While everyone in Ireland is back to packing a case to go to Fuerteventura for a fortnight, Irish emigrants living in the Middle East are returning to their native soil for the summer to spend their holidays in Ballycotton, Ballyvaughan or Ballyhaunis.
Optimists deem this as being the perfect split in the year, winter in the sunny Middle East and summer in sunny Ireland, resulting in year-round picnics and a constant tan. Sounds good in theory but the reality is rather different. Firstly, whilst Doha is considered one of the hottest spots on earth (literally) the winters can be quite overcast and sandy. Although the temperatures don’t drop much below 20 degrees Celsius, the air can be uncomfortably dusty. There are a couple of weeks of glorious sunshine in March and April before the relentless heat descends during May and June leaving expat wives no choice but to return home in July in order for the kids to get a break from the intense heat and enjoy the fresh air in parks, zoos and playgrounds back in Ireland.
Then it gets tricky because while being back in Ireland is certainly a break from the heat, but the chance to spend a whole day outdoors without getting soaked to the skin is slim, actually less than slim, it’s highly unlikely given that we are experiencing one of wettest July’s on record, (my record).
Every year, through rose tinted glasses I book my flights and plan for my annual holidays, at home. I plan to bring the children to the seaside, zip wire parks, garden festivals, and pony shows to treat them to the kind of childhood summer memories I had, I plan to meet up with new and old friends, I plan to enjoy all the indigenous Irish food, Supermacs, China Palace, but the problem is I forget and continue to forget every year what summer in Ireland is really like.
Summer in Ireland with kids, is a groundhog day of soggy ham sandwiches and Taytos from the boot of the car in a carpark somewhere waiting for the ‘rain to pass’ or the alternative, its sixteen euros down the tubes in an indoor soft play area and it’s the sun beginning to shine just as you order a cappuccino as a treat to yourself. It’s the steam rising from the kids in 17 degree temperatures because of the high plastic quantity in their rain jackets. It’s the admission fee they charge adults in a pet farm as if I wanted to spend a day looking at the fat sheep, a malnourished goat and the dozen feral rabbits that often constitute a pet farm in Ireland.
Grocery shopping has become a full time job because you have to race hither and tither to shop around to save a euro on a tube of toothpaste here and a few cents of a packet of toilet rolls there. It’s paying the bill of 100 euro at the checkout but refusing on principal to pay twenty two cents for a plastic bag when you’ve left all your bag for life’s in the boot of the car. It’s the thirty euro you’ve spent on petrol when ‘shopping around’ to save 27 euros on the bill. It’s washing your jeans on a Monday and they’re still not dry by Friday.
It was tolerable a few years ago when everyone was staying but this year more people are staying clear of staycations and they’re going back to Spain and Portugal, and the real tragedy is that Irish expat wives now accustomed to living the high life in Dubai, the good life in Abu Dhabi or the easy life in Doha, are holidaying in Ireland and having to spend their summers washing, ironing, cleaning and mopping floors. No Portia on a Tuesday, no Grace on a Saturday and nobody else in the family cares on Anyday. Life doesn’t change for the kids and your husband has decided he’d rather sweat it out in Doha, in Ramadan, in 50 degree heat than spend rainy afternoons visiting aging relatives around Ireland shooting the breeze about the tragedy that is emigration.
Maybe next year it won’t be Ballydehob, Carrick-on-Shannon or Newmarket-on-Fergus, it’ll be back to Quinta de Lago like everyone else.