At the Leavers’ Ball held to mark our daughter’s last day at boarding school, there were only two topics of conversation among the anxious parents. How early could we decently slope off without being rebuked by our girls? And the dreaded Leavers’ trip to Magaluf.
Magaluf — Shagaluf as the kids all call it — is the post-A-levels destination of choice for what seems like every school leaver in the country. If you’ve seen The Inbetweeners Movie you’ll know what it’s like: charmless, garish avenues of overpriced bars and clubs with pushy greeters, expensive party cruises, grotesque drunkenness, epic hangovers, sunburn, STDs and gallons of vomit.
Quite how much Shagaluf lives up to its nickname I don’t know and I don’t want to know. Perhaps I’d feel differently if Boy were going. Possibly, I’d expect photos of all his conquests, plus a short biog including where they were educated and their fathers’ net worth.
But with daughters it’s different. The very last thing you want to imagine is buff but brainless lads with waxed bum cheeks like the ones on Love Island even so much as making eye contact with that darling piece of virginal beauty and perfection you sired 18 years ago. If you could, you’d be out there with a shotgun, sitting with all your fellow dads on the doorstep of the girls’ apartment of an evening, counting them all out and counting them all in. Or if you were really brave, you’d do what one of the dads dared do and refuse permission to let her go.
That was never a likely option with me though. First, I’m a soft touch: Girl has only to bat her eyelashes at me to get whatever she wants. Secondly, she has earned it. Unlike her two indolent, cruising brothers, she worked incredibly hard for her A-levels, rising at 7 a.m. every day and putting in a good eight or nine hours of solid revision. Thirdly, it will give her some of the vital life training she didn’t get at school.
While I’m not necessarily complaining about the caring, nurturing environment she enjoyed at Malvern, I do think that now more than ever kids leave private schools somewhat ill prepared for the vileness, rapacity and dog-eat-dog brutality of the real world beyond. It’s all very well being constantly reassured how valuable you are as a person, how meaningful your feelings are, how dreadful bullying is, how incredibly fabulous it is if you’re gay and so on — but none of this is much defence against having your cocktail spiked with Rohypnol, or being molested and filmed by ‘Germans’ (so the Mail billed the alleged perpetrators when it happened in Majorca to some hapless 18-year-old girl last week) on a beach, or falling to your death while posing for a selfie or trying drunkenly to clamber into your apartment after you’ve lost your key.
To survive such things, you need the one thing they don’t teach you at £40,000-a-year public schools: street wisdom. So you could argue that far from being a gigantic, neon-lit toilet by the Med littered with used condoms, pools of puke, and rutting teens, Shagaluf is in fact an unfairly maligned cross between a safe space and a finishing school.
It’s a safe space because, even though it’s pretty rough and lairy and basic, it’s a well-trodden destination swarming with nicely brought up kids who seem to understand the fundamental rule that you don’t abandon your mates in extremis. And it’s a finishing school because, as with young wildebeests separated from their parents on their first Serengeti migration river crossing, it’s the moment when they have to learn to deal with crocodiles.
The danger is real, as we know from the papers: that poor girl last week; a 19-year-old Irish boy raped this week. But like live ammunition training exercises, it concentrates the mind. Girl knew all about the threat, or so she cheerfully informed us on one of her daily bulletins on the family WhatsApp group. Apparently ‘the sellers’ (whoever they are), were handing out wrist-bands to uncomprehending kids, pretty young males especially, as a secret signal that they were going to be next…
Such drunken texts — often with incomprehensible stories — and drunken videos can be upsetting to receive in the small hours. So far we’ve had: our girls lining up in a doctors’ surgery (Why? They never explained); one of our girls laughing with blood pouring out of her mouth; wild antics on a booze cruise. I find it best not to look at these too closely.
Perhaps I’m naive but I like to tell myself that it’s all very innocent really and that they do it to upset us — a bit like I used to try to do with my parents when aged 19 I wrote them long, harrowing letters about my narrow brushes with death and the various hideous diseases I’d caught while overlanding across Africa. (Except, now I think about, I wasn’t making any of it up.)
Still, with any luck it’s just a passing phase. I have been particularly reassured by stories about how hideous it is sharing an apartment with rancid schoolmates and no air conditioning. All we need now is a family trip to some five-star Mediterranean resort, like Dad invariably wangles every summer for one of his newspaper articles — and the desire to go anywhere as horrible as Shagaluf again will be extinguished permanently.