Summer holidays for us was going to Dublin because my mother’s family lived in East Wall, Dublin. The big treat was a trip to Bray, a seaside town. We were used to driving everywhere so once you got on the DART it was a big deal for us. It was like being transported to a different world.
When you’re eight or nine and you’re by the beach at this place with all these flashing lights – ‘Hurdy Gurdy’s,’ as my mother used to call them.
I have this image of her and my cousin just standing there holding coats, what seemed to be far too many coats for the number of children they had between them while we were inside feeding pennies and tuppences into machines, and basically getting high on sugar. We’d go out then and have fish’n’chips and ice-cream on the seafront.
If we were going to get in for a swim around where I’m from we’d go to Mullingar and we’d go to Lough Owel — which had diving boards — or Lough Ennell. If it was warm at all you’d get your bottle of 7Up and you’d put it in the lake wedged between rocks and that’s what would cool it. The lake was freezing.
I remember working in a window factory in Edenderry for a summer job in 1997. Every time I hear Eternal’s song ‘I Wanna Be the Only One’ I’m transported into a sweltering hot factory putting rubber into windows.
I was so bad, so unhandy with my hands in terms of chopping, measuring or assembling anything they just looked at me with sympathy and went, ‘Can you put rubber into windows?’ They put me into the part of the factory where I could do the least amount of damage.
It was great craic. They knew you were just there for the summer and were very pleasant to you, sometimes too pleasant.
You’d be chatting to somebody and wondering why is this person being so nice and you realised the reason they were keeping you chatting was because while one person was talking to you another person would try and glue your runners to the ground. I never got caught out but I saw it happen a few times. My father had warned me about being sent on hoax errands like: ‘Go and get some striped paint” or ‘a bubble for a spirit level’.
For summer holidays now, I’ve got it down to a fine art. If we’re only going for a short time, it has to be a direct flight and not where there’s too much of a time-zone change, and if it’s September the Mediterranean is still warm so we tend to go to Sorrento or Malta or somewhere like that, and just veg on a beach and switch off.
I’m saving a Jo Nesbo, and I love a bit of Michael Connelly, those good holiday reads. I save a Netflix box set as well. We went to Venice once and we listened to West Cork. I remember standing on an amazing bridge in Venice, taking in the sights but also listening to grizzly details from a true crime podcast. That’s where my head was at. It’s a bit of a weird dichotomy.
I used to be one of those people who went to a place and had to see everything, and do all the touristy things. Then you just put yourself under more pressure. ‘Let’s go on a hike. Oh, look, they used to have an island that was only for lepers, and it’s the oldest leper colony in Europe. Let’s go and see that in 40 degrees heat.’
Now it’s: ‘Let’s not go and see that. Let’s just sit here and look at pictures of that on the internet.’ I’ve kind of calmed down a bit.