Friday, 25 January 2013

The Island Road

I came across this picture on the internet.
It's a picture of the Island Road, many years ago.
A picture of a road walked many times by a wee lad with short trews and cheap shoes.
A picture of a road in the distant past, of a road in a time when your favourite wee singing fella was just that. A very wee singing fella.
But this is a road I remember well  as you see it pictured here.
This is my Island Road.
This is the road to the start of my life.
(That's 'Maggies House' nearest to you, she had an orchard at the back and kept pigs. We stole too many of her apples!)


Today this road, the Island Road, has changed beyond belief to the road it was when  the wee Map was actually the wee Map!
And what a road.
It was a road of joy, the road that took me to my first school, the start of learning, the start of my joy of curiosity.
It was a road to a different world, a road to independence, yes, for even at the age of four I remember walking this road, with other children my own age, without parents, to school. Innocent times.
And later, to the school for older kids, just further along the road, past the 'Tinker Camp' as we called it then.
A community of travellers who had pitched camp in a field between 'Maggies Orchard' and the new school.
Some of the kids from the camp would come to school every now & then. I can still recall the smell of campfire to this day. I thought it was such an adventure to be living in gypsy caravans and makeshift tents! And these were the original gypsy wagons, not too unlike the covered wagons of the wild west. I was at the same time afraid of, and envious of these kids.
It was also a road of sadness.
When I got older and realised the stigma attached to all who lived there.
Being from the Island was not a good thing.
Putting an address from the Island on a job application meant you might as well put said job application on a paper boat, set fire to it and sail it on down the mighty Shannon.
I like to think things have changed by now.
But then, I like to think my hair will grow back and Madonna will adopt me!
(Maybe not the Madonna thing eh?)
It's been a long, long time since I've walked down the Island Road, though I do drive up & down it many times every week when I visit Ma & Sis.
Maybe this week I'll just park the van and walk down this road of many memories, see what happens, eh?


Thursday, 17 January 2013

Tae, Kettles & Mortal Sins

Me pal called. And rather than his usual habit of going straight to the beer fridge and claiming a cold can of the beer of heaven he asked for a cup of tea.
Understandable, as his elderly Ma is in the hospital down the road from us at the moment and he (and his brothers) have been taking turns staying the night with her.

And today the Youngest was asking where the tradition of offering visitors a 'cup a tae' came from.

And it brought me back to being the wee Map that a certain Pal still sees me as being!

When I was young the kettle was always on the boil. Always!
And that boiled kettle was used to make a fresh pot of tea.
And whomever made the tea was responsible for refilling said kettle and immediately putting it back on the hob (for this was pre electric kettles) to boil, so as another pot of tea could be made as soon after as possible.

For there was always a visitor just about to arrive, 'cos our was literally an open-door house. The front door was opened wide first thing in the morning, as soon as Ma had made the house presentable, and stayed open until we were all off to bed. This was quite common for almost all the neighbours on the Island. And for most of the rest of Limerick in those days I'm sure.

There was always tea available as soon as a visitor arrived.
'Knock knock' 
'Sure come in and have a cup of tea, it's just brewing'. 
And it always was.

And the biggest Mortal sin in my house, when I was even wee'er than I am now, (as some Pal would have ya believe!) was to use the boiled water and not refill the kettle to be put straight back on the hob for to make a new pot of tea!  (And if that was my only Mortal sin... well..)

And it was proper tea. This was before tea-bags (and even after tea-bags were the norm they were still treated as an invention of the Divil himself by me Ma!) so everyone in the house had to know how to make tea. (In fact, every one of us learned not only how to make real tea, but how to make real bread, and how to make a dinner that would also make the next day's lunch!)

To this day I have yet to taste a cup a tae as good as one from the pot made by the Ma.

These days I probably drink too much instant coffee, though I do love the real stuff.

Time to get the teapot out, brew some real leaves and relax more with a 'cup a tae'!