A postcard from Paul Richardson

Paul Richardson
Sunday 18 August 1996 23:02 BST

I blame it all on Coco Chanel. If she hadn't gone on that wretched cruise with the Duke of Westminster and come back bronzed and beautiful, there would never have been this fashion for sun-and-sex holidays in the Mediterranean, and my home would not be living Hell at this time of the year.

For most of the year, the island of Ibiza is a social paradise of peace- loving hippies, renegade artists and picturesque peasants, all living quiet lives in a jawdroppingly beautiful landscape. Tourists are a tiny minority. From October till May there are no charter flights to the island, and the airport is virtually boarded up. The roads are deserted: many are the warm winter mornings when I've driven from my medieval farmhouse to the local market town of Santa Eulalia and not passed a single car on the way.

Now it's high summer, the very high point of the high season, and I've just struggled back from Santa Eulalia with the weekly shop, most of which has already deliquesced into an evil-smelling puddle in the back of the car. The forecast talked of 35 degrees, but it feels like 40. I spent the best part of an hour looking for a parking place, and when I finally found one, a tourist in a hire car nipped in before me, reducing me to spitting, sweaty-faced rage.

Ibiza is bursting at the seams. According to the local paper, the Diario de Ibiza, hotel occupation is practically at 100 per cent. The famous clubs are packed every night, and Mixmag magazine says that more than half a million British ravers will have raved here by the end of the summer. There are queues in restaurants. I am told that the island's entire fleet of hire cars is on the road, and I can well believe it. The cars always used to be good, solid Pandas and Peugeots in inoffensive colours such as white, red and black, but this season we're plagued with Renault Twingos and Fiat Cinquecentos in putrid shades of baby-sick yellow, pistachio and cafe au lait.

I've just been stuck behind a Twingo for half an hour on the coast road on my way back from town. You can see down to the bay with its crystal- blue water, and it's a nice enough view until you've seen it a thousand times. But this guy was crawling along without a care in the world, eyes glued to the scenery, completely oblivious of the fact that I had important things to do, such as unloading my liquefying vegetables and dashing off a card to Independent readers. You could tell he was English because his face had the bubbly, hectic look of a roasted pepper. My friend who works as a nurse in Ibiza hospital tells me that in summer the number one cause of admission is third-degree burns. And it is most usually the English who frazzle themselves in the sun, then, as the top layer of skin peels off, get right back on the beach to frazzle the next layer. The second big problem is alcohol poisoning. My friend tells me they've got the stomach pump on the go pretty much non-stop.

It's hard to begrudge anyone their precious fortnight away from the office, but I can't help reflecting on the central irony of modern life in the Mediterranean, which is that pleasure and relaxation for the many tends to mean toothgrinding stress and annoyance for the few.

Take the jeep safaris, another of my summer betes noires. The jeep safari is a device intended to get tourists out of their ghettoes in San Antonio ("San An" to its millions of devotees) and to put them in touch with "The Real Ibiza". This would be fine, except that The Real Ibiza isn't too keen to be got in touch with. The jeeps come careering down the country lanes in platoons of 10 or 12, spilling over with red-faced, whooping passengers who swivel their video cameras like antitank guns at the locals as we slave away in our vegetable patches.

Forget paradise: the past 24 hours have been purgatory. Last night, the night of the full moon, there was not one, but six German techno raves in the woods around my house. As I made my way down the garden at seven in the morning to feed the chickens, the air was still full of the music's relentless, chaotic thump. To add insult to injury, I had just put a loaf of bread in the oven when a jeepful of E-crazed zombies marched down the drive and invaded my kitchen. "Oy, where's the party, mate?" one of them demanded, his eyes as wide as dinner plates.

It all seems to be leading to one inescapable conclusion. I need a holiday from Ibiza. I'd like to chill out somewhere quiet, unspoilt, somewhere less crowded, to really get away from it all. I've heard that England is lovely at this time of year. If anyone hears of a cheap package tour, please write back soonest.

Paul Richardson's book, 'Not Part of the Package, a Year in Ibiza', is published by Pan, price pounds 5.99.

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