You see it was Thomas Cook who helped me to leave these shores, for my first holiday abroad as a young adult, way back in 1980. It was a very, very exciting time for me and I remember it well.
Now just to set the record straight, we did have some holidays when we were children and on two occasions these holidays actually involved flying, on an actual airplane! One time we even hired our own caravan. All to ourselves. For one whole week. (I remember going - ahem - 'apple gathering' with a new friend and getting caught!)
You see, our holidays in Ireland generally involved bunking in with cousins in their hired mobile home or Butlins chalet! They were fun times and the holidays that involved flying were to other family members in Dawlish, UK, where I once came second in a 'Hot Pants Competition'! Imagine, a 'Hot Pants Competition' - for children?!!
But I never went on a real holiday, like, to Spain or anywhere like that. It was unusual back then for families to be able to afford such luxurious holidays, to the far flung and terribly exotic Spanish Isles. Some of our relatives got to make those annual trips though, and how I cherished the little presents they'd bring us back. My favourite being the little Spanish basket/handbag thing, with a gathering of plastic fruit on top.
Anyway I am digressing I know, but I have to set the scene properly you see. You just simply have to understand how terribly exciting my very first holiday abroad was, all on my own!
Well, I may have traveled alone but I didn't actually holiday alone.
You see I had a very good friend growing up, here in Ireland. We were'besties' when I visited or stayed over with my granny, as she lived nearby with hers. We had great times for the few years that we were friends here; until such time as she and her family emigrated, that is. To a far-flung, distant land, far, far away - and waay more exotic than then any of the Spanish Isles could ever be.
A land so far away that only the people of Thomas Cook, Grafton St; Dublin could get you there.
We made a pact, my friend and I, before she departed. I was then about 13 or 14 (my son's age) and she was a little bit younger. I promised that when I got my first job I would save up and fly over to see her and her family, in their far away land.
My friend and family subsequently left Ireland. There was no Facebook, no twitter or no Bebo back then. There wasn't even Internet.
There were however lots of paper and pens, so we followed that age-old and almost forgotten tradition and became pen pals.
Thus we kept in contact and saw each other whenever they visited Ireland.
During all that time I never forgot my promise.
And then one day I grew up, left school and got a job. Soon after that I very promptly paid a tentative visit to the Thomas Cook office to inquire about how one would go about getting to this faraway land.... and how much it would cost. It cost a lot! But I'm a true blue, loyal friend who never reneges on a promise - especially if it involves visiting faraway exotic lands - so I opened my very first grown-up bank account and started saving from my weekly (IR) £39 wage.
They were really nice to me in Thomas Cook and before I knew it I had saved up enough money to pay off my holiday, and eventually I held the magic airline tickets in my hand, that would take me to see my friend on the beautiful, faraway and exotic island of ....... Bermuda!!
Imagine, me from a working class area in Dublin who had never been beyond Ireland - or Dawlish - going to ..... Bermuda!!
Oh, it was fabulous to see my friend and her family on this stunning island. To travel around and see it's beauty, to meet her friends, splash about in their pools and to spin about the island as a pillion passenger on her new moped!
It was a special holiday, that very first one of mine and I thank Thomas Cook for getting me there and for helping to create some very special memories.
Naturally I also thank my friend and her family for giving me such a wonderful first holiday.
These days we keep in touch via social media and have met up here, a couple of times over the years.
She still lives abroad, you see.
In a different far-flung, distant and exotic land.....