One of the things that I’ve realised during this exercise is that my 20’s seem directionless compared to the goals of my previous two decades. Looking back at them I don’t see this internally in my mind’s eye. I suppose the fact that I was generally searching for a purpose through my job and the world around me ensured I didn’t see it as hedonism. I was frantically gathering material possessions as a way of constructing an identity. If you look at my stereo, my CD collection, my collection of books, they are all disproportionately represented by this era. I wasn’t married, wasn’t running marathons and didn’t own an house so I needed something to focus my male goal oriented energies on. This something happened to be my career.
Which until 1997 was stuck in the hard shoulder with two flat tyres. Around May of 1997 my boat came in and I scored the job that would jump start my career. This job thought me (career wise) that by hanging around big expensive stuff you will eventually get promoted even if you are a total dud. In my case I wasn’t a dud…….I swear. In 1997 got a job working for Aer Rianta – The people running the main airports in Ireland – building taxiways, apron stands and widening and resurfacing runways.
Now, here’s a secret for you – runways are like long flat roads so the technology behind them is of the 1940’s vintage. This means that they’re pretty easy to build but if you get it wrong it can be a bit of a problem. Potholes don’t work.
I learned one other valuable lesson working in the airport – something you might have spotted passing through any big airport – it is basically a giant shopping centre with the distraction of loud planes outside the window. I swear that if given a choice between replacing a bulb in the duty-free cigarettes zone or on the runway touch down zone they would seriously have to think about it.
I also learned that airports (back in 1997) were a total knocking shop. There is a hierarchy of young ladies in the airport building. At the bottom are the cleaners, followed by the canteen staff, above these are the servisair (ryanair check in) girls, these are followed by the duty free check out girls and then above these are the ryan air hostesses and then the aer lingus ground staff. The top dogs are the aer lingus air hostesses. Sad really, but back then flying was still a bit glamorous.
Anyway, the other big events in 1997 were my ‘road trip’ on my motorbike. I had the overwhelming urge to go somewhere on the bike so I loaded her up and headed to the ferry. After a night of sleeping in a ploughed field in a storm outside Calais (me in one furrow, the puddle of rain in the next furrow) I cracked on to Hamburg. I didn’t know how long it would take to get from Calais to Hamburg or even how long it would take. Don’t forget we are living in an era of no satnav and all you had was a map on the tank bag (or lifted off the tank by the wind and strapped to the chest). Anyway, on a 600cc motorbike it takes a whole day to get to Hamburg and it is over 500 miles from Calais. I got to Hamburg and spent the next 3 or 4 days nursing my sore ass and wondering what was the shortest route back to Cork. I eventually jumped on a ferry to Harwich and from there I made it back to Pembroke and finally home to Cork. It would be a few more years before I’d try something this dumb again.
My summer holiday this year was the complete polar opposite of Greek island hopping. We spent 2 weeks burning to a crisp in Puerto Del Carmen in Lanzarote, eating steak in Lanis and drinking in Routa66. The only thing that struck me from that holiday was the view from some of Caesar Manrique’s structures. It was nice but didn’t hold a candle to the Greek islands so it would be nearly a decade before I’d come back again.
The stand out event of 1997 (for me) was the final fall of the Tory government in the UK. I know it isn’t my government but as our nearest neighbour I had lived in the shadow of the tories since I was 8 years old. I was now 26 and finally the British public had seen sense (after a false start in ’92) and had elected a young leader. I know that the prism of all that passed in the last 10 years or so may have coloured your opinion of El Tone but back then it was all Brit Pop and Things can only get better.
Also, I didn’t live there so my joy was a purely vicarious emotion.