Summer holidays ! That butterfly feeling that started in

your stomach near the end of May with the sun streaming in the

classroom windows. Hard to do homework in this weather. Hard

to concentrate on exams with such freedom looming ahead of

you. Anyway the results won’t be out for ages. Exams are only

difficult if you try and answer the questions and they know the

answers already so its not like they’re depending on you. If you

don’t know anything at all sure tis best not to waste their time

and let them concentrate on the next lad.

Three months off. God bless the country people. We were

supposed to be out saving hay and dancing barefoot in the

evening but there was no hay in our estate and the junior club

disco insisted on shoes. The sweet bliss of having nothing to do

and loads of time to do it.

These days of course things are different. Kids have

schedules and are treated like visiting dignitaries . Parents have

turned into Personal Assistants who now ask their kids for

permission to do stuff.

Would you mind love if I just popped in here for a

minute, I think me appendix just burst. We can go to

Smyths afterwards. No ? Ok, we’ll go there now so, I

just need to spit this blood into a bag

And God forbid they should ever be allowed get bored .The

best part of being off school when I was a kid was being left

alone. No one had plans for you. Your father gone to work and

your mother having babies, out the door with you on the first of

June and don’t come back til September. You’d be up early and

with some sugary breakfast inside you, gone out the door.

Armies of ye, loose kids wandering around the town, floating

from one housing estate to the next. Playing football, kissing

girls. Eating raspberries off bushes and sucking Mr Freezes til

your teeth went numb. There was an open door policy in most

houses back then. At 1 o’clock you could wander in to

someone’s gaffe and get fed a sandwich and a glass of milk.

You’d finish up and potter out again. It was freedom and it felt

good and natural. And a long gorgeous 12 week stretch of it.

Every now and again you’d be packed off to your

Granny’s. She was 84 years old and ye got on mighty. Ye both

had the same kind of loose grip on reality. Every meal was

sweets apart from your dinner which you got from the chipper.

Permission was given for everything and the only rule was don’t

bring anyone strange back to the house. There were odd jobs to

be done around the place of course. You mowed the lawn,

painted walls and every now and again had to go with her as she

visited another old woman down the road. Your only job there

was to eat whatever the other wrinkle offered and smile. You sat

as a kind of exhibit as they marveled at your youth and teeth and

then they forgot about you. You couldn’t move from your seat

because her dog, some kind of schitt-snauser growled every time

you exhaled.

It was great to be away from home in another town where

kids did the exact same stuff just spoke with a lightly different

accent that’s all. And they all remembered you from the year

before. To them, coming from Navan with your broad vowels

and gutteral drawl you were exotic. Crowds would gather round

to hear you pronounce words like Fttbaaawl and Jaaaamy


The worst part of the summer was the Family Holiday. We

were told one year that we were going to Louisburgh and we

thought in was in France We had never been to France and we

told all our friends we were going to France. We did not know

that it was in Mayo. We got in to the car, a five year old Hillman

Hunter and by the time we got to Delvin I said to me sister

This is not the way to France

Eighteen hours later we arrived in Mayo. My father had rented a

small caravan beside the beach. I think he found it. I think a

friend of his called him up and said

There’s an abandoned caravan on the beach in

Louisburgh. I think that IRA lad was in it. Heard he

got a job teaching hurling in Libya. He’s gone now anyway.

And me father thought well that’s the summer holidays taken

care of. Twas the size of a confession box so he invited our

cousins aswell First morning there and there was a big wind

blowing, cold and sharp, so vicious that I swear to God I saw

crows crying with the severity of it. Daddy decided it was

perfect weather for swimming. Mammy gave us a breakfast of

butterless brown bread and black Barry’s tea because that was

all that was left in the shop

We were forced into our swimming togs and frogmarched

down to the beach.

Well if the clouds were grey it was nothing compared to

the sea which had turned into watery lead. Daddy picked up a

stick and began to bate us into it. We all started crying and

Daddy started laughing. He offered us a pound for whoever

dived in first. Me cousin Cuchulainn dived in straight away and

me father spent the next week marvelling at him while pointing

out my deficiencies. The weather got good toward the end and

we were treated to the vision of Mammy walking in her white

bra drinking Harp from a can. Ah, precious memories…………

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