John Arnold: Tito wrecked our honeymoon, Covid wrecked our return trip!

In his weekly column John Arnold recalls honeymoon plans, cancellations and hopes of a return to Fuengirola
John Arnold: Tito wrecked our honeymoon, Covid wrecked our return trip!

HOTSPOT: John Arnold and his wife ended up honeymooning at Fuengirola when their holiday to Yugoslavia was cancelled by unrest

GROWING up, I don’t think I ever heard of a European leader called Josef Broz, but I knew who Tito was in Yugoslavia.

When we were planning our honeymoon in 1980 — that time a couple would make all the arrangements at least a year in advance— we never thought the bould, but by then just-deceased, Tito, could influence our romantic tryst.

Do they have the big holiday brochures any more, I wonder? Well we got the most of half a tonne of ’em that time — Sunbound, Aer Lingus, JWT, Sunway, Paradiso, Sunny Land and a heap of others.

Shure, nowadays a lot of couples have been away together all over the place — weekends away and foreign holidays too — but ‘twas so different back four decades ago.

I will admit that myself and the betrothed had been away together in London for a long weekend, in 1978, I think — but her parents and many other members of Bartlemy Macra na Feirme were also on that trip to Smithfield Show!

All things considered, we had a great time, but the coming home on the boat was woeful. It was December and a gale and a storm and three kinds of hurricanes buffeted the ship. I discovered about six different ways of having the vomiting sea-sickness on that trip — and that’s an awful experience, especially when you’ve nothing eaten. Anyway, any lustful longings in the lounge of the liner soon left me!

So, in 1980, we were really serious about the honeymoon planning — and the wedding too, of course — the following year... I mean they were both — wedding and honeymoon — in 1981, the two the same year!

We were novices when it came to honeymoons, a bit like our inexperience about weddings, but we both adopted the same maxim ‘there’s a first time for everything’ and also ‘there’s a place and a time for everything’.

After reading the holiday brochures for two months, we settled on Dubrovnik as the place and the time for everything we could ever want, think about, or even imagine in our wildest youthful exuberances.

It looked lovely, with heaps of old churches, castles, forts, cemeteries and fortifications for me to peruse for two whole weeks.

In fairness, the hotel we picked, The San Valentino — oh, to dream of it now — had a private beach and exotic things we had never heard of like spas, walk-in showers in the bedroom (and we reared on and in a bath every Saturday night), a Jacuzzi, hot tub and rooftop bacolereum.

I thought to myself, John, you’ll be culturally enriched when you come back to Bartlemy for the Hauling Home and herself will have a colour like the good mahogany sideboard.

But didn’t Marshall Tito die in the spring of 1980. As Eamonn Kelly might say, ‘things rested so’ for a few months but by the late summer, and we after paying the deposit to the hotel — the Milk Cheque from the Creamery for June it was — didn’t unrest and war and fighting break out?

You couldn’t blame Tito for he was dead, but then again ‘twas probably his fault as he’d made a lot of enemies during his 40 years at the top.

Anyway, as the ructions reacted with the resolute revolutionaries, our Dubrovnik dream disappeared into the Adriatic sunset.

Ye might be thinking, why is he delving into the intimate and intricate details of his honeymoon at this hour of his life? Well, I’ll tell ye now and it’s kinda strange. With a few Monday nights there now, I’ve been part of a Zooming group doing a course on the why and the wherefore of life and death and God and sin and the Holy Spirit and joy and happiness and a rake of other things too.

Now, the internet is bad with us, especially if the wind is from the east and if there’s showers coming down from the Galtees. So, there I was in a ‘break-out room’ (sounds like escaping from jail, I know), but it’s where the big crowd are divided down into smaller gangs of from three to five people and we chat and go through a few topics.

Well, last Monday night, a friend of mine, while she was in great form, felt she was a bit hot and bothered and she says: “It might be the menopause coming on.” Well, lads, I took a deep breath and shouted at the screen: “Eureka, that’s it, that’s how I feel too — a manonpause, Covid has made me, a man, pause and slow down and reflect backwards and forwards — if that’s possible.”

It was a kind of light-bulb moment — watt, you may ask? Whilst in this manonpausal epoch in my existence, the mind wanders back down memory lane — sure, with no Mass, mart, match or meeting to go to, there’s plenty time for delving into the past, especially if it takes me back to Fuengirola.

When Dubrovnik was ditched, we had to get all the sun holiday brochures back once more. They were piled so high on the kitchen table at home that Mam said they’d have to go ’cause they were blocking out the sunlight coming in the small window and the cactus was dying in the darkness.

“A traditional fishing village on the coast of Spain” was how the books described Fuengirola, and we went for it hook, line and sinker. General Franco was dead with six years so there was little fear of any late, late repercussions from his regime like Tito caused. It was heavenly, to be honest. One word of advice though, I’d give to strapping male honeymooners going to Spain or anywhere else — don’t wear your new wedding ring if you are going in the Bumpers.

On the beachfront in Fuengirola there were, and I suppose still are, permanent amusements — a bit like Perks of Youghal in the good old open air days. We went for a spin one night and didn’t my ring finger get caught in the metal steering wheel of the car, there’s a fine dent in the ring ever since!

We had a whale of a time, in actual fact I’d say whale was about the only fish I didn’t eat there — red mullet and blue shark, oysters, periwinkles, bass and sea-bass, swordfish and calamari, which is a grand name for the chewy, rubbery octopus!

It was summer time, we were young, our hormones were in harmony and of course we were in love also, which helped enormously. 

We walked miles and miles along the beach and all the little cobbled back streets. We discovered a tiny pastry shop, Lepanto, where they had tasty snacks with blueberries and strawberries and berries we never heard of.

We sinned big-time while we were there — most of the seven deadly sins but especially gluttony. Imagine, it was my first time seeing this thing called the buffet breakfast with no sign of a waiter!

One morning, on top of everything, else I had 12 fried eggs — admittedly they were quails eggs, but imagine eating a dozen eggs at one go on top of everything else.

One night, away over at the Malaga side, we found an ‘Eat As Much As You Can’ restaurant where, for the equivalent of an Irish tenner, you could eat whatever you like. We skipped the pastry shop the next day and headed for the spot we’d found the night before.

Did ye ever see cows after breaking into a heap of sugar beet? Well, we were like that — determined to get ‘value for money’, we ate the quarter sessions and then went back for more until we looked like two packed pups. It was celebration, followed by elation, followed by constipation!

The gaspacho — cold soup and paella, a kind of fishy omelette — tried ’em all once. Magical evenings in the hill town of Mijas with the Burro-Taxi (donkey rides), languid afternoons in Coin and Rondo — I thought, this is what life and marriage is all about, and we vowed one midnight to come back. It took us 25 years but we enjoyed it as much as the first time.

Now I’m a manonpause — I’d big plans to go back to Fuengirola this May but instead of this May it’s dismay... but what about it. Sure we have our memories and the ‘holiday snaps’ — older and wiser now but a bit slower, then again life is slower now — isn’t it just grand altogether.

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