Bill Linnane: 'If you happen to end up at the same holiday resort as us this year, my sincere apologies in advance'
We have decided to go on a holiday. Not one of those non-holiday staycations when you decamp to a rental cottage in Ballydepression so you can see what rain looks like in a different county, but a real, proper holiday involving air travel, unbroken sunshine and massive expense.
Last year's worryingly good summer shows that we can't just categorise overseas trips as sun holidays anymore - there were many days last July and August when I had to leave a stony Irish beach because it was too hot. This was because I am now at an age where I can't take the sun in any quantity any more. God be with the days when I would lie out like an iguana, roasting my flesh until it was bright red. Naturally, the price I paid for my relaxed approach to suncream is that I now look like an actual iguana, leathery, immobile and dead-eyed. And yet, here we are, planning a family trip poolside, spending thousands of euro so we can shout at each other in a different country.
My first sun holiday was a fun-packed family pilgrimage to Medjugorje, where instead of waterslides and kids clubs, we had three masses a day, snakes in every bush, and people encouraging others to stare directly into the sun. Perhaps this is why I generally find trips overseas to be a little disappointing; just as the faithful flocked to Medjugorje in search of a miracle, we trek off to Costa Del Affordable thinking that this is going to be that great absolution of all our woes, to tip the scales of the work-life balance more towards the latter.
After our last family trip abroad eight years ago, we opted out of the annual trip overseas. I say 'opted out', but we just couldn't afford it. I'm not even sure we can afford it this year, but this is our one chance to drag all four children away with us before the Leaving Cert cycle consumes our lives, and before our children get to the age when they wouldn't cross the road in our company, not to mind cross the Pyrenees.
So we are in the research phase of booking a holiday, which means we are loudly arguing about almost every detail. My criteria are simple - somewhere cheap, clean and with a healthy smattering of other people with feral children, and fewer tutting silver-haired continentals who were apparently born into this world as twenty-something sophisticates who never screamed their way through a meal.
Obviously, it goes without saying that there needs to be a kids' club because the most important part of any overseas holiday is the ability to hand your children over to complete strangers for much of the day. Where do they go? Who knows. Who are they with? Some random 21-year-old polyglot who appears to work six different jobs in a single 18-hour shift in the hotel. What time will the kids be back? Hopefully much, much later, allowing me to keep suitably hydrated with crisps and lager tops by the paddling pool, keeping one unblinking reptilian eye on the smallies in case they faceplant into the inch of water, as it is mostly urine and they will need a rinse if it gets in their hair or eyes.
For me, holidays are all about the build-up - the planning, the excitement, the unrealistic expectations - and the aftermath - the photos, the duty free, the sun-ripened memories of how great it was. I look back on old photos of holidays and remember them as being far better than they were. Holidays are about an idea, rather than a reality - a desk-bound daydream of parrot shows, cocktails and heavily accented cabaret that soothes your soul. Still, this year we are going to chuck a few grand away on mobilising our oversized clan as one. I know that not too far into our future, it will just be the two of us, sitting silently in a beachside restaurant, watching the sun set. There will be time for stillness, and just us, but until then, we will endeavour to keep our kids relatively quiet in whatever brutalist concrete box we end up in.
So if you do happen to end up at the same resort as us this year, my sincere apologies in advance.