Minorca - the fury, jealousy, desire and aspiration
HOLIDAY DISASTERS:When HILARY FANNINwas a child, Minorca was a byword for sun and luxury - the reality had her dreaming of cosy Clogherhead
I NEVER WENT anywhere as a child. Well, that’s not quite true: sometimes we got the bus to the hole-in-the-wall beach and shivered underneath our cardigans until it was time to go home.
And, to be fair, once a year my mother brought me to Kerry to visit her aunt, where we would play hour after hour of beggar-my-neighbour between bouts of shivering under our cardigans on westerly-wind-scoured beaches. And my own aunt once brought me on a caravan holiday to Clogherhead, Co Louth, where we shivered with abandon under layers of cardigans and ate scrambled egg on toast between yet more bouts of beggar-my-neighbour.
It was okay though; nobody else on my road went anywhere either. And I’d actually been on an aircraft. My father was friends with a pilot, so I’d walked down the strip-lit aisle between rows of empty, expectant seats, swivelled at the rear-door exit and walked all the way back up again. But the bird was stationary, and when the tour was over we got off and went home to our immovable suburb.
Then I made a friend who lived in a big house by the sea, and whose father drove a car that smelled like a shoe shop. We were playing with her Cindy dolls when she told me that she was going to Minorca the following morning. I nearly fell off her window seat. Minorca is soooo unspoilt, she told me, whereas Majorca had gone to the dogs and was literally crumbling under hordes of tourists and – horror of horrors – was even starting to serve full English breakfasts in the harbour cafes.
Can you believe it? “Full English breakfasts in the harbour cafes!” I scoffed, twisting Cindy’s spindly leg around in her hip socket till she yelped. “Who needs it?”
Minorca, Minorca, Minorca – the name resonated. It became a harbour for fury and jealousy and desire and aspiration.
Around 30 years later I finally made it there. I was deeply tired: there had been bereavement followed by birth – the way these things often seem to happen – and sleep was a vaguely remembered country. Late, disorganised and desperate for a holiday, I packed bottles, formula, nappies and bibs into a bag the size of a principality, while my angry five-year-old took everything back out again, figuring that if we left his recently acquired baby brother at home, with a bit of luck he mightn’t be here when we got back.
The flight was heaving. Somehow a chunky Kit-Kat emanating from our row hit a bald man a couple of seats ahead. I didn’t think fist-chewing little babies had that kind of aim, but the five-year-old was impressed.
That longed-for blast of heat when you step out of the plane was ominously absent. I could smell rain, but denial, as they say, is not just a river. The passport officials were wearing fleece jackets; the woman at the information desk pulled her cardigan tighter as I inquired about transport. By the time we were on the right bus, delicate rain had started to decorate the window panes.
The apartment was functional. Two rings. Thin shower. Graceless bed. Pillows like hardback books. There was a balcony with a plastic table and chairs. Looking down, we could see little duck-shaped rockers to play on, and a red plastic slide; rainbow-coloured beach balls scuttled across the choppy surface of the pool’s water. The five-year-old found his swimsuit under the 28 babygros and the dozens of nappies, and, with the violent optimism of his age, led the charge down the newly cemented stairs. I didn’t bother with sunscreen; the sky could barely stay upright with the weight of cloud.