Even though I can remember my Granny's house before they got electricity out the country, I'm really not so ancient. In fact, having just read somewhere that sixty is the new "middle age", I realise I'm just a young whippersnapper, having a couple of years still to go!
The old house was the farmhouse where my mother grew up. It burned down sometime in the mid fifties, and was replaced with a modern monstrosity. I always loved the old house better---thick whitewashed walls; thatched roof; tall, white haired grandfather still alive; oil lamps lit in the evenings; down on your knees, if you stayed late, to recite the rosary with Granny, auntie and the uncles, and no complaining that the stone floor hurt your knees; window seats, a half door that let the sunshine in but kept the chickens out, a cobblestone yard in front, a tangle of wild roses and gooseberry bushes out back-----and a sweeping view of the entire county ---- could heaven be any better?
When the new house was finished, and Granny installed in its modern comforts, she and my aunt and my mum would sit there chatting and drinking tea, when we'd drive out for a Sunday afternoon visit. As soon as I could, I'd escape, and go off up the passage to the shell of the old house, and spend blissful hours rummaging around there. There were old books and periodicals, sheet music and photographs, cold cream jars and knick knacks ........ I remember finding a little mug, very dainty, with flowers painted on it. I brought it back down to the new house and showed my treasure to the grownups, and asked if I could keep it. My own mother pounced on it and appropriated it, claiming it had belonged to her as a girl. There was no arguing. It was hers. I guess she didn't realise how completely enchanted with it I was. Or care. It was carried back to Limerick with us and set on the sitting room mantlepiece, where I could look at it but not touch, even though I always felt it rightly belonged to me!
In the fullness of time the old cottage was torn down, and modern milking parlors built in it's place. Whatever artifacts were saved were then stored in the loft above the old milking barn, so while the womenfolk chattered, I' d go and climb up to the loft, and spend hours mooning over old photographs, and wondering who they all were, and if I dared ask to be allowed to take some of them home......
The new house, even though it lacked the charm and personality of the old one, and had a modern Aga cooker instead of the open hearth, could still be relied on to have the smell of freshly baked soda bread lingering in the corners every time we went to visit.