It is pretty scary to see just how quick time flies. What seems like only yesterday I was watching her first steps and her first gurgled words and now here she is a young lady. Sixteen years passed by in the blink of an eye.
Now, summer in the Thomas household is traditionally a busy affair, I’ve always said that we need a revolving door. Family and friends make a beeline for us and we always look forward to the next swing of the door. But last week we had a rather special guest. Well, not a guest at all, but my niece and her friend.
It was a historic trip for them as it was the first time they had gone on holiday without their parents. For ten days we were their surrogate parents.
I can’t really remember what it was like to be 16, although I am pretty sure I was shy and reserved, yes, I know I’ve changed. So we were digging deeply into our memory banks to think what teenagers would like to do. “I think I was chasing girls and getting drunk,” I said rather unhelpfully to my wife. She ignored my advice, thankfully.
The two school friends both come from the south-west of England, and area that we both know well after our walking adventure last year. “Should we go with them or let them find their own way around,” I questioned like the over-protective uncle. “They are sixteen, not six,” answered my wife. Again I was still thinking of my teenage years. It is hard to let go.
“Millie knows her way around so let her show Hannah,” she answered. It was true, my niece Millie has been to Dubrovnik on countless occasions, she remembers things that I have long forgotten. So the first day we watched as they both headed to the beach together. “Have you got a hat, sun cream and don’t forget to keep your mobile turned on,” I insisted.
Like any sixteen-year-old these three things were in one ear and out the other. It took my three days for Millie to finally buy a hat and then she only wore it twice!
Lesson no. one – teenagers are extremely forgetful. After a few days of beach life, we suggested “What about seeing the Old City?”
Lesson no. two – teenagers and history don’t mix. In fact, the only fun part was the boat ride there and the cable car ride. They even commented that there were far too many people in the city. Teenagers also are the greatest conservationists, we were usually restricted to answers of yes, no, or their favourite “I don’t know.” And what kept them both really, really silent was when a good-looking boy appeared. Luckily they both suntanned quickly so their obvious red faces were hidden under a tan. However, I was probably exactly the same at their age, I just can’t remember that far back.
They were however very well mannered, there were more “pleases” and “thank you” than I have heard for a long time. So being the “crazy” aunt and uncle we took it upon us to show them a good time. We went on day-trips, parasailing, and a whole host of summer activities.
My radio and TV were dominated by Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. I think the lyrics are engrained in my brain! Would I like to be 16 again? I think Rod Stewart summed it up when he sung “I wish that I knew what I know how when I was younger.” I’d only like to turn back the clock if I had all the knowledge and experience I have now. But life doesn’t work like that. They both have their whole lives ahead of them. And judging from the time we spent together I am sure they’ll be just fine. Maybe some of the advice and tips we gave them, along with the jokes, will stay with them.
And I am pretty sure that the whole experience of travelling on their own will be a massive plus. Travel is the best education. Travel as much as you can and as often as you can. We laughed, we laughed a lot. We made a whole host of memories. And they are already planning to come back soon. And to be honest we can’t wait.
The joy of being young is truly infectious.
Read more Englishman in Dubrovnik…well, if you really want to
About the author
Mark Thomas (aka Englez u Dubrovniku) is the editor of The Dubrovnik Times. He was born and educated in the UK and moved to live in Dubrovnik in 1998. He works across a whole range of media, from a daily radio show to TV and in print. Thomas is fluent in Croatian and this column is available in Croatia on the website – Dubrovnik Vjesnik