Day 1 – Saturday 19th November 2005
Excitement had been building for weeks, and now the day had arrivedtime
for the Pork Pie Club’s annual foreign tour. Four of us were delegated
to represent our country as Pork Pie ambassadors to Spain, with an
inspection tour of Benidorm’s first pork pie manufacturer on the
itinerary. Richard collected Kevin, Pete and John early on a frosty
Saturday morning in West Yorkshire and we headed for Leeds/Bradford
airport via a butcher’s in Yeadon. The butcher (who also unusually sold
some fresh veg and other sundries) seemed markedly unenthusiastic when
asked to make up individual sandwiches for our journey. We put this
down to the fact that it was early Saturday morning and we were
strangers in Yeadon. Not usually inclined to extravagant spending (Pete
and a duck’s a…e often share the same ranking in the tightness stakes),
Pete also bought a fresh bacon sandwich to eat in the car.
Our main purchase at the butcher come greengrocer was four pork pies
(which he assured us were fresh) for our special airport pie-club
meeting. At the airport, Kev and John headed straight for the bar,
while Pete and Richard collected a newspaper and debated the quality
and price of bottled water at length before choosing another soft drink
to accompany their pie tasting. The verdict on the pies was consistent
the butcher had kept them warm in a pie warmer, and this was not our
preferred tasting temperature (we always recommend keeping a fresh pie
in ambient conditions as best practice in pie husbandry). The result
was a warm ‘sausage roll’ effect sort of greasy, flaky pastry and
sausage meaty. The general consensus was that these pies were not
fresh, but yesterday’s pies warmed up (either that or the warmer was a
very successful method of transforming a fresh pie into one that tasted
a day old).
Kev had approached this ‘holiday’ with his usual military level of
organization and planning (had he been in the scouts we wonder?). At
each appropriate point, he duly collected all our passports, handed us
tickets, and marshaled us in the right direction.
The journey was on time, comfortable and lived up to the excellent
value-for money service we have come to expect from Jet2.
We arrived at a warm Alicante airport to discover that Kev had pushed
the boat out (to use a confusing metaphor) with the choice of hire car.
This came as somewhat of a relief, especially as John’s suitcase was
enormous (very fastidious with his ablutions, John had packed two
changes of clothes a day and, for some unknown reason, his best suit.
Pete, by contrast, had packed his clothes in a small sporst/casual
It needs to be explained that Kev and Pete, whose friendship and
pie-club membership go back over 25 years, enjoy a kind of banter, a
mutual exchange of humorous abuse, which only best pals can get away
with without falling out. It is a feature of every Saturday night pie
club, and on full day events or race trips the level of abuse/criticism
starts gently and builds up as the day progresses.’ To John and
Richard, this side-show was one of the highlights of our last pie club
trip, and was already promising to be surpassed this time. The contrast
between John’s huge suitcase and Pete’s luggage, was the first
significant opportunity. “You’re a bloody disgrace”, said Kevin, “Fancy
bringing your clothes in a carrier bag!” Pete can always articulate an
excellent defence to Kevin’s insults and, if necessary, counter attack.
On this occasion, he chose to defend his decision to travel lightly and
questioned the need for any man to change his underpants as regularly
as John, which was the cue for Kevin to claim that it was obvious from
the size of his ‘carrier bag’ that Peter had no plans to change his
underpants at all!
What makes the banter so entertaining are the differences between them.
Kevin’s planning and organization skills have already been mentioned.
Pete, by contrast always appears last-minute and disorganized. At
times, the rest of us sometimes wonder if this also provides a
convenient excuse, as Pete’s forgetfulness often manifests itself in
his wallet. So, when Peter said he had not found time to go to the bank
and had to borrow 200 euros from John, this led to more gentle abuse
from Kevin. Pete’s Yorkshire thrift is strangely endearing and John,
who is generous to a fault, duly obliged.
After last year’s challenge of ‘how much luggage with can four grown
men can squeeze into a Corsa’, we were very impressed with our Nissan
Almera hire car, with reversing camera facility! Pete had agreed to be
the driver (it was a good excuse for him to avoid buying any drinks)
and he took us safely to our Benidorm hotel, the Melica Sol, an
impressive 4* establishment which, like the car, was more up-market
than last year. (Richard wondered if Kevin had had another building
society windfall, or whether he was living up to the pie-club’s growing
media fame, including recent appearances on Richard & Judy and
Ready Steady Cook).
Kevin, who clearly regards regular (should I say constant?) eating and
drinking as a personal challenge rather than a means of sustaining his
Adonis-like body, had booked us in for half-board. Having had a
breakfast of pie and ale, followed by sandwiches, he suggested on
arrival that we go out for an ‘eat-as-much-as-you-like’ Chinese as an
appetizer for evening meal.
“Do we have to?” said John, who is Kevin’s sparring partner in the
eating and drinking stakes, “ it will spoil our dinner!” This was a
brave move. Kevin was not used to his itinerary being challenged. Peter
and Richard tentatively mumbled supportive words backing John’s
suggestion, and amazingly Kevin relented. We went for a walk instead,
and found a sports bar to enjoy our first holiday drink before
returning to the hotel.
After a huge evening meal (or ‘a nice tea’, as Kev described it) we
went on the town. All day Kev had been telling Pete that he had planned
something “just up your street for tonight”. It wasn’t clear whether
Pete was excited by this or full of trepidation – he certainly wasn’t
going to let on, in case he revealed things which were ‘right up his
street’ which he was hoping might remain up his private thoughts
street. We were none the wiser when Kev directed the taxi to ‘Rich
Bitch’, in Benidorm Old Town, but Pete looked relieved when we arrived
and the evening turned out to be a transvestite cabaret (drag show).
As a brief aside, it is necessary to explain Kevin’s promise to Pete in
the taxi that the evening would be ‘ just up your street’. Other
members of the pie club were used to enjoying Kevin’s occasional
innuendos that Pete has bi-sexual tendencies (Kev regarded it as good
sport), but we were to witness later in the holiday that Pete has the
greater wit and crucially the sense of opportunity to get his own back.
For the time being, Pete expressed his irritation and bided his time.
Back to the show, which Kevin had been recommended after it featured on
a BBC programme ‘a life in the sun’. For 5 euros we were treated to a
trio ofbutch looking women singing and flirting with feather boas to a
small crowd of tourists and regulars. Fortunately we had been seated
away from the main performance area so we did not get ‘dragged’ into
the act. We spent the first 30 minutes discussing whether one of the
men was in fact a woman (“they’re real tits”, said John). When the
artiste later revealed (mercifully in words) herself to be a woman, we
all felt rather sorry for her that it had been the subject of so much
debate, but Kevin was relieved, as he had found ‘her’ quite attractive!
Why two men and a woman? -we can only assume that there is a shortage
of singing transvestites in Benidorm.
We decided to leave the show early, as it did not really live up to
expectations, (“Chubby Brown in a dress” was Kev’s post-performance
review), and we found a bar where we caught the end of an Elvis
look-a-like, who looked nothing like Elvis, and listened to an Irish
comedian, whose jokes were not funny. We soon left, and walked back a
couple of miles into Benidorm via the sea front, enjoying a few drinks
on the way in a sea front bar/café and still discussing the comparative
features of the singing transvestites. Back in Benidorm centre, Peter
and Richard returned to the hotel, leaving the seasoned drinkers to try
out a few more ‘pint-a-euro’bars.
Day 2 (Sunday)
After breakfast we drove to Altere for a sea-front walk (like big kids
we couldn’t resist playing on the beach furniture), then up the coast
road to the Jalon valley. By this time we had got wise to Pete’s
tactics at the road toll booths. He would drive up to the toll and then
remember that he had no change to pay for it, so one of us would pay
the bill, and it would require regular nagging to recover Pete’s
contribution. This time, Kevin directed Peter (unbeknown to him) to a
credit-card-only toll gate. Pete drove up to the toll and once again
declared he had no change. By the time he realized the ‘sting’, he was
unable to reverse the car (there were angry Spaniards waiting behind)
so he had no alternative than to use his credit card, giving a very
good impression of a grumpy old man in the process.
This was a visit we had enjoyed the previous year, so we knew the
routine – a trip to the winery, some souvenirs, a bag of fresh oranges
from the road-side seller, then back in the car to La Solano for an
extensive three course lunch with wine. (Kevin had regained control of
the eating & drinking agenda). After a post-lunch visit to the
Allelulia bar, where the proprietor entertains locals and tourists with
his unusual skills (he can pour wine down his forehead into his mouth
from a bottle held at arm’s length), for coffees, liqueurs and
pressies, we returned to Benidorm for our evening meal (sorry Kevin,
for our tea).
Kevin’s rigorous eating regime is, fortunately, relieved by occasional
exercise and we enjoyed a walk around Benidorm old town, returning
along the sea front and admiring the wonderful sand sculptures. Even
Benidorm in the winter is full of good value entertainment (a euphemism
for ‘free’ in Yorkshire), and we enjoyed a few drinks listening to a
talented Buddy Holly tribute singer at the Rock & Roll Bar, before
Pete and Richard returned to the hotel, leaving the premier league
drinkers to improve their pints tally.
Day 3 (Monday)
This was the day we had been anticipating with excitement, for it was
the day of our official tour of inspection. Under Kev’s direction we
drove out to Finistrad to meet Malcolm, who had recently set up a pie
business, and was doing a roaring trade supplying the British bars
around Benidorm. Malcolm was proud to show us around his brand new
factory and kitchen, and was overcome with emotion as he recalled the
difficulties he had faced with the Spanish planners and builders. At
the height of the Spanish summer he has been making pies in his garage
because the factory was delayed, and the pressure had clearly taken its
toll, but now he could be duly proud of his new establishment. We were
very impressed, both with the factory and the product, and we learnt
more in 20 minutes about the art of pie making from the butcher (who
had left York to go and make pies in Benidorm) than we had learnt in
the last 20 years. Fantastic pies -we scored them 10 out of 10. Having
thanked him for his hospitality, we wished him all the best in his
Spanish enterprise, and went to discuss our newfound knowledge over a
drink in a local café. Finistrad is a fascinating and pretty little
village, with someinteresting history, and we enjoyed a brief guided tour from
Kev, whose cousin Tony lives nearby.
From Finistrad, we travelled via the motorway to Calpi, for another
sea-side walk. Pete, flushed with enthusiasm, challenged Richard to a
walking race, which left Kevin and John in stitches as they saw the
race develop into a cross between the Keystone Kops and Monty Python’s
ministry of silly walks. Pete accepted defeat gracefully and after a
longer walk, Richard & Pete rejoined the others, who were by now
(where-else?) in a local café/bar. Pete ordered a coffee and got
It was getting dark so we returned to the hotel. After tea we visited a
few of the hundreds of Benidorm bars and walked along the sea-front
before ending up at the Rock and Roll café again. This time it was
another Elvis tribute singer – great singer but not a great look-a-like
(a tough challenge for someone Chinese).
Tonight’s beach-side walk had given rise to another bout of verbal
sparring between Kev and Pete. Whilst admiring the sand sculptures, Kev
noticed a tractor trawling the sand and observed confidently that it
would be hot the following day, as it was always hot the day after the
beach was cleaned by a tractor. Pete could not let this go
unchallenged. To him, Kev’s home-spun weather forecast linking beach
cleaning at night to good weather the following day did not have the
same credence as the tried and tested blue-sky and shepherds’ delight
homily. ‘That’s b……cks”, he said. “ they clean the beach every night.”
(at this point John and Richard did not contribute – they could see
some sport coming and were about to enjoy it. Besides, they both had an
uncanny intuition that Kev was probably right – he usually is, and he
visits Benidorm at least 13 times a year!). “ no it isn’t” said Kevin,
who was affronted by Pete’s audacious challenge. “ They always clean
the beach before a hot day. You’ll see – there’ll be topless grannies
on the beach tomorrow.” This prospect rather dampened our enthusiasm
for supporting Kev’s theory, but nevertheless a bet ensued which
delivered the prospect of a much more appealing spectacle and we
eagerly awaited the following day….
Day 4 (Tuesday)
“You’re going to kiss my a…e Peter Charnley, you’re going to kiss my
a…e !”. Unusual words to wake up to on a Tuesday morning, but the
resonance of this repeating chant from the adjoining balcony meant
Kevin had won his bet and we could look forward to a sunny day ahead.
Pete, waking from a daze, was unimpressed.
During breakfast Kev’s relentless goading – he was adamant Pete was
going to keep his side of the bargain – was clearly starting to
irritate Pete. The goading continued as we took our last walk in a very
sunny Benidorm, and finally, after listening to another “You’re going
to kiss my a…e” from Kevin, Pete rose to the challenge. “Come on then,
let’s get on with it”, he said. In the middle of a crowded sea front,
Pete started to raise his voice: ‘Get your trousers down, Kevin, let’s
do it here, come on…
Kev had clearly not anticipated this. Pete was now starting to enjoy
making Kev squirm and he repeated his words even louder. Bearing in
mind we were four men walking out together, this started to turn heads
and raise eyebrows, and Kevin (a full-blooded and very macho sort of
bloke) could not cope with the attention. “OK, you’ve made your point,
let’s call it quits.”
We walked along quickly to escape the attention, and Kev soon found an
opportunity to re-assert his already proven theory about the weather.
Pointing to the beach he said, “ What did I tell you – topless
Time was pressing, and much as we enjoyed watching senior citizen beach
aerobics we had to do our last minute duty free shopping. Pete, of
course, had to borrow some money to do his!
Unusually the journey back to Alicante airport and then to
Leeds/Bradford was relatively incident free. Back home, and the end of
another pie-fect holiday.