Sunday, 7 July 2013
Greece, without the kids
We realized we’d landed in Greece when we were denied egress from the plane for 15 minutes; the captain informed us that the ground-staff at Preveza Airport had fetched steps that were too short to reach the exit door. Five minutes after our release, the comatosed Greek passport-control man beckoned us through with a waft of his hand.
I love Greece. The standard of amenities might be inferior to the rest of Europe, it has the efficiency of an unlagged water boiler, the local wines taste like cat’s piss, and its sewage system is so feeble that you can’t flush paper down the toilet but have to plop it into a pedal-bin (not great when you’ve had the Mythos and Mousakka combination the night before). But none of this matters. The pace of life is soothingly slow and the Greek people ooze a warmth that is only surpassed by the unrelenting rays of the Mediterranean sun.
Mrs Jones and I had holidayed in Greece five times before, but this was the first time without our two children, who are both now young adults. As we journeyed on the coach to our hotel, we relished the prospect of the freedom to do whatever we wanted, liberated from the constraints of supervising our offspring.
“At last we can truly relax on our sun-beds without constantly checking whether the kids are drowning in the pool,” Mrs Jones said, as she rested her head on my shoulder.”
“Yeah,” I said, “no more worries about their play upsetting our fellow holiday-makers.”
“No more having to drag the kids away from their new friends each evening to come and dine with us in a restaurant,” said Mrs Jones.
“And then having to endure their faces, resembling smacked arses, across the table as they sulked and moaned all night,” I said. Yes this was going to be a fantastic, adults only, flop-and –drop holiday.
But then I started to see things. In the restaurant on the second night of the holiday, my gaze was drawn to a family at the neighbouring table with a baseball-capped son who looked disturbingly similar to a 9-year-old version of Ryan, my first-born. While on the beach the next day, I spotted a 5-year-old blonde girl, in her first bikini, scuttling out of the sea and excitedly asking her father if she could have an ice-cream – how many times had my own daughter, Becca, extracted Euros from her doting dad for the same purpose?
Reminders of what I had lost recurred throughout the holiday: kids asking for chicken-nuggets in the local tavernas; kids looking miserable at the meal table at being denied time from their play to engage in something as tedious as eating with their parents; over-tired kids howling in the sunset, sleep-deprived and cranky; and kids perched on their fathers’ shoulders meandering through the resort.
Although we enjoyed our Greek, adults-only, fortnight, Mrs Jones and I repeatedly engaged in watery-eyed reminiscence about previous holidays with our son and daughter. I realize now that we were mourning the ending of this most vibrant phase of family life, the chapter entitled, “taking our children on vacation.”
On a lighter note, throughput our stay in Greece I was told that my physical appearance strongly resembled a senior Greek politician named Romilos Kedikoglou. Given the current economic crisis ravaging the country, I feared for my well-being, but I was reassured that I would be at no risk of a sniper’s bullet as long as I stayed away from Athens. When I spotted Romilus on Greek television it was like looking in a mirror. I have since discovered that that he is 73 years old, almost 20 years my senior. Either he is wearing very well, or I am decrepit; I fear it is the latter.