Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What I did on my holidays (Part 1 - Ireland)

When we were thinking of going back to Europe over Christmas, many people over here were quick to point out that Christmas and New Year in São Paulo were actually quite nice. The place is gloriously hot and sunny but as so many people have left town, it's really very peaceful and quiet. So we stayed and had two wonderful weeks lazing around, going swimming at the club every day and doing a fair bit of socialising at the same time. It was lovely.

When we were thinking of going back to Europe over the winter almost everyone we spoke to told us we should go for longer. Because there is really nothing to recommend São Paulo in the winter. At least in Europe the cold, miserable bit has Christmas to keep you busy and give the holiday some sense of purpose. Here there's nothing. And worse, it's nothing in a cold city, in a cold concrete house designed to keep you cold whenever possible. Louvered windows that are fixed open and no central heating may seem like brilliant ideas when it's 35 degrees, but not when it's down to single figures. Honestly, when I was thinking about living in Brazil I never thought my most treasured possession was going to be a hot-water bottle.

As it was, we didn't spend that much time here after all and we've just arrived back from three weeks 'up north', divided pretty much evenly between England and Ireland so that both sets of grandparents could be given their dose of rarely-seen grandchildren. For now I'll just stick to Ireland and the England bit can wait till next week.

Home in Ireland is a lovely little seaside town called Bray, about ten miles down the coast from Dublin. To compare it to Rio de Janeiro is perhaps stretching things slightly, but it does possess a nice long beach and is surrounded by mountains. And it even has its own version of Corcovado.

Corcovado! - if you look really carefully.
It's called Bray Head, and climbing up to the cross on top is one of the things we always have to do each time we're home. It takes about forty-five minutes at David's pace and we made it with remarkably little complaining, hardly any stopping to rest along the way and a fair bit of pretending we were the Fellowship of the Ring on our way to Mordor. OK, that last bit was really just me imagining that the other parties of walkers we encountered along the way were really bands of roving orcs while Helen followed behind, possibly wishing I looked a bit more like Aragorn and less like Gandalf.

The other thing we always have to do whenever we're in Bray over the summer is visit the funfair that sets up along the seafront. And when I say visit, what I actually mean is visit every day, sometimes twice, and stay for as long as it takes for two budding adrenalin junkies to work their way through all the money I have in both pockets. Still, I was happy enough to pay the money just so long as I didn't have to share the rides.

David's bus I could probably cope with, but not this...

And certainly not this!

The mad, barefoot woman who seems to be having so much fun here is Aunty Rachel, "The Woman Without Fear". For some bizarre reason she appears to like this kind of thing and as far as I'm concerned, she can look after the kids whenever she wants - especially if it's going to involve hanging upside down fifty feet up in the air.

But mostly what Bray is about is family time. James and David now have nine cousins - all on Helen's side - and they got to spend time with eight of them during this trip. The ninth, little Georgiou, only arrived midway through the week and will have to wait until next year before he's subjected to the doting attentions of the boys from Brazil.

As for Helen, she spent a lovely ten days dividing her time between her parents and a huge stack of old books from her childhood, pausing only to indulge in her favourite hobby of grabbing any passing babies and threatening to gobble up their delicious chubby cheeks. I should perhaps point out that she only did this within the confines of the house, where such actions are both acceptable and commonplace and not, for example, while out shopping.

Shopping was also on the agenda of course and the poor state of Ireland's economy was a huge boon to Helen's wardrobe - I never realised there were so many small boutiques in what is, in effect, three streets-worth of shops but I'm sure she visited them all and certainly left one or two of them a little short on stock. As for me, I contented myself with several trips to the cashpoint and far too many trips to the sweetie shop at the end of the road. Having gone without English chocolate for longer than is good for me, I felt the need to remind myself of exactly what Cadbury's Caramels tasted like. And Minstrels. And Crunchies. And... well, you get the idea.

Sadly, ten days didn't seem like nearly enough time for all the stuff we wanted to do and all the people we wanted to see, but we did at least manage to convince some of the adventurous aunties and uncles to come and pay us a visit over here - although for some reason they all said they'd prefer to meet us in Rio rather than come over to São Paulo. I wonder why?

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