THE ANNUAL Summer holiday in the sun, is hurtling towards us with comet-like speed. We'll be organising soon, in the way that we must, when five people travel abroad. Online check-ins, baggage allowance, liquids carried in zip-lock bags. All to make the journey through the airport slightly less awful. The mere thought of it is exhausting.
In a fit of nostalgia, I recall travelling to my favourite holiday destination as a child. For many years, my family and my uncle's family would rent half of a wonderful old farmhouse in West Cork for two weeks during the Summer. Two families sharing kept the price down and there was ample room in the grand Georgian pile. A story for another day.
The journey was always an adventure. And one which took us the whole day.
The thought of anyone spending a full day now travelling from Dublin to Cork, (we would leave Dublin around seven in the morning and arrive at 'teatime' in Cork) is laughable. But in the mid 1970s, there were no motorways in Ireland. There was one 'dual carriageway' between Dublin and Cork, but it's unlikely that our ancient Hillman Avenger would ever have managed the upper speed limit.
The two cars would travel one behind the other, chugging through every little town in every county along the route. With six young children between the families, ice-cream breaks and toilet stops were essential. Little treats made the day special: we'd stop to buy comics and puzzle books. I still remember the name of the new Enid Blyton book my aunt bought me one year. I had read it by the time we reached Cork.
We would refuel midday at an old-fashioned hotel, where each year we were sure we were remembered. In a formal dining room, the ten of us would sit at a long table. Bacon and cabbage with new boiled potatoes. Jelly and ice-cream for dessert. The excitement building steadily. We were half-way there.
We'd scramble back into our old cars, we children kneeling on the back seats, watching as the hotel disappeared from view. Not only were baby or child seats unheard of, there were no rear seatbelts. And very often none in the front. Babies travelled in carry cots, whilst older siblings squashed up to make room, or sat on a parent's lap.
Nor did we worry about travelling lightly. My mother would spend hours packing the car boot (trunk) with clothes, washable nappies, bedding, home baked goodies and everything needed for long days on an Irish beach, including a gigantic plastic canopy that could be held over everyone during those summer showers. Anything that would not fit in the boot, was stowed at our feet.
Despite the squash, we frequently pulled over to help hitchhikers part of their way. Bearded youths and girls in cheesecloth skirts, smelling of weed and henna, would squeeze gratefully in, rucksacks and guitars laid across laps. We would listen, wide-eyed, to stories of music festivals and hostels and hiking around 'the Continent'. More exotic than any fairytale.
The smell of slurry hailed the journey's end. Dublin-born, suburban-bred children squealing and holding our noses, but laughing with the sheer joy of being at the farm once more. Impatient now, as the two cars wound their way slowly up the dirt track towards the farmyard at the back of the house.
I have made beautiful, wonderful journeys during my childhood, as a teenager, a college student and with my own husband and children.
But those journeys to Cork will always be my favourite.
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