I spoke to The Blister on the weekend. She had zero sympathy for my tales of killer heat since she was huddled in socks, jeans and woolly jumpers in what is passing for summer this year in Ireland. So, I'm left to mutter and mumble to myself about 95 degree weather, sopping humidity levels, afternoon lightening and thunderstorms, and weeds as high as your eye.
Summer was a delicious word fifty years ago. Summer meant "No more Irish, No more French, No more sitting on the hard old bench!" Freedom 'til September! We didn't get sent to camp, not for soccer, not for gymnastics, not for dance, not for violin. Our days were our own. After stuffing us full of porridge, or, if she was feeling indulgent, Cornflakes, our mother would wave us out the door to play. We had to report back for lunch at midday and teatime at six. We were expected to behave ourselves and not draw the neighbours on her....Other than that....freedom! Onto the bike and off down to the North Circular Road.
Patty S's garden stretched back for what seemed like miles behind her house. We played Cops and Robbers, and Wild Indians, and then, tired of how the boys were bossy and wouldn't play fair, we'd repair to our "club house" at the bottom of Jane W's garden. It probably looked like a makeshift lean-to, but we had pride of buildership, especially when the inevitable rains came and our clubhouse kept us dry, albeit cramped like tinned sardines! Repairing to anyone's house was not an option. The houses were too small and there was too much of a raggle-taggle team of us for any of the mothers to gladly grant us entry. Patty's mother had been a raven-haired beauty in her youth, but was now wracked with arthritis. She would come to the door occasionally, but we were never invited in. Jane's mother was English, and stylish, and made me blush when she admired a waste paper basket I'd made from a cardboard box and wall paper. Nobody at my house noticed that I had a talent for such things. Who knows how different life might have been had Jane's mother been my mother, which I devoutly wished were the case. Which wasn't very fair to my mother who was overwhelmed with the hand life had dealt her and struggling to get through the days with my brother; but when you're young you only see things from your own perspective. And I wanted a mother who was stylish and kind, smiled when she spoke to you and took the time to really look at, and appreciate, what you had made. The lovely English accent didn't hurt either. We were supposed to hate the English, but we met so few of them, they were more a subject of awe and fascination when we did.
Some summers we were transported to the seaside at Ballybunion for a couple of glorious weeks. We rented the same house each time and once my grandmother, from my father's side, came to visit us there for a few days. I remember walking along the road to the beach with her, just the two of us. She was a tall, tweedy woman and I had the temerity to ask her how old my daddy was. She loftily informed me that he was as old as his tongue and a little bit older than his teeth.... Talk about a conversation killer. I was mortified. Undoubtedly she thought children should speak only when spoken to, and certainly should not ask saucy questions. I'm not sure if I met her again before she died, which she did before I was ten. I do remember sitting in her garden having tea once. I was very impressed that the milk was in a silver jug but I have no recollection of any conversation. Maybe by then I had learned to keep mum! When we'd come back from the seaside, our house and street and garden seemed to have shrunk, we'd grown so used, in a short time, to wide open expanses of beach and Atlantic!
Eventually summer rolled on into September, school started again, new books had to be covered, new pencils sharpened, school shoes polished every night [whether you wanted to or not! Does anyone polish shoes anymore?] and before long, summer seemed like a distant dream.
Here, summer is to be endured; ways must be found to muddle through so we can get to the beautiful days of Autumn, Winter and Spring ! If you played Cops and Robbers in this heat you'd end up for sure in the Emergency Room. If you played Wild Indians, ditto. You'd also have people lecturing you about racial sensitivity and political correctness. And if you played either of these games at my age they'd cart you off to the psych ward! I'm trying to stay cool, trying not to pace. I don't know when I last made a waste paper basket from wallpaper and a cardboard box, but I think Jane W's mum would love the quilt I'm currently working on!