"Oh dear what can the matter be
Three old ladies locked in the lavatory
They'll be there from Monday to Saturday
No-body knew they were there."
When he started singing this song, I knew we were near. I could feel the excitement building, wanting to explode!
"Who is going to see the house first?" they would ask, probably to keep us quiet in the back of the car. Four of us squished, cramped, bickering, unflinching, guarding our patch of car space for the whole car journey from Dublin to West Cork. Which was a long long way, before the roads improved.
And then, I could smell it.
The sea. The sand. The salt. The sweet summery fern.
And I could hear it.
The waves. The wind. The birds. The people.
And as we rounded another twist, I could see it. There it was. Yes. In all it's glory, the sea, the glorious wild, vast, expansive sea. Blue. White.
The road getting narrower and narrower and rising higher and higher. A very sharp bend, and my father would start up his familiar (to us) song again. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I would get a chance to be 'driver' sitting on my fathers knee and doing the steering all the way up the very steep hill to our holiday home for the week - a long driveway. A week felt like an eternity of luscious, everlasting, refreshingly summery childhood freedom.
We'd meet our many cousins at various houses. Catching up. Sleepovers. Visits. Food and fizzy lemonade for us. Grown up drinks for the adults. Lots and lots of laughter. Belly laughing. Stories. Reacquainting. Late nights out. Driving home in the dark.
"Look a fox," my father would say as one ran across the dark dark country road.
The red poppies used to be in bloom in the field beside our holiday home. I loved to wander in this field finding caterpillars that I would put into a Tupperware tub, waiting patiently for them to turn into butterflies. They always escaped on their many legs before obliging with any kind of metamorphosis. My mother would tell me off for getting poppy dye on my white socks before going to Sunday mass. I liked the combination of colours!
Spending time with my cousins. One set taking us exploring through their wheat filled fields, past their fairy fort.
"Don't touch the fairy fort", they'd say. Then down down down to their private beach. So much freedom to run, to roam. Such beauty.
Then onto my other cousin's farm. Getting up at the crack of dawn to help milk the cows. Some warm milk put aside for the new calves. I would go and sit with the calves. Allowing them to suck my hand. Missing their mothers.
Time on the beach. Inchydoney. Now called an island and Spa. Back then it was our beach. We could walk from our holiday home through the thick ferns, inhaling their sweetness, all the way down to the huge sandy beaches. "Beware of the sinking sand", we were told. We usually had to go and have a look, out of curiosity. The wild Atlantic water, probably freezing, but gloriously refreshing to us.
Gazing over the wall and into the river running under the driveway, at my father's birth home. Built in 1900 proudly chiselled out as a centrepiece at the front of the house. The memory of the old forge, my grandfather and great-grandfather Farriers; Blacksmiths, to the side of the house. My father and his brother leaning on the wall, gazing into the river. Not much speaking going on as far as I could see. Just happy to be spending time together.
They'd tell us stories of roguery. At mass they pegged the old women's black shawls in front of them together. When the women stood up, the shawls would fall off. Leaving my father and his brother holding in their hilarious laughter. Or the time they pushed their baby sister in her pram down the hill. Curious to see what happened. They were in for a shock when the pram just veered off course, just missing the river.
We loved hearing these stories over and over again.
"And through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder." - Advent, Patrick Kavanagh
These memories are precious. Treasures of my childhood. So much wonder, curiosity and fun. The twists and turns of life flow on. The door creaks open a little wider, yet writing about these memories now reawakens my childhood curiosity and fun.
"Memory is the scribe of the soul." - Aristotle
The women may still be locked in the lavatory for all I know. I never fully understood what the connection was with these old ladies and our holiday home perched on the hill, yet that was all part of the mystery and humour of my upbringing.
I bring my children back to these parts again and again. To know their roots. Their Irishness blended with their Scottish upbringing (with Belgium and England playing a part too for them). I share these stories with them. Hoping to instil that sense of belonging in them.
"You belong to this beauty you’ve made of your life." - Toko-Pa Turner