HOW TO KILL A DJ – Day 2

11057221_518288024996422_8856540957208814254_nTO MAKE CHANGES NOT EXCUSES

I have lived and breathed music since before I was born. My musical heritage started with my mum, Blanche, who was a jazz and cabaret singer. In the 60s she co-owned ‘The Ebony Club’, the first integrated dance club in Manchester. Legend has it that, when she was pregnant with me and my twin, her waters broke as she was singing onstage with her band at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. Consequently music and sirens run through my veins like A Rhesus Positive.

It wasn’t long before I’d graduated from ‘Up Jumps A Rabbit’ to David Bowie, The Beatles, The Jacksons, TSOP, Roxy Music and a wild mixture of funk, soul, new wave, electro and disco. The first 7 » single bought solely for me was ‘Pop Musik’ by M

M – Pop Muzik

I can still remember every lyric now I played it that much. Next I pooled my spends with my twin sister Paula to buy The Crusaders’ ‘Street Life’

The Crusaders – Street Life

and The Police ‘Message In A Bottle’ (import on green vinyl)

The Police – Message In A Bottle

I financed and fed my music addiction with an after-school and weekends paper round that bought me 12s by  Human League, Gary Numan, John Foxx, Spandau and Duran Duran.

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Most djs I know start like this. We are the Indiana Jones’s of our chosen fields. But there is much more to dj’ing and being a success that depends on exterior forces. No matter how much you know, the how much you do, the how many people you pull in and the who you know and who they know who can help and push you will take you much further. It takes a team. No man is an island, especially on this island. For three years I have been knocking on doors but getting slow-where. To succeed on this island – and to live here all year round – you have to hustle hard and I am missing those essential genes and chromosomes. True, I can hustle better than some, but not as well as most. So when the work offers come in and the receipts are totalled, they don’t place my earnings anywhere near Calvin Harris or the Swedish House Mafia in the Forbes Rich List. Not this year anyway.

All things considered I am an above average ( sic award winning) dj who, so far, has lived a pretty amazing life. I have happily enjoyed the fruits (and the odd Bounty) of 20 odd years of this character building, life shaping career loosely termed as dj’ing. On any given day it’s the music that drives me, that blows my core reactor sky high. It’s a weird quirk – and I’m not sure who else feels this, but my temperature goes through the roof when I’m in the mix. It doesn’t matter whether I’m playing nu to deep house across Europe or disco, funk and techno in Ibiza – my biological reaction is the same. Or maybe that’s just a Samantha-strength hot flash.

What started out as a cash-in-hand hobby gave me a much needed release and relief from my ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ marriage and intense graduate studies. Since then it has provided the backdrop and antidote to three relatively high pressure (not JLaw or Beyoncé level …) music industry day jobs. Trowel on a few impressive bouts of burn out, some long-term overseas living in two countries and two extra languages and it’s grown into an internationally recognised career that has been my sole source of income since 1999. Like Peter Pan’s shadow, it has become who I am without my having even noticed. Now it’s time to pick it apart, restitch and reinforce the seams so that it fits me better.

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Wherever my heart and soul crash into any genre – there you’ll find my sound and my record collection. I like to pour this over ice into a long and strong-sipping set. Like when push came to a great freezer bag heaving shove for the nine hour luxuries of my Ibiza summer. Two fried hard drives and a flooded storage unit did nothing to deter me from creating nine hour, 75 to 130 bpm odysseys out of a cobbled together collection of Cds from the dry boxes in my I-Safe storage unit.

I always put a lot of love, heart, soul and effort into my sets. So you’ll understand my Paddington hard stare when people congratulate me on my set by saying either (as an innocent compliment) that it was a great set for a girl, or worse, that I am wasted.

Paddington – Hard Stare

‘But I haven’t drunk a drop’ I say. They don’t mean mullered though. Not even spannered. Not spangled either. They mean wasted as in unappreciated, as in I should be playing somewhere better than this. Somewhere bigger. Somewhere fuller. Somewhere cooler. Feel that burn. I’m always polite back. I believe in myself and good manners and argue (most times without swearing) that they have it all wrong. I fan them with the flames of my absolute devotion, searing love and passion for music and dj’ing. Facts, figures, statistics, wherefores, howevers, whatevers, why nots and whys are all my friends. Yet this side of season end, all that has suddenly stopped making sense. I have a fluttery feeling that’s nothing to do with a post Pulpo Gallego Gaviscon shot and everything to do with my pesky gut instincts?

I love my life and my job and I’m truly grateful for all the joy and the lazy (by 9-5’ers accounts) lifestyle that it brings. Yet something about its rhythm has started to frustrate me. It also bothers me that disappointment has tinged the edges of a happily busy season. Doing OK is not an option when you live alone anywhere and especially not on this expensive island. My heart says ‘feel the love, keep on keeping on and remember the good you’ve done here’. My head says ‘no regrets, you’ve enjoyed your time here, now take what you’ve learned and build on this elsewhere. Make sure that the people you keep around you, the way you do your job and the choices you’ve made throughout the years are continually helping not hindering your progress. Make sure that all of this has been worthwhile.’ My heart can’t wedge a word in edge-wise. My head always has a lot to bloody say.

Meanwhile, my instinct is shouting ‘man up’. This is a small island. You can only take so many pictures of sunsets and delicious seafood platters and of the same people in the same places at the same parties in the same clubs before you start to see the groundhogs. Logic says it’s not disloyal to want to do something more with your life and do this somewhere else.

It looks like this is a good time to let the Ibiza me go. So this is when the fun begins. No present like time.

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Sterling void & Paris Brightledge – It’s Alright

Sterling Void sang ‘and the music plays forever’ and like every seasoned raver that knows the rest of those lyrics, I know ‘it’s gonna be alright’. But I love it here. I love living and working in Ibiza. I know that the highs I have experienced are not the sort of rush I will ever match pushing papers at a desk job. 20 years plus spent appearing on stages and in superclubs, playing to hundreds of thousands of people, rushing through the streets of Paris with a police escort and playing to thousands of people in some sublime outdoor venues and being ushered into a club with people screaming your name and security flanking you every night leaves you breathless. It is a proper head trip. So is hearing your jingle and name played daily or weekly on the radio. Receiving awards, being paid to do what you love and not feeling like it’s work at all – these are blessings indeed that are worth more than a ton of Class A’s bought at cost price on Silk Road. Does cashing up before you hang up a barista’s pinny in Costa Coffee come a close second ? Of course not. The memories I have of the last 20 years are nothing short of amazing, and the shared nostalgia runs deep, but no matter what level of player you are, sooner or later you have to make a choice. Something has to give in the bizarre love triangle between you, your life and the music. Or does it?

No matter what the vagaries of the economy and political climate have thrown me, I have evolved, persisted and persevered when others like me (who were far more successful than me) have thrown in the towel. But the recurrent nightmare persists. A legion of flesh-eating, retrained zombies beat a grisly path to a 6 star (hi speed wifi mandatory) DJ Rest Home to prey on the weak. They break every window and door down but the stone-deaf dj’s inside are oblivious to the groaning and battering and sound of breaking glass. I wake up in a cold sweat and reassure myself with some comforting affirmations.

  1. I rise to more challenges than a Great British Bake Off finalist.
  2. I bounce back from more knock-outs than Stuart Hall.
  3. I rebuild myself, my life and everything surrounding me from ground zero in four cities and three countries
  4. I am harder, better, faster.
  5. I always replicate excellence.
  6. I am a Princess. Or a Kardashian. Child swapped at birth.

It’s time for some tough love. I can feel the sand shifting. The tide of emotions, that ebb and flow of ending and beginning, is rising like the kraken inside me.

 

Below the thunders of the upper deep;

Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,

His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep

The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee

About his shadowy sides; above him swell

Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;

And far away into the sickly light,

From many a wondrous grot and secret cell

Unnumber’d and enormous polypi

Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.

There hath he lain for ages, and will lie

Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,

Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;

Then once by man and angels to be seen,

In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

‘The Kraken’ by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

 

Tracy said ‘9 months and go out laughing’… how to do ? I mean how to do ?

my colonel-mustard

TO BE MOTIVATED NOT MANIPULATED

I am pregnant with an idea. In the next nine months I will plan my own murder. It’s going to be like a giant game of Cluedo (bags-eye the glorious sunflower yellow, of course).We’re playing on a giant board with music and a rave in each corner plus a few good friends and some pictures of sunsets and poetry and planning. Most of all with planning. Much as I’d rather it was DJ Paulette in the main room with a USB stick, my loaded laptop is far mightier than a 64MB pen drive. The goal is to go out laughing… and to do this with crowd support (or crowd funding).

50/50 or ask a friend? I’ve never been fifty and I’ve never retired before, so forgive me for not wanting to call this and not knowing how to be or do either. Apparently I don’t look it, (ie forty eight, whatever that means). I subconsciously don’t ACT it, I certainly don’t feel it and I definitely don’t want the music to stop, which is four quarters of the problem. I don’t know any dj who has so-called retired who has not been exhumed weighing at least ten kilos heavier and with way less hair on top of their heads. Or more if you’re Paul Oakenfold. Admittedly Oakey never went away but either he has Wayne Rooney’s hairdresser’s number or I am Michelle Obama. Every DJ resurrection involves waving one’s legend like Excalibur (or an enormous Nag Champa jostick if you’re Balearic) in one hand and spinning a bag of oldskool house and rave classics with the other. I am never going to give up my music, yet I struggle with this. I’ll just have to wing it.

Aloe Blacc – I Need Dollar

I’m not saying that it will never be attractive to me but the concept of playing a set of big old tunes and back to back house classics does give me the willies. Who wants to play all the old hits ? All night ? Back to Back ? Without a break ? To a public with a school reunion mentality but dressed in modern rave attire instead of novelty school skirts, shorts and ties. I dread that awkward moment when my set can be timed by the placement of Voodoo Ray, Gat Decor, Dream Lover, Good Life, Strings Of Life, Big Love, Higher States of Consciousness, Jaguar and Promised Land. Where to next, once the punters start to remark on their Pavlovian regularity (and believe me they will)? I’d rather have my head slammed repeatedly in a Metrolink door than have to play all the hits just for dollar. I’m sure that science has proved (somewhere) that a roomful of monkeys could cobble together a respectable classics set using the new Pioneer CDJ2000s. Somebody just shoot me now. And don’t get me started on people making a career out of re-editing other people’s music. Should you find me hypocriting somewhere by headlining the next big ‘back to 1994’ wrinkly rave, feel free to show me this paragraph. But hold the door for me when you see me carrying my Bitcoin billions into the bank.

How can I change tack without going too far off course and keep buzzing about music and clubs? How can I make the sort of change that stretches and inspires me ? One that is legal, decent, conscious, honest, unselfish and generous? Which option or opportunity might provide the stepping stone to the next chapter?  And is it possible to see my bit part written into Manchester’s musical herstory? Am I doing the right thing even? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions but I feel ready to go boldly and raucously into the nights, dark and dazzling,  that this pilgrimage is about to bring.

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About those options and opportunities. I have decided to keep a diary. This diary. Maybe it’s not the career booster method that immediately sprung to your mind but don’t knock it. It’s a start. Psychologists recommend writing your feelings out and I have a lot of those.

Inspired by the picture I have in my mind and the cyclone of words flying like butterflies around my head, I sit at my computer poised to write. I am mostly waiting for an Emmaus sized catharsis and revelation. I look like I am trying to squeeze this out like it’s a silent fart in a lift. Then I stop dead like a Basset Hound on the scent of something it can’t quite define or recognise. The screen is still white and I am suffering from divine blindness. A question and answer session ensues. With myself. Out loud (of course). I regularly consult and argue with my inner expert. Should I post it this a blog ? Yes maybe – then my links will make immediate sense to the swipe generation. Do I post it as a vlog ? Erm – can’t be arsed making crap hand held / selfie stick clips on my iphone – they look so home made and unprofessional. Plus there’s always something embarrassing on the bathroom floor and out of frame toilet shots aren’t the way I’d like to go viral. Who in their right mind takes a selfie after doing a number 2 and before flushing the chain? Not me. Home photo sessions and videos are indeed really shite. Add some scruffy randomness on the bed or sofa or kitchen work top that you wish you’d moved before you pressed record and send … No. Something has to be left to the imagination – at the outset at least. But if that fails, then there’s always Youtube, Instagram and live streaming.

Try as I might to drag it behind me, this body is heavier than I thought. If I’m going to murder myself (on paper) I need a good plan and a lot of help (not just psychiatric). I am thinking ‘Sex and The City’ with a bit of ‘Shallow Grave’ but all wrapped up in ‘I’ll Be There For You’. It’s got to be a cross platform affair. It’s a sad state of play but most dj’s, a&r’s and managers I’ve spoken to don’t happen to list reading as one of their preferred past-times. Unless it’s a flyer. Or a contract. I need to make this so called DJ Life resonate with any and every unannounced eavesdropper outside of this room, this house and this industry. Hmmm … * scratches head *. My premise is solid. No matter how amazing the life, we are all mortal. We are not forever young. Not even Madonna and Calvin Harris. OK maybe Madonna.

The words start to flow, then I delete it all. I write some more. Then doubt and insecurity bound up, panting like two daft Collies who keep returning with a stick for me to throw. Now I am freaking out about what people might think. I tell myself that it doesn’t have to be perfect and that there’s room for fine tuning. And I’m thinking – ‘BUt what if I’m not big enough’? Better to be honest and brave, to do and say the right (write) thing and write the book I have in my head than to be an ostrich who never sees or changes anything and doesn’t ever do anything different.

Breathe. You know it’s gonna be alright. Everything will turn out just fine.

Focus. Think positively. I open Youtube for inspiration and watch best animal clips before making a bee-line for the freezer. I find and eat a Magnum that has been maturing for so long that it could easily have ripped a hole in the other side of the Titanic. I sit back at my desk enjoying the ice-cream brain freeze, then demolish the rest of my half-eaten, in-case-of-emergencies bag of Haribo that’s been sitting on my desk since last night. I stare alternately at my fingers and the screen, glaze over, then do practically fuck all* after this, due to the sugar rush and food coma. *Note to self – I can do this doing fuck all thing quite well.

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Don’t think. Just do it.

… To Be Continued …

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HOW TO KILL A DJ DAY 1

Some of this is fact, all of this is fiction. But if the truth doesn’t mind, then none of this even matters. All you need to know is that I am verbally incontinent and can no longer hold my peace.

Jhelisa – Hold My Peace

SEPTEMBER

The constitution has been written.

constitution

TO LIVE BY CHOICE NOT BY CHANCE

Space Ibiza, Friday September 25th, 2015 – Glitterbox closing

Funky Green Dogs – Fired Up

Join me upstairs in the Sunset Terrace at Space, Ibiza as Todd Terry plays his ‘one last tune’ for the Glitterbox Closing Fiesta – it’s Funky Green Dogs ‘Fired Up’ and we are doing our damnedest to ramp up the sexy. This is me – a dazzling human discoball in my traffic-stopping sequinned jacket, electric blue Chanel glasses, bright white glitter t-shirt and black asymmetric tassled suede skirt. I’m fierce. I’m fabulous. And working that ‘Nearly Big Five No’ salt and pepper ‘fro like the diva that I am. I’m dancing next to Tracy, the straight talking, Yoda conscience of our gang who is wearing a beige Armani wrapover dress with a hemline that leaves much to the imagination and a neckline that leaves nothing at all. Next in my eyeline is the fabulous Foxy (our débutante draglamourpuss) who is flirting and narrowing her eyes at the straight boys in her incendiary, feline way whilst Anna Cini, grande dame of the VIP is effortlessly commanding everyone’s attention with her imposing personality, outsized jewellery and dramatic decolletage. We all sizzle for shizzle. We are the sex in this city: for tonight at least.

« … Can I say one thing …’ Tracey’s voice cuts through the music like a hot knife through butter – I stop dancing and offer her my best ear. She lowers her voice and continues ‘if I have one message for you it’s this…9 months and go out laughing.» Her comment pierced the wall of sound like William Tell’s arrow through that apple. Dazed, I felt her words hit me with the boom of the confetti and CO2 cannons. I floated with the force above the strobe-lit heads, and landed to the ‘ooh aah’ sound of an easily impressed crowd. Cue unprecedented activity in the remaining active neural pathways. Our dance-off resumed seconds later and like nothing had been said but her words had walked in and shook shit up. Just like that.

Tracy is an in-demand consultant in the Banking world. She is paid to see where change is imminent and essential and find solutions when others can’t.   She is a specialist in her field and she does not candy coat anything. Ever. Especially not to her friends. To her I shouldn’t accept or settle for climbing the Ibiza ladder by playing nine hour sets in some cool hotels, bars, restaurants and occasionally in prestigious clubs. To her I am not being listened to properly (annoying when that is what dj’ing is all about) and should seriously reassess my position here. She says that I can and should be doing better than this and that this is maybe not the right place for me. Wow. I thought I was doing so well. It sucks hard that there are some truths that only your best friends will tell you.

Other people’s perspective is such a beautiful thing. Now I am close to tears yet laughing like I’ve od’d on nitrous oxide. Or maybe that’s just the effect of a bump of coke, three shots of tequila, a hierbas con hielo and the ecstasy all kicking in at once? Whatever it is, it’s given me an ‘Inception’ kick to the ground floor of reality’s future.

‘Get your bearings again, centre yourself … don’t run and don’t cry … I repeat this like a mantra until I disappear into the anonymity of the dancefloor. After trudging a personal furrow to Tee’s Freeze beats, I open my eyes and look around. Everything is still the same. Nothing has changed. Everything is as it always was and will be. There we were, four party-starters, showing out and showing off in the VIP of Space, Ibiza. But here I stand on the snake that takes you back to the beginning of the game to start all over again. I feel free.I feel excited. I feel afraid. I feel cheated. I feel sick. I feel lost. I feel inspired. I feel all of the above all at the same time and I also feel strangely relieved.

In the overfull but volume-lite El Salon / smoking area, Horsemeat Disco and DJ Pippi were smashing the classics. James Hillard finished with a disco re-edit of Norman Connors’ ‘Take It to The Limit’ and Pippi amped it up with a jacking vocal / soulful house set including Masters At Work’s ‘Backfired’ (both of which felt more relevant to me than ever before). Up until this point, my dj life, much like this Glitterbox party has passed in an ecstatic haze. I have bounced like a kid between the backstage area, the dj booth and the dancefloor like the party would never end. Still, I am a happy, clappy clubber, congratulating Pippi on his choices, dancing and distracting and being mega sociable talking to BHS / Lo Cura’s Dave Phillips and some new found shot-guzzling friends about my jacket and my glittery silver shoes – in a whirlwind of profound superficiality.

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Then way ahead of the usual curfew, someone from the Direction – or a technician (not sure which) – came to turn the sound down again, and did so so drastically that the crowd who were in full rave, instinctively start the penguin migration to repopulate the main room for the headline dj. Every club on the island does this, especially if there are not enough people to fill all the rooms that are open. It is a method that we djs all adhere to without complaint but one that I don’t always agree with. Like now.

In life as in art as in clubbing. Flow is a beautiful thing. When a room is rocking and full why limit people’s dance floor choices ? If people are having a good time in the second room then leave the second room open. Why does the party ever have to stop ? Why should it  even? When I started dj’ing that was how fresh, new talent used to rise to the top. It was all about that moment when push comes to shove and someone noticeably and unexpectedly cuts it way better on performance, musical content and crowd appreciation than the other djs on the bill. Let the games begin and let the people decide. But things have changed drastically in those 23 years. It was so much simpler back in the day when and where I started…

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I officially (ie name on a flyer) began dj’ing 23 years ago in the Pussy Parlour at the Flesh Night at the Hacienda in Manchester. It was promoted by flyers and posters. There was no internet, no email and the only social network was our friends, our home phones, a few working phone boxes and the doorbell / door knocker. We arranged to meet in pubs or at bus stops. And when we got to the Hacienda it was a rave from the changing of clothes in the car park, to the party in the queue and onwards from the cloakroom and the café on into that mecca of hedonism. The Hacienda had two rooms, and at the Flesh Night only four djs (mostly residents) covered those rooms and played all night. The second room finished half an hour before the main room and you could set your watch by it.

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Displaced like an ant from a work top, I find myself walking around in circles unable to settle.This ‘smiley mouse in a wheel’ routine is actually part of my drug and club enjoyment.

I find the others, we repeat and rave our way to the end of the night, falling out of the club laughing and blinking. Sunglasses on and we admire the sunrise taking shape over Ushuaia from the dingy, tarmac outside the entrance door of Space. We discuss the idea of going on to an after hours at Underground or going on to their sumptuous villa in Santa Eularia (where, incidentally, they respectably keep going until just after midday). Remembering that I have to work in five hours bursts my boogie bubble, so I leave them with hugs and double european kisses and walk alone to my car. I bump into friends Guy and Dean and we have one of our fucked up but funny, thought association conversations about the Glitterbox dj line up for the night (I never knew you could get so much lexical mileage out of Greg Wilson, Dimitri from Paris and Todd Terry ?) and then we talk about everything and nothing at all. It passes the time until we get to the Playa D’En Bossa roundabout where we part company. By the time I get to my car, (which might as well be in Africa I have parked it so far away) the brisk walk has brought on an unexpected but welcomed rush. I sit and gather my thoughts.

From 5pm till midnight I have been a wedding dj, playing the whole seven hours of the pre to blessing to dinner and dancing event on one drink, 2 mini shots of gazpacho and with no toilet break. My failure to find any leftover food in the kitchen and an insulin slump meant tear arsing it to Playa D’En Bossa. My life was saved by guzzling the quickest Vitello Tonnato in town and a chat with my friend, the chef Tim at Clandestino. My friends were ready to leave and the restaurant was waiting to close as I arrived but everyone waited until I had eaten so we could car pool to Space and fly together in a chemically assisted, high altitude (and attitude) balloon. That’s what friends are for, right ?

Should I drive or should I call a taxi ? Is it real or Memorex ? I know this shouldn’t even be a consideration – The Guardia here are severe with black people at the best of times and the 500€ and immediate confiscation of licence penalties is a total stinger for everyone at any time. But there are no taxis on the road and the taxi number is ringing out. It is clearly off the hook. It’s 7am, there’s no such thing here as an Uber and Ibiza is suddenly a ghost town. There is literally no one on the road except me. No pedestrians, no cars and no guardia nacional or civil to be seen (which is bizarre for a stretch of road that notoriously lights up the Road Cool WhatsApp group like July 4th every night). There’s nada. Niente. Nothing stirring, not even this smiley mouse behind the wheel.

I have glitter confetti instead of diamonds stuck to the soles of my shoes and my head is a whirlpool of nostalgia and memories. For no good reason and for all of the above, I start to sob gently with my head resting on the steering wheel. Let it go.

Tears dried, I take a deep breath and centre myself. Eye balls are focussed, the optic nerve is happily at rest. I’ve never been one for gurning nor eyes Warner Brothers whirling in their sockets so thank goodness for small mercies there. And there is still nothing on the road. That I instinctively sat in the driver’s seat facing direction of the traffic and looking straight ahead out of the crystal clear windscreen is a box well ticked (you would be surprised how many fail THAT test and still drive!). Yes! I can feel my feet and co-ordinate the pedals perfectly. Yes! I can put the key in the ignition without needing instructions, prayer or a co-pilot. The Guardia are sleeping with their wives and lovers and home is just a kiss away. All road risk has been carefully assessed. Mirror. Signal. Manouevre. And away we go (even Ibicencs don’t use their mirror when they are sober so I know I am doing well.) I am home in 15 minutes. I thank Sugar out loud and kiss her on the dash as I take the key out of the ignition. Even though I am not proud of the motoring risks I have taken, my trusty VW always gets me home in one beautiful, smiling piece. I shower, promising myself that I will never do that again and snatch four hours sleep as the day – and the island – wakes up.