When I moved to Ibiza I knew what I was signing up for. As my friend C often says, 'This island runs on sex.' Outside almost every restaurant in Ibiza Town you'll find a heavily made up young women in heels and miniskirts whose sole role is to lure in custom. In San Antonio outside the little boat shacks that line the marina, young women in bikinis are employed to tempt you on to various vessels of dubious seaworthiness. Of course, that's just the surface, scratch beneath and you'll find the commodification of coitus on every corner. Sex sells and on Ibiza, it's the primary industry. A few weeks ago I applied for job as a waitress. 'Please attach a photo with your CV' the ad said. I didn't recoil in militant feminist horror and retreat to my bunker in a burlap sack. I needed a job. Pretty urgently as it happens. So I sent off a CV with a photo attached. This is the reply I received a few minutes later:
I'm sitting on my balcony typing. Some days, I can't believe how lucky I am. For a fraction of the rent I paid in London, I have a flat overlooking the azure blue Mediterranean Sea. Of course, this being Ibiza it also overlooks a brothel (well technically, it vaunts itself as an escort agency) with a big red neon sign. Outside, it has a sad little astroturfed garden furnished with a few high white plastic tables and a couple of flags which hang limp in the airless summer heat. From my balcony I have a clear view of the bored looking women leaning on the tables waiting for work to come by. They are dressed in the most obvious forms of sexy: bustiers; stilettos; minidresses.
It was our local village carnival recently. In procession with the usual tractors (ancient and modern), 1950s Austin cars and glum looking children in Disneyworld-inspired, home-made costumes, were various floats. As always, these were mostly created by local football and young farmers clubs. And as usual, they tended to major on tableaux featuring hefty blokes with lividly rouged faces and wearing floral dresses and balloon bosoms. The term ‘bosom’ is especially apposite in the context – ‘breasts’ implies a totally different perspective on this aspect of gender difference.
Yesterday morning there was a knock on my bedroom door. When I opened it, my new housemate was standing outside in his underpants. He's a faux-hippie in his early-forties. So far my observations are as follows: His almost religious obsession with recycling sits slightly at odds with his prodigious consumption of Air Miles. In the noughties he would have been described as 'metrosexual'. He owns more miniature hair products than Boots in Piccadilly Circus and has littered the bathroom with a plethora of grooming products from foot files to moisturisers to exfoliators. He has two types of toothpaste: Pro-enamel and Colgate Total, mouthwash and an electric toothbrush. Of course, for his tushie, only Aloe Balm Wet Ones will do.
On Thursday night I did a trial shift in a restaurant in Figueretas. For those of you who have never been to Figueretas, it’s a gaudy beach on the outskirts of Ibiza Town. One of those lurid little resorts, littered with souvenir shops that sell t-shirts depicting women engaging in various metaphors for fellatio (licking lollipops, peeling bananas etc) and bars which sell cocktails with names like Sex on the Beach, Cock Sucking Cowboy and Slippery Nipple.
When the sex offenders register was first conceived, we can presume it wasn't intended to include teenagers taking photos of themselves. That would be absurd and no right-minded lawmaker would wish it. But laws, like pets, have a life of their own. Take your eye off them and they will shit in your house. This week, a teenage girl was given a police caution for taking a photo of herself partially undressed and sending it to her boyfriend. In any normal conception of the world this would be considered regrettable teenage behaviour. In the brave new world in which we live it is 'distributing indecent images of a child'.
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, is often thought to be the quintessential Restoration man, in terms of his debauched lifestyle and squandered brilliance. When he began one of his most famous poems, A Ramble In St James’s Park, with the statement that ‘Much wine had passed, with grave discourse Of who fucks who, and who does worse’, his aristocratic readers, recognising themselves as those who participated in such ‘grave discourse’, would have sniggered and enjoyed the allusion.
I sit on my terrace with the sun setting on an azure sea – or some such. In the fields around me cattle graze peacefully and sheep engage in sheep like wanderings, dispersed across the meadows. I note that three young bulls (all virgins) have just broken out of their enclosure and are heading for a neighbouring field full of dairy heifers. On the wireless news is brought to me of Iraq and the sectarian conflict erupting from its previous simmer. The Sun has, via the postman, delivered a free copy of its special ‘celebrating England’ issue. This is a masterly stunt designed to reinforce and infuse our World Cup efforts with a general sense of how brilliant the English are. Pace any Scots or indeed Welsh readers, there is acknowledgement that being English is inclusive.
The book was only sporadically reviewed and those notices it received were less than kind. Literary editors being, then as now, eager for ‘controversy’ sent it only to those most likely to condemn: ideologically conditioned feminists. It was suggested by one that I had used the interviews as a stimulus and that while disguised by microphone and machine I had pleasured myself with brisk games of pocket billiards. Another, having savaged it, admitted when we met at a festival that she hadn’t actually meant what she had written but ‘it was what was expected’. There were no royalties.
Justice Potter speaks in 1966: "Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime. Long ago those who wrote our First Amendment charted a different course. They believed a society can be truly strong only when it is truly free. In the realm of expression they put their faith, for better or worse, in the enlightened choice of the people, free from the interference of a policeman’s intrusive thumb or a judge’s heavy hand."