We went on holiday to Yugoslavia. The resort was in a town called Zadar which is part of Croatia. There was an area of hotels all grouped along one tree lined and shaded avenue. At the end was a shaded boulevard and a small beach.
There was a German family. They had driven all the way from Germany. I’m not sure if they were from East or West Germany.
In the town there were lots of ice cream sellers and cafes. The walls of the town were covered in political posters.
At the time I was really into lego and I wanted to buy some Yugoslavian lego with Yugolsavian writing on it. My favourite lego was knights. My mum bought a carved wooden bowl which she later used for pot pouri. I remember Zadar airport was small and there were hardly any checks.
The money was weird. There were 1000, 10,000 and 100,000 dinar notes which were worth more or less nothing. My parents told me it was because the currency had been devalued. This meant comfortable people were now poor.
I tried learning Serbo-Croat from the Berlitz guidebook. There were huge iridescent bugs. There was a film club for kids at a nearby hotel. One day they screened ’Logan’s Run’ which fascinated me. I was kind of free to wander around in the complex of hotels. There weren’t really many cars.
I remember around this time there was a pull out from the Sunday Times that showed all the new countries of post soviet and post Yugoslav Europe. There was also a time when they encouraged people to collect banknotes.
I seemed comfortable with the fact that countries could just be called into existence and not by the stroke of a pen. Id already owned a book of Maos through history which showed the ebb and flow of every empire.
I think already there were embers of war in the former Yugoslavia but it was not directly in the part of the country I was in.
Stories in the Sunday Times often told of people with interesting sounding names who were poets or writers who fled from brutal regimes. When my family travelled by plane to places like Yugoslavia I would fantasise that we were fleeing some kind of terrible situation. I had a lot of fantasies about things like the future and flying cars and looking back I think sometimes it took a lot of energy to keep them going. Maybe I was bored as a child.
Later I used to read Zoe Heller’s columns from New York. It seemed like an exotic world and I dreamed one day I would be a writer living in interesting places. My later English teacher was enthusiastic about James Joyce and Joyce had lived in Trieste (which was also on the Adriatic).
I remember one day in the hotel restaurant there was an ant infestation. I had never seen that in England before. I remember and infinite number of flavours of ice cream and ones with fruit and candy in.
One night there was a fancy dress competition and my brothers went as the three wise monkeys.
My mum often used to dress us in matching clothes.