Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - SEASONS IN THE SUN -


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.

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