Friday, June 3, 2011

1975: You're in that city far away

When I was a 10-year-old, despite living not half an hour from the coast, abrorad seemed an awfully long way away. I was obsessed by flags, maps, anything to do with other countries. My dad would test me on the capitals of the world and there was nothing I enjoyed more than burying my head in an atlas for a day.

By this time I had been abroad only once: to Majorca in 1972, where we stayed the rather exotically named Bahia Del Este Hotel. This was the golden age of the package holiday and being the two-car, deep freeze, radiogram, family of the Seventies that we were we embraced it.

We went with another family and we all had a super time, but the photos are reminsicent of Carry On Abroad or any comedy set on a package holiday in the Seventies: Coach trips to glassblowing factories, donkeys ostensibly pulling families in carts but really just stopping to graze by the side of the road, barbecues on islands, sangria on boat trips, Mum and Dad dancing to Mamy Blue by Los Pop Tops. Even now I can hear middle-aged women getting over-excited and singing inebriated versions of Yi Yi Yippee Yippee Yi on the boat back from Formentore or whatever it was called.

In May of this year, we'd go back to Majorca, this time with Mum and Dad's racy American friends. But it would turn out to be a game of two halves with the Hotel Son Baulo in Cala Bona not proving to be up to scratch. My mother was horrified that people went down to dinner in curlers. Though it had a great private and empty beach, it was seemingly a bit of a hole, so we were transferred to somewhere far more exclusive in Alcudia. All I remember is lots of palm trees, that smell of drains and those sorbets that came in plastic oranges, the height of culinary sophistication when you're 10. And we did go and see Uncle Gilbert who was on holiday with his new paramour Irene in a hotel a few doors down. But they wanted to be alone.

So it was the year of the foreign song. When I hear this Wogan-endorsed favourite now - the last time being when Gilbert Becaud died, I think of the days when anything continental was seen as exotica of the most topline kind, when jetting off to Paris was a true adventure.

This song always has me fantasising that's it's 1975, and we've just touched down in Paris, it's raining, slightly chilly, but Paris looks great and we're en route to a wonderful hotel on the Left Bank. It's the hight of luxury and terribly exciting. That feeling should never leave you.


  1. Evocative and hilarious in equal measure.

    And I think we need to know more about Uncle Gilbert.

  2. Chris! You commented!

    Uncle Gilbert, Auntie Mary and Auntie Maggie all shared a house. That's another entry in itself!

  3. Fabulous post. I envy you those early experiences - I never got further than Ireland until my (then) boyfriend took me to Amsterdam for my 21st birthday present. It felt like the world had suddenly opened up around me.

    By contrast that song closes things back down to my Mum's kitchen on a Sunday morning, Two-Way Family Favourites playing in the background as the smell of cremated beef permeates the air. Not as bad as it sounds, honest.

    Can I also add my interest in Uncle Gilbert?

  4. I hope you don't think Gilbert Becaud was my uncle. Because the two couldn't be more different. It's like comparing Stanley Holloway with Sacha Distel.

    We will return to Uncle Gilbert.

  5. I pledge to comment on every single entry from now on. I know it matters to you.

  6. Sounds very similar to our first visit to see Johnny Foreigner on his home soil. Two words spring to mind: chirpy (x2) and cheep (also x2).