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Damien Enright on Ibiza and Formentera

*The Phoenicians, who once colonised Ibiza, thought it was already half-way to Heaven. If they were rich, they went there to die, thus to be only a short walk from Paradise. If less rich, they had their ashes sent there, believing that to gain Ibiza was to be already some distance along the heavenly road. If too poor to make the journey, alive or dead, from their native Cartage, they bought a spoonful of imported Ibiza earth to be mixed with their ashes. Ibiza is a lovely island, indeed. I spent formative youth there and, since my return, I believe I will follow the Phoenicians example and alter my will to have some personal ashes scattered thereon.

*I came upon those islands in the early 60s, arriving in Ibiza when there was no hotel on the island and an airport where planes could land only on fine days. I moved to the nearby island of Formentera in 1962, before electrification, and saw the first lights come on in the ‘capital’, San Fernando, a village of six houses. My neighbours and I watched it from the doorway of the farmhouse I rented two miles away on the Cap de Berberia, for 75p a week. We waited in expectation at the appointed hour of dusk and, when the first bulbs lit up, we all cheered. The velvet night came down on us but, in the distance, the bulbs twinkled, new on our horizon, a new world.

*In the small town of Santa Eulalia del Rio – once small, not so small now – I stayed in a hotel that wasn’t there, surrounded by streets that weren’t there. At the end of the square there was a beach that wasn’t there, sand imported from Africa. The big tree in the square was there and had changed not at all. But it, and the small cafe beside it were no longer the centre of social life, where the old men sat in the shade and the thin cats searched for crumbs beneath the tables and dogs scratched their fleas in the dust.

*In search of the beautiful people. Ibiza, then and now: Does the ghost of Elmyr De Hory, the painter of “Fake” fame, with his retinue of lovely boys and garnished women, still hold midnight court on the rocks near the house beyond Figueretes? In Ibiza, what remains of the ’60s and ’70s, when stars famously sparkled in the bars and The Beautiful People glittered around candle-lit tables in the Old Town….

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