My summer holidays as a child were spent in a cottage in Blackwater village near Wexford. We used to spend a lot of time on a farm opposite, helping out or hiding in the haybarn or diving in haystacks.
I remember the trip to Wexford was a big deal. We’d have to stop halfway in a hotel for tea and sandwiches because the journey from Dublin was such a long way, which is hilarious now because you’d do it in the blink of an eye. We used to bring cousins or friends with us and spend a lot of time on Curracloe Beach, which is stunning, although I don’t remember the weather ever being any good. I remember always being cold.
We used to hang around with the local kids. There was a little gaming place in the village, with funfair-type games like those money machines where you’d insert a 2p coin and it would push some 2p coins out. There might have been a foosball table. It was pretty basic.
There was one movie every week played in the local church hall. That was very exciting. That was the highlight of the week, a big outing. We’d bring our own sweets. There was a sweet shop in the village with those big glass bottles with apple drops, pear drops, bullseyes. You’d get one for half a penny or a penny. They were good value.
I used to go to France for most of my teenage years because I’d a really good friend who was French who used to come here for six weeks and I’d go there for six weeks.
We used to go to the Pyrenees. It was a mountain area, very healthy. Lots of hiking up mountains. There was an ice-skating rink in the town nearby which was amazing. It was quite exotic at the time. It was really outdoorsy, lots of tennis, swimming in rivers.
The weather was always gorgeous. I remember getting sunburnt a lot. I was kind of a novelty because it was a tiny village so that was quite nice — to be different for a change. I certainly wasn’t a novelty at home. Sinéad O’Connor had come out at the time so that helped — everyone was able to pronounce my name. The only thing anybody — or French teenagers — knew about Ireland in the 1980s was Sinéad O’Connor, U2 and the IRA.
My friends back home were mostly interested to know if there were any cute French guys — that was really the question I got asked every summer. There weren’t many. It was slim pickings. It was a very small village. The population was the problem. It was lack of quantity. There was one or two [stolen kisses].
During my three summers in university I went to Spain, back to France, and America. America was the big wow for us. We went to Newport, Rhode Island. A big gang of us in the house. There was such a can-do feeling about the place. It was such great fun. Plenty of jobs. I was surprised that everybody wanted to be Irish. I thought that was really odd. At the time as a teenager you think being Irish is very uncool.
I’m just back from West Cork — a week in Castletownshend. We meet up there every summer with a friend of mine who rents a house. She comes over from England with her kids. It’s a beautiful part of the world. Lots of walking, the beach, the kids do some sailing. The scenery is breath-taking.
Then on the way back we did a weekend in Center Parcs in Longford. For families it’s brilliant. I was really impressed because those built-for-entertainment places wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice but it really works.
- In conversation with Richard Fitzpatrick