Undoubtedly my favourite book as a child was one which Mother passed on to us. It had an off-white hardback cover and the heroine was called Roberta. She was the ultimate tomboy, just like me, and would only answer to Bobby.
The fairy door out the Anne Valley, with ‘Bobby’ on it always makes me think of the umpteen times I read that book and longed to be called Bobby. I had notions of calling a baby girl, if I ever had one, Bobby and certainly not Roberta. I wonder how that would have gone down!
The book is still with me but so well stashed away that I can’t quite remember where.
I’d love to meet the Bobby of the door creation. I imagine she has short curly fair hair, freckles and is wearing shorts, sandals and a raggedy T-Shirt in this weather. No doubt, she has a big dog and is part of a gang of young lads who admire her courage, daring and wild achievements.
There was a time when there were pony and donkey rides on Tramore Beach and they were a big hit with us as kids. They stopped quite a few years ago now but this photo of Dad’s brought me back to days when we’d have swims, kites, buckets and spades, picnics, sand in out shoes and a pony ride to top off the day.
The one word that my father banned in our house was any variation on ‘boredom,’ and Mother sang in unison, which was a bit unusual.
They both felt that there was a world of opportunity out there or inside us and helped us to foster our imaginations from before we could remember.
There was very heavy control over television watching so that we didn’t become couch potatoes and we each had 30 minutes TV time a day – after 5pm and before 9pm. This involved doing all sorts of deals and pouring over the television listings to make sure we had the timings correct. When my sister went away to school her 30 minutes went with her.
Being outdoors was part and parcel of growing up. Simple things like skipping, making a steeplechase course in the garden with Big Bro, building tents out of old sheets and sticks, playing tennis against any wall that could withstand it, collecting wildflowers, bird-watching, tending our little plots in the garden, going for cycles, picnics or cycling picnics, playing catch, football, cricket …
Mother and Dad participated in these activities but ensured that we could come up with our own imaginary games.
Wet days were all about wellies and raincoats, splashing in puddles, watching the clouds, seeing the trees bend in the breeze, going to see the sea in all weathers when we lived near it…
Indoor activities were special too: baking, drawing horses, getting to use the puzzle books that Mother had hidden away for really rainy days; playing cards, board games, doing jig-saws, making up rhymes, pillow fights and, of course, reading. I was the least ‘ready bones’ in the house and plagued the others to do more active stuff, as I saw it.
I still think and feel that ‘boredom’ simply shouldn’t exist but I think now that I have my parents to thank for that. Others certainly weren’t as fortunate as me.
I hadn’t thought of bookends for years but, for some unknown reason, they came flooding into my memory today.
The ones I had were china with dogs on them and they guarded my precious books in the various houses that we lived in. Once the bookends and my books were in my room, as well as a green bedspread that I still have somewhere in the house here, I felt I was where I should be.
While the bookends were very precious, having been given to me by my grandmother, Jean, one Christmas when I was about 7, I gave them a rough time over the years expecting them to hold firm on the edges of bedroom mantelpieces that were part of the bedrooms of bank houses that we lived in. (Yes, there were fireplaces in the bedrooms of the bank houses ~ we were never allowed to light fires in them, though. I wish now that I’d lit at least one fire in all those years but …)
I have spent the last while searching for images of bookends that were like mine and this pair are the nearest match I can find:
My love of bookends always stood in stark contrast to my feelings about book endings. I couldn’t but be a young reader, given the family I grew up in. I was the youngest and the others always had their heads stuck in books. Readie-bones, readie bones … I would nag and nag until one of them eventually put their book down and played with me.
But, deep down, I knew what it was to love reading and to become immersed in the worlds of books like Little Women, What Katy Did, The Nancy Drew Series, anything written by Enid Blyton ….. I would read the same books over and over and over again and I never wanted them to end. In so many ways, it was as if I wanted books to be circular in the same way that I wanted my bookends to somehow manage to hold the ever-increasing row of books on those mantlepieces without ever falling and breaking into smithereens. .
The bookends did their best to survive but eventually I pushed them too far ~ even Dad’s strongest glue couldn’t fix them.
Like many a dog owner, who has lost a dog, I couldn’t face having new bookends as the pair I’d had seemed to be irreplaceable and I couldn’t see that maybe I would fall in love with a new pair in a different kind of way as I watched them doing their work from my comfy bed with the green bedspread.
I wonder is it time to think about getting a new pair or is it too late?
Surely everyone has a few words that had them flummoxed for years. One that got me from Dad’s insistence that we listened avidly to the weather forecast from when we were about three days old was isolated.
Isolated showers confused me completely. How come they were icy some of the time ~ sleet, hailstones, just plain freezing driving rain, and other times they fell in soft gentle, even lukewarm raindrops?
There’s a bit of a double whammy with the one that got my mother when she was a child. She would be at Church chiming in with the prayers and coming from a farming family, her version of ‘Thy little one doth keep,’ was as I thought until I checked it out a few minutes ago ‘My little Wine Dot keep.’ I always knew she had visions of the hens in the haggard but being a townie, I didn’t realise that what she was thinking was: Thy little Wyandotte keep.’
So, go on, tell me about the word/s that play/played tricks on you. Don’t be even the slightest bit shy about it!!
I revel in colour and allowed myself to think about black when I was walking along this path in Mount Congreve the other day.
I have an intense fear of the pitch blackness since I was about five. It happened in an episode of boldness when my brother and I were messing around in the bank office where our father was manager. We had been warned that we were never, ever to go into the office but, of course, that made it all the more tempting. It was a Sunday and Dad had been doing a bit of extra work. He had slipped upstairs for a few minutes so we sneaked in and were playing hide and seek in all the little nooks and crannies that were part of bank offices back then.
The safe where books, not money, were kept was slightly open and I thought it would be a great idea to hide in there. Big bro spotted me going in and thought it would be even better fun to turn the wheel that locked the big steel door of the the safe. I heard the click and found myself in the blackest place you could ever imagine. There wasn’t any light whatsoever and I started to pound on the door and scream at big bro to let me out. The door was so thick I couldn’t even hear him outside.
After what seemed like a lifetime, Dad came to the rescue. Normally he would have been absolutely furious with us for being in the office but when he saw the state I was in he took me in his arms and knew in his heart that I had learned a lesson that I wasn’t likely to ever forget.
Over the years, I’ve given black a lot of thought. It’s a colour I quite like to wear; I love black and white photographs; I adore the blackness of Puppy Stan but I still can’t bear complete blackness and have realised that it is something that is seldom found, a bit like complete silence.
Believe it or not, I even got the heebie-jeebies one day when I tried using a black page for this blog. I had thought it would be exciting to write on black but just froze. One of these days I’m going to give it another try because I want to see where it would bring me.
How are you about black or is there some other colour that messes your head up?
February 6th has a strong echo in my life as it was the day in 1967 that our family moved from Castleblayney in Co. Monaghan to Drogheda in Co. Louth. I was nine then and that was one of five moves that we made from when I was 3 to 18 years old. ( I also moved away from home when I was seventeen to go to College but that’s a different kind of moving.)
These moves were all within Ireland and were part of father’s job in the bank. Both he and mother had been in the bank from the early 1940s and had moved numerous times in their single days ~ their paths crossing when they were both based in Kilkenny City for a while.
As a kid, I found moving from place to place rather exciting and remember being full of excitement as I bade everyone in Castleblayney goodbye and watched all our belongings, which were packed in tea chests, being loaded into a huge big removal van.
There’s no doubt that all the moves brought us very close together as a family ~ we only had each other until we made new friends. Going to new schools was daunting, especially landing there in the middle of term and having to get to grips with new teachers, new sets of rules and and, of course, all the existing pupils who tended to be curious about any newcomer.
Apart from family, tennis was the other anchor that made moving manageable. Tennis courts are the same size no matter where you go and the rules of the game are the same. It was always such a relief to get sorted in a tennis club and be able to feel at home hitting forehands and backhands like always!
We never knew how long we’d be staying in any one place ~ it ranged from 10 months to 8 years ~ but it was pretty certain that a transfer was never too far off. This never stopped me from putting down roots and getting incredibly attached to places but there was always that feeling of being a little bit on the sidelines.
St. Patrick’s Day always made me feel this ‘outsidedness’ more than any other. I can vividly remember watching St. Patrick’s Days Parades from our Bank House window in the middle of Drogheda and feeling that I simply didn’t belong in the town. To this day, I’ve never be a part of a St. Patrick’s Day Parade! Perhaps, this year I’ll get stuck into our local one here in Tramore, which is the place I was born and the place to which I eventually returned full-time in 1991.
More than anything, all the moving as a child, brought it home to me how every single place has lots and lots to offer; new people, new landscape, a depth of local history. Much of this can be taken for granted by people who have always lived in the same place but through new eyes it can be a whole new adventure.
It certainly doesn’t surprise me, after all this, that it is very often people who are ‘blow ins’ who blog or write about the wonders of places.
Are you a person who moved around as a child or did you spend your childhood in the one place?
The sight of this little boy walking ahead of me up the Comeragh Mountains here in Co. Waterford made me wonder how childhood Sundays could vary so dramatically across the globe.
This little guy was with his parents and baby sister. He had fallen in love with a rock and wanted to bring it home to keep forever and ever. His parents tried to persuade him to leave it with all the other rocks or even to hide it so that he could see it the next time they visited. But he was determined to carry it all the way back to the car.
He was an energetic, bubbly kid and the family seemed really happy as they made their way back to their car with a now empty picnic basket.
What a contrast to the thousands of children walking ~ fleeing ~ war torn places like Syria on this September Sunday.
If only, if only, all the children of the world could have the safety, security and innocence of this little boy up on the mountains.