IT WAS a stupid question, and as soon as the man turned round I knew it.
It was a stupid question, and as soon as the man turned round I knew it.
"Is this the right place for the foam disco?"
The chap in the queue wheeled towards me. He was wearing a full underwater kit of face mask, snorkel, rubber ring and flippers. His voice was muffled: "What do you think?" I agreed that it had been a silly enquiry.
I was on holiday in the Algarve, and everywhere we'd gone I'd seen posters for the famed Kiss Disco Foam Party in Albufeira. I was visiting Portugal with my family (wife, two children) and my friend Matthew and his family.
Matt and I decided to give it a try. The girls decided they'd have more fun with a bottle of wine, a terrace and a warm evening, so they stayed behind chatting – or "babysitting", as it was called in a vain attempt to make us feel guilty.
I'd never been to a foam disco before, but it seemed like now or never. You know; that feeling of impending mid-life crisis when you discover the haircut that .makes you look trendy, just as you're getting too old for it. Should you wear your glasses, or stumble around in the pitch black and soapy bubbles, partially blind? And what about hair gel?
So out we set, at about 11pm, feeling a bit tired because we'd probably have been in bed for half an hour under normal circumstances after a day struggling with the children. Eleven turned out to be way too early; the club was open, but no one was so uncool as to arrive before midnight. We pretended to walk past as though we were going somewhere else before we realised that it was just a dirt track that went nowhere. We doubled back and tried not to look embarrassed. Ho hum.
We passed the next two hours in Lineker's bar, a celebrated haunt for star footballers. But not that night; even at 1am there were few people present apart from Snorkel Man and his chums. "What time does the foam start?" I screamed at a member of the bar staff above the music. "About 4am," she yelled back.
So we waited. And waited. In fact, the foam didn't start until nearer 5am, because the pump didn't work, and a little man with a spanner had to climb up the pipes and wrestle with it like Crocodile Dundee. It kind of ruined the effect of the club – man in overalls in the middle of so much bare flesh – but hey, we were out to enjoy ourselves.
When the pump gushed, though, it really gushed. Devotees stood with chests bare and arms aloft, waiting to be smothered in the stuff. That night I laughed so much my neck hurt. It gave me even more pleasure than the fairway wood I hit over the lake on to the green on the 11th at Penina. And that was exciting. Just ask anyone who's ever hit a fairway wood straight and long; they'll tell you.
One word of warning: don't laugh as the foam gushes towards you, or at least try to laugh with your mouth shut. Foam breathed in deeply burns your lungs.
The point is that the Algarve isn't just about golf, timeshares and beachlife. There's also a lot of fun to be had at night. You're never too old to inhale foam, and believe me, you'll laugh till your neck hurts. Particularly if you play the "Who can make themselves look most like Father Christmas?" game with the foam as facial hair, or "Turn your head into a white cone". Go on. Try it.
All the big tour operators offer winter-sun packages to the Algarve. If you prefer to put together your own trip, TAP Air Portugal (0845 601 0932), British Airways (0845 773 3377, www.ba.com) and Go (0870 607 6543, www.go-fly.com) all fly to Faro from the UK. So, too, do many charter operators. For more information, contact the Portuguese National Tourist Office, 22 Sackville Street, London W1X 2LY (09063 640 610, calls 60p per minute).
Ian Payne presents 'Sport on 5' each weekday evening from 7-10pm on BBC Radio 5 LiveReuse content