Ann Allan: Holidays, Not For Me.


So where did you go for your holidays? Much asked question at this time of year, especially on a visit to the hairdressers.  Well I don’t actually like holidays so I didn’t go anywhere, I answer. Shock horror. I might as well have said I hate puppies.


Why I hear you ask do you not like holidays?  Well maybe not. But I’ll tell you anyway.  Where do I start? Probably the fact that I’ve had many disasters. And then there is the fact that I don’t like flying. ( I’m ok with boats provided its a short journey). Where do you get a suitable climate if you are fair skinned like me, and I’m being kind to myself with that description, cause I’m actually pasty white.   Go somewhere like Spain where the temperature can reach 33 degrees and you are asking for trouble. Which is exactly what I did some years ago and the result was disastrous. What was I thinking?

After driving from Belfast to Girona  ( I did mention I don’t like flying) we booked into what was supposed to be our base for the next few weeks.  A house had been rented for us by a friend in Spain. Either the friend didn’t like us, and wasn’t really our friend, or he didn’t actually have a look at it. Enough to say it was well below my expectations. So I did what any woman in my position would do. I threw a tantrum.  I cried and I blamed the hubby. I point blank refused to stay in Casa Twadell. ( only NI readers will get that reference).  After negotiation with the management we got an upgrade and for a while I was content. That was until the temperature reached 40 degrees. As a result of the high temperatures, forest fires broke out in the hills nearby. We awoke, well rather we got up the next morning (there was no air conditioning so sleep was nigh impossible) to find the car covered in ash.  It was drifting in from the forest fires and although the smell of wood burning in Autumn is pleasant, it’s not what you want on a holiday in Spain. It smelt more like Belfast on the 11th night. So we were now risking suffering from lack of air and being burnt out of our holiday home.

It couldn’t get any worse.  Don’t bet on it?  After a lovely meal in the nearby Santa Christina d’Aro, I began to feel a tightening in my joints. They had become noticeably red but I put it down to sunburn and rubbed in cooling cream. The next morning I awoke to find I was wearing a pair of inflated rubber gloves.  What you may ask?  It was only when I had a proper look I realised that both hands had swollen so badly that they looked like inflated rubber gloves. Panic set in. We set off looking for a doctor, hubby pretending all was ok, but actually imagining how he would cope in a foreign country with the wife in hospital.

The first doctor we were directed to was a doctor in private practice.  He charged 25 pesetas to tell me I needed a steroid injection.  My nervousness at having an injection paid off.  I told him I would come and have it the next day if it didn’t get any better.  Came out of his surgery turned the corner and found a walk-in clinic that accepted our E111.  As a further sign this was a place I could trust, the doctor was a Dr Allen and she was Scottish. After diagnosing a severe case of urticaria or nettle rash as it’s commonly called, she gave me an injection. She also gave me a valium to slow my heart rate. To hubby’s relief the valium knocked me out for a couple of hours and I woke up drooling but with some of the tightness in my hands gone. However all the blood vessels had burst and should a part have been available in Dr Who, I was your woman. Wouldn’t have needed make up at all. When I want to scare the grandkids I show them the pictures. Eating with cutlery was well out of the question for the next few days and while dining out I really felt I should have been ringing a bell and shouting unclean.

We somehow managed to get through the next few days without any drama until the night before we were returning home. Remember, we had driven here. I woke up with a tummy bug and all that goes with that distressing condition.  I won’t go into details as many of you have been there. Suffice to say that while on route to Calais, I made a call at every service station between Girona and Bourg-en -Bresse.  Now if you know the geography of France you will be saying to yourself ‘thon’s a funny route to take to Calais’. It was you see pre sat nav days. As a result of me moaning and groaning in the back, the big son misread the map and we ended up 80 kilometres to the East, heading for the Italian border. However that was one of the better parts of the holiday. We booked into a beautifully quaint hotel, and watched an exhilarating thunderstorm from the comfort of our rooms.You will be glad to hear if you stayed with me this long, that we arrived home safely, marriage still intact.

So enjoy your foreign holidays. I’m content to stay at home and potter in my garden. I might have a couple of breaks at the beautiful Mount Juliet in Kilkenny but haven’t had the courage to do that for a while and now with Covid it’s probably on the back burner. And if the weather’s fine, well, that’s a bonus.

Being Mindful of Success by Áine McGrath

Often I find myself thinking in depth about modern living and the effect it has on the human psyche. I’ve written about it extensively in my journals for several years now, exploring the symptoms and reflecting on the effects of constructed social norms that have corrupted basic human happiness. We live in a high octane, fast-paced world that’s fuelled by stress generated by fickle man-made standards that equate to smoke and mirrors. “Success” is defined in monetary and material terms – but if we take a bit of time to examine what’s really going on we can see that “success” in the modern world is something very different indeed.

Where is the success in having a career that demands all of our time, leaving us with no room to enjoy quality moments with the people with whom we feel real and completely at ease? Is there really success in a job that brings nothing but deadlines, isolation and stress into our lives? Do our demands for “rights”, accountability and retribution become obstacles to our own peace of mind? Are our priorities all wrong?

It pays dividends to take a little bit of time out of every day for the purpose of lone reflection. Sitting still, listening to the sounds that are going on around us, feeling the sensations in our body as we sit quietly and allow our minds to gently settle brings a certain sense of perspective into our chaotic lives. Some people call these windows of reflection “meditation”. It should come naturally to us, but we’ve become so conditioned by socially
constructed chaos that this most natural of human phenomena has become almost impossible for us to access. With that in mind, I’m inclined to believe that true success in life is remaining spiritually and emotionally healthy in a world where our buttons are being pushed 24/7. Breaking the mould and nurturing our own uniqueness has become the exception rather than the rule – and it requires self-awareness and spiritual awakening of the kind that can only be rooted in true inner calmness. It’s difficult to achieve that when we’re constantly surrounded by other people and the majority of our time is taken up with worldly “obligations”. Making time to practice mindfulness at some point in our day helps us to filter out all the background noise, the chaos and the unnecessary demands of modern living with the result that we find a sense of perspective on the world we live in – and how to survive within it. It’s a lifeskill that’s definitely worth having. 🙂