Archives for posts with tag: childhood
Broken Glass Pieces  by Jes Reynolds (CC Licenced, Flickr)

Broken Glass Pieces
by Jes Reynolds
(CC Licenced, Flickr)

Every so often, Facebook posts arrive, claiming that life was better in the old times. Kids were far freer. Parents were less protective. Kids spoke to each other and were not constantly absorbed by video games or hooked into their iPods and iPhones.

While I am not necessarily disputing these claims – life has changed without doubt – I think there is a great risk of over-sentimentalising the past, particularly when it comes to child safety.

In decades gone, we as kids could roam the neighbourhood as we wished. We had no use for seatbelts in cars and we would often sit in the front passenger seat. There was less protection in field sports and if you got hit you wore it as a badge of honour. We all got measles and mumps and it didn’t do us any harm. Or parents and teachers slapped us for disobedience and that didn’t hurt us much either. We could run in the schoolyards and disputes were sorted out by fights at the back of the tennis courts.

That we survived such childhoods relatively unscathed is not an indication of things being better back then. These stories merely tell us that we were lucky. There are kids, largely unknown to us, who did get lost or injured on their adventures away from home. There were kids killed and maimed in bad car accidents (which, incidentally, were 4 times more frequent in the 1970s). The same went for sports injuries and fights. We have forgotten the children who suffered lifelong injuries and even death, from contracting the measles. Some kids suffered dreadfully from classroom and domestic violence. These kids were not as lucky as we were.

Our much derided health and safety culture has made life much safer for our kids. Many of the safety measures we deride as “health and safety gone mad” had real life tragedies underlying them – tragedies that could have been prevented, given a little foresight. Life really wasn’t as safe for us back then. Just because we didn’t die or receive grave injuries is no excuse for action. We can’t use our own fortunate happenstance as an argument that things were better. The wider picture tells a different story.

Every Saturday, Granddad obliged us to go on walks with him down to Gyles’ Quay, a  mile’s walk from our house. We would do anything to avoid these walks, hiding in wardrobes or scooting under our beds, fervently hoping he would give up and go without us. It never worked. Inevitably we were discovered and soon we had our coats and boots on, all the while grumbling against the injustice of it all.

The Gyles’ Quay walks formed the backdrop to our childhood. Granddad would tell us about life at the turn of the century. He would regale us with stories about the Titanic and the two World Wars. Occasionally he would bump into friends he grew up with – we would while away these interludes playing with Major, a small mongrel dog who always accompanied us on these journeys. In truth, we always enjoyed these walks, especially since there was a treat of a chocolate bar for us at the end.

Today, I visited Gyles’ Quay with my 10 year old daughter. I talked to her about Granddad and Major, the old people we would meet, and how I nearly gave my Granddad a heart-attack, running in front of an oncoming train on one occasion. I was amazed how much I remembered from those years. To her, it was like a window opening into the past. It was a memorable walk for both of us.

Little has changed in the intervening thirty years. For sure, there are more houses on the opposite bank of the river. The railway no longer carries passengers between Waterford and Rosslare. Otherwise, it’s the same place. The smells, sights and sounds are as they were. The plants and the trees, the old lighthouses, Waterford Castle, the tiny fresh water spring bubbling up from the road by Halpin’s farm – all frozen in time. This is my childhood. My trip down Memory Lane.

I’m not a huge fan of internet memes, however after reading Truce’s entertaining memories, I thought I would give this one a go.

  1. My earliest memory is falling off a swing in Shandon Park. I think I was three years old. 
  2. In 1978, my family took a boat to France where I danced to Gloria Gaynor sing “I will survive” and the Village People’s “YMCA”. It was the first time I began to take an interest in pop music. Of course, another song I was into was the “Chicken Song”, so I had a long way to go..
  3. When I was 11, I directed an audio movie featuring me (as hero), and my sisters (as villains). I had to coax, cajole and threaten them into performing in my masterpiece. The result was a mixture of bangs, screams, and shouts, with me (as hero) saving the universe while my sisters (as villains) cackled and died repeatedly. The marvelous thing about it was how awful my acting was – I stuttered my way through – compared to my siblings. Hollywood got away lightly.
  4. I played my first hurling match (at under-14 level) for my local parish in a pair of wellies. One of the players was never turned up, so I replaced him that day, complete with novel footwear. I wish I could tell you I went on to score 4 goals, but unfortunately I could barely hit the ball in those days. Despite never really mastering the skills of hurling, I managed to keep my place on the team for 2 years. Maybe having a father on the selection committee had something to do with it. Hmm..
  5. I went to an all-Irish boarding school for a year before I went into secondary school. It was a rather unpleasant experience as this was back in the days when teachers whacked kids with impunity any chance they could get. Nevertheless I managed to learn a lot of Irish. I was the first guy in my secondary school to ever get 100% in his Irish Entrance exam. 
  6. I never went to hospital during my childhood. This is despite driving a toy tractor out onto a busy road in the middle of traffic; nearly getting knocked over by a train while running after a small dog; falling off a tree in front of the house; almost drowning in Butlins Mosney; missing a bullet from a guy shooting magpies; and narrowly avoiding electrocution from a bar heater. I did however manage to cut the top of my finger off while making papier-mâché with a paper guillotine. 
  7. I was on holidays in Galway when Elvis died. Not that I knew who Elvis was. Another memory of Galway is locking myself into the boot (trunk) of the car. Is there a pattern emerging here?  
  8. Star Wars. I used to think that my white Liam Brady Texaco ball was the Death Star and that I was Luke Skywalker single-handedly fighting the Evil Empire. This was a time before plastic light-sabres or any of those fancy things. Nope, my Luke Skywalker had a hurling stick. There’s a thought.
  9. My cousins from England used to come over every year, regaling us about amazing TV programs such as Blue Peter, Doctor Who and the Magic Roundabout. They couldn’t believe that we had never seen them. The games we got up to brings back great memories. I remember pouring a full bottle of ketchup over myself in an attempt to pretend that I was grievously wounded. It would have worked perfectly except for the fact that they could smell the stink from a hundred yards…
  10. My granddad lived with us throughout my childhood. He frequently entertained us by spitting into the fire and going berserk any time he heard the words “divorce” or “abortion” being mentioned on the telly. We dreaded going on walks with him so we would often hide out in the wardrobes and under the beds. It’s strange though: the walks were invariably interesting as he told us about things like life during the War and his memories of the Titanic disaster. He would give us a few squares of chocolate at the end of each walk. 

That’s me done, how about you?

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