I clearly wasn’t walking faster than the speed of thought today because I found myself thinking about blogging and bingeing.

It all started when I met a woman coming against me in full conversation on the phone and looking as if she was talking to herself – one of those things that was a complete no-no in the days before smart phones.

Anyway, for some reason box sets came into my mind and I realised that I wasn’t entirely sure what a box set even is and I have been listening to how people have been bingeing on them in recent times and in pre-pandemic times. When do these people get the time, I wondered?

It struck me then that maybe bloggers are bingers in their own sweet way. Do we binge on blogging while others are bingeing on box sets and the like? I suspect we probably do or at least some of us do.

Then, I saw a rope on the roadside, stretching quite a long distance and I got a yen to have someone pick up the other end and to have people join in skipping like we used to do endlessly in the school playground and at home. I was always a skipper but loved when there was a gang involved. I suddenly found myself hearing bits of old skipping tunes playing in my memory and it’s only tonight that I went checking them out and hit on a favourite game that I had completely forgotten about.

I bet some will see it as not being in keeping with the feminist that I am but you have to remember that I have always been a tomboy:

Other Days

Tramore Beach Photo: Frank Tubridy

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.

Lucky Bags

I have no idea how I suddenly remembered the excitement of ‘lucky bags’ which were a highlight of my early days. They were so simple and full of sugary things and a little toy.

We lived next door to a sweet shop when I was four years old and I think that’s when I got addicted to them. My big sister used to buy them for me on the quiet. They were kept behind a big tall counter that I could hardly reach on tippy toes. I’d dance off with the bag and savour every single sweet in it.

Maybe it’s yesterday’s trip to the dentist that has brought them back to my mind combined with a card from big sis today.

She was all grown up and into Bournville (dark chocolate) at that point. I couldn’t understand how a bar of any kind of chocolate could be more enticing than a lucky bag. I’m just remembering the sherbet that was in them – all fizzy and powdery – the perfect giveaway on a woolly cardigan…..

Another of Dad’s

Photo: Frank Tubridy

I was rummaging in a box of Dad’s old photos, which he had cast aside as ‘poor’ and found this one which brought me back to family holidays in the West of Ireland which was his native heath.

It has me thinking of picnics, buckets and spades, swimming togs, homemade kites, trying to escape sunscreen, Dad’s camera cases and tripods having better seating arrangements than me, colourful deck chairs, word games, donkeys, sandals, running races, local farmers full of chat, hours of sea air, delicious tiredness, falling into bed longing for tomorrow.

The Sewing Tin

I guess every house had one and some still have. The sewing tin that was part of my growing up was round, blue and battered. It wasn’t very big but it was like a bottomless pit. Needles, pins, frayed pin cushions, thimbles, yellowing measuring tapes, threads of all hues, some with their beginnings waiting to be extracted from the little crevice on their wooden spools, others in a rainbowed tangle, buttons, buttons and more buttons, some still attached to small pieces of old shirts and blouses, others long separated from duffle coats and school blazers, darning needles, slick little needle threaders, thin wools intermingling and waiting to be used to darn socks, a scissors, well-chewed little pencil and crumpled bits of paper with crossed off To-Do lists in Mother’s slanty writing, a non-functioning but intact light bulb that played its full part in the sock darning that went on, especially late at night or very early on school mornings.

I had full access to the sewing tin from a young age and you’d be forgiven for thinking that I would have made a good fist of sewing when we were introduced to it in Domestic Science Class in Secondary School. I even had high hopes for myself but soon realised that our sewing tin bore no resemblance to the way domestic science teachers expected things to be organised. As a kid, I had actually embroidered hankies on wet days mixing colours like an artist and rather liking the spikey threads that stuck out at interesting angles.

School sewing, on the other hand, required that one master a variety of tasks before moving on to get to use the sewing machine and make a floral skirt for the summer at the end of first year.

It took me until Christmas to get passed Task One which was to hem a square – first by darning and then with genteel little stitches. I simply didn’t do genteel and the neat stitching ended up being done by the frustrated teacher who needed to be able to write something on the dreaded Christmas report.

Task 2, which was to make a buttonhole defeated me and I can still see the little piece of bloodied material on which I tried and tried and tried until it was so frayed and filthy that I couldn’t even see what I was doing. I’d look around me and most of the others were either holding their flowery skirts up to their waists just before putting in the zip. Imagine a zip. There were loads of them in Mother’s tin and I’d even managed to put one onto a nightshirt for my precious teddy bear. But, I was never going to be putting one into a floral skirt like all my friends.

Summer Report on Domestic Science sang my cookery praises and suggested home practice with sewing. Mother chuckled when she read the report and said we must darn a few socks but first that we’d make some fairy cakes.

I opted out of Domestic Science in Second Year and still love thinking about the old blue sewing tin. I was complete tomboy so the floral skirt wouldn’t ever have been worn or could it have changed my style forever?

Those Winter Evenings with Dad

There was a period in my life when I was a bit of an only child as both my brother and sister were away at boarding school. We had just moved to Drogheda in Co. Louth as Dad’s job in the bank involved being transferred all over the place. Mother was a keen bridge player and had gotten involved in the bridge club where she was taken in warmly.

This meant that Dad and I were at home together and I have lovely memories of sitting with him at the fire listening to music on our then new and first record player. We’d be sipping banana flips that I used to make with the snazzy liquidizer – bananas and milk whizzed until they were thick and frothy.

It was Dad who introduced me to Harry Belafonte and Nana Mouskouri and I came to love both of them individually and singing together. I can still remember telling Dad all about a Nana Mouskouri concert that I went to during my college days in Dublin and he looked so pleased that I had continued to love her music from those evenings at the fire with him.

As night settles in here in Ireland today, I have been listening to both Harry and Nana again and can see Dad draining his banana flip and lazing back into the armchair with the dancing flames reflected in his eyes and me lying back on the sofa wrapped in a big security blanket made of love:

The Ban

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.

Mother and Me

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.

Where does ‘boredom’ fit or not fit in your life?

The Party

I am not a party animal and that’s putting it mildly. I went to a couple of birthday parties as a child and couldn’t seem to deal with them at all. I think it was the party pieces that got to me, but I’m not even sure if that was it.

There was, however, one party in my life that was heaven. It was when I was thirteen and we had it in the basement of our house – a big bank house – on New Year’s Eve.

The preparations that went into that event were unbelievable and the bits I remember most were my brother and I painting some light bulbs red. How we didn’t set the place on fire with them is still a mystery. There was also the putting up of posters around the old stone walls. Jimi Hendrix is the one stands out in my mind.

The music blasted out from our record player and maybe someone had a speaker -though I can’t recall speakers being much of a thing for home music back then. The main thing was the music played all night and we danced and danced. All my ‘wallflower’ fears seemed to leave me that evening, probably because I knew all the ‘guests.’

Neil Diamond, The Beatles and, of course, I’ve Been to the Desert on a Horse with No Name’ played as the red lights glowed and I felt all grown up in my bell-bottomed trouser suit. I can still see Big Bro with tinsel around his neck. I thought he was cooler than cool as he bopped towards midnight.

We counted down to the New Year, sang Auld Lang Syne and then a boy who I really fancied gave me a New Year’s kiss that has remained stored in my heart all these years. I wonder whatever became of him!

Mother and Father were upstairs throughout all this and Mother provided us all with food and soft drinks without seeming to have any presence in the crowded room.

No party could ever surpass that one – I knew it that night and I still believe it was beyond special. As we approach New Year tonight, sweet memories from that year will come flooding back along with lots of others.

Expressions I Love

I found myself thinking about words and expressions today and it seems that there’s a vast array of Covid ones which have almost taken over.

Here’s a few non-Covid ones that resonate with me and that are steeped in good old nostalgia:

#1. ‘Now you’re flyin’ ‘- words spoken by a friendly man at a service station here in Tramore after he’d have made sure my car was petrolled, aired and watered and ready for my journey back to Dublin;

#2. ‘Ah cod, don’t think I can’t see through you’.’ My mother’s words when I’d try to fool her that everything was okay when it wasn’t.

#3. ‘Lock Hard.’ Brings back memories of men who ‘helped’ with parking in Dublin especially when we’d be going to big, exciting events like a Christmas pantomime.

#4. ‘You’re van, you’re playing great.’ Big Bro on tennis courts when I thought I was finally going to beat him but never did.

#5. ‘Will we go Molly’s?’ Son’s regular question re going to Tramore’s friendliest, most delicious cafe right on the seafront.

#6. ‘There’s no such thing as a cross baby only a tired baby.’ Sensible words of a lovely lady who minded son and who remains friends still. She also claims: ‘Old friends are best,’ and I love her for that.

#7. ‘I love your dog,’ when it comes like a chorus from a group of tiny school kids out for a school walk around the corner from us.

#8. ‘Let me do all the worrying here and you focus on the practicalities.’ Comforting words from one of the best doctors I ever knew at a time of extreme concern.

#9. ‘You go for a swim, it will do you good to get into the sea.’ Words from hubby who knows what works for me.

What expressions warm your heart?