Down and Out in London and Ibiza (or how I moved from London to Ibiza in the 90s to escape London cost of living and witnessed Ibiza become an outpost of London).
When I moved to Ibiza in 1995, I’d been living in London for 16 years. I grew up in Stoke-on-Trent and left home at 18 to go down to London to do a modelling course at the Lucy Clayton School of Modelling and Grooming and, after a short time modelling in the North of England, I moved to London (Camden Town) and worked as a showroom and exhibition model in the West End.
As a young woman, London was an exciting and fashionable place. It was the 80s and I went regularly to the Blitz club where I met Steve Strange and Rusty Egan. I discovered Kraftwerk and indulged my passion for dressing up in vintage fashion and an eclectic mix of breeches and frilly blouses which was the New Romantic look. I was in the club at the same time as Oliver Reed and , although I don’t remember seeing David Bowie, I knew he visited regularly and I just wish now I had met him then. I learned how to ballroom dance and even taught it for a while. Studying dance led me to work in Japan as a show girl in a cabaret-theatre.
Looking back now, on the young woman I was then, I see creativity, talent and versatility, but something was definitely missing, even then, something in my make up, my take on life was not in line with the status quo and the majority and I constantly felt out of step with everyone else.
Manumission was debuting in Ibiza the year I moved there and I met Mike, Claire, Andy and Dawn and was offered the chance to perform at the parties of the second season in ‘96. Naturally, I said yes. What looked like a promising start working as a singer in the White Isle didn’t really evolve and deliver as I felt it should have. It’s easy with hindsight to look back and see the mistakes one has made, but there was a larger problem which I had no notion of until recently.
London of course, is one of the most expensive, if not THE most expensive city in the world. It was always a struggle to survive there although there were some years when I worked as a stewardess for British Airways that I earned more than I spent and was able to experience life without debt.
When I left London in ‘95, there had been many years of a conservative government and New Labour had styled themselves as a Labour version of the Conservatives; something which appealed to the generations of people who had been raised in an environment of “compete to survive” and “look after number one”. Young people, especially, had been entirely conditioned by TV advertising, something which didn’t happen when I was a child, because TV was still in its infancy.
Spain, on the other hand, had the peseta and there were lots of them to the pound. It was warm and sunny (low heating bills!) and I had been on holiday to Ibiza and loved the old town, the beaches and the vibe in Ibiza town with its street cafes and boutiques.
What should have been an easy lifestyle (you could rent a house for about £185) quickly changed as Ibiza seemed to try and catch up with London and simply become an outpost of London. The island experienced a massive upswing in popularity as the clubs handed their premises over to promoters and all the Cool Britannia Blairite generations flocked to the island to claim their little piece of paradise. If only I’d known how to cash in then on being part of the avant-grade by going there first! When the euro came in, well, that was truly it, no going back, no sense of artistic refuge with low rents and low cost of living. I was never able to catch up and just got more and more into debt, the irony of which was not lost on me considering the reason I left London was to avoid running up any debt!
It’s only now though, back in the UK once again, after 21 years of living in Spain, that I have discovered the real reason I was never able to overcome those challenges of living in London and Ibiza and making a success out of my talents. I suffer from a terrible disadvantage in what is called Executive Function because I now realise I’m on the autistic spectrum. This basically means that no matter how talented, gifted and intelligent a person is they simply have little or no ability to organise and market their talents. My own brand of ASD or Aspergers, as it’s also known, means I quickly get overwhelmed with any multi-step process. Pushing myself constantly to deal with the daily challenges of life and making a living results in regular burnout, chronic fatigue and can, in certain circumstances cause me to meltdown or shutdown completely. I also have PDA – Pathological Demand Avoidance – and although I am still awaiting “official” diagnosis on all of this, it won’t really make a great deal of difference to me, so convinced am I having informed myself that this is what life has dealt for me to cope with.
And so, it’s time to reflect and that is why this is called Down and Out in London and Ibiza. Looking back and knowing what I know now, I had no chance to become a success no matter what I did or didn’t do. So it’s a case of salvaging what I have achieved and building on it, just because, and dealing with the disadvantaged life challenge I now fully own with the hope to engage more with others who may support me, even help me. To fully engage with the “real” me and express my strengths while seeking support with my weaknesses.
In the early 90s I chose and adopted the name Shamanka Phoenix. I feel I’ve grown into the Shamanka part of the name (a female shaman) and now it’s time to let the Phoenix rise from the ashes and soar up into a better place. The place I was always meant to inhabit.
I do hope my story might help others who discover they are on the spectrum as an adult and are, perhaps, wondering what exactly to do with this knowledge….it’s not the end of the road, it’s only the beginning…..