WHEN I was ten years old I was brought on one of the two childhood holidays we ever had. On what seemed the hottest day of 1981, my brother, aged nine, and I were packed into the back of a yellow Opel Manta on a boiling August day. My baby brother, aged one, sat on the mother’s knee in the front seat and we headed for Kerry.
We stopped twice for lemonade. Well, actually, me and the brother had bottles of red lemonade shared between us. The driver, my father, had a few pints of the Black and my mother glasses of Harp lager and lime. On one pit stop we had bags of Tayto and on the other stop we had salad sandwiches.
They were simpler days. Salad sandwiches did not involve a choice of bread or filling. A superfood was something that tasted gorgeous. The disgusting but seemingly unstoppable quinoa was never heard of. Fresh white sliced pan was filled with tomato, cucumber, lettuce and onion mixed with salad cream.
If it was a posh establishment, the mixture would involve boiled egg and, if even posher, it was topped with ham. All of it was fresh and utterly delicious. And if you didn’t like any of it you just picked it out and someone else put it in their sandwich.
After hours and hours of driving down through the country we arrived in Heaven – a working farmhouse bed and breakfast at the edge of the world, with swallows and bats flying through the evening light.
There are no photos of that farmhouse holiday at Banna Strand. Cameras were different then. If there was a camera at all the rolls of film were used, lost, found, brought to a chemist months later and developed. There was inevitably a few on the 24-image roll lost to fingers, thumbs and the earliest of selfies – the ones when we got hold of the camera and took blind photos of the tops of our head. Fish pouts then were for goldfish impersonations. Or maybe that was just our house. It contrasts so much with today, when photos are taken on mobile phones and immediately purveyed, then shared or deleted.
But the thing that hasn’t changed is the Heaven that is Kerry. Last week we went with our two youngest and experienced the majesty of the Kingdom. The Ivearagh Peninsula makes you sigh as you turn every beautiful corner. The pub food at water’s edge in Cahirsiveen looking out to the sea. The awesomeness of the Slea Head drive, which even on a rainy, foggy day gives you perspective and renewal in life and love.
Towards the end of our five-day trip we stopped at Wine Strand, just around the corner from where St Brendan set off on his journey of discovery. Despite the rain and fog, the deep turquoise of the sea and the gold of the sand shouted at us to pull on our togs and jump in. It is possibly the only place in the world that could do that. And as we splashed into the freezing Atlantic, laughing and shouting, I felt my soul restored with a deep thanks for the blessings I now have.
The rose-tinted memories of my holiday as a ten-year-old now replaced by the whole-hearted and never taken-for-granted joy of the present.