rEd X Was Here

Fun In The Sun

By Mike O’Connor

One of the few joys of winter is the legitimacy it lends to fantasies of summer holidays for if the cold winds blow, warm days must surely follow

When I was at school, the year pivoted around the Christmas holidays. As I trundled home from the tram stop, westerly winds whipping at my grey serge pants, I was sustained by visions of Greenmount’s white-bleached beaches and long, rolling surf.

My parents organised the annual holiday to the coast – all I had to do was get out of bed and dressed on the appointed day and jump in the car.

At the time I failed to fully appreciate what an excellent system it was but decades of organising holidays which have ranged in disaster terms between eight and nine on a scale of 10 have left me yearning fondly for that golden time.

I am a font of advice when it comes to holidaying. If, for example, you want your joyous beach escape to get off to a particularly shaky start, turn up at your Gold Coast holiday unit a day early. The early bird may get the worm but the early holidaymaker doesn’t get the key, mainly because someone else is still sleeping in his holiday-bed-to-be.

You are then faced with the options of going back home and coming back the next day which is not really an option at all or finding somewhere ruinously expensive at peak holiday time where you can spend the night.

You may be able to convince your partner that you’re not really an idiot and that the letting agents made the mistake. I couldn’t.

If you really want to ingratiate yourself with your loved ones, you could convince them that a cruise would be the best option, stilling their concerns of seasickness by assuring them that at the time of the year you are planning their holiday, the weather is always perfect.

These assurances return to haunt you as your daughter and (then) wife spend four days rolling between the bed and the toilet bowl as the ship corkscrews through a gale.

The captain said it was unseasonal and my (then) wife said I was a moron, both judgments possessing a degree of veracity.

Any holiday which requires you to drive for more than 200km should be avoided unless you and your partner have a relationship which has been forged and blessed in Heaven.

I once organized just such a bonding, family road trip. I remember checking the trip meter and noting that we had covered all of 65km when the first whine of complaint was heard.

BY the time we had covered 100km, with another four days of joyous sightseeing and exploring to go, the whine had escalated into a cacophony.

“There’s no shops’’, they wailed. “That’s because we’re enjoying the rugged coastal scenery and breathtaking wonders of nature’’ I said.

“We want to go home’’ they chorused. No stranger to defeat, I abandoned our itinerary, set course for the nearest large population centre and its attendant shopping malls where we stayed until we could catch a flight home.

Undeterred, I organised a holiday into the tropical splendour of Australia’s north, as part of which we were to experience the primeval wonders of rainforest and river.

One such outing took place at dusk. The mosquitoes were the size of sparrows and the boat smaller than I had been led to believe while the large, bearded gentleman conducting the tour could have easily been described as colorful.

He was dressed casually – shorts and singlet – was covered in hair and did not appear to have bathed for several months. Either that or there was something dead in the boat.

When the tour mercifully ended and we returned to our departure point, the jetty was nowhere to be seen. “It’s over there’’ he said pointing to a distant light. “The tide’s out.’’

“How do we get there?’’ I asked. “You walk. I’ll carry ya missus’’ he said.

Having spent the last two hours observing the luminous eyes of crocodiles lurking in the river, a stroll through the mangroves held little appeal.

It’s not easy to sprint through a knee deep swamp but I managed it. We were both covered in the mud when we finally made the shore, my (then) wife also being liberally sprinkled with tufts of what may well have been human hair.

“You’ll laugh about this one day” I said she bundled up the clothes she’d been wearing and threw them in the bin, but she never did.

Then there was the time we went to New York and I took it upon myself to book the accommodation.

The room had a sweeping view of a brick wall and there was a hole in the bathroom floor where the toilet should have been.

I complained and we were shifted to another room. Ten minutes later, I was again downstairs at the reception desk. “There’s a smashed toilet in the bathtub and no running water’’ I said.

“Renovations’’ said the clerk. “I see’’ I said before I started to scream.

As the weeks roll by and the days begin to lengthen I feel the familiar stirrings within, those that warn of the impending holiday season.

Should you succumb to these yearnings, remember to take your passport to the airport. Should you forget to do so and be forced to take a taxi home to collect it, make sure you don’t leave your house keys in your suitcase at the airport.

Not that anyone would ever be that stupid.