Why was there sex at the Front in the first place? What, in those unprecedented conditions, were the young men of Europe fucking for? And what did they achieve? The mind floods with facts of human biology, sure. Remembers itself toppled by the irrepressible march of libido. The answers seem self-explanatory. But things not always being what they seem, it’s worth looking elsewhere before accepting their explanation. It’s worth paying attention to the poetry that blossomed at the Front and its suggestions that sex played a part in the War far more interesting— and far more important— than all that.
I have taken to going for morning runs with my housemate Rita. She is a superfit West Coaster with a lithe athlete's body. I am a flabby Londoner with a penchant for cheese and ale. Ibiza, I have come to understand, does not tolerate excess flesh and our route along Talamanca Beach takes us past rows of bronzed babes in bikinis, with tits that would have Newton refuting his own theory. Whilst I long ago abandoned the idea of ever being one of these pneumatic RoboBarbies I still believe that a little bit of exercise is probably a good thing as long as I know there's a slice of cake waiting for me at the end of it.
The last word she spoke onscreen was 'vagina', in Fashion Police, having just torn apart Amber Rose and her ultra revealing Laura Dewitt chainmail dress. "Amber looks so much like a chain link border fence that 5000 Guatemalan children tried to sneak across her vagina," said the woman who sashayed across the world of entertainment for laugh-out-loud decades, leaving unfillable Manolo-Blahnik-designed comedy footsteps as she went - dainty in front with a dagger thrust following. She was honest and she was fearless and a comic cannot be much better than that.
"I veer from unbridled hubris to neurotic paralysis," I tell The Editor after ignoring his email for a week. I once read a self-help book entitled Self-Sabotage and How to Stop It. Clearly, I didn't absorb anything. I want to be a writer but when someone expresses interest in my writing I scamper into the undergrowth faster than a nervous Ibicenco lizard. After going to ground for a week, sitting in a darkened room refreshing my Twitter feed into infinity, today I feel like I might be a writer again. I'm lying on the beach in my homage to Bettie Page leopard print and hibiscus mismatched bikini and I'm stealing glances at the beardy bartender from the nearby bar while typing away on my iPad. There are small windows of clarity. In these windows I see that I might be able to ditch waitressing and earn my living as a writer. I'm trying my best to silence the self-doubt.
Really, it’s high time that sex education in this country was given an overhaul. Not just because we still have unacceptable teenage pregnancy rates and a rising tide of STDs but because somehow, somewhere along the line, the Glorious Sexual Revolution has been betrayed, and our schools, colleges and universities are full of fledgling adults with attitudes towards sex that are damaging their relationships both with each other and with themselves.
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.