Hey Will, do you wanna go on a stag-do to Ibiza?
This was about the sum total of my forward thinking when presented with an opportunity to join fifteen or so blokes for a long weekend on the Balearic Island of indigenous house music. Since my injury, I've been to Ibiza four times. All of which were quarterbacked by my good friend and fellow crip, Mr David Holmes. The nice thing about joining David on holiday is that he plans everything meticulously - ensuring his needs as a tetraplegic person are thoroughly taken into consideration.
As such, David rents a villa which is all on one level and every venue we visit is contacted ahead of our arrival to make sure they're ready for an onslaught of wheelchairs and survival gear. This means that when we all rock up to a club like Ushuaia with our own portable fans to help regulate David's body-temp, they don't bat an eyelid. This is probably also due to the fact that David is able to drop some serious wenga, which, on an island like Ibiza, goes a long way to making anything possible.
On this trip, however, there would be no such planning and no such wenga. But I was fine with this. In fact, I deliberately abstained from investigating anything because I didn't want to provide myself with any unnecessary ambivalence. Allow me to elaborate. Firstly, as with all stag-dos, there is the hierarchy of friendship that starts in the centre with the best-man and radiates outward to include childhood mates, long-standing Uni mates, mates you met in your twenties, work mates, and finally, newish mates. On this particular stag, I would classify myself as a newish mate. By virtue of my newishness, I didn't know half the people on the stag. Automatically, this generates a social dynamic in which one does not want to be the centre of attention. In reality, this means sitting back and letting the core group of friends orchestrate the fun, while the peripheral group do what they can to show support and acquaint themselves with the nuances of long established social conventions without rocking the boat.
What do I mean by rocking the boat? Well, to start with, had I intervened with the planning of the stag, there is no way in hell that I would have okay'd the villa in which we stayed. Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining. It's just that this villa was without a doubt the most inaccessible place I have ever been. But, in agreeing to go on this particular stag, in which I simply wanted to be 'one-of-the-lads', I didn't intend on making the best-man's life any harder by making disability related demands. So my tactic was simple: 'See no evil, speak no evil'. This doesn't make anything easier. It just means that all problematic issues are dealt with in the moment, as opposed to being mitigated beforehand. Some might call this tactic foolish. And they might be right. But for me, it's a semi-delusional way to live life on my terms.
Naturally, those terms fly out the window when you lose your phone and wallet within ten minutes of leaving the airport.
Allow me to paint you a little picture: I arrive at the villa in a taxi with two other people. I exit the taxi and am pushed up a ridiculous slope to get into the villa. I survey my room to discover that the internal door has a step and is too narrow for my wheelchair to pass through. I get pushed to the back of the villa and am carried down a small flight of steps to one of the many terraced chill-out areas. I take possession of a beer and contemplate how many steps I can count. There are lots. I conclude that I will be lifted many times during the next few days and nights. I decide to text my girlfriend, but can't locate my phone. I get that sinking feeling. I check for my wallet. Nope. I ask one of the lads to search the surrounding area for signs of my missing items. Pointless. They are gone. I rewind the last fifteen minutes and deduce that in the process of exiting the taxi I have placed my phone and wallet in the vehicle door. I hate myself. Here I am being introduced to a bunch of blokes with the caveat that I have no money and no means of communication. So, not only are they gonna have to lift me fucking everywhere, but they're also gonna have to pay for everything and make sure they don't lose me in a club.
(Coincidentally, the last time I felt this powerless was on a previous stag-do in Colchester or Chelmsford, where it snowed so heavily I was almost left stranded in the middle of a university campus a la Jack Nicholson freezing in The Shining.)
So let's just re-cap. I said yes to an Ibizan stag-do in which I only knew half the attendees and did no research whatsoever as to where we were staying and what we were doing. I arrive at villa to discover it is the most inaccessible place on Earth. I lose phone and wallet. I am a dickhead.
Next morning, I shake off the previous day's woes and decide not to get bogged down by the situation. After all, it's not as if my name is Loris Karius and I'm the goalkeeper for Liverpool FC who has just conceded two of the most ludicrous goals in football history during the European Cup final. (It's all about perspective.) The day's itinerary involves dressing up in Hawaiian shirts as per Ace Ventura and boarding a catamaran, whereupon we will sail across to Formentera for a spot of lunch. I had been pre-warned about the boat trip and had been assured that a wheelchair would not be a problem. However, on arriving at the port, I could sense that boarding the catamaran was going to be anything but straightforward. Nevertheless, at least we were boarding the boat from solid ground - a variable that I would soon come to appreciate.
'Slow and steady' is the key to being lifted anywhere. These were the words I uttered to James 'Pricey' Price as he slumped under my weight while attempting to clamber aboard. Pricey is a big, strong lad and I'm not that heavy; but such was the awkwardness of the entry point that he found it difficult to find his footing. Nevertheless, I made it aboard and plonked myself down with a drink. Happy days. We zipped across the waves and within three beers time we were at our destination - the beautiful island of Formentera. But how would we get ashore? Speedboat, of course. At that moment, Tarzan of the Sea appeared in a tiny outboard rib and parked up alongside the catamaran. Tarzan didn't speak much English, but began ushering us on to the floating Uber that would ferry us to shore. The height difference between the two vehicles was not trivial. Nor was the fact that they were bobbing joyfully up and down. This didn't bother Tarzan, as he grabbed hold of the catamaran and locked his feet into the rib to create a boat-to-boat human bond.
The key to this transfer was not being lifted. Instead, I shuffled my bony ass down toward the stern of the boat to where the height difference was at its lowest. I swung my legs 180º and dangled them overboard. A couple of the lads stationed themselves in the rib, while the rest hovered around me. To be fair, the transfer was fine. I basically slid from one vessel to the other and in a matter of seconds was sat neatly in the speedboat. Tarzan's expression implied he knew it would be fine all along. We whizzed toward the beach and Tarzan did his best to get the rib as close to dry land as possible. The journey from boat to beach is captured brilliantly in the above photo and kinda sums up the entire trip. Nick Moss, like the strongman that he is, carried me to shore, whereupon we made our way to the beachside restaurant.
The restaurant itself didn't have a floor per se, but rather was an extension of the beach. This meant being ceremoniously carried to the table while singing Bonnie Tyler's 'I Need a Hero'. Bear in mind, this was not a cheap establishment, so I doubt the clientele were that impressed. The meal was fab. Amazing paella. Delicious sangria. Good times. Now back to the boat. Only we're more inebriated. Whatever. We made it aboard safely and proceeded to drink more booze as we pootled back to Ibiza. I don't really remember how we got back to dry land, but I'm fairly certain it involved being lifted.
In the interest of your waning attention span and my propensity to write long-copy, I'm gonna sum up the next three nights into chunky, bitesized morsels.
Sunday night: Pacha. I projectile vommed hard all over the cub and departed at 3am covered in puke and piss.
Monday night: DC10. I got my levels right and raved until 5.30am. Got back to villa and changed my 9am flight to the following day. Shat myself.
Tuesday: Flaked hard. Ate a nice family meal. Went to bed (not covered in puke, piss or shit).
In summary, I'd do it all again.