Spain: Thursday

There is, to my eye, not a single Spanish soul in the queue for the Ryanair flight that will take us from gloomy Teesside to sunny Alicante on a Thursday late in February. I'm used to flights with a bit of give-and-take: flights out of Orlando a hodgepodge of Europeans on their way home from a manic five days at Disney World rubbing shoulders with Americans en route to Dublin or Edinburgh or Berlin or wherever they claim they're "from" via some great-ancestor whose name they don't know.

This is not that: all hundred and twenty some-odd souls aboard are pastywhite, sneaking drags on vapes hidden in their sleeves, sporting sparkly sandals and neck tattoos and the cheery lassitude of someone who's just finished their third £6.50 San Miguel at the airport bar. The overhead display indicates that our plane will depart at 16:05, but it's now 16:25 and FlightRadar24 indicates that the plane that will take us to Alicante is somewhere above Sheffield. Somehow we've all been duped into queueing for boarding.

The plane arrives, by and by, and the overworked Ryanair staff turn it around for us in record time. Ryanair has situated Sam and I in separate rows, middle seats both, as punishment for not purchasing some kind of aviation lootbox. As soon as I sit down, the chap next to me leans in close and asks if I'm going on holiday. I tell him I am. He explains that he's going on a holiday-on-a-holiday, which he explains is a bureaucratic requirement of his employment on a Mediterranean cruise liner. I tell him that I suppose he must get to take lots of holidays-on-holidays all over the Mediterranean. He tells me that not really. Then he tells me that he's got Avatar downloaded on his iPad Pro, and that this flight is going to be a breeze. I assume he's talking about the recent Jim Cameron flick and I tell him that it's supposed to be a real beauty of a movie. He doesn't really respond, but proceeds to put on M. Night Shyamalan's critically-panned 2010 live-action The Last Airbender. We don't talk any more after that.

Sam texts me that the aisle seat next to her remains unoccupied after the cabin doors are shut, so as soon as we breach 10,000 feet and the Fasten Seatbelt sign is extinguished, I hightail it.

The Spanish immigration officer speaks at extremely high velocity with his coworker and barely looks at me when I hand him my passport. He stamps it and hands it back, and when I say gracias to him, the returned gracias is barely distinguishable from the surrounding logorrhoea.

Later, in the multistory car park, the lady at Budget tries to upsell us on automatic rental car. We've just walked past a row of fifteen gleaming Fiat 500s and tell her that we want the smallest, most economical car they've got. We get a Hyundai crossover. It's fine. It has nearly zero torque and all of the controls feel like they're conveyed through a council of algorithms that determine whether or not to increase speed, shift gears, turn corners, etc. At seemingly random points on the highway, Lane Assist will subtly try to direct me into the centre of the lane, which is frustrating e.g. on bends or near a big truck; disabling this setting only works until the car is turned off, at which point Lane Assist is re-enabled.

When we arrive in Los Montesinos, the night is cool and clear and the town is almost totally empty. Opposite and a little ways down the slope from the house are a row of derelict holiday homes; beyond them, a dusty little park and a farm compound in the midst of a field of lemon trees. Dim streetlights trace the roads down into the town and to the highway beyond, where a modified car's distant whine is the only indication of life to be found. Far off in the distance, more lights in geometric patterns reveal the city of Torrevieja on the Mediterranean coast. Dark cragged forms on the horizon indicate isolated mountain ranges of indeterminate size. Southern Spain is much hillier than I'd thought.

Unwilling to contemplate the logistics of dinner as midnight approaches, we both agree on the nearest available fast food, which turns out to be a Burger King. We're pleased to find that Burger King is exactly the same in Spain as it is in the UK. The big panels for ordering even come in English. We eat our food in the car park. A cat wanders out of the brush, eyes us with disinterest, and wanders off through a gap in a fence. We finish our food and negotiate a call with Sam's dad, who is following our progress with keen interest using the Find My app. He asks if we're at Burger King. When I respond in the affirmative he tells me that he saw that we used the service road to get down. It's hellish, isn't it? he asks. I agree that it's hellish, but it's midnight and I couldn't see nearly enough to determine its hellishness.

Spain '24


Spain: Friday

Breakfast in Los Montesinos, lunch in Torrevieja, out for a run and then dinner on the coast.


Replace a sink waste

These are my opinionated instructions for replacing the waste in your British sink.