Occasional blog of Derren Litten, creator & writer of ITV1's Benidorm.
I had some bad news today and curiously it made me think about how I use twitter. Don’t get me wrong, when I got the news my first reaction wasn’t to rush to my iPhone and tweet but now, after I’ve told my closest friends and considered the ramifications of what I’d been told I didn’t know if it was right to tweet it. But I’ve got a problem, I’ve already tweeted about this subject at some length and I think I have some obligation (albeit tenuous) to my twitter followers.
So as I said, I’m now thinking why do I tweet? Why do I tweet personal thoughts and feelings? Why am I on Twitter?
I suppose most of the time I tweet I’m hoping to make people laugh. I’ve been doing that all my life and the fact that I now make a living from that is incidental. If I wasn’t joking around on twitter I’d be doing it in my day to day life to anyone who was kind or stupid enough to listen. Once a show off always a show off. At least showing off on twitter is probably the safest place of all, you can’t see people rolling their eyes and walking away shaking their heads in silence. So now we come to the other point, why tweet personal matters? This is a bit more tricky. I’ve thought long and hard the answer I’ve come up with is I basically lead quite a solitary life. I live in a family sized house but I live in it alone. I probably seem to have quite a busy social life but of course you only remember the ludicrous drunken nights out and showbiz parties I tweet from; not the days and weeks between. Now I don’t want you to go feeling sorry for me, a solitary life is by no means a lonely one. But sometimes, when I’m homo alono, it’s nice to share something and to remember there are others out there to laugh, sympathise or merely acknowledge.
Don’t get me wrong, for me (and most of you I’d guess), Twitter can also be unfathomably annoying too. Inane questions repeated again and again, people wanting to have a ping pong conversation 2 words per tweet, people being over familiar and then, very occasionally, hurtful and rude. But on the whole twitter is a good place to be, for maybe a few mins, maybe a couple of hours, maybe drunk, hopefully sober. Of course not everyone’s twitter experience is the same. If you follow 398 people and have 5 people following you it’s going to be a different experience from someone who follows 398 people but has 5,000 people following them. I occasionally have people say, “why do you always ignore me?”, hopefully the answer to this is obvious, either it’s completely unintentional or you’re a complete tit. On the other hands I’ve tweeted people I’ve either worked with once or know ‘to say hello to’ but my tweet gets lost in their 150,000 followers and I end up feeling ignored too. Either way if you’re getting no return on your twitter investment the options are there for you, leave twitter aside for a while, unfollow, block, delete your twitter account (yes I’ve done all of those!), twitter is only as crap and as good as you make it. Gosh, the more I think about it Twitter is bloody fantastic, it’s the way people use it that is usually the problem.
Anyway, I’m wandering away from the point of all this. Today I had some very bad news. News I kind of knew was coming but I tried to ignore it, hoping it would go away. Today I was told my dog, my cute, beautiful, intelligent, cheeky, smiley (yes, she can smile), gorgeous, brilliant, clever, loving and faithful companion, my Charlie, has an inoperable brain tumour.
I’ve had her for over 12 years and we’ve been through so much together, so many amazing journeys, unemployment, failed relationships, TV shows, fame (sort of), fortune (kind of) and everything in between. And now she’s lying next to me looking and sounding so very, very ill. Last weekend she had 5 seizures in 24hrs, they were more like strokes and with each one she looked a little worse. Then she bounced back Sunday night, looked a little happier, she licked my face and smiled. But it was the drugs helping her through and as they wore off, and she looked even worse, I knew she wasn’t going to get any better. The place we went to today for her MRI scan was amazing. Deep in the Hertfordshire countryside it was a hospital, not a big vet’s surgery, a full sized hospital with 6 surgeons, 11 consulting rooms, 6 wards, 50 nurses and anything up to 90 furry patients at any one time. To see so many animals coming and going, all being cared for in such beautiful, rolling countryside was a wonderful experience. But as nice as it was, Charlie won’t be going back because they can’t make her better. She may be with us for a few more months, more likely a few more weeks. The drug she is on is actually a human drug, not intended for use on animals but it’s the best thing for her, apparently. All I know, as my baby lies next to me, blind in one eye, breathing heavily, sometimes crying, occasionally trying to get up but falling down again; we’re coming to the end of our journey together. And it’s been beautiful.
If you’ve never had a pet you probably won’t understand, if you have, I don’t need to explain.
Thank you to all of my Twitter followers who have sent messages, I mean Tweets, of love and support. I don’t want to turn my Twitter feed into a blow by blow account of the last days of my little girl but I do want to show my appreciation for all the love.
Derren (and Charlie) xxx
Well, what with all the kerfuffle in the press about series 5, Jackie and Joan Collins, I thought I should probably write a little blog to keep you up to date. So, basically, yes, I said series 4 would be “the end of my Benidorm journey” (how camp??!) but that was well before the end of series 4 transmission (in fact it may have been at the beginning, I can’t remember). I thought we had made a very good show but I genuinely thought fans would watch and think, “that’s a nice end to the Benidorm series”. In fact I’m being modest, I thought I had written the best series yet and that, for me, was a reason to stop; to go out on a high. I had no idea the public reaction would be so incredible and it became clear to me by the transmission of episode 5 that viewers wanted more. So it was a combination of two things, ITV & Tiger Aspect were extremely keen on me being involved in a 5th series and I just couldn’t say goodbye to these bizarre characters I created.
A lot of press have reported that the only reason I came back to be involved in another series of Benidorm was because of the possible involvement of Joan Collins. After receiving a tweet from Jackie Collins suggesting her sister Joan Collins should be in the show I did reply saying “Joan Collins in Benidorm??!! I ain’t gonna let anyone else write that. Looks like I’m coming back”. Why did I write that when I had already agreed my contract weeks before? Well, apart from being giddy as a kipper (as my Nana used to say) that Jackie Collins tweeted me saying she & her sister love the show, I also knew it would be a funny & camp way of announcing my return. As many of you know, I don’t court publicity for myself as an individual particularly (I do the odd radio interview for friends but have never accepted requests for TV interviews and I’ve only ever done one newspaper interview in 4 series of Benidorm – and that was never published) but writing tv shows is now the main bulk of my living so I do need to promote my business. Also, it goes without saying that Jackie’s new book just happens to be out this week, now that lady IS a publicity genius!
Has Joan Collins signed a contract to appear in Benidorm? Of course not. The scripts aren’t even written yet. Would we like her to be in it? Definitely! What many people tend to forget is Joan is a brilliant comedy actress. But filming is a long way off and who knows what will happen bewteen now and then.
As for me, I’m overjoyed to be back making up crazy stories for the Garveys et al. I won’t write every episode this series but I’ll be there throughout the series to lend a hand, assisting our brilliant team including new writers, directors and my producer Ben Cavey and Exec Producer Sophie Clarke-Jervoise. I reckon we’ll make Benidorm for as long as the fans of the show continue to love it. The great thing is we are critic-proof, I’m told we have never had a good review in the press but I think it’s logical to take notice of 6 million viewers of the show rather than one lonely, embittered hack who is furious about their own failed career.
The people have spoken! We are coming back! You should have known, what have I always said?… “this is just adios and not goodbye”.
Thanks for all your messages of support via twitter what with a 5th series of Benidorm, a book and a new tv comedy I have a lot to get on with but I try to reply to as many messages as I can.
To celebrate the 4th series of Benidorm I have put together a great compeition which will see one lucky winner bag a whole host of Benidorm goodies. A signed DVD Box Set, a signed script (very rare!), a series 4 cast photo and an EXCLUSIVE Benidorm cast & crew baseball cap (not available anywhere – unless you know know a member of the cast and crew and can wrestle it from them!)
The question for the competition is at the end of this blog, along with the email address to send your entry. The winner will be drawn on the evening of episode 1, Friday 25th Feb, 2011. Please, only one entry per person.
I’m really looking forward to series 4 although it is with mixed emotions because, for me, it is the end of my Benidorm journey. I can’t begin to tell you what this show means to me, it has changed my life in so many ways. Not least the amazing friends I have made along the way. I won’t be writing any more episodes of Benidorm, for me the story of the Garveys and all of the other characters I created ends at episode 6 of series 4.
This is not to say the show won’t continue without me, that’s in the hands of ITV and Tiger Asepct. Two companies I have loved working with and hopefully will again in the future on other projects.
The recent winning of The National Television Award for Most Popular Comedy was incredible; thank you so much for all of you who voted. But all good things must come to an end and as hard as it is for me to say goodbye to these characters, who are all so close to my heart, the time is right.
In series 3 Noreen serenaded her son, The Oracle, with a karaoke tune to celebrate his “coming out”. That song was Y.M.C.A. But what was the song Geoff sang on the karaoke in the same episode? We need you to give us the name of the song and the original artist.
Please email your entry to benidormtweets “at” yahoo.com
Please replace the “at” with the approriate character.
MAKE SURE THE SUBJECT IN YOUR EMAIL IS: SERIES 4 or it will not go into the hat.
I’m on something on the internet called Formspring where people can ask you questions on any subject they like. The reason I’m on this (not that I need one) is because I don’t do interviews in the press or on television so this is a place where supporters (and haters, although they don’t really seek me out there) can ask any questions relating to my work. I got a question today which wouldn’t fit on the answer section of the website, so I thought I’d put it here. Oh, and Merry Christmas.
Q: Does it annoy you that Benidorm mostly gets bad reviews from critics? Why do you think the critics dislike the show so much even though it’s extremely popular with the fans?
A: It doesn’t annoy me, it’s just one person’s opinion. My TV show Benidorm is not everyone’s cup of tea, of course I’m fully aware of that. The mother of one of the cast calls it, “that ghastly programme”. Although when I heard that it really made me laugh. The show is influenced heavily by the television shows and films I watched when I was growing up, Are You Being Served, Duty Free, the Carry On films, etc. I guess if you liked them you will probably like my show but then maybe not, the great thing is I don’t have to analyse it; my priority is to write something I am proud of and make a living. I don’t really speak about other comedy programmes I don’t “get”, if they are popular programmes it will probably just come across as sour grapes but I’ll give you a good example: The Inbetweeners. I was very late coming to The Inbetweeners for various reasons, in fact I only watched the first series dvd while in Benidorm this year. Now, it has all the elements that I suppose should appeal to me, crude, lavatorial humour, swearing etc. But it just didn’t make me laugh. I think it made me laugh once during each episode. But I don’t dismiss it as rubbish or bad writining or poor performances. I suppose I just don’t relate to it. I hated school and very rarely attended, I’m not a middle class hetrosexual, most of my friends at school (when I was there) were girls and not boys. Are these the reasons The Inbetweeners doesn’t make me laugh? I have absolutely no idea but unlike critics who gets frustrated and angry about Benidorm’s popularity because they don’t “get it”, I just feel I’m missing out. If a comedy show is hugely popular but it doesn’t make me laugh I genuinely feel deprived, not furious. But in saying that I don’t dwell on it, I move on and watch the programmes that do make me laugh. Of course another answer to your question is the ITV debate. Would I have watched a new half hour situation comedy on ITV1 starring Johnny Vegas (it didn’t actually “star” Johnny Vegas but that’s how a lot of reviewers billed it because they were too lazy to find out/inform their readers who the other actors were)? No, almost definitely not. But I would have tuned in after friends whose judgement I value had reccomended it to me. A boss of a friend of mine says he won’t watch Benidorm because it is on ITV. Not because of the subject matter, not because of the reviews, not because of who is in it but just because he doesn’t watch ITV and never would. I must also add at this point that he is a total and utter cunt (which I admit, may or may not be purely coincidental).
At the end of the day it’s all subjective isn’t it? Or is it objective? I’ve no idea, I have very little education, a subject I’m sure my critics and I could finally agree on.
The Benidorm Christmas Special is on tonight, Boxing Day, 26th December 2010 at 9pm on ITV1.
To celebrate The Benidorm Christmas Special I’m giving away a signed copy of series 3 DVD plus a personalised Benidorm Christmas Card!
Ten runner’s up will get a personalised Derren Litten Benidorm Christmas card.
So here is the question: Why is Benidorm your favourite TV show? The BEST answer wins. Guest judge of the competition will be Mr Jake Canuso. Maybe we can ask him to throw in a signed picture of himself too?
Please put BENI XMAS in the subject matter of your email or else it won’t count. Competition closes 12pm 21st Decemeber 2010- My 40th birthday!!!
All entires to benidormtweets @ yahoo .com (no spaces, these are to avoid spam).
Good luck and Merry Christmas!!!
Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry…. I KNOW I said this was gonna be a weekly blog, what can I say? I’ve just been too damn busy. And before you say it, no, not busy getting drunk but doing actual work. I know, I was surprised too.
So what can I tell you about the last couple of months? Well I certainly know what I CAN’T tell you (and there’s been QUITE a lot of that) but don’t worry, it will all go into the book. (In case you haven’t heard me tweet about my book it is gonna be called The Benidorm Diaries – working title – and I’m gonna spill all the dirt about ALL the mad, crazy, embarrassing, hilarious, sad, unbelievable and outrageous things that have happened while writing and filming this series. I’ve written bits and pieces already but I won’t write the full thing until the show ends. It will be pretty full on and I imagine not everyone will be happy about it but I reckon if a job’s worth doing it’s worth doing properly; you all know me by now!).
So, the most memorable thing that happened in the last few weeks was our traditional Sparks BBQ. Every year the Spanish electricians from the crew put on an amazing BBQ, this year they really excelled themselves, the grounds of the production office looked incredible, all decked out in halloween set dressing complete with cobwebs, pumpkins, ghosts and clock work crawling spiders! The food was delicious, the sangria strong and the firework display at the end was awesome. How these guys work a 12-13 hour day (and I mean REAL work, not sitting on their arses watching a monitor all day like me) then have the time to organise and put on all this is beyond me. After the BBQ we screened the Benidorm Xmas Special on a big projector. I’m not being immodest when I write this (because the show is not just my script, it’s EVERYONE pulling together, cast, crew, production, etc) but it was amazing. I think this is the best episode of Benidorm we’ve ever made. It’s very hard to tell and you may disagree when you see it but I doubt you’ll see anything as funny, entertaining, moving and CHRISTMASSY this holiday period. Everyone did a great job and I’m so proud of them.
During the editing process of the Special the director, producer, myself and several other people have to view the show. Because we were still in Benidorm and the show was being edited in the UK we have to either download episode parts or get the office to download it from an ftp site (no, I don’t rally know what that means either) and transfer it onto our laptop via a usb memory stick (this is starting to sound like an episode of Star Trek). Well, I don’t know how much of this I’m allowed to tell you about this but a few weeks ago Tiger Aspect were informed that someone had obtained a copy of the Benidorm Christmas Special and they wanted money for it’s safe return. I’ve heard of people being held to ransom but TV shows? When this person was asked how they obtained the show they said they “found a USB stick with it on”. ”We watched it, Su Pollard is in it”, they declared, as if this was cast iron proof they had the show. The news of Su being in town had been in every newspaper in Benidorm plus she’d been on several TV shows in the UK talking about her appearance so that proved nothing. But we had to take the threat seriously, not only did we not want copies of the show on the internet the version of the show (if they had it) was nowhere near the final cut, we didn’t want the show not only being ruined but also being shown in an unfinished state. Now as I say, I don’t think I’m allowed to go into details about this but an amount of money was agreed, a meeting was set up and a member of the production team and myself sat waiting for the call to tell us where the exchange was to take place. We waited… and waited… and then…. Actually I think I’m gonna save this for my book; it’s too good to waste here!
So, the weeks roll on and more and more hilarious and brilliant guest stars come to this crazy town to visit us and appear in the show. Banarama were here last week and as you’ll know if you follow @BenidormTweets on Twitter, they were fantastic. I think there’s is my favourite episode of the 4th series. Although in saying that we haven’t finished yet, we’ve still got another 3 weeks to go. Speaking (or typing) of which I’d better go and rewrite a of joke for next week, this happens very rarely but the ITV lawyers have disallowed a Michael Jackson joke so I have to think of another one. Oh well, it will all go in the book…
So we’ve been filming now for about four weeks. We shot the Christmas Special in the first two weeks and now we are kind of doing one episode per fortnight. I say ‘kind of’ because not all scenes can be completed sequentially and when they get moved about inevitably some get pushed into different weeks due to accessibility of locations, weather, guest stars availability etc. Our 1st assistant director David Gillchrist does an incredible job fitting every scene into the schedule; I’ve no idea how he manages it. It’s a bit like someone trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle while somebody keeps taking the pieces away. Unfortunately I don’t exactly help as for the last 3 years I’ve always rolled up in Spain with the last episode missing; although I must say I’m glad I waited ’til I did to write the last instalment this year. I only completely finished episode 6 last week but I must say, with a total lack of modesty, that it’s the best episode I’ve ever written. Well, it’s certainly the funniest, let’s put it that way.
I’ve got to say the new characters in the show are working out brilliantly, mainly due to the amazing actors we have booked. Tony Maudsley, Kathryn Drysdale, Adam Gillen, Selina Griffiths and Shelley Longworth; google them, you’ll probably know then from one show or another. It was a difficult decision to change some of the regular cast, a decision met with some disapproval from a few fans of the show. But I absolutely know it was the right decision; for this tv show to keep feeling fresh. If we do a 5th series the same will happen again and it will all be for the best.
On a slightly different note I have some more unpleasant news. A week ago last Friday my house in Spain was broken into and everything stolen. Laptop, iPad, cameras, iPod, all electrical goods, even my suitcases. At times this year has appeared to be one challenge after another, it sometimes has felt difficult to want to plough on with it all, especially when a few nights ago there was an other attempted break in, this time I was in the house. To be absolutely honest I felt I was at breaking point and took a cab to Alicante airport, bought a ticket to London Gatwick and waited for the plane. Luckily the flight was delayed by a couple of hours and in that time I decided to stay. I’m so glad I did. They say what doesn’t break you makes you stronger, after the year I’ve had so far I reckon I’m bordering on the invincible…
So as we near the end of the Benidorm Christmas Special I am absolutely overjoyed. I’ve never enjoyed filming as much as this before, everything feels right, all of the actors and crew seem happy and even though we’ve been working in unbelievable heat (while pretending it’s Christmas!) nobody has complained.
Talking of the heat, I’ve been to many hot places over the years but nothing has ever compared to last week. I’ve had sunstroke in Costa Rica and battered by the sun in Egypt but I think even it only reached 40 degrees. Someone said last week, in the Altea Hills, it reached 47 degrees. Now I don’t know if that’s true but it can’t have been far off. Of course many of us would think of the actors, having to perform on cue, remember lines and act cool (in more than one way!) but to see the crew humping equipment (ooof!), setting up lighting and generally running around non stop, well, I almost felt the urge to leave my air conditioned office and get someone to shake them by the hand on my behalf. Of course that was a joke… I’d never touch crew. Yes, that was another joke; I spend most of the time under a blanket watching the monitor wearing headphones as I watch and listen to what we are shooting with Ben our producer. Anyway, the good news about all this is I must have lost at least a couple of pounds last week in sweat alone.
So after our first week of slog I decided to hold a little BBQ at my rented villa, it was an Xmas Special party as some of the main cast aren’t in the Special so they haven’t arrived in Spain yet. We had the likes of Brian Murphy, Louie and Spence, Tim Healy (see pic above!) cavorting around the pool along with original cast members Siobhan Finneran, Crissy Rock, Sheila Reid, Oliver Stokes, Janine Dutvitski, Jake Canuso and a few others.
There’s so much more I want to tell you but I really think it would spoil the surprise. This week we have a 70′s rock god and a 60′s legend filming with us. We’ve already had Su Pollard (if you’ll pardon the expression), somehow John Henderson (our Xmas Special guest director) managed (with the hep of Sandy Johnson, regular director, with a 2nd unit) to shoot all of her scenes in one day (well, practically, she managed to squeeze in one more scene at 8am before she got on her flight to London at 11am), which was one of the things we were worried about. Oh, we’ve also got a legendary 80′s band filming with us in a few weeks, they will be appearing at ‘Neptunes’ in episode 4.. or is it 5? Oh it’s so confusing… a few parts have not been cast yet so we’re hoping to still have a few aces up our sleeve. Obviously a lot of these guest stars will probably be revealed in the tabloids but I really hope they do us a favour and keep one or two of the big names a secret. I know it’s probably wishful thinking but I love the idea of people watching the show, getting to a scene and saying “Oh my God! Look who it is!”.
Also, some rather disappointing news for me; I was due to play a (semi) regular part in this series, three episodes in all, a character I wrote for myself but unfortunately I just have too much work to do. I’m writing a new series (not Benidorm) and for that to be finished by the end of the year along with my role of associate producer, I just don’t have time to appear in the show. Sorry to any fans (???!) of my acting work, rest assured I’ll pop up somewhere on the telly again at some point.
OK, better go now, we are filming with the brilliant Shaun Foster Conley today, so all you SFC fans are in for another treat in the Xmas Special (plus he also makes an appearance in series 4). Oh, and we also have brilliant Benidorm act Asa Elliott making a cameo appearance in the Special too, do any of you remember him in Stars In Your Eyes a few years ago? Here he is in action!
Promise I won’t stay leave it as long until next blog. Have a great week and stay COOL! (Although if you are in the UK I hear you haven’t really had a choice!)
Landed in Alicante last night around 7pm, lovely and hot as we stepped off the plane; as in the words of Gavin Ramsbottom, “it’s as if we never left!”.
Benidorm seems to be very busy, when we filmed series 3 it was about this time of year we were just leaving (maybe a few weeks earlier) the place was getting warmer and was filling up with the first of the summer holiday makers. This time we’re straight into the fierce heat of the Spanish sun and surrounded by hot, sweaty bodies (and that’s just in the office!). I heard a whisper today that production will be giving the regular cast photo cards to sign so if you see us shooting on location in Benidorm say hello and ask for a signed pic (not of me, obviously, I’m just the boring writer!).
OK, just a quick blog this one, just wanted to say how lovely it is to be back in the town that has been so good to me (on the whole .
Don’t forget to keep tuned into www.twitter.com/benidormtweets – They’re a bit dull at the moment because nothing much is happening but as soon we have cast members flying out hopefully the juicy gossip will start!
A year ago this week something happened to me which I thought I would never speak of publicly. Something incredibly upsetting which changed my outlook on life. A year ago this week I was drugged and mugged. In Benidorm.
I’ve thought long and hard about speaking (or blogging) about this; for a year in fact. I didn’t want to bring any bad publicity to the town which had changed my life in such a positive way. But telling you what happened to me on that August evening/morning in 2009 might hopefully warn others and help them not make the mistake I made.
I’d booked a short one week holiday, in a villa in Albir; a small town nestled between Benidorm and Altea. I’d gone there mainly to relax but I also had a few ideas I wanted to write about so thought a nice villa with a pool would be a welcome break. Obviously being so close to Benidorm I could spend a little time with a few of the friends and acquaintances I’d met over the last few years while making the show.
The first day I was there on my own (my friend who was coming with me had a wedding to go to that day and would be joining me the next day). I arrived in the afternoon and got a taxi from Alicante airport to Albir. The representative from the rental company told me the villa, although beautiful, was very difficult to find so she suggested I got dropped off on the main street, call her from there and she would take me in her car to the villa. I got dropped off at a bar in Albir, ordered a diet coke and sat squinting in the sun as I waited for the rep to arrive. After 20mins or so the rep arrived and took me to the villa which was stunning; sleek, modern furniture and lighting, open staircase, beautiful private pool but in the middle of nowhere. She advised me to call her if I needed to order a taxi as none of the local cab drivers could every find the place just from the address; she would explain to them where to go. As my Spanish isn’t very good I thanked her, waved her off then jumped in the pool.
After a swim and a bit of a sun bathe I wandered into the kitchen and found a welcome bottle of champagne in the fridge; how civilised! I had a couple of glasses of that, had another dip in the pool, listened to some music, did a bit of writing and then decided to get ready for a night out in Benidorm. I called the rep and asked her to call me a taxi. After waiting about 30mins for the taxi I called her again and told her it didn’t arrive. She called the company and the taxi driver couldn’t find the address, they sent another and 20mins later I heard a cab blowing it’s horn; it was almost a street away but I ran out and waved to show him where I was hidden.
My first port of call was to the UK Cabaret bar to watch my cast member and friend Crissy Rock. Crissy worked so hard in Benidorm, she is now based back in the UK, but then she did two shows a night and this was the first gig of the evening. She went down a storm and after she’d signed a few autographs, had her picture taken with a few fans and sold a few dvds she came out for a drink with me. I’d had a few drinks by then and although wasn’t exactly falling over was very merry (for “very merry” read “fairly pissed”). I can’t remember the name of the bar we ended up in but when Crissy had to go I didn’t mind as we’d met up with a few other familiar faces on the way, mostly guys from tribute bands and the like I’d met over the years.
After Crissy left I suddenly felt very unwell. I couldn’t quite understand how I’d gone from “fairly pissed” to “absolutely out of it” in such a short space of time. I decided it was time to go. I remember saying goodbye to several people but I don’t actually remember leaving the club. The next thing I remember I was sitting on a plastic chair outside a closed bar in a dark part of the street. As I focused my eyes I could see my shorts had been sliced with a very sharp knife at the pockets and my wallet and phone were missing. I looked at my wrist to see what time it was but the Rolex I bought myself at the end of Benidorm series 1 had gone too.
I tried to stand up, I had a sensation I’ve never felt before or since. Yes, I was still a little bit drunk but everything seemed heightened, the lights, the noise, I felt totally disorientated but not in the way alcohol makes you feel. I’ve never taken drugs in my life so I had no reference to that but now I’m convinced my drink was spiked with, well, God knows what.
I staggered to a busier part of the street, I had no idea of the time or how long I had been unconscious. I asked a policeman for help but he wasn’t interested, I walked around Benidorm for what I imagine was about an hour asking various people for help; sadly I just appeared to be a drunken idiot staggering around Benidorm not making much sense so nobody was interested.
I decided to walk to The Pelicanos, the hotel where we film Benidorm the series, maybe one of their staff would recognise me from being there every year for 3 months for the past few years. I got to the hotel but the one person on night duty said they couldn’t help me. I asked to use their phone (although God knows who I was going to ring, I didn’t have any numbers or have a clue how to call the international operator), they said no. I begged to use their phone, they refused. I don’t blame the guy working at the hotel, he was just doing his job.
I then walked back into the main part of Benidorm (known as English Square) and started stopping taxis asking if they would take me to Albir, unfortunately I was way too honest for my own good and when I tried to explain I had been mugged and had no money the cabs just zoomed off into the night. I suppose I can hardly blame them. I did this for about another hour and eventually I convinced one driver I would pay him five times the fare the next day if he took me now. He considered this and said “sorry, no”. But he HAD considered it so I held onto his open car window and begged him, “I have nothing, no money, no phone, nothing, please, please, can you imagine being in a foreign country and having nothing with nobody to help you? I’m begging you, please”. The man said nothing but motioned for me to get in his taxi. By this time it was at least a couple of hours since I was mugged and I must admit I started to quietly cry in the back of his car, mainly at the man’s (albeit begrudging) kindness me. I also was still completely whacked out on whatever I’d had slipped into my drink. My relief would soon turn to horror as the real nightmare was about to unfold.
The cab driver took me to Albir but I just couldn’t remember where the villa was. I remembered it was down quite a few back roads but the address and all the information was on my iPhone and in my wallet (both taken). We tried lots of roads but they all looked the same, eventually the taxi driver told me to get out.
I then started walking, thinking I must be able to find the cul-de-sac; there was a huge amount of roads but even if it took me a couple of hours I must be able to find it. I walked for about an hour but seemed to be just going in circles, plus I was getting tired so I thought I’d follow signs to The Sha Wellness Clinic, a hotel/spa in Albir where we had filmed. I got to The Sha and I asked the receptionist if she could help me, I explained the situation and said if I could use their Internet and their phone to make one call I would then leave. She called the police and had me removed. At this point I was quite upset and still disoriented so I suppose she just thought I was a crazy drunk.
The police arrived (one guy) and he was actually fairly nice, tried to calm me down and said, “how can anyone help you if you don’t remember where you live?”. I explained I had arrived the day before, had been driven in a taxi from the airport to a meeting point in Albir and then was taken by the letting agency to the villa, I hadn’t paid attention to the route, all the roads looked the same. He said, “so how can anyone help you?”, I said if I could use the police’s Internet I could retrieve some phone numbers and make a call. He said the police didn’t have the Internet, wished me luck and drove off.
I decided I would try and find the villa again (the keys to the villa were the only thing the thieves did not take and no, there was no address on the keyring) so started to walk. I walked for what must have been 3 or 4 hours, I’m not sure, I had no watch, then finally must have collapsed. I don’t know how long I was unconscious but I woke lying in a road with the very hot sun burning my face and arms, everything hurt, I was totally exhausted and covered in mosquito bites and I could hear voices. Several people, mostly German and Dutch, were standing on the road looking at me. The same questions, “where are you going?” “where are you staying?”. My mouth was dry and cracked and it hurt to speak. A police car and an ambulance motorbike both arrived, they asked where I lived, I explained again that everything had been stolen and I couldn’t find the rented villa. “He is drunk, he’ll remember where he is staying when he sobers up”, the policeman said and kicked my legs out of the road. Then he and the ambulance bike driver left. The ambulance bike driver didn’t even examine me. I couldn’t believe it. Somehow everything was even more terrifying in the daylight. The evening before had been like a confusing nightmare but I’d woken from the nightmare to find I was still in it. And with no way out. I still had no money, I still had no phone, I still didn’t know where I was staying. I’ve never been able to remember phone numbers, how many people do? these days you don’t dial a number, you just press a name. I considered doing something to get arrested, maybe attack the policeman, at least he would take me to the police station and they might give me some water? But I didn’t have the energy to stand, never mind attack anyone. As I lie at the side of the road I thought of my comfortable house. I thought of my expensive car. I thought of all the luxuries I’m surrounded by when I’m at home. Many of which were paid for by me writing a TV show, a TV show set in Benidorm. All of these luxuries were many miles away and meant nothing, absolutely nothing. I was lying in dirt. Bruised and dehydrated. I’ve never felt so alone and frightened in my life. Everyone else disbursed, walked back to their million pound villas. Except one woman. A small, middle aged Dutch woman was shouting, “what are you doing? you can’t leave a man lying in the road like a dog, where are you going?”.
This woman’s name was Dineke, she slowly helped me to my feet, took me into her house, gave me coffee (as her rather bemused husband quietly looked on) and then took me in her car to drive around Albir, looking for the villa. We still couldn’t find it so I asked if she would take me an Internet cafe (it was now around 10am). She took me (along with her friend Cecile) in her car to the local Internet cafe, I found the letting agency’s website on the Internet using the words I used to look for a villa in the first place and called them on her friend Cecile’s mobile. I also sent emails to several friends in the UK including my agent asking them to call Cecile’s mobile number urgently.
We also got a map of where the villa was, Dineke managed to eventually find the place although she had never heard of the road (and she had lived in Albir for 4 years). Dineke and Cecile left me at the villa then about 30mins later two reps from the lettings company turned up and asked if I was OK. I told the letting agency reps I was OK and they left me in the house. About 30mins after that Dineke returned with food and water, orange juice, British newspapers etc and loaned me 300 euros. I slept until around 9pm in evening when my friend arrived after the wedding he had stayed in London to attend. The next day we dropped off Dineke’s €300 (plus €200 to say thanks) and ordered some flowers.
That night I sat up in bed, not able to sleep. By 5am I decided to pack my bags and go home. We called a taxi but again, they couldn’t find us. I called another taxi and told them to pick us up at The Sha Wellness Clinic, as we walked there, following the signs, I realised I had passed the top of the street at least three times before collapsing. The top of the street looked like a dead end and that’s why I (or the taxi drivers) never found the villa.
God knows what I would have done if this kind woman (and now my friend) hadn’t helped me. It is a bewildering experience to be lost, to have nothing, to have no idea where to go and to have nobody willing to help you. Yes, I had got drunk when I went out, many people do on holiday but I’d made the mistake of being with acquaintances, rather than people I knew well. Benidorm is a wonderful, fun holiday destination but like every other tourist spot in the world it has a minority of dishonest people who want to take advantage of you. Please take care when you go on holiday this year; I’d never want you to experience anything like the ordeal I went through a year ago this week.