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.

21 comments:

  1. We differentiate between family trips and vacations. The former includes children; the latter does not. We are currently on a family trip. I wish it was a vacation. Enjoy Greece.

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  2. Thanks for the clarification, Joe. It may be that when the opportunity for family trips is no longer available, you might start to long for them?

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  3. Being a recent empty-nester, I was basking in the glories of not having to worry about kids underfoot (not to mention being able to walk about the house in my underwear in the middle of the day without inducing nausea in anyone). Then, our kids and their friends attended our 4th of July picnic. I realized just how much fun it was to have youthful energy in the house again.
    But, my pants really chafed me.
    As far as Greece in the summer...? Nude beaches.
    'Nuff said.

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    1. I didn't spot much nudity on the beach I was on, apart from the hairy arse of a big German dude who was trying to remove his budgie-smugglers from behind his towel - and I don't think that counts.

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  4. Thanks for your generous comment.

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  5. Touching post.

    Funnily enough Greece is one of the few places in Europe I still haven't been to. My travels are usually to remote places like India, Vietnam and Australia. Must search closer to home!

    Hope your trip was rejuvenating and fun, even if it was "adults-only"!

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    1. I think Greece is a place you either love or hate; no in-betweens. I am in the former camp and would highly recommend it.

      I appreciate your interest and comments.

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    2. I LOVE Greece! I also love Grease. That was when Olivia Newton-John was still hot.

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  6. When I visit your blog, I have to be REAL careful I don't scroll too fast lest I get down to your previous post.
    You cheeky devil.

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    1. I've always been a bit of a bum, Al.

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  7. I absolutely love the way you write Bryan. I know exactly what you mean about going away without the kids and being struck with memories when you see families with small children and realising how quickly that time went. I'm not sure I'd like the idea of putting toilet paper in pedal bins though... eeeugh. Great post!

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    1. Thank you for your generous comments, Pinky.

      You're right; that phase of holidaying with the children passes very fast - blink, and it's gone. And, yes, the toilet- bin does take a bit of getting used to.

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  8. Awesome post, I'm tearing up. My kids are still in that little phase, but I can imagine the day I will be vacationing without them - it will be bittersweet. My husband and I did a lot of traveling before kids, but there is something special about experiencing a child's "firsts" on these trips, something beautiful. Even if they spend 80% of the time complaining. :-)

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  9. Yes, the annual family holiday generates a multitude of memories, which become more treasured the further we get away from them.

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  10. Oh do I understand. While I was traveling with them, I wished for "adult only" trips and now I miss them and take the grandchildren in their place. Just can't be happy.
    I'm betting Mr. Kedikoglou has aged well.

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    1. I've yet to reach the status of grand-parent, but I can recognize how one might have a re-run of those family holidays with the kids.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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  11. The grass is always greener isn't it? Great post. I bet your kids missed being there with you both!

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    1. I'm not sure about that, Pam. My 19-year-old daughter is currently partying in Tenerife, while my 22-year-old son is about to set off for Ibiza!

      Thanks, as always, for your interest.

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  12. As I "type," I am in Hilton Head, SC, on a "family trip" as Joe clarified in the first comment. Yesterday (Day 4), I thought I was going to lose my menopausal mind. The 2 BR villa has 3 TVs and ALL 3 were going! Husband had the BR, 13 y.o. had the other, and 15 & 17 y.o. had the living room TV going. I stayed out on the balcony as long as I could stand the noise from the pool and hot tub just below, and then retreated to my car in the dark parking lot. The street lamp allowed me to read. Funny, I reappeared an hour later and I doubt that anyone even cared that I was gone. Two of them probably didn't "know" I was missing.

    While I am blessed to be able to travel, there are moments when home is bliss. So you tell me that I'm going to miss this, huh?

    Thanks for the laughs! BTW, you should have posted a side by side of you and the 73 year old politician.

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    1. I sympathize, Anita. And don't get me wrong, there are great things about hassle-free holidays (sorry, vacations!) without the kids, but I suspect you will mourn their absence, at least on occasions.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your current predicament.

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