Childhood Memories No. 5

The Boys of Kilfinane

© Anita Salemink 2015. Memories No. 5 (Detail) Watercolour 12.5 by 12.5 cm

© Anita Salemink 2015. Memories No. 5 (Detail) Watercolour 12.5 by 12.5 cm

It must have been one of those compulsive urges children have, like when they are walking on a tiled floor and refuse to step on a seam, or — this is the one I struggled with when still a child — walking along a road and hearing a car coming up behind me, I had to run as fast as possible to pass the next street lamp before the car passed me or else I’d get a heart attack and die.

But the one that bothered me during my Kilfinane holiday when I was about seven was that I had to wash my knee socks everyday in the stream that runs through the bluebell woods. I can’t remember the reason, but getting my socks clean was a life and death situation, even though they had been clean from the beginning, because I put on a fresh pair every morning, and after the washing I had to wear clammy, cold socks for the rest of the day.

By this time we had made new friends; boys from the village had befriended us, there were four of us girls and there were about five boys; one for each of us and one as a spare. They gave us rings they got out of chewing gum machines; I think I had two in total, but my older cousin had one ring on each finger, she was the prettiest of us. Those rings were important, they gave us a kind of hierarchy, the more rings the higher we were on the falling-in-love and thus the growing-up ladder. Those boys hung around us like bees around sweet things in warm weather, and we went on with our business of exploring the countryside as if they weren’t even there. When we rolled down a hill, they stayed at the top looking at us, as if trying to make sense of those strange wild children speaking that strange language, and whose attention could only be caught with garish rings. Other times they just rolled after us laughing. Mostly it was a case of following the girls, with us giggling pretending we didn’t notice them behind us, or pretending we didn’t care. My father told us about certain words that sounded the same in English but meant completely different things, and would be insulting to someone who didn’t understand us. Instead of not using those words, we tried them out on them, checking for their reactions.

I was getting tired of them following us everywhere, so sometimes when they were sitting on their wall by the road, talking to one another, waiting for us to appear, we would sneak passed them and slip into the woods. There was a ruin hundreds of years old to explore. It was covered in ivy, and looked lovely, with the trees and everything. I would pretend I lived there dressed in an old-fashioned crinoline dress. Picture myself sitting by the fireplace embroidering something beautiful and exotic, like in Gone With the Wind, a colourful bird maybe; the walls behind me covered in velvet tapestries instead of ivy.

But then I saw a man standing on the wall above us. He had a strange expression on his face, his eyes swallowed by shadows cast down from the trees so we couldn’t see them properly, his skin looked a sickly yellowish white in the filtered light. Maybe he considered the ruin his, guarding it like Quasimodo. He had gigantic hands, which disappeared into his trousers as he stood there watching us. One of us started to scream, then we all started screaming our lungs out of our bodies. We were certain that he had spied on us before, probably every time we were there. He must have been following us everywhere.

Anyway, after that we didn’t mind the boys anymore. They even helped me dry my socks, taking turns spinning them above their heads as fast as they could. One of them kept singing the chorus of a song that had been on the radio, he sang it constantly, going ‘Cause, oh, baby I know
I know I could be so in love with you
And I know that I could make you love me too
And if I could only hear you say you dooo, ooh, ooh, ooh
But anyway, what would you say?’

I just enjoyed the sun on my face lying on my back, sucking Cowslips, watching the clouds float by, and listening to his singing and the trickle of water in the stream at my feet.

‘Grand,’ I said, and they all giggled.

© Anita Salemink 2015. Memories No. 5 Watercolour 12.5 by 12.5 cm

© Anita Salemink 2015. Memories No. 5 Watercolour 12.5 by 12.5 cm

* This is the fifth post in Childhood Memories

The Miniatures are for sale:

Framed miniature mounted in a wooden frame: 100 euros excluding postage and packing

Boxed miniature: 75 euros excluding postage and packing

Please leave a comment or a question in the comment bar below. All reactions to the project will be greatly appreciated.

© Anita Salemink 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Anita Salemink with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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