What I wrote in The Scotsman newspaper


Active Member
I know this is blowing my own trumpet a bit, but people from this forum gave me quite a bit of help with this piece. I've been meaning to post it since it was published on 25 July. I await the slagging...

Diary of a clubber, age 48 and three-quarters

I couldn’t have been much wetter if I’d been standing under a hot shower fully clothed. My hair, trousers and shirt flapped and dripped in time to the beat. I would have heard my feet squelching in my shoes if the music hadn’t been so loud.

A sound like a jet airliner roared across the dance floor, seemingly part of the tune. In fact, that noise really did come from an aeroplane, its engines slamming into reverse thrust. It was 11:30 on a Sunday morning at Space and we were right under Ibiza’s main flight path.

This could be a description of torture, especially for somebody of my less than tender years, but for months it was something I’d planned and even trained for - three times a week to the gym, watching my diet and cutting down on the bevvy.

It was my attempt to kill or cure the Ibiza dance bug that I’d caught some three years before on what was supposed to be a convalescent holiday for Barbara, my wife. We went because the flight was cheap, the departure time convenient and sun was guaranteed. Clubbing never entered the equation.

We were staying in a small hotel close to Ibiza Town. For those not familiar with the island, there are two centres of population: Ibiza Town and San Antonio. The former is on the east coast, dominated by a spectacular castle, medieval streets and perfectly-preserved defensive walls. The latter has coloured fountains that dance in time to cheesy pop tunes and the West End, a tightly-packed cluster of streets filled with garish bars and cheap discos. But it does do great sunsets.

Despite their differences, both towns provide constant reminders that this is the world capital of clubbing. We never had any intention of joining in. To me, dance music was a continuation of disco, with its teenage memories of boring Saturday nights propping up the bar, trying to look cool, while girls danced around their handbags.

Judge Jules offered me some comfort: ’You can be 75 and on the dance floor and nobody will bat an eyelid.’ Then he blew it: ‘My dad’s coming again. I just hope he doesn’t get on the dance floor this time’

But curiosity about the Ibizan scene slowly got to us. We had established Bar Zuka as our regular drinking hole. This is the one straight establishment in the gay strip that translates, totally inappropriately, as: "The Street of the Virgin". Every night parades of drop-dead gorgeous members of both sexes and outrageous transvestites, some teetering over the cobbles on stilts, promoted that night’s clubs.

Eventually, on our penultimate night, I asked Mark - who continues to run Bar Zuka with the enthusiastic bonhomie of an English pub landlord - which club we should try. He scribbled a few words of Spanish on a business card. "Just hand this to the only security guy with long hair at Amnesia." Barbara didn’t believe it would work.

We managed to find a cab, no mean feat at 3am in Ibiza Town. A few minutes later we arrived at Amnesia, a place which, from the outside, has all the charm of a B&Q superstore, even if it does have neon and palm trees.

I handed the card to the pony-tailed head of security. He looked Barbara and I up and down. Then, with a barely perceptible nod we were in and I was hooked.

This wasn’t a disco. Dancing was a communal activity. Instead of couples mirroring each other’s moves everybody was reacting to the music together. Lights and laser beams cut the air. Perfect-bodied dancers spun and contorted on podiums round the dance floor. Everything was driven by the ebb and flow of banging dance music. The closest I’d ever felt to this experience before was on the football terracing. But here there was a goal every few minutes.

What made it even better was that we had blagged our way in, which made us almost a part of the scene. Dancers, PRs and other club workers receive lousy wages but they do get passes. None would ever be seen to be paying full price for admission.

It must be said that blagging is not entirely alien to many journalists. So, this year, at the start of a week in Ibiza, I found myself in the guest list queue outside the club El Divino waiting to get in to see the super cool Hed Kandi. Waiting allowed me to appreciate the stunning location, on the far side of the harbour overlooking Ibiza Town. That night a huge, reddish full moon cast its glow over the Old Town.

The music matched the surroundings, hitting a natural high as the DJ played a joyous house version of Let The Sunshine In, just as dawn was breaking. I never thought dancing to a tune from the old hippie musical Hair could be so blissful. It was a moment to remember.

A couple of days later I was talking to Hed Kandi boss and DJ Mark Doyle. "Ibiza is still the place where you want to be successful," he said. "You journalists are always trying to find the new Ibiza but there’ll never be anywhere quite like this."

I explained that I’d never dream of going clubbing anywhere else. "You should come to see us in Newcastle. That’s the nearest we come to Edinburgh and there’s a great atmosphere there," he said. I’m unconvinced. I still expect UK clubs to have something of the disco cattle market about them.

Our conversation was taking place by the pool of the Es Vive hotel, currently the coolest hotel on the island. A restored art deco landmark, it wouldn’t be out of place in Miami’s South Beach.

The hotel is the latest venture for Jason Bull, who joined us periodically, his two mobiles and a cordless phone ringing incessantly. For years he has run the Base Bar, the most popular drinking den for Brits in Ibiza Town and an intrinsic part of the scene. There’s a rigid night-out timetable: eat around 10:30pm, bar at 12:30am and club at 2:30am.

In common with everybody who has a financial interest in the island, Bull was twitchy. Tourist numbers have dropped this summer and those that do come aren’t spending. Much of Europe is in recession and, for the Brits, the pound has fallen 20 per cent against the euro in the last year.

The hotel is performing well but the bar has moved to larger premises in an area of Ibiza Town’s harbour better known for restaurants than for drinking. His clientele is returning though, mostly Cockneys or thereabouts. At times it can feel a bit like Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in the heat. All that’s missing is Vinnie Jones.

Not every night is equally busy. "People who used to come for a week or two are just coming for the weekend," he says. "The authorities aren’t helping by making us switch off music outside just after midnight." It does create a strange atmosphere at the harbour, which last year was jumping until 3am. A similar clampdown on the clubs means they shut strictly at 7am. That’s early.

If the Es Vive hotel represents the prosperous, discerning side of Ibiza, I wanted to see something of the island’s mass-market face. That means the busiest club night in San Antonio - Judge Jules’ Judgement Sunday. I was wary about all those drunken young Brits.

"Two years ago we had to have a door policy to get rid of the horrible people you used to see on Ibiza Uncovered and now we only get nice people," Jules told me before he started his set. He reckons that the recession has kept away many of the people who weren’t really interested in the island’s clubs.

"Every DJ loves doing Ibiza. This summer I’ve done Faliraki, Kavos, Benidorm, Playa de las Americas and Majorca, but none of them compare to Ibiza. You still get that holiday atmosphere but here it’s a magnet for people who are really into music."

Diplomatically, he offered me some comfort. "You can be 75 and on the dance floor and nobody will bat an eyelid." Then he blew it, turning to his business partner and saying: "My dad’s coming again. I just hope he doesn’t get on the dance floor this time."

In fact, nobody did bat an eyelid on the dance floor, except one. A tiny teenager, the spit of Claire Grogan in Gregory’s Girl, kept pointing at me and smiling. Then she started thrusting her crotch enthusiastically at my kneecaps, until her boyfriend dragged her away. Oh well.

My clubbing odyssey continued with the extravagantly camp La Troya at Amnesia. That’s what I love about Ibiza, the tolerance. Perhaps a majority of the crowd was gay but nobody cared if you were a white, middle-aged, middle class heterosexual. It just mattered that you were having fun.

The following night I was at the same venue for Cream. For the first time I retreated to the VIP area. The dance floor was just too crowded and it didn’t seem fair to reveal my expertise at landing my size 12s on other people’s feet. The heat, too, was intense, despite the clubs famous dry ice guns enveloping the crowd in a cool cloud every few minutes.

By the end of the week I should have been bored with it all. In fact, I just wanted to keep going. There are more than 30 club nights that I didn’t make it to. I’m not sure whether trying to repeat the experience back home would break the spell but I’ll certainly be back in Ibiza.

And if you decide to give it a go, do drop in and say hello to Jason or Tony at Base Bar and Mark at Bar Zuka. Tell them Nick from The Scotsman sent you. It might not do you any good but it’ll certainly help my blagging.


• Don’t pay full price. Pick up flyers from bars or PRs that will get you in free or with a discount

• Never arrive before 3am. Clubs will be empty

• Try to see the dawn at least once

• If you can’t leave the kids at night, go to Space, preferably on Sunday morning. Pretend you’ve been up all night

• Don’t take a camera. They are banned from most clubs

• If the main dance floor seems too crowded, explore. Every big club has several rooms and terraces

• Don’t wear too much. It’s hot in there

• Ibiza Town’s clubs tend to attract an older, more sophisticated, crowd. San An’s clubbers are younger. San Rafael attracts both types according to who’s playing

• Ask clubbers which are the best nights or check websites such as Ibiza Spotlight (Ibiza-spotlight.com). Don’t trust the PRs - of course they’ll tell you the club they represent is the best

• Don’t worry about your age, you’re providing a social service. At least half the twentysomethings are worried about being too old. You’ll give them hope

the revolution continues!

and another superb review for Mark at bar Zuka....
he really is the man 8)
Nick, thats soooo coooool.

Why can't more journalists write balanced, upbeat, honest pieces like this?
Coz their editors dont want them too, i suppose.

Life in the old dogs yet eh?
Thanks for not slagging me off. Like everybody else I'm fed up with those Ibiza Uncovered type articles. Fortunately attention seems to have switched to Faliraki and Kavos so, hopefully, we'll get a few less lurid stories about the West End.
Fantastic mate, nice one :)

Oh, and the planes dont use reverse thrusters until they're landed on the runway but they do sound pretty cool over the terrace never the less :)
nickclayton said:
In fact, nobody did bat an eyelid on the dance floor, except one. A tiny teenager, the spit of Claire Grogan in Gregory’s Girl, kept pointing at me and smiling. Then she started thrusting her crotch enthusiastically at my kneecaps, until her boyfriend dragged her away. Oh well.
Jesus you must be one tall fella ;)
Nice review fella, thanx
I got sent the link to that on the scotsman site when it was published! really enjoyed reading as it was quite evocative. Didn't twig it was you from the forum though, LOL. Nice one.
Thanks again for all your kind words. BTW I was just applying a little "journalistic licence" on the jet's reverse thrust and the wee girl. (That sounds a bit rude!) Anyway it's all part of my master plan to get an extended stay on the White Island...
Loved the review,

Someone else posted it up on this site around the time it appeared in The Scotsman. Keep up the good work.
nickclayton said:
The latter has coloured fountains that dance in time to cheesy pop tunes
"Don’t worry about your age, you’re providing a social service. At least half the twentysomethings are worried about being too old. You’ll give them hope"

Fantastic Nick ! lol
What a marvelous, positive feel good review.....now thats saying how it is and exactly why we love the place 8)

hats off to ya :D
Jeepers, it's like sitting in a shopping centre with all the old folks on this thread.

I'm off to browse my seed catalogues when i get back from the post office!