The further you get from your childhood, the more fantastic it becomes.
I expect that when I die I will remember nothing of the cold, the monotony, the stink of cow shit, the eternal white-bread jam sandwich lunches, the idiotic and occasionally brutal classmates, or the interminable days spent staring out the window at rippling seas of green capped by a dull ceiling of grey.
Instead my childhood will present itself clad in a rosy shimmer, consisting of an unbroken chain of Christmasses, kittens, picnics, Sunday dinners, birthdays and golden summer-lit trips to Ballybunion.
Well let’s put the record straight right now, before I shoot over the rapids of 40 and forget it all entirely. There’s no doubt about it: growing up in the 70s was a strange affair, and doing that growing up in the depths of the countryside in staunchly Catholic old-school Ireland was stranger still. Those of us who were there feel like we have emerged from a war, and we may tell our stories, and people will listen and nod and grunt appreciatively, but only we, the battered survivors, will understand how it really was.
Comparing my upbringing with others that I have met since then, I must say that it was a great deal more restricted than most, but also vastly more varied and bizarre than I realised at the time. When your major pass-times were competitive Irish dancing, playing pool against grown men, fantasizing about travelling to distant planets, and finding ever more inventive ways to smuggle the Sunday newspaper and its topless page-3 girl into your room, you know that you were in a very special bubble of reality, one that will probably never come again.
So it’s time to pin down these anecdotes before they slide out of memory for good. This online memoir – and I suppose I must admit that, yes, it IS a memoir – will be broken into topics, with a chapter devoted to each one, each of them described by a snappy single-word chapter heading. And if you suspect that this is all a desperate novelty attempt to snag a big audience, and eventually a publisher, then you would be entirely correct.
Needless to say, if you know any publishers, or big audiences, please send them my way.
I will publish here once a week, hopefully on Sundays, and I aim to keep this going for at least two years until I reach chapter 99, or until I run out of anecdotes, or until I am forced into silence by a publisher’s large cheque. Only time will tell.
And “Swimming to the Sun”? Bear with me, my patient children, and all will be revealed.
Now, without further ado, let us turn back the clock…