Every year it was the same. The conversations would start at the Christmas table:
I could do with a wee holiday, you know…..
And our response would be to tell Dad to stop talking about it. That we hadn’t even gotten Christmas Day over. Or it was far too early in the year to start thinking about holidays. But our giving out did not deter him one bit.
Gerry came into his own on holiday. With a change of scene and a little rest it was like his people watching skills went up several notches. Often this started on the airplane.
On a particularly long journey in 2001, he was travelling with my Mum and sister to visit me in Sydney. It is a long and gruelling journey of two long haul flights. And most people try to drink it off or sleep it off or do a combination of both. But not Dad. His antennae were switched to on.
Everyone boarded the plane at Bangkok to endure a long flight to Australia together. With everyone settled in their seats, passengers began to check out the inflight entertainment to figure out how to use up some of the long boring hours ahead. From a few rows away, a ripple of noise began. ‘Bean’….’ah Bean’……’Bean’……..giggle……..’Bean’. What could this mean? And then Gerry twigged it! Even in South East Asia he realised that ‘Mr. Bean‘ had huge popularity. But ‘of course’, he thought to himself, ‘there is very little speaking in ‘Mr. Bean’ so it is very accessible for non English speaking audiences’.
For many years after this experience, Dad would randomly utter the words: ‘Bean……..ahhhhh Bean’. This could happen in the car, the living room or even out in restaurants. It ocasionally happened on the radio too.
Holiday buns, baking in the sun and no water thank you!
Gerry had a strict daily routine on holiday…….although I don’t think he realised it. It would usually be a late morning before he rose followed by a coffee and local pastry always referred to as a ‘bun’ whether that was a croissant, scone or slice of cake. Then he would relocate to the nearest beach or swimming pool to get as much sun as possible. Please note that even though he was often inches from water, he would rarely enter and actually get wet.
A light lunch would follow. Often it would be simple fayre like an omelette and chips on the side. It didn’t seem to matter to Dad that the chef may have prided himself on his carefully prepared menu of local dishes and delicacies.
The afternoon involved more sun bathing and a stack of books. But this abruptly ended at 4pm coinciding with the end of the local siesta. A bit of pottering around local shops would follow: linen shirt anyone? Before heading back to get spruced up for the evening entertainment.
The ‘P’ Place
Gerry’s favourite restaurant in one of his popular holiday haunts in Italy, forever to be called the ‘P’ place was run by a local couple in their 50’s/60’s. It was a rustic and charming place but the food was fresh and delicious. But one of the main reasons Dad loved going was to be treated badly by the host/waiter, who happened to be the owners son. A man who was absolutely fed up of demanding tourists and the fact that he was hitting his mid 30’s and stuck working for his parents!
Dad almost fell off his seat one evening when three particularly bubbly German girls landed in. After gruffly showing them to their table the son/waiter shouted ‘no’ and gestured rudely when they asked him to take a group photo.
The nights at The ‘P’ Place always ended with several shots of limoncello. We even made up a limoncello song. It’s funny how neither the limoncello or the limoncello song seemed to travel very well when we returned home.
But when I think of Dad and what his version of heaven or afterlife would be it’s the ‘P’ place that comes to mind. It truly was his ‘Dolce Vita’!