Our dream villa really was too good to be true
We were quite a mob in the car, I recall: Monty driving, with three kids in the back, all looking for the villa we weren’t due to occupy for another half an hour. We were taking part in a regatta in Mallorca, and Mrs Jones had somehow found a place with the required number of bedrooms. I don’t have the patience.
Now, arriving from Palma, we were congratulating ourselves on being away from the marina and crowds, but not far away. There was a small beach. There were large trees offering shade. There was a quiet road and handsome villas facing the sea. It had to be one of those.
“Number nine!” one of the children cried. I left Monty with the kids in the car and rang the bell at the tall barred gate. There was no answer. I peered in. A 100ft-long drive led to a garage at the side of the house. To the left, partly obscured by hedges, was a sunlit raised terrace. To my surprise, the distant form of a woman in a bikini emerged from the swimming pool area; she made her unhurried way to the French windows facing on to the bay. Perhaps she was getting a robe. Had we caught the villa management taking a sneaky dip?
I turned to Monty and made a thumbs-up sign. He was leaning out of the side window of our rented car, mouth slightly agape. Nothing happened. I stood on tip-toe, but could only glimpse distant sun loungers and, surprisingly, a child.
I checked the number; I rang the bell again. A head and shoulders popped up behind a cut laurel. It was clearly a bloke, with naked shoulders, and his body language was clear.
A maid came out of a side door, stopped and looked at me warily. “We’ve come for the villa,” I shouted. “Do you speak English?”
She hesitated, went back inside and shut the door. Monty crossed the road. “I just spoke to Mrs Jones. This is definitely the right place.”
There were more heads now. An elderly man, in a polo shirt and slacks, appeared to be reassuring the maid at the door. He walked towards us and stood a few feet away but made no attempt to open the gate.
“I’m sorry to disturb you,” I said. “We’ve rented this villa for the week.”
He didn’t look shocked, just weary. “No,” he said. “I’m afraid you have been misled. It’s not for rent.”
There was a splash and the noise of laughter coming from the garden.
“You’ve been the victim of a fraud,” the man continued. “You are the third person calling here this week.”
Oddly, I didn’t disbelieve him for an instant. If he himself was a fraudster, he was a plausible one – and not unpleasant. He just wanted us to go away. We were a nuisance. Mugs. We had been defrauded.
But the place looked so good. We continued to stand there, feeling that his family might at least stop enjoying themselves quite so much. But clearly they were growing tired of having to explain the situation.
The police seemed a little tired too. They kept us waiting for a bit, then passed me a form to fill in. Regis, a Spanish friend who had been hoping for one of the rooms in the place, had come along to help me make my case.
“They know all about this,” he
Balearic bliss: how it was meant to be