Back in Ibiza 1977 by Robert Fear (not entered in the competition)
The streets of Es Cana were quiet, at least compared to the previous July. There were a few locals and the occasional tourist along the road as I made my way down towards the seafront with my black duffel bag.
After a couple of minutes walking, in the midst of an elevated row of shops, I came across the closed front entrance of Grannies bar. I peered through the bars of the gate and down the steps. There was evidence that the place had been open recently as there were empty and half-filled glasses on the tables along the terrace. Then I saw a scrawled notice: Open from 7 pm. As it was only just before midday, I would have to come back later to catch up with Mick and Pat, the bar’s owners, who I knew from last year.
Walking further down the main road I arrived at the Restaurante Es Cana, which overlooks the small curving beach that makes up the main seafront. I took a seat at a table looking out towards the sea. The world seemed to slow down as I soaked up the warm spring sunshine, gazed out at the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea and felt the slight breeze as it swept along the front. There were a few people scattered along the still clean sandy strip, a sharp contrast to the packed beach I remembered.
The waiter came over.
During the winter months, whenever I had spare time, I had been trying to learn Spanish from a Berlitz book and tape recording. Now was my chance to test it out.
‘Bon dia senyor, com estàs?’
I struggled with the accent but assumed he was greeting me and asking how I was. With a slight stutter I replied,
‘Muy bien gracias y usted?’
This was the Spanish phrase I had learnt to say that I was very well thank you and asking him how he was in return.
The waiter acknowledged my reply,
‘Molt bé, així que gràcies.’
Now I was completely flummoxed, not having understood a word he had said. This wasn’t the Spanish I had tried so hard to learn.
As I stared at him blankly he asked another question,
‘Vols alguna cosa de menjar o beure?’
Although I didn’t fully understand, I recognised the words for eat and drink, so I replied:
‘Puedo tomar una cerveza frio por favor.’
I was really thirsty and a cold beer would go down nicely.
‘Si senyor, cervesa embotellada o cervesa de barril?’
This time I understood. Did I want bottled or draft beer?
‘Una botella de San Miguel por favor.’
San Miguel had been my favourite beer the previous summer, although it did get warm very quickly in the July heat. Hopefully it would stay cool for longer in the more temperate April sunshine.
Within a couple of minutes, the waiter had returned with my bottle of cold San Miguel,
‘Aquí té senyor, una bona ampolla freda de San Miquel. Salut!’
I lifted the bottle to my lips and sipped on the cold tangy and refreshing beer. It tasted fantastic and I could feel myself relaxing more and more with each sip.
As I sat watching the world go by, my thoughts turned to the Spanish I had so valiantly been trying to learn. At school, I was hopeless at languages. I had tried to learn Latin for two years and French for five years but failed miserably. I was so bad that I only got 10% in my French mock O’Level and was not even allowed to sit the final exam.
This was different. I really wanted to learn the language and had put a lot of effort into reading and memorising Spanish phrases during the winter months. This was the real world though and I had already encountered problems understanding the waiter, although at the time I didn’t realise why.
What I learnt over the next few weeks was that the local people in Ibiza speak a Catalan dialect, which can be very different from ‘proper’ Spanish. No wonder I had got so confused!
For the next hour or so I watched the world go by and it slowly dawned on me that I had made it. I was here. All that hard work over the winter months had been worthwhile. My dream was coming true. After a ham roll and another San Miguel, I settled the bill and headed down to the sand.
Tucking my bag behind some rocks at the end of the beach, I took off my shoes and socks before rolling up my jeans. The water was surprisingly cold as I paddled along the edge and felt the gentle swell of the sea against my bare legs.
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