By Marguerite Hogg
I am one of six kids. Mum and Dad had the four older ones (my eldest brother, twin brothers and my older sisters) in fairly quick succession in the early 1960s, then left a bit of a gap before I arrived at the end of 1970 and then thought I’d be lonely so then had my younger sister less than 18 months later. Growing up in a big family was noisy, squashed, competitive, supportive and joyful in fairly equal measure.
With effectively 2 families – my older sister was 16 and working when I was 9 years old – meant that we never holidayed all together when I was a kid. In fact, given that Dad spent most of the late 1970s and 80s in and out of work, we didn’t have many holidays full-stop. Summer holidays were spent with my younger sis, out all day building dens or on our bikes.
As we’ve got older our family has expanded as my siblings and I have met partners, got married, divorced, remarried, had kids, some of those kids start getting married…. We’ve lost a few along the way – Dad died, a niece has decided to cut off all contact with her mother and the rest of the family etc… However, our ‘extended’ family (Mum, her kids, their partners and her grandkids and their partners) now numbers 26!
This has led to some fairly big family get-togethers. We have an annual one before Christmas every year where we meet up for a meal. But more recently, there have been a few mini holidays usually linked to a family activity. The last one (this isn’t morbid – it’s very Irish Catholic though…) was last year when we took my Uncle Tom’s ashes back to Dublin to be buried alongside his parents (my grandparents). We booked a long weekend in Dublin. The only sibling not to go was my older sister but the rest of us did. Two of my brothers and I didn’t take our spouses (mine had already booked to go to the gig of the year in Leeds), but I took my son with us. As an only child, my son loves these family get-togethers!
The weekend didn’t start well, as I went to get my nails done a few hours before we were due at Leeds Bradford Airport and I caught my thumb in a faulty chair joint as I went to sit down at the salon, taking a chunk of thumb with it. Cue – lots of blood, tears and bandages…. With son in tow, I met my elderly Mum at Leeds Bradford Airport to have our tea (dinner for the Southerners) which was poor quality and overpriced and then the flight was delayed, meaning lots of texts and calls to other siblings flying to Dublin from other UK airports and all supposed to be arriving there at the same time! By the time we finally arrived in Dublin and at our weekend holiday let we were all tired and grumpy. Mum and my son went off to bed and the twin boys (still call them boys when they’re 55!), my younger sis, her husband and I headed to the local pub for Guinness, live music and the craik! We quickly dissolved into the silliness of our youth.
The weekend continued in this vein. One of the twins used to take great delight in taking a teaspoon that had been stirring a hot cup of tea and placing it on one of our bare arms and thought he’d try it again – the sod! There was also the Father Ted moment, where my oldest brother and the other twin were outside trying to empty Uncle Tom’s ashes from the container used for travel into the urn that would be buried – cue more hilarity when a gust of wind took some of Uncle Tom off into the suburbs of Dublin and the rest of us sat looking out of the window laughing at them!
There were also the niggles, though. Like trying to get to a recommended pub, outside of Dublin, on the Sunday night and the sat nav not working and taking us to an abandoned airfield in the middle of nowhere when I desperately needed a wee – cue my brothers making water/wee jokes and me shouting at them to ‘shut the f*** up’!
I got back home and enjoyed the peace and quiet in our house after the reminder of what a noisy, manic family I grew up with.
The irony is that I both dread it and miss it in equal measure. What’s that all about?!
So now, I’m packing again.
My niece gets married to her Spanish fiancé in an open-air wedding just outside Madrid next week. Everyone is going! On our flight there will be at least 8 of the 26 of us and the rest are arriving the day before us. There have been the usual shenanigans about what flights everyone was booking, which hotel or should they book an AirB’n’B. How will Mum cope with the heat and what’s everyone wearing for an outdoor wedding in 34-degree heat?!
No doubt there will be some dramas along the way. My brother’s recent wedding weekend included my mother being taken to hospital after a fall at the evening reception (she wasn’t drunk) and me having to escort my older sister to bed (she was drunk). I’m sure Spain will survive after our lot have been there for a few days. Will I?!