hoped, I went to Nice with the two two student bints, and spent a month travelling around Europe with them in a Robin Askwithesque adventure but alas I was young and very stupid. I’d rather be ‘with the lads’. Bernie Bostik would have...Ho Hum.

 

I spent the night in the train station, used my trusty headbag as a pillow and pulled my C17 denim coat over me as a blanket. I woke in the morning aching and covered in pigeon shit, but I was refreshed and excited. I jumped the rattler to Calella, arriving around 09:00. Like all brits on the piss type holiday resorts, Calella was quite in the morning, the shop keepers were opening up and the bars were cleaning up from the previous nights activities. I wasn’t sure where the lads were staying, I decided to freshen up in with a well earned dip in the Med. I’d set off Friday morning and finally arrived Sunday morning. After a splash around in the sea I decided to have a nosey around for the tell tale signs of the Yankee Bar invasion. Walking down the main drag I saw a familiar figure on the opposite side of the road. He grinned from ear to ear, pointing at me speechless. ‘CALVERT!’ High fives and back slaps all round, he finished posting his postcards and took me to the hotel. All the lads were outside, ready to hit the beach. I was greeted like a long lost brother. The lads who’d travelled down on the Inter Rail met a yank who tagged along, he was moving on tonight so I could have his bed in their room for nish!

 

As you’d expect, the holiday itself was ace. First night there I bagged and blasted some 6’ 2” blonde from Holland (ironically, she looked like Dave Gilmour). The second day I was nearly killed twice on a trials bike (nearly fell off a cliff near Llorett and was a nick away from getting totalled by a San Miguel truck on a busy intersection, apparently they drive on the wrong side of the road in Spain). The third day we gobbled LSD and floated in the Med while swifts give a Red Arrows/Battle of Britain type display above, we had a ghetto blaster on the beach pumping out Beggars Banquet, 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus and the White Album, far out. The forth day we got into a bar room brawl in the Galleon pub with a bunch of rowdy Danes, not reckoning on the tenacity of malnourished chimney sweeps from Dingle, they were shoed all over the pub. The fifth day I bagged and nailed some skinny bird from Kirkby, I was only with her because she had Embassy Number 1, yes I’m a romantic at heart. The sixth day and my final day, we jumped the train into Barca, pre Olympic make over, and tried our hand at kiting. Instead of targeting sport and clothes shops, £50 here, £50 there, we went for the jewellers and a £1200 Ebel watch. Plan was that I was going to swap passports (easily done with those year jobs from the post office) with Keith and he'd carry on kiting all over Europe. We were chased all over Barca for about 3 hours. The evening was Richo’s birthday, I remember quaffing a bottle of vodka between three of us, the orange ran out so the last few sips were puke inducing. Infact the drink was so strong, the vapors stung my eyes. We went to Rover Return and I spent the evening sat in the corner waiting for the world to stop turning.  

 

The meagre funds I had run out after six days. I bid farewell to the lads who were due home Sunday anyway, the Inter Rail lads went on to Italy and across to Yugoslavia. I bunked into a sleeper at Portbou and slept until Paris. I was back in the Yankee with my tan and whispered tales of glory by Saturday night…to this day I can’t listen to the Stones ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ with out getting a little emotional.  

 

 

 

 
   
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