I’m not a high maintenance girl. Honest. My make up bag consists of four items; foundation, Bourjois eyeshadow (which doubles as an eyebag concealer) eyeliner and mascara. My wardrobe fits on two rails and four drawers and a few piles on the floor of the spare room. I don’t need to get my hair blow dried every week, or my nails done every fortnight. I don’t care about owning a designer anything, and although I won’t say no to a bit of luxury, I don’t actively seek it.
So camping on a Sicilian beach is excellent, right? A grand idea? Full of japes and merriment? Perfect for someone like me?
No way man. No way.
If you don’t already know, I’m half Sicilian. My family came over to England in the fifties, leaving only my aunty (who married a crazy Sicilian man) and my nonni’s brothers and sisters. The ones with thick Sicilian arms from years of making their own passata, and strong Sicilian legs from years of the midnight after-dinner walk/gossip. These people are made of strong stuff, having weathered the war – Sicily was a strategical gem, thought the Nazis and the Brits – poverty, earthquakes that reduced their simple stone villages to rubble, and the loss of the young who leave as soon as they can for the bright lights of Milan or Rome.
Every year from age one to age seventeen mum, dad, Lou and me would pack our blue Austin Montego and make the journey from Cambridgeshire to Sicily for six or seven long weeks. See what I mean about low maintenance? You don’t know discomfort until you’ve sat in a car for a week cross-legged because dad wants to bring home four vats of olive oil. For reals.
When I left school and started work the long, blissful, carefree holidays stopped, and I chose other destinations in place of Sicily. Thailand. Gran Canaria. Africa. Europe. Asia. Sicily fell by the wayside because who wants to spend all their time in one place? It was just a gorgeous memory full of laughter and sun-kissed hours playing in the surf.
Anyway. Fast forward about five years. It must have been 2007(ish). My now-ex and I wanted to visit my aunty, who thankfully kept her house out there after nonna decided to sell hers.
We flew out, meeting my sister and aunty after a day or so. They’d already been out there for a week and had made loads of awesome plans.
One of which was to go camping on the beach. I wasn’t convinced.
“Oh go on Laus,” my sister pleased. “It’s the one night of the year we can!”
Now, Sicilian beaches are hit and miss. There’s no sleeping on them, and no fires. Usually. The west coast is battered by the wind and currents that squeeze through the gap between Spain and Morocco so the water is always cooler and full of medusa (jellyfish that give off a wicked – if harmless – sting). Better beaches are found on Castellammare del Golfo, or south by Ericlea Minoa. We were headed to Triscina, on the south coast. It was the one night of the year a beach booze up was allowed.
The night started well. We ate at home with the family, packed the car with a two-person-who-am-I-kidding-it-barely-fits-a-child tent, my aunty’s duvet and started the short drive. It was a huge group of us, including aunty, uncle, their three kids, me, the ex, my sister and extended family I’m not 100% sure are even related.
The party was in full swing, with loudspeakers blaring cheeky Italian pop tunes, and barbecues sizzling with steak bought from the butcher that day. At first it was fun. We played beach games, had a swim and a right larf.
Getting to midnight, there was no sign this was going to end. An hour later and it was still raving. I tried to sleep, but the tent was so small and two of my cousins had decided to sleep with us. It was crowded. The scorching sun had made me sleepy and all I wanted was a few hours of rest. EVERYONE else was flat out, but there I was, Italian music from the last 2000s filling my ears. It’s not good guys.
I gave up and tried sleeping in the car. The bass thundered through the cheap plastic, vibrating with ever WUAMP-WUAMP-WUAMP. I felt like I was losing my mind. Now I know why sleep deprivation is such an effective form of torture. But why? Why were they torturing me? Wasn’t my family supposed to CARE?
After what seemed like hours, I gave up. I begged my aunty for the keys to their house, kicked the kids out of the tent and dragged the ex out of his slumber. I then demanded he drive us home, whereby I fully collapsed in the air conditioned heat and comfort of a good bed and no noise.
The next day my sister returned and laughed at my diva-like behaviour. I took the jeering well. Though they did pay me back by waking me up with a glassful of water the next morning.
Writing this back I can completely see how snobbish I looked. But what can I say? I just love my sleep.