The punch-up with Unwanted Tom at the Delfín
Verde had cast a black shadow on my originally all positive
feelings about the island. It had also generated a certain
celebrity as well, for gossip had spread the news of the incident.
Hungry Hannibal said It had been the first time anyone had
interfered with Unwanted Tom during one of his drunken and
destructive sallies into Ibiza town from his home in Formentera,
Ibizas little sister island. I had invited him to lunch
and we were strolling along the quay in la Marina, the port
area, to the restaurant of his choice. Everyone we met seemed
to be delighted that the bully had been trounced and showed
their approval by greeting us warmly as we passed, smiling
cordially and giving us the thumbs up signal. I began to feel
like a local hero and Flipper, always sensitive to my feelings,
couldnt have been more proud. He barked his happy
bark exuberantly, and frisked about us. I was to learn that
people took sides with great verve on Ibiza, and that it was
very rare, as with this incident with Unwanted Tom, for unanimous
approval to be accorded.
Foreigners congregated where the food was
both good and inexpensive and it was Hungry Hannibals
idea that it would be a good idea for me to meet some of them.
Meeting them, he said, would soothe the barbed wire vibes
which my untoward experience with Unwanted Tom had produced.
He particularly wanted me to meet a permanent fellow Delfín
Verde resident, a man called Ernesto, who, as one of the more
senior foreigners, was not burdened with a descriptive nickname,
as I was now. It touched me that he was so anxious for me
to have good feelings about what he always spoke of as his
Dont you worry about that,
I said, if Flipper and I ever have another chance to
make it back here, you can bet well take it!
It is difficult to remember exactly what
all my impressions were as we sauntered along the quay in
la Marina about 2 o'clock that afternoon. But I do remember
with delight the feeling of relaxed elation which enveloped
me as we went. On my right, only a few feet away from me as
we walked, was the inviting green water of the port, awash
with the ever present, ever soft, ever enchanting Mediterranean
sunlight. In it were thousands of very small fish in dozens
of very big schools, flashing by in every which way, just
beneath the surface. Their passage was magical, for it was
silent, swift and rigidly choreographed, as if there was a
single nautical mind that was instantaneously coordinating
the individual actions of thousands of the little creatures.
On my left were the crowded buildings of
the Port, now many of them decked out with Christmas decorations.
Clothes lines were everywhere, with intimate items the rule.
Children, grown ups, chickens, dogs, cats, fishermen, fishnet
menders, all flourished together in stable social harmony.
While bars, eateries, shoemakers shops, dairy shops,
hardware shops, key making shops, all kinds of unimaginable
shops, were jumbled together in a concatenation which could
only have been consummated in the course of many years. The
prevailing feeling was one of relaxed, conscious enjoyment
of the gifts of the Gods. I felt at home. I felt I was in
But how could I call these Port buildings,
buildings? In all the architecture of the Port, there was
not a single right angle that I could discover. They were,
rather, a large congenial collection of dilapidated domiciles.
Their colours had faded into one another, becoming pastel
in the process. Though white predominated, it was not pure.
It was white tinted with black. And, just as they shared their
colours, they shared their structural integrity; they leaned
lovingly on one another. Huddled somewhere in this mass of
crumbling masonry was the only one-bright-colour structure
in the lot, the all-green Delfín Verde - whose proprietor,
Hannibal had informed me, I was soon to meet. But it was Ernesto
whom I met that afternoon, at a charming, quite dark little
place called, Es Quinques. It was located in a narrow, dirt
surfaced street called the Calle de la Cruz, a block off the
port and just across from a bar which later became my second
home in Ibiza, then called Buds Bar, after its corpulent
American owner, but later renamed Wuanas Bar.
When we entered Es Quinques, ducking our
heads under the low doorway overhead, the delicious cooking
odours which greeted us immediately spoke well of my trust
in Hungry Hannibals food/eating expertise. I smiled
at him approvingly and I saw him actually blush with pleasure.
At a nearby table we saw a man with sharp, aquiline features,
gaunt in body, yet withal so quietly authoritative that one
felt immediately that here was a man of stature. Hungry Hannibal
led me to his table, and he rose as we stopped before him.
Ernesto, this is Harold, a visiting
photographer and your next door neighbour in Delfín
Verde, said Hannibal, much to my astonishment. It appeared
that Ernesto and I were closer than I had thought.
Harold, this is Ernesto, photographer,
art dealer, writer.
A man of many parts, I said.
Welcome to Ibiza, Ernesto said,
shaking hands warmly. I hear you had a busy time.
It was shocking, I said. And
Flipper jumped up into my arms.
So this is the little dog Ive
heard so much about. I mean the one in the car, looking out
of the window!
After that we all sat down, Flipper at my
feet. A plump Ibicenco lady with a brilliant smile, jet black
hair and eyes and a motherly manner, was at our side and waiting
to take our orders. Her name was Pepita. She poured us red
wine, tinto, all around. She did the same when the food came.
She did the same when she cleared the table after the food
had been finished. And the food was, well, Ibicencan. There
was an especially interesting roast beef, as I remember. Juicy,
rare, but, well, not easy to chew. Delicious to the taste,
however. And wonderful mashed potatoes with a special gravy
that satisfied. Best of all was the mini size of the check,
which proved to be something like two or three or even four
hundred pastas. I cant remember the exact amount, but
whatever it was; it was insignificant for what it purchased.
Living on Ibiza those days, for foreigners with strong national
currencies behind them, was as inexpensive as it was delightful.
The conversation turned to why there were
so many writers and painters, both local and foreign, living
on Ibiza. Ernesto explained it this way.
Well, you see, there are many things
that make it so. There is the location. The island is near
and yet not near the rest of the world. It is easy to reach
and very hard to leave. So that keeps the creative people
here after they get here. And since there are always more
of them coming than there are of them leaving, little by little,
we have more and more of the creative people living here permanently.
And that is the way it has always been.
Then there is the social atmosphere.
The island is traditionally a free place. Even in the time
of the expulsion of the Jews from the peninsula in 1492, a
time of terrible political life in all of Spain, Ibiza was
known as a safe haven. Many of the oldest families here have
Jewish ancestors from that time. So over the hundreds of years,
liberal elements from all walks of life have tended to be
attracted to Ibiza and especially the creative people from
bad times in Europe. Ibiza has always welcomed them. It is
And it is not too much to say that
the light which illuminates Ibiza is a light of such beauty
that artists become addicted to it. Once they have been here
they see there is no other light to paint by. They fall in
love with the light. The light becomes their master, their
lover, their teacher, their friend. The light becomes their
life. And they tell their friends, other artists, their sweethearts,
their children, and their whole acquaintance about the light
here in Ibiza. And so more and more artists become enslaved
by this beautifying sunlight with which we live almost every
day on this island.
Finally, there is the question of
living costs. Ibiza is so inexpensive that even a pauper can
live like a prince. That will probably change, given that
more and more talk has been about the promotion of tourism.
But in the past and for the near future at least, Ibiza is
still the choice, from a cost of living point of view, of
even the most impecunious of creative people. For all these
reasons, Ibiza is a magnet to artists, writers, and creative
people in general.
And so lunch came to an end. I felt I knew
a great deal more about this White Island than I had known
an hour earlier. Ernesto was illuminating. I was honoured
that he had asked me to come to his rooms in the Delfín
Verde to see the paintings of the artists he represented.
It was only much later that I discovered that Ernesto had
been imprisoned by the Nazis in Austria during the war because
his mother had been Jewish, that he had subsequently joined
the French Foreign Legion, and that he had come to Ibiza in
1952 and decided to stay. He completely abandoned his previous
life. He entered the art world, making many trips to Europe
to see the work of the painters he represented. He became
the prototype of the foreign bohemian so common to Ibiza during
the 1960s, spending the day strolling through the streets
of la Marina, meeting incoming ships to help visitors find
accommodation, and frequenting the cafés of the quarter.
He was widely known simply as Ernesto, few people ever knew
his surname, which was Ehrenfeld.
I had come to Ibiza in 1964 and I would
soon decide to stay, also. How that came about, I will tell
you in the next chapter of I Remember Ibiza