Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Last of the Parental Holidays

Everyone loves a family holiday.  Or at least the beginning of one.  Or potentially the concept of one.  Everyone loves a holiday, and doesn’t family just spice things up a little?

The FamilyPainefull never fails to keep things interesting.

This will make more sense shortly

But within that broad church that is the gathering together of every available relation to drink, and dance, and drink, and eat, and drink, there’re some niche groupings.  There’s the Family Holiday Gathering, where no one goes anywhere exotic, they just converge on someone’s home and start indiscriminately breaking things and fighting over bedding.  There’s the Resort Family Crashing, where everyone does go somewhere exotic to work on their cancer-baiting sunburn and non-existent surfing skills, and 1 in 3 members decide what they really need is to do something stupidly drastic to their hair.  And let’s not forget the Family Road Trip – 1 hour renditions of The Song That Never Ends, a gradual tour of Australia’s ‘Big’ things and (on very special trips) a dog vomiting in the back of the car.

I don't remember road trips looking like this

After the recent return of Mother and Father Painefull from a trip to Vanuatu with two of their grandkids, I was reminded of another niche category that will always be very close to my heart – the Parental Holiday.  The Parental Holiday comes with a Used By Date, it only really occurs during the era when your age leads to discounted prices, or your poverty leads to pity invitations.  It’s just you, your parents and the deep blue sea.

With no one else to dilute the situation, all the potentially awkward encounters one could hope for are amplified.  Then squared.  Then made even more entertaining.  As with everything in life, I have a personal top 3 for the purpose of illustration:

3. Backpacking through New Zealand
It was 1997.  I was too young and mum was too mature to fully understand what backpacking really actually meant.  It meant bunk beds with strangers, people smoking pot out the back, and mum (as the only licensed person in the building, and proud driver of a rental vehicle) being begged for lifts by the kind of individuals that probably spent their spare time attending beat poetry revivals.  To be fair, it only took one hostel for mum to get the drift – we booked into B&B’s for the rest of the jaunt.

2. Lindeman Island Club Med
2003.  There was sun, surf, activities… and compulsory communal meals with everyone staying at the resort on enforced group tables.  Fortunately, as a sullen teenager who had only just tipped over the 18 mark, I wasn’t too picky with my wines.  I overcame my daily hangovers by taking up archery.  Because at Club Med holding a weapon just makes things feel better.  Sample Highlight: Instead of befriending the only other teen my age, she actually became my resort-based nemesis.  I don’t know why.

1. Croatia
In 2007 I fully appreciated just how cool my parents are.  I think you need to be old enough to see them as more than just purveyors of authority, punishment and snacks to understand that they really do know how to have fun.  When Mother and Father Painefull caught up with me during my wandering year in the northern hemisphere they were flexible, adventurous and hilarious (sometimes even on purpose).  Sample Moment: Mum spent a great deal of time discussing and negotiating over 2 glass paintings of roosters with a local man in Rovinj.  Except his English was limited and the conversation went along the lines of:

Mother Painefull: These are lovely – are paintings of roosters quite common around here?
Man: (brief quizzical look) Ah yes, the cock.  The cock is very common.
MP: There seems to be quite a range…
Man: Yes, the cock comes in many sizes and colours.  Sometimes it’s red, sometimes orange, sometimes there are 2 cocks.  The cock is very popular.
MP: I want one for me, and I wanted to get one for my daughter, perhaps a smaller one?
Man: We have many sizes.  Lots of cocks.  Here’s a nice one.  Would you like a larger one?

I don’t feel like I really have to say anything else on the subject.

Painefull Out

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