My favourite memories are of my children growing up and all the children’s birthday parties during the summer. That was just the number-one treasure.
If I were to look back in my own lifetime as a child I think that the best memories were when my parents used to take me on the train, which was so exciting. You’d your bags packed from Harcourt Street to Bray. I mean it sounds bizarre when you think of it in modern times, but this was such an outing on the train to Bray.
We used to stay in a beautiful old Victorian terrace house in Bray. It was run by two elderly sisters called the ‘Miss Kenny’s if you don’t mind’. You had to refer to each of them as Miss Kenny, and their elder brother John.
And it was like an absolutely exquisite Fawlty Towers, in that the two old dears did all the cooking and they were like those chefs, the Two Fat Ladies. The meals were out this world, served in this old Victorian dining room on a massive big table with the lace. They had the old-fashioned urn with the potatoes in it; the food was exquisite. And they grew all their own vegetables and fruit out in their massive back garden, and the oul’ brother John tended to the whole garden, so everything was fresh out of the ground to your table. They made their own butter and icecream as well.
They were really relics of decency, gentry ladies who had fallen on harder times and started running their house for bed and dinner.
It was magnificent. We would leave in the morning and we would go down to the beach and those bloody pebbles that would take the arse and the feet off you. My mother would smother me in Nivea because those were the days you could actually get sunburnt in summer in Ireland. I’d be in playing in the water and playing with any old mutt I could find on the beach. My dad would be in the water with me. We’d go up to the baths in Bray and I learned to dive on progressively higher boards.
Then we’d go back up to the house and we’d have a beautiful dinner from them and then we would walk down Putland Hill. God almighty, no wonder people were thin in those days — you walked everywhere. We walked down this massive hill, this bloody steep hill and the laugh about it is coming back was even better.
We’d walk down the hill and some nights we’d go and see McFadden’s roadshow.
It’s was a terrific old set-up of comedy and music and dance and drama in a tent. I was enchanted with it. Or we’d go up to the dodgems in Bray and you could ride the ‘merry-go-round’. Sometimes we’d have climbed up to the cross in Bray Head so we’d be too knackered to do anything. But on the more energetic nights we’d be down playing the dodgems, and the laughing policemen and all the old wooden games that were just artistry and magic. You wouldn’t see the likes of them now. It was a magnificent display.
Then we would go into the old shop on the corner which was the only shop that sold British comics like ‘Jack and Jill’ and that kind of thing, at the time. My Father would always buy me a comic and a little bag of penny goodies.
We’d get a bag of chips in the walkway that had all the little kiosks and shops buzzing about. Eating the chips we’d walk back up that bloody hill. God it was like the Camino. Kilimanjaro was less of a challenge eating the bag of chips. But you didn’t even think about it, young and fit.
We walked back up to the house and [one of the sisters] would always say, ‘Eh, Ms King, would you like a nice pot of tea now for bed?’.
The poor divil would be waiting up to make you a pot of scalding tea and home-made scones with clotted cream. And you after stuffing the face off yourself with chips. Then we would get into the beds, which were brass beds with beautiful ornate brass tops on them. The bed linen — you could cut paper with it. It was starched linen, beautiful Egyptian cotton and lovely lace pillows. There was a wash stand and basin in the room — that was your sole means of washing. There was a little bathroom. It was Victorian and quaint and we would sleep there for the night, my little sunburnt body in the cold, crisp white sheets. You’d drift off into a perfectly calm sleep and face another day’s adventure the next day.
It was exhilarating times when I look back now. The innocence of it and the purity, in comparison to the demands there is now when you’re out. Mobile phones have replaced human contact and conversation. There was no mobile phones back then so everybody talked to each other when they were with each other.
They were glorious summers and I think, looking back into my own past, overall my memory of those trips to Bray is that they were outstanding and have been the bar by which I measure a good time in the summer.