AS a bit of a news junkie, I’ve found myself having to ration my exposure to TV current affairs, Twitter and breaking news in all its exhausting forms in recent years. It’s too easy to feel overwhelmed by what you are reading on a daily basis.
I’m not saying we should bury our heads in the sand, but letting the doors of your psyche open to all the breaking information the technology companies wish to push on you in a bid for your attention is a recipe for an unhealthy mind.
I’ve found that deleting the apps off my phone and turning off notifications is a good start.
Generally, I know I can get everything I need by reading the newspapers and listening to the radio every weekend.
For me, it’s about being in control of what I allow to colour my day and it’s not good for me, or my young children, if I’ve got my head buried in a smartphone letting a Covid outbreak in Australia cause me completely unnecessary stress on a Tuesday morning.
Don’t get me wrong, keeping the phone at bay is a weekly struggle. I can Instagram my meals as good as the next fella. But I’m trying.
With stress being the root of so much ill-health in the modern world, you’d wonder if society will one day view somebody staring endlessly at their phone in public the same way we’ve come to view someone smoking a cigarette.
Luckily, I’ve had my head and my mind completely out of the headlines this past week because I’m on annual leave. The joy of lobbing on the Out Of Office was particularly sweet this year. And with the silly season in full swing in the world of politics – anyone remember #Merriongate? – I took the opportunity to tune out completely and live like it was 1990 for a short, blissful time.
It was a case of Staycation, Once Again this year as we’ve been lucky enough to spend another summer holiday at home in lovely West Cork in what is becoming an annual pilgrimage.
There was so much to do with the smallies, delighted to see their cousins and hang out with their grandparents, and the parents too, desperate for a bit of fresh air and respite after a year of juggling remote work, family life and watching West Cork-based true crime documentaries in the midst of a global pandemic.
And what a time we had.
We saw a Minke whale and a pod of dolphins off the Seven Heads on a whale watching trip. We hiked the Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve and took a dip in the Poolen by the waterfall.
We ate lunch in a converted filling station in Ballydehob.
One dreary afternoon, in a surprising alternative to Disneyland, the kids spent two hours happily observing the mullets swimming around in Rosscarbery Bay.
We had the finest food and wine in Timoleague, in a charming light-speckled courtyard – the closest thing we’ll get to Electric Picnic this year.
We spent many a morning on the beach in Red Strand, Ardfield, the beach I spent many childhood summers on, this time creating childhood memories with my own kids.
Of course, there was no food truck firing out crepes back in my day – there’s a positively Australian vibe around many of our beaches this year and we were damn glad of it the day we forgot the sambos.
And there was only the occasional trip to the toy shop in Clon, for peacekeeping reasons of course, when the rain got the better of us and walls were being climbed. And I didn’t even mention Fota Island, Barleycove, Drombeg Stone Circle, Three Castle Head, a pint in the drizzle in Crookhaven … It’s fair to say we covered more ground than Wally the Walrus.
It struck me how unambitious we had become over the years when it came to holidaying at home.
You get into well-worn routines. Familiarity dulls the imagination in many ways. You automatically default to the ‘holidays = sun’ equation.
But once you start to treat your own home place like a holiday destination, once you plan an itinerary and do a bit of online exploring to see what’s on offer, then I honestly don’t know why you’d be racking up the air miles to go anywhere else.
Of course, you can always use the weather as an excuse, but we found that there’s nothing a raincoat and a change of clothes can’t withstand.
And there has been plenty of commentary about the eye-watering prices of accommodation, but we were lucky enough to have a homeplace to base ourselves, which is free of charge as long as you are willing to empty the dishwasher and cook the odd barbecue.
The big question for Ireland’s tourism industry, though, is whether it can hold on to this new market, which has been captive these last few summers, but may soon start getting itchy feet once international travel gets back to normal.
Will we all be gagging to get back to the cheap sun holidays of old?
Or can our local product become competitive enough to keep us home a bit more?
I mean, if it’s good enough for Wally the Walrus ...!