“Marky how nice to see you after such long time,” said my auntie as she enveloped me in a warm hug. And it had been a long time, eleven years to be precise. Here they were in Dubrovnik for the first time along with my mum, a family gathering. “Oh, you look well and we hear you are keeping very busy,” she added with a kiss. “Marky, I hope you aren’t too busy though and that you are eating and looking after yourself,” came the next comment as if she were talking to a ten-year-old boy.
I guess that I will always be a ten-year-old boy to her. So a week of sightseeing, meeting friends, eating out, visiting beaches and general being a good host began. And it seemed that every time we had time to chat, over a meal, with a coffee or just enjoying a nice view, stories and anecdotes of my childhood would star to flow. As embarrassing as it was at the start, and believe me I was left a little red-faced at times, I then began to enjoy remembering those distant times.
“I remember Marky dancing on the table with those horrible red trousers on, he was giggly and wiggling to rock and roll, in fact he was rocking so much that he fell off and burst into tears,” smiled my aunt. “He always thought he was a great dancer,” she added shaking her legs as I once had. It also appears that I had bladder problems as a child, because many of the stories ended with me peeing myself, either through laughing too much or forgetting I needed to go. I only hope they were talking about when I was really young and not in my teens.
I was on a trip down memory lane, and was enjoying the ride. At the same time I was showing them the delights of Dubrovnik, a combination of my “old life” and “new life.” Lamb under the bell in Konavle, cheese from oil, fish and seafood straight from the Adriatic, traditional home cooked meals (thanks to my wife) and lots of local wines…in fact one of the first phrases they picked up was “Posip Cara molim.” And once again the little things that I now take for granted living here were a shock, positive shock, for my aunt and uncle. The safety, the sunshine, the warm seas, the bad driving, the loud speaking, the cruise ship queues, the parking, and the ease of life…they took it all in the stride. Coffee on the Stradun was a big event for them, they soon got used to the people watching part of life, to see and be seen.
In fact by the end of the week they were running into people that they had meet before, I ever heard my aunt wave “adio” to one of my friends. I hadn’t taken her long to fit in; she had even started saying “fala” instead of “hvala.” Another two weeks and I have a feeling my aunt would have been fluent. It was nice being surrounded by family again; it’s been a long time. They say you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family, it’s true, but I wouldn’t have chosen a different family to the one I have. “I remember when Marky had his first girlfriend,” said my uncle. My wife’s ears pricked up, I waited for the embarrassment. “He just used to walk around with this stupid grin on his face…although he was only 12 years old,” added my uncle with his usual touch of sarcasm. We even had a picnic on the beach one day, another interesting experience.
We decided to order some cocktails. “Have you ever tried Sex on the Beach,” my wife asked my mother. Of course she meant the cocktail but by the look on my mother’s face she had understood something else. “No, of course not Boba!” answered my mother. “Oh, I have I was great,” shouted my sunbathing aunt. It was getting confused now. “Do you want me to order you one Margaret,” my wife asked my aunt. “One what…” came the reply. “Sex on the Beach,” said my wife. Then a scream of laughter filled the air. “I didn’t know you were talking about the cocktail,” giggled my aunt. Then in a dry tone my uncle added “Who did you have sex on the beach with then…” Another scream of laughter, the rest of the people on the beach must have thought we were mad, we didn’t care.
George Bernard Shaw might have written one of the most recognizable quotes about Dubrovnik of all time but he also had some wise words about families. “A happy family is but an earlier heaven,” well said Mr Shaw.