La Queja – July entry

After a couple of seconds hearing only the peaceful trickle of the water feature at the end of the swimming pool, punctuated by the soft roar of a motorbike in the distance, Ruth was getting hopeful.

It can’t be, she thought. But please be the end of it.

She listened again, savouring the silence while she could. The hot air seemed to have a kind of hum to it.

“AND I-I-I-I-I-I!”

Her heart sank as it started up again, accompanied by the hyena-like laugh of one of the youngsters.


The three or four – or 35 – of them, you couldn’t be sure from the amount of noise they made, sang in as much unison they were capable of, which wasn’t much.

Some gaps in the vocals were filled by one of the party keeping a disorderly beat by slapping a balcony table with a sports shoe.

“Albert!” Ruth whispered angrily.

She heard the bed creak as her husband turned to her. “What is it, my love?” he asked.

“Don’t you think it’s time one of us went to reception to complain?”

There was a long pause. His thoughts were always slower at night.

“Ah, hear, it’s pretty annoying. I suppose though they’re just young lads abroad though, aren’t they?”

“Albert, it’s past two in the morning.”

“Gosh,” he said. “Though on the bright side, I reckon there’ll be one or two fewer Krauts out claiming sunbeds at dawn tomorrow!”

“And what about our trip to Palma? The bus is picking us up at quarter to nine!”

“Oh yeah – there’s that.”

“So I’ll go then? Unless it quietens down in the next few minutes?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

Ruth felt her husband of 40 years was fortunate that it was too dark to see her growl at that moment. How could he have not volunteered? It would be so much more hassle for her to change out of her nightdress when he could just stick on a vest – or even waltz down to reception in his night shorts. Nobody would bat an eyelid. He was chubby enough, alright, but there were far worse sights lounging around the swimming pool during the day. He’d never gone as far as developing those man boobs, thank God.

For a fleeting moment that Ruth felt existed just to trick her, the singing and laughter subsided again. Sure enough, the chorus was then sung anew, with one of the vocalists this time choosing to howl his way through the ‘you-u-u-u-u-u-u’ part like a deranged wolf.

“Wait a second, lads!” came a slurred shout. “I forgot to press record, you’re gonna have to start again.” A cacophony of groans then filled the steamy night air.

Ruth sat up. Then Albert started to snore.


How is it possible, she thought as she lumbered to reception. The dimly lit sprawling exotic plants and whitewashed apartment walls all looked distinctly less friendly than they did in the daytime.

How can the 21st century produce adult human beings incapable of using a 40 square foot tiled balcony and table without causing a major public nuisance?

Ruth flinched as she saw the silhouette of a small lizard chase across the path in front of her. She continued to the sliding doors of reception in more of a trot.

The night manager’s face reflected the glow of the computer he was peering into behind the reception desk.

“Can I help you, madam?” he asked as she approached the counter. He had a small smile on his face, but somehow she wasn’t sure if it was intended for her.

“I’d like to make a complaint. There is a group outside making a horrible noise on their balcony.”

“Oh,” he said, looking into her eyes, “have they been there for long? You’re the first person to complain about this.”

“Yes for the past two hours” Ruth said. “It’s the group of young men with a balcony on the far side of the pool.”

“Ah ok,” said the manager. He carefully weighed up what to say now he knew Ruth was talking about the group solely responsible for making last week’s bar takings the best of the summer – no small thing when the hotel owner had been annoyed all year at the bar’s performance since the new supermarket opened on the other side of the road.

“Yes I know this situation. A Dutch man from room 327 complained about them one hour ago. A very angry man.”

“Ok,” said Ruth. She gulped, taken aback that the hotel had known about the noise but not been able to act.

“Well, would it be possible to ask them to, I don’t know, go inside and close the balcony door?” Ruth asked.

“Hmm…we can ask, of course we can ask,” he said. “I suppose the problem is that they are very drunk, so we can ask and they might ignore us.”

“Right,” said Ruth, “if you could ask, please?”

“Okay, we will madam,” said the manager.

Ruth turned around and began to walk away. Then she turned again on the spot to say: “And would you be able to ring the police for me, should the noise persist?”

The manager’s mouth opened wide.

“Err, madam, I would not personally recommend that to you. You see, the police here they only speak Spanish and they won’t come anyway.”

“Well, I know a little Spanish as I lived in Madrid for a year in 1974,” Ruth said.

The manager put his finger to his brow.

“Wait a minute, madam, let me see if we can’t solve this problem for you,” he said. He then reached for a walkie talkie.

Quique! Puedes callar estos malditos gamberros!?” he shouted – ‘Quique! Can you shut those damn hooligans up!?’

Ruth heard a groan coming out of the walkie talkie’s speaker. She left the reception and smiled on the way back to the apartment when she saw a baby lizard shuffling across the path.

Ruth was fanning herself with her folded Palma tourist map as the coach eked its way to join the end of a traffic jam heading back into the resort.

She tugged at the blue felt curtain that seemed to be unable to offer any resistance to the sun. Realising that it was doing its best, she shuffled along to the empty aisle seat at her side, hoping it might be a fraction cooler.

The cathedral had been an incredible sight – all the gold and the awesome colours of the windows just fixated your attention, making for a much more immersive experience than the cathedrals at home, pleasant enough as they are.

Other than that though, well, she felt awkward trooping around with the tour group all day, overhearing the chat of the couples and families in the party.

When the guide left them to their own devices for an hour at lunch, it was even worse. She went to a cash machine and felt most uneasy at the whole experience – the screen was barely legible in the fierce glimmer of the sun. By cupping her hand around the words and figures she finally clicked her way to 60 Euros, but she wasn’t sure if she could trust this machine without being able to read all the options. Maybe if you spent enough time here it’s the kind of thing you got used to. Maybe your eyes adjusted, but she wasn’t sure if all this bright sunlight could be good for them.

Ordering a coffee was a more pleasant experience, as her Spanish came more naturally than she expected. She had been too afraid to use it around the resort, when they all opened conversations in English anyway. She didn’t want to show up Albert either, who had no knowledge of foreign languages whatsoever. 40 years of marriage to a reputable local solicitor, and long-serving town councillor, had made her appreciate that her role involved protecting her husband’s ego in whatever way possible.

He never had any intention to come with her to Palma, she realised. Deep down, she knew it the moment his faced dropped when he realised the bus would pick them up just as the buffet was opening for breakfast. For some reason she had supressed this obvious fact, until now. He might have been smiling in the dark, during the previous night’s unwanted musical entertainment, as far as she knew. It offered the perfect excuse.

“I’m so sorry my love, I just think I’m too tired for the trip,” he had grovelled that morning.

What would he be doing now? Boozing by the pool, possibly. Calling his lover, maybe. She didn’t know if he had one at the moment. He certainly wasn’t the catch he used to be since he picked up his dodgy knee. The kids had been in secondary school when she first started to see suspicious things in his trouser pockets – phone numbers and receipts to plush restaurants she had never been to. She used to confront him back then, but for around ten years now she just threw anything out straight away. She didn’t want to know anymore.

Ruth yawned as the coach slowly wound past a never-ending line of souvenir shops.

Gosh, she hoped she’d get a good night’s sleep tonight. Hopefully the hotel staff managed to read the riot act to that group of idiots. She wasn’t too optimistic though. And to think only one other person complained – what were all the other guests doing?

Ruth became frustrated just to think about the previous night’s incident all again. She had been overcome with an anger she wanted someone else to step in and elaborate for her. She had been certain Albert would do a better job, with his deep authoritative voice. When it was left to her to say what needed to be said – well, it did feel pretty liberating though, enlivening even. She smiled, almost breaking into a giggle, at recalling the look of fear on the manager’s face when she asked about calling the police. She had no idea that she, Ruth Dorrens of Chester Avenue, had the power to plant that feeling in people.

She looked outside the window and noticed the bus was waiting at some lights while a pair of taxis exchanged beeps of the horn at the junction ahead.

Ruth took out her phone and checked her messages. Nothing at all from the boys. Did they even remember the Albert and she had gone away? Their jobs in the city seemed all-consuming.

She tapped on the internet browser and out of intrigue typed ‘Mallorca police noisy drunks’ in the search field.

A headline called ‘Boozy Brits Face Balearic Cops Blitz’ came up, dated in the past April. She tapped on the headline, and read:

Boozy Brits Face Balearic Cops Blitz

By Sun Staff Writer

Rowdy Brits who hit the booze in Mallorca this summer might be in for a surprise from the local constabulary.

Cops on the Spanish island have announced a crackdown on loutish tourists. The move comes as officials on the island seek to boost its image.

The Mallorca police have announced a zero-tolerance approach to public drunkenness, noise and nudity. They have even set up a new anonymous phone service for holidaymakers to report visitors behaving badly.

Juan De La Fontana, spokesman for the island’s police force, says: “If you come to enjoy a holiday in Mallorca responsibly, you have nothing to fear. To help you have a nice time we will be taking tough action though on anyone spoiling the atmosphere.”

In case anyone thinks that what happens in Mallorca stays in Mallorca, Spanish and British police have also agreed that any offences picked up on the island are to be automatically added to UK criminal records. So go easy on that Sangria unless you want a file with your name on in the local cop shop!

If you are in Mallorca and spot someone taking the holiday spirit a little too far, you can call to report them on +34 667 3450.    

Albert smiled when he saw Ruth hold the bottle of red out to him.

“Wonderful! Thanks love!” he said.

“I couldn’t go all the way to Palma and not get you a little something,” she replied.

“Oh how was it?” he asked.

“Good, thank you,” she replied.

“Do you fancy doing anything tonight? There’s a pub quiz over at Joe’s Bar, but we probably need a bigger team to be competitive.”

“I don’t know,” Ruth said, “shall we just stay in the apartment and watch TV?”

Albert let out a small grunt, showing he was taken aback at the suggestion.

“We’ve only got the news channel in English though!”

“Ah yeah – but how about we relax and watch it till the weather comes on. Just to see how cold and wet it is at home?”

“Aha! I like your thinking, love!” said Albert. “You couldn’t open that wine for me, could you?”

Ruth found the corkscrew and the largest wine glass in the apartment, and poured the wine close to the rim. It was the strongest wine she had found in the supermarket opposite the hotel, packing a sturdy 16.5% alcohol content.

They watched the full nine o’clock broadcast, and when the weather report was over, Albert remained rooted to the sofa, holding out his empty glass. Ruth took it off him and filled it again.

17 minutes later, his eyes closed and the snoring began. She removed the glass from his right hand and the remote from his left.

Pointing the remote at the TV she increased the volume from seven to 84, stopping only when it was literally hurting her ears.

She went to the balcony door and slid it open as the booming sound of “Now we’ll take a short break and when we come back it’ll be time for our review of the morning papers!” shook the glass.

She took a room key and stepped outside the front door. She took her Palma map out of her handbag and glanced down to the smudged phone number she had written across the harbour.

She dialled +34 667 3450.

This was the way to do it, she thought, as she heard the phone ringing. She could have demanded a divorce many years ago, but what good would that have done? He most likely would have ended up with a trophy wife while he was still young enough and left her to rot. This was right. This would be humiliation. An arrest for nuisance behaviour six weeks before his retirement ceremony. She could even tip off the local paper – his legacy at the firm would be ruined!

The ringing stopped all of a sudden.

Si, buenos tardes, con quien hablo?” barked a brusque voice.

She hadn’t expected that. She had expected a sympathetic voice in English. Her mind raced to translate the words she wanted to say. Ruido was noise in Spanish, so noisy television would be televisor ruidoso. But what about complaint? As much as she tried she had no idea what the word for that might be.

Ruth hung up.

She paced back to the apartment to turn the sound down, nervously glancing to check none of the neighbouring guests were watching. She sighed at a missed opportunity but smiled at the comfort that of her new-found power gave her.