THERE is a lot to love about the summer time. Prancing around on the beach, frolicking in the beer gardens, flirting with skin cancer and cremating the burgers on the barbecue for fear of food poisoning. The roads are also a lot clearer because the schools are off, but that also means that…the schools are off. The wild animals that are usually locked up in cages every day are suddenly running wild around town.
I saw some kids hanging around outside the Book Centre today and as I passed them again, in the exact same place, four hours later, I found myself reminiscing, as I’m sometimes inclined to do, about what I did during my own summer holidays.
First off, before the actual school year ended, we all went on the famous ‘School Tour’. This was absolutely brilliant and to this day, the only thing I can remember getting as excited about, was Santa Claus. It would all start when the teacher would send the ‘School Tour’ letter home to the parents. This would have the itinerary and all the exciting ins and outs of what was inevitably going to be the best day ever.
‘The boys will be picked up in front of the school gates at 8am.’ 8am??? This was amazing. I’m usually in bed at 8am. We’ll be in the school when people are in bed. This would be a very exciting start to proceedings. ‘It is advisable to bring a jacket in case it rains and a packed lunch.’ Packed Lunch – my favourite two words that weren’t Christmas Eve, when I was a child. ‘We will get to Mosney for around 10:30am, and will be leaving at 6pm. We expect to be back at the school by 9pm.” This was bliss. I never slept a wink the night before a school tour.
On the last day of school, I probably brought in a game of Yahtzee or maybe Battleship into the classroom. Kids still do that today don’t they? Bring in a board game at the end of the school year? ‘What’s a Board Game?’ I hear the teenagers shout. They’re probably allowed to download an app on the school’s WIFI as their end of year treat.
So now, the cages have been opened. The teachers say ‘Good Riddance ye horrible smelly little bastards’ and the parents once again assume control for the summer. The operative word there is ‘assume’. They assume that their kids are okay, even though they haven’t actually seen them for eleven hours. They assume that they’re not annoying the general public in some way or another.
I used to get up quite early. I didn’t discover the art of laziness and ‘The Lie in’ until my 20s. Up I’d get at about 8:30am, have a bowl of coco-pops and out the door I’d go. I wouldn’t be seen again until about 8:30 that night when I’d return covered in dry muck. What we were doing was very much dependent on what was happening on the telly. If the world cup was on, then we’d be playing a game of World Cup down in the Front Field (Cork Road Forever!). If Wimbledon was on, then we’d all be playing tennis on the road (Not an easy game to play in a housing estate I might add). Between all that we’d be playing kerbs, handball, rounders and bad egg. At that time, there used to be all fields and marshlands down where Woodies and Lidl are now (Christ can ya believe it…I’m only 33 and I’m saying ‘there used to be only fields here…’) Anyway, there were only fields there. It was behind the Jet Garage and McGraths/Nolans shop in an area that we affectionately knew as “Behind the Jet.” Of course McDonalds arrived onto the scene soon after and our childhoods disappeared forever.
As we got a little older…say, past Junior Cert age, we’d stay out a bit later during the summer months – doing absolutely nothing. From age 11-14, the summer time was as exciting as an Enid Blyton novel. We’d be having water balloon fights, selling stuff in our front garden, trying to make a few bob poorly cutting people’s gardens or washing their cars…and then from 15 upwards…we would just sit on a wall. That was it. From about 11 in the morning til 11 that night, we’d just sit on a wall, talking about who fancies who. Because girls were on the scene then you see – spotty girls with braces and fashion that confused and slightly scared us all.
We’d sit on a wall, and then the person who owned that wall would bang the window at us and we’d have to go over and sit on another wall. Every now and then you’d hear a parent shout into the darkness for their child to return home. One by one we’d all get called in. It was fairly innocent stuff though. We had first drinks, first smokes (Not for me though, I wanted to be the rebel who didn’t smoke), and most importantly of all, first kisses.
I’ve probably waffled on about a first kiss before so I’m not going to do it again, however, I sincerely hope that’s what is still going on around the streets of Waterford. They can’t all be in their houses playing Minecraft can they? (I have no idea what Minecraft is by the way, I’m just aware of its existence and its popularity.) Are we at a point where the parents are having to kick their children out of the house? ‘Would ya go out and shift a young wan for God’s sake?!! That’s what we were all doing at your age! Forget about your apps and your Facebooks…go out and set fire to something.”