Tag Archives: Childhood

When I was young

When I was a very young child in holy catholic Ireland, parents had dreams for their children. Some families had more children than the beads on their rosary. Mind you it was back in the days before television for distraction and the only central heating was between the sheets!

With each new child the parents found another opportunity to fulfil an unlived dream.

The sons they saw as a priest, a doctor, a lawyer and a policeman. If there was a farm, well that went to number one son – whether he wanted it or not. If he chose a wife she was expected to come in and play second fiddle in the kitchen. Is it any wonder the phrase ‘God between us and small farms!’ became so popular!

For the girls it was a nunnery, a nurse or a teacher. For those considered less academically inclined, Pittman’s shorthand and typing was the route to a permanent and pensionable job. The youngest daughter might be encouraged not to run the roads, but stay home to take care of the parents in their old age.

In secondary school, my class mates spend may hours dreaming about a certain Dr. James Kildare (Richard Chamberlain), a young intern at Blair General hospital, in a 1960s television series. Many of my pals were prepared to run under a bus if Dr Kildare was around to sort out their scrapes and sooth their fluttering hearts. We didn’t have a television back then, but I had plenty of babysitting opportunities that gave me the chance to catch up.

Alas, I was not impressed. Dear Dr Kildare was a wimp to me. I knew plenty about tall dark and handsome men. Our house was always full of them. With each one came half a dozen shirts that needed washing, starching and ironing, apart from the smelly socks and sweaty underwear. Romance how are you!!!

Singer Lena Zavaroni was born just over a year before I left school. A tiny girl with an enormous voice, at the age of 10, she appeared on Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks and went on to win the show five times in a row. At 16, with a trail of appearances in variety, summer shows and pantomimes behind her, she was rushed to hospital in Glasgow with anorexia. An illness from which she was to suffer for the rest of her short life.

Lena and I had something in common. Our skeletal frames. I was that thin! A layer of fine pale almost white skin blotched with large dark freckles covered my bones. I was taller, although I had not reached my full height of 5 ft 7 inches.

Lena had a Big voice.

I had BIG hair.

I awoke each day looking like a dishevelled upside down floor mop. Tangles were my morning agony, I sang as the unruly tresses were unlocked and combed into control. My song was “Ouch! That hurt me, you are pulling too hard!” I was never going to reach number one in any chart with that, was I? Even I was not fond of the music!

When schooling was over, homework complete and the chores done, we were free to run down the garden and over the wall to play. On a good evening the group might reach twenty with some of the fathers, uncles & cousins and occasionally aunts, swelling the numbers further.

There was banter, teasing and the odd battle of wills or punch-up. These battles never lasted long…. Any older person present would step up to the plate and restore order. If someone was not happy to drop the argument and play on, then they were sent home for the remainder of the evening’s play.

Any parent or older member of the neighbourhood gang was able to correct us for bad behaviour, pick us up when we fell, carry us home if a fall needed further treatment, and we never had reason to question them. All our parents were grateful for the care given.

  • We had freedom.
  • We had fresh air.
  • We had the opportunity to use our imaginations.
  • We had plenty of exercise.
  • We had the freedom to grow, to learn to play, be part of a team and to interact with people of all ages, sexes and several religions.

Children of today, in many parts of the world have freedoms we never knew of or heard about. They have cell phones, computers, Xboxes, and many another electronic contraption with the only barriers being a poor internet connection or lack of battery power.

Then there is the invisible fence around them. Some of these gadgets and games are for use and playing with IN THE HOME.

Nowadays children must be accompanied everywhere they go. For some children that means being driven right to the school gate – and to hell with any other traffic needing to get in the space while ‘Jayden or Kaylee” are set down on their tender little feet with only a yard or two to walk to the school door. Pity the school was not more thoughtful with a ‘drive through’ method of entry!

What brought this on? Well I read a blog post in September and it almost made me cry.

K8 the GR8, is about Elly’s age, a young mother of three children, I know her, met her and her parents, and she has been an award willing blogger. K8 tells it how it is.
Freedom how are you.

I suggest you go read it.

Confession time. I wrote this post early one morning in September, while sitting up in bed in Buffyland. Suddenly realising that it fitted with an LBC topic, I went to check my list. Sure enough When I was young had been suggested by me, so I scheduled this in back then. It is allowed. The Loose Blogging Consortium have no rules other than we all blog about the same topic on the same day. It does not have to be written while the morning coffee is percolating. Now that my coffee is ready and poured, why not join me on my rounds to see what gems all the other active members have produced this week.

Memories of my childhood

Anne was a widow who lived in Co Clare she reared hens & geese and when she came to Dublin it was usually for the day and involved a trip to Clerys Department Store. There she bought a complete new outfit – from the skin out. The parcels were taken to the “Ladies” and she changed into the finery before she caught a bus to our house.

She always carried a leather shopping bag on these visits. It contained at least two or three-dozen eggs complete with half the hen run on them! These had been collected at dawn on the day of her journey. In the bag, or should I say half in the bag were two chickens. The head and necks hung out one side while the legs complete with claws hung out the other. Their necks had been wrung that morning while the dew was still on the ground. They were complete with feathers and innards and there would be a trail of blood dripping from them all the way from Ennis to our front door! Her arrival on the avenue was announced by her laughter, which was loud and infectious.

One year when we were very young, mammy was ill and in hospital. Anne was looking after us. She cooked, fed us and generally kept the house ticking over. My youngest brother who was aged three and the baby of the family pined for mammy and refused to eat. He refused to come to the table at meal times so Anne sat on the stairs and fed him chocolate biscuits. They were the only food he would eat for her. Her idea was that he was at least eating something.

Barbara my niece, shared this memory with me: “I remember Anne in a huge high bed with about 200 mattresses and blankets in the box-room”.Houses do not have box- rooms any more, all bedrooms are smaller nowadays. “I think about it when reading the princess and the pea to my own children! It was so high I remember not being able to climb onto it; I still remember the feeling of falling off yet again! And then when you got up it was so bouncy! People’s backs must have really ached after a night’s sleep in it” she said.

We were forever having visitors to stay at our house. Mattresses came up and down the stairs like yo-yos.The easiest place to store them was on the bed. A little less dusty than under it!One year we had a gathering for my father’s entire family. We planned to have the August bank holiday weekend Saturday as ‘The Day’. They were like ‘The Tinkers’ coming for a week and going for a week!
We realised it would be a late night. So plans were made for everyone to stay over.We children were to sleep on mattresses on the floor while all the adults had the beds. The only problem was that the adults stayed up all night talking, singing and drinking.

In the end nobody slept in the beds.

We learned plenty of old ballads as we sang through all the Counties of Ireland. Each song seemed to have about 32 verses. Even today when I hear one of them on the radio, I can clearly see an aunt or uncle sitting by the fire singing their heart out!

I sometimes think about the children of today and wonder if in forty or fifty years time they will remember what happened in Big Brother or I’m a Celebrity get me out of here, or for that matter what their parents looked like?

TV has a lot to answer for!