So, we’re off to Ibiza or more accurately, we’re going to the Costa del Folk which is a music event like no other and, on this occasion includes a little bit of excitement with the Manchester Airport Security Services when both ‘yours truly’ and the Pilgrim are exposed as ‘mules’.
The event is not necessarily on the Costas and its not all Folk. It’s a wonderful gathering of people who come together with the artists and enjoy a great cross-section of music in a four-star hotel for a few days in the sun; what’s not to like?
So the first day goes like this…
Manchester airport is not my favourite, it’s manic beyond belief and we seem to be on a much-elevated state of security. We stayed at the Clayton last night, it’s on the airport and walkable to all terminals with T3 and T1 being particularly accessible. We’re going From T3 but chose the shuttle bus as it’s still dark at 0440 it’s also cold to boot. The UK is having what Carol would refer to as an Arctic Blast and as we step out of the hotel reception we get an extremely chilly reminder of the winter just gone. It’s a warning shot from nature to delay the sowing of tender plants and heed my dad’s mantra “ne-er cast a clout till May is out”. He explained it to me once that in the North this meant until the month of May becomes the month of June but further south it means to wait until the ‘may blossom’ is out which is usually a little earlier. Either way, it’s good advice and any plants set a couple of weeks later will easily catch up those that were hurried into the ground and bitten by a late frost.
The Pilgrim is awake now having gone back to bed at 0425 because it wasn’t 0430, “every little helps”. It has to be said that it was a little later than planned when we drifted off to sleep last night, or should I say this morning. The shuttle driver has been either well trained or had a happy pill and grabs our luggage with a cheery “You are going to T3 aren’t you?”. It’s a rhetorical question to ensure we’re on the right bus and he doesn’t wait for a reply.
The journey is only 5 minutes but we’re grateful to be set down with only a short walk to the escalator taking us to the check-in hall. It’s definitely an ungodly hour but there’s a queue at the Ryanair desks already and, like us, the majority are going to the festival. There’s enough silver hair to make an undertaker salivate and pension scheme administrators rub their hands. We’ve seen many of these lovely people on previous trips, they’re all fingering passports and boarding cards nervously as we approach the self-check-in area. It’s populated with scanners and weighing machines where hold baggage is labelled by us punters saving time and reducing the number of jobs to make the process cheaper.
Although the whole procedure is unfamiliar and there is the odd hiccup it does work surprisingly well and within a few minutes, we’re heading back along the hallway to security.
In fairness to Manchester Airport authorities, they have staff at several points on the way into Security proffering plastic bags to put our small tubes of toothpaste, aftershave etc. The Pilgrim has stressed the importance of this since our trip last month when I was stopped because I had 5 ml of aftershave in a bottle and the trip before when I’d managed to get a pair of scissors between the outer and inner sections of my trusty rucksack – that really did cause a stir and, well… don’t ask! With regard to the aftershave incident, the whole process was quite theatrical in as much as all of my hand baggage and toiletries were emptied then electronically sniffed and when the aftershave bottle was identified there was a theatrical show of putting it into a plastic bag accompanied by a stretching and slapping sound as rubber gloves were donned in preparation for an imagined uncomfortable search that didn’t happen. I’m reminding you of all this because the Pilgrim gave me very short shrift regarding the level of care necessary for me to prepare for this process.
This time I’ve emptied my toiletries bag of all things liquid and put toothpaste in my hold luggage along with suncream and anything else with a tendency flow. I’ve followed instructions and put my belt and fleece together with my wallet, phone, usb stick and spare change into one tray then put my laptop into a separate tray that also becomes the receptacle for my boots when a security lady spots their potential for wanton destruction. I’m standing next to the scanner when another security person asks me if my pockets are empty, I nod an ascent then remember I have a pen in my shirt pocket so I quickly return to my tray and drop it in. I’m now ‘clean’ and make another attempt at getting through the scanner. I’m told to pause as the lady in front has set it off. When she clears I get an almost imperceptible nod from the man in charge and I move forward. The alarm goes off and the lights flash and I realise that I’m still wearing my watch. Bollocks, shit and lots of other words form. I take my watch off and make another tour of the scanner. It goes off again and I’m wondering what the surgeon used when she repaired my aorta last year, I thought it was latex but now I’m not sure. So… I’m getting my excuse together as the security man poses with a handheld device that’s going to be levelled at various parts of my body.
I have no idea what this device is but it’s quite happy with most of my body as it searches areas that would normally be accessible only by me and a very close friend. He’s waving it around my chest now and it suddenly goes ballistic; it’s found something in my shirt pocket! Double shit, quadruple bollocks and now my mind is so full of rude words it’s like a Tourette’s factory on steroids as I remember I’d bought a tiny tube of aciclovir (generic equivalent of Zovyrax) for a potential cold sore on my lip and this little beastie has found it.
In fairness to the security man, he’s fairly laid back about it and hands it to a colleague who promptly renders it safe by encasing it into a small plastic bag and removes the latex gloves that he’d armed himself with should there be a necessity for a more intimate check. Now that it has been neutralised the airport can breathe a collective sigh of relief as I’m allowed to proceed complete with aciclovir in the astonishingly robust plastic bag, yes, I was allowed to keep it but it wasn’t allowed to ride naked in my shirt pocket.
I’m expecting a degree of ribbing from the Pilgrim as I approach the scanning machine; however, I’m in luck, she’s been singled out as another potential threat. She’s looking a little uncomfortable as I approach and I see that her bag is on the alternative conveyer belt meaning it is suspicious and by implication so is she.
It turns out that, like me, she’s forgotten a small lipstick and the equipment here has found it. It’s all very impressive even if it’s also frustrating. There’s no mention of my faux pas this time as we partners in ‘muledom’ make our way into the booze and beauty hall.
Contra to the image that Michael O’Leary tries to project, Ryanair and their staff are charm personified and their carry on allowance is generous whilst the hold baggage limit of 15kg is a little tight. Before we know it we’re in the ‘plane and whilst setting off late we still arrive at Ibiza on time to the fanfare of celebration and the announcement that 95% of Ryanair flights arrive on time; this is followed by a ragbag of applause rippling around the aircraft like a deranged seal has been released and it’s expressing its delight at the freedom.
In Ibiza, the Passport Control is well-organized well-staffed (unlike the UK offering) and we’re through in a matter of minutes.
Enjoy Travel are on top of their game and have us on the bus fairly rapidly although there’s a little hiccup when they realise they haven’t registered us in. This is resolved quickly and before we know it we’re at the hotel where there are more queues due to the island implementing a new tax that is payable by each of the hotel guests.
We decide against queuing and jettison our luggage to make a short trip to a bar on the beach. It’s in a small bay so the view is a delight and when it’s combined with Serrano ham and exquisite bread that’s been slightly toasted with some balsamic vinegar and excellent olive oil; the whole experience is a great opener and sets the mood for the festival well.
An hour later and we make our way back to the hotel where the queues have disbursed and we’re registered by a wonderfully helpful member of the hotel staff and welcomed by the Enjoy Travel reps who are now more like close friends.
The afternoon is taken up with mundane unpacking and a short snooze on my part while the Pilgrim grabs a few zeds on a sun lounger followed by an impressive 5km run.
The festival doesn’t start until tomorrow but that’s never stopped the Impromptu sessions that crop up like mushrooms responding to the dark and tonight is no exception.
As we enter the huge bar area, there are groups of people reacquainting themselves with old friends and others meeting for the first time. This is my third festival and I can vouch for its intimacy and friendliness from organizers to artists and most of all, us, the audience. (although that label doesn’t feel adequate)
Flossie Malavialle, Rosie Clegg, Mike Harding and Mick Doonen along with many others are taking turns singing and playing various songs from traditional folk, wartime standards, Dylan to Beetles and Everly Brothers, it’s sublime.
More beer is consumed and we meet some lovely people Simon (bodhran player) and his wife Sue and Donal and his lovely wife from Dublin. Time flies when Stu Luckly gets up to deliver a couple of traditional Geordie songs to celebrate Newcastle United’s promotion to the Premiership. As a Boro supporter, I’ll say no more but the songs are sung by all with gusto.
It’s been a long day and the Pilgrim and I start to make our way to our room when we see Flossie again, this time she’s teamed up with two parts of Shite Shirts (yes you read that right and normally they wear shirts that are living testament to their name), they’re normally a trio and they’re singing more Everly Brothers, Elvis and Beatles songs along with some Country standards. They’re currently delivering a special request for the Pilgrim; it’s a Johnny Cash number. It looks like it might be a long night so I get another beer!
I don’t remember going to sleep but I’m guessing I must have because I’ve woken up and completed this.
Thanks, Costa del Folk and all you lovely people that make it happen. That was a great day and the brilliant thing is this, the festival doesn’t officially start until 1400 today!
Feel free to share…G..x