I will be posting one or two essays about the changes Ireland has gone through since I first came to live here, and want here to drew attention to the tremendous changes that have happened to our holidays, be they just a day out, or six weeks on the continent. My daughter’s experience makes the point. At one time I had a motor home, we could get up and go off whenever we wished, stop in a lay-by and spend the night – certainly not the world, but Europe was our oyster. Last summer my daughter travelled no more than 40 miles, they parked in a public car park, went for a meal, and her partner who wasn’t feeling well, went to bed while she took the dog for a walk. It was late in evening but being summer, still daylight. Something awakened him to find that young men were not only trying to smash the motor home, they were proposing to set light to it, with him inside. Fortunately someone came at that time and he had no need to face the thugs on his own, they ran off. We are told we live in a free country, but parents fear for their children, adults have to be on the qui vive, even young children are stabbed, and the elderly are beaten in their own homes.
We live a couple of miles from the seashore, and we find now that people no longer seem to regularly take their children to the beach to make sand castles, and play as we did, and my children did after me. I’m not sure if it’s because they worry about the quality of the water, or because they spend holidays doing those things in the hot, sunny climes abroad. I was a married student, our holidays consisted of days spent on beaches, using public transport and returning home every night. There were times when the holiday beaches in Ireland were packed, the seaside towns full of holidaymakers, and people enjoying simple pleasures and contented to do so. We didn’t look for haut cuisine, we had never heard of it, the food in the boarding houses and small hotels that most of us frequented, was akin to what we had at home. There is no shadow of doubt that with grants, the quality of the bed and breakfast sector has improved out of all recognition, and is generally value for money, in my day it was Hobson’s choice. I think one of the reasons the people no longer go to places like Hastings, the old Victorian resort, is partly to do with public transport. When it was plentiful, and relatively cheap, it was nice and relaxing to climb into a train with a suitcase or rucksack and head for a seaside resort. That was basically the choice, we went where the transport dictated. In the 60s and after, when the aristocracy were opening their houses and offering entertainment as well, the car came into its own
Now there is another influence, which is yet to be evaluated. That is the effect of security, and the possible increase in air flight taxation, the cancellations, the lack of refunds and all the other ills and frustrations that could well bring the holidaymaker back to Britain. If climate change also has an effect that could well be the case. The one thing is certain, in my day you had to find out that the water was clean or not, which it generally was. Now Big Brother is putting out flags to frighten us off, because our water usage, both in quantity and method, has outstripped the infrastructure. Advertising, TV and the tourist boards tend to give emphasis to the obvious resorts, like the Lake District, or Killarney. Thus as a result in the high season they are so crowded that you often can’t find a place to park within walking distance of one of the renowned views. Not all of us though are able to go off-season. This phenomenon of pockets of crowds is another which the car has introduced since about the 70s.
I don’t call myself an old gaffer for nothing, I yap on about the past mainly because today is so stressful for the young people growing up with their young families. We had time to potter, put on hiking boots, take a rucksack, take a train and go and stay in a glorified hovel for a long weekend and climb mountains, or walk along the coast, without a care in the world. No parking problems, inexpensive and no pressure. So it wasn’t too hygienic, I’m no worse for it! People today can afford so much more than we could have, at the same time in our lives, but I just wonder if the things that they are spending money on are making them any happier or is it giving added pressures, through decisions, increased financial worries, and even socially.