It’s Friday night, and we’re in La Marina che non c’e (the marina that isn’t). That’s actually the bar’s name. Apparently it used to be down by the sea, but there was a rockfall which meant they had to move premises. Result: they’re now in the centre of town, nowhere near the marina, but far more convenient for our purposes. We’re in there most nights, along with all the rest of the under-35s in the area. It’s the kind of bar where the music is usually too loud and so everyone congregates outside, smoking, drinking and talking while perching on chrome barstools and keeping an outwardly casual but actually piercingly keen eye on everyone that walks past. Tonight, however, we’re lounging on the sofas by the bar. Sonia, the co-owner, is in pensive mood and the music is quiet and wistful for a change. That is, until she starts playing Right Here Waiting by Richard Marx, at which point we all start belting along. Sonia’s looking for a particular Boy George track, but she can’t remember the title, so asks us. It’s a slow one. Do you know …? Carly, with confidence, asserts, Kate’ll know! Er – thanks, Carls. Five minutes later, however, I’ve got it and my reputation as the fount of all knowledge remains intact. Sonia is made up and we get another bottle of wine in, while singing along to Victims and putting in requests for Sade songs.
We came here straight from school, so it’s still early – only about 9pm. A tall man comes in and heads straight for Liv. After a few minutes it transpires that he’s trying to get her to give him the rest of our bottle of wine. Liv, however, has got the wrong end of the stick and thinks he’s offering to buy us some more. She grins and agrees. Megan is on the case immediately. Only after we’ve topped up our glasses. She plucks the bottle out of the man’s hands before he can swig from it and empties it into the glasses on the table. Oops. She smiles, dangling the empty bottle in front of him. Looks like we didn’t have enough to share. Sorry. He scowls at her, before leaving the bar in high dudgeon. His exit is somewhat marred by his swaying into a table as he leaves. Meg pulls a face. Can we go somewhere else tonight? Instead of answering, Liv shrieks and leaps to her feet. We’re all a bit nonplussed, until we realise that she’s recognised one of the band, who is walking into the bar. He’s followed by two of his bandmates, both of whom are working hard carting amps downstairs while he chats to Liv. Money for nothing; chicks for free. Liv returns to the table. They’re playing here this evening! We should definitely come back here later on – they’re really good. Meg isn’t convinced, but once I suggest going for food first she perks up. She’s a woman after my own heart, that one.
When we return later the band are in full flow downstairs. It’s a private party, but Liv has managed to get us an invitation from the birthday girl. She looks to be in her mid-20s, but we find out that she’s actually only 18. I begin to understand why my students always pitch me 8-10 years younger than I really am. There is auguri-ing and cheek kissing all round, and a bottle of wine appears. We settle in to listen to the band. As Liv said, they’re good, although their choice of music isn’t that exciting. It’s when they start to pack up that things really get going …
The guitars have been packed away into cases, but the drums are still sitting on the stage. Rather than being a drum kit, it’s a collection of individuals – there’s a djembe, a cajòn and some tubular bells, among other things. The drum player is a young guy who, it appears, is probably the reason for the band being booked. He certainly seems to know all the party-goers, and is reluctant to pack his drums away, being far more interested in carrying on playing for fun. Out of nowhere, a couple of other djembes appear, and suddenly there is the most amazing jam session going on. The drums are passed around the group, first one person playing, then passing to another seamlessly as they go to dance. Now there is someone clinking bottles together, now there’s stamping and clapping, now there’s tapping on the tables, now it’s back to the dancefloor … We’re down to a group of about 15 people by now, which includes an old man who, like us, has gatecrashed. The local kids eye him warily, but he doesn’t care. He grabs Megan and starts to salsa. Meg is in her element. Leaving her dance partner behind, she starts to shake her booty as if her life depends on it. The teenage boys at the party are transfixed, instantly falling in love with her and falling over themselves to be the next one to dance with her. Nobody wants the party to stop. The birthday girl has lost her shoes and is falling asleep in a chair but the drummers carry on playing until they can’t possibly play any more.
Finally, at around 4am, we admit defeat. The spirits are willing but even 16-year-old – let alone ancient 34-year-old – flesh is weak after four hours’ non-stop dancing. Exhausted but buzzing, we wend our way home to dream of Africa.