Lately my two children have been having the most interesting conversations about when we’re going to Italy, again. Their Aunt and Uncle happen to live in one of the most beautiful places we have been. They also have an Aunt and Uncle who live in Cavan, to visit them we simply get in the car and go at the drop of a hat. I’m beginning to think that they believe a trip to Gorizia is as simple once you get to Dublin airport! Listening to these seasoned travellers brought me back to my own travels as a child. Bettystown beach with the tent in the boot of the car was a regular Friday evening adventure, while Ireland was our oyster for longer trips. I didn’t set foot on a plane until I was in my twenties. We had many happy holidays travelling around various campsites in Ireland, car packed to bursting point. The only stipulation Mammy Byrne made was that there had to be a B & B nearby.Mammy Byrne wasn’t really a big fan of being at one with nature.
Dad went off to the Lebanon in 1981 and his tour of duty spanned the summer holidays. No camping adventures for my sister and I that summer. However, Mammy Byrne and our lovely Aunt had a surprise up their sleeves. Us lucky kids where being brought to the Isle of Man! On a ferry! The excitement was huge. Two adults, five kids and a small island, what could go wrong?
The ferry crossing passed without incident as far as I can remember. We arrived in the Isle of Man, found the B & B and got settled in. I suppose we should have sensed a bit of a problem when Mammy Byrne found a bingo hall equipped with those little bingo games that you put the money in a slot and slide across the little doors. We were all sat down in front of these contraptions and instructed to play. Adults and kids alike. The man who ran the joint had a huge box of aniseed sweets, I only have to smell aniseed to get flashbacks.
Entertainment for the week was sorted, for most of us anyway. One of my cousins decided that bingo wasn’t really his thing. I’m not sure if he managed to lose the rest of us or if he actually got lost but a massive search of ensued. The Mammies where frantic, I’m not sure if Mammy Byrne was more worried about the drastic reduction in her bingo playing time or the missing kid. We searched everywhere, retraced our steps from when we left the B & B that morning, called into all the arcades that we usually passed by on the way to the bingo hall searching for our missing link. Eventually Mammy Byrne stopped a policeman to ask him had he seen a dark haired boy about 12 years old.
I’ve never seen Mammy Byrne sprint so quickly before or since. Within minutes we were back at the B & B, Mammy Byrne threw the door open. There at the sink was our missing cousin. Us kids looked on in awe as he lifted his snorkelled covered face out of the water, turned and smiled. Mammy Byrne? She put her hand on the back of his head and dunked it back under the water! Telling him how he wouldn’t wonder off on her again, explaining how worried his mum and her had been. Asking him how he had managed to get back to the B & B. I always wondered how she expected him to answer!
We’re all grown up with kids of our own now; memories of the Isle of Man trip never fail to raise a laugh whenever the five of us get together. Surprisingly enough the lost child still visits Mammy Byrne, he even brings his own beautiful daughter with him. Mammy Byrne and my Aunt had presents for everyone from that trip. We’d won them all at bingo!