Jonathan O’Sullivan says he would rather a take a relaxing trip to Cork than go on another gay package holiday.
Like most children of the 80s, my summer holidays from school never resulted in an actual holiday. I would spend June and July cooped up in the house, pestering my mother, declaring my boredom with life and waiting impatiently for kids TV to start. The closest I ever came to leaving the country was drifting slightly too far from the shore on a lilo in Ballybunion when I was eight.
It’s strange to think that a childhood starved of international travel would lead me to choose home over abroad when it came to planning my annual holiday this year. In typical twentysomething fashion, leaving the planning to the last minute led me to choose Cork over New York. Besides, if Cork’s good enough for Kimye, it’ll do me just fine. Back in the day, a major drawback of being at home for the summer holidays was that we lived in the countryside, in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do.
Two decades later and that drawback has become its biggest appeal. It’s one of the few places where I’m safe in the knowledge that the limited options will force me to actually relax as opposed to the likes of a gay package holiday. The last time I went to Gran Canaria, I came home a cripple. That trip confirmed what I always suspected – I am not a fan of the gay ghetto holiday. I don’t see the appeal of getting a gay massage on a gay beach, drinking a gay cocktail while listening to gay music, before going out to a gay restaurant and then a gay bar, and then a gay club, and then not having any gay sleep for a whole week.
Having said that, I do admit I was slightly tempted this year, but then a photo appeared in my Facebook feed of a gaggle of Irish gays standing outside the Yumbo Centre in Playa del Ingles, hungover, sunburnt and looking as if River Island threw up on them. It was a sharp reminder that all is not as the brochure might have it.
Meanwhile, back in Playa del Cork, both of my parents have recently retired from the rat race. The week’s holidays I ended up spending at home with them gave me a delightful flavour of the life of the retiree, and I can confirm it’s every bit as amazing as you might imagine. My parents have the freedom to do what they want when they want, coupled with the wisdom and physical limitations that stop them from taking the piss. When I bring up how nice it seems, Mom is quick to remind me that most of my generation will live to be 100 and there’ll be no such thing as retirement by the time I reach 70, never mind 65. She’s a laugh a minute, my mother.
Retirement envy aside, the week at home allowed me to process a lot of what happened in the 12 months previous moving to a new country, getting a new job, making new friends and still not having a boyfriend. It has also consisted of intermittent napping, magazine reading, photograph rifling, trashy television and eating bits of pizza I found down the back of the couch.
As much as it irks my mother to be in a kitchen, she’s a phenomenal cook. What’s her secret? Putting as much butter or sugar into a meal as it will allow, of course! I cannot get over the dinners. Proper dinners dinners I wouldn’t have the time or the inclination to make. Dinners with potatoes and gravy. (Who bothers with potatoes anymore? Who has time to make gravy?) Meals aside, I enjoy nothing more than hanging out with her because we’re so alike. Alright, there’s 30 years between us and she’s far nicer than me, but the more I find out about her, the more I feel like I know about myself, if that makes any sense. Spending quality time with my parents is done in that uniquely Irish way in each other’s company but not directly interacting with one another. I’ll be patrolling Facebook, Dad will be knee-deep in SudoKu and Mom will be melting butter into something while listening to the radio, all in the same room in absolute silence, until it’s broken with an idle remark. Like in most Irish families, heart-to-hearts are frowned upon. If you’re looking for a Brothers and Sisters style speech a la Sally Field, you’ve wandered into the wrong mother’s kitchen. But if I spend enough time lurking in my parents’ company I might get a story about how they met or nearly didnÕt meet, as was their case. Other common anecdotes feature how awful my siblings and I were to each other.
This week’s memory lane highlights included the Christmas we stapled my sister’s jumper to the wall (with her in it), using our dad’s staple gun; and when my brother, a then avid collector of magnets, stripped down all my electronic toys of their precious contents, leaving them useless to five year old me. I’ve held on to that one for sessions with my future therapist. Despite the increasing grey hair and wrinkles (mine not theirs), it’s reassuring to notice the same family dynamic that existed in the 80s is still true to form today, with little evidence of change.
Now that I’m a bit older, I realise how significant those anecdotes are and how important it is that they’re recounted every now and then, so I have some history as to why we are the way we are. Watching my parents become more encumbered with the difficulties of old age doesn’t make for comfortable viewing, reminding me that time is a commodity that’s constantly expiring. I flew back to London about four pounds heavier, revitalised and safe in the knowledge that it was a holiday well invested a feeling you’d never get from a week in the Yumbo Centre.
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