In Kilfinane we were known as wild children. And maybe we really were.
What should have been another summer camping trip turned into something completely different. On the first night after arriving in Ireland my parents and my aunt and uncle tried to put up a tent in gale force ten on the banks of a grey and rough lake, while we children, my sister and me, my little brother and my three cousins watched on from the car. We must have arrived late because I remember it being dark. We had camped many times but up until that point had always sought out sunny, southern spots in Italy or Spain, once we went to Yugoslavia but the temperature there proved to be too hot for us. I can’t remember if they eventually got the tent up, as sticks were constantly falling over and the wind got into the canvas a few times nearly taking it out on to the lake.
But anyway we left the lake the next day and rented an Irish cottage with white washed walls and a thatched roof in Kilfinane. I loved the door that was sawn in half with the bottom closed and the top part left open. My aunt and uncle lent our caravan and camped on the driveway of Mrs Connery’s estate. ‘Terrible weather for camping in a tent’ my father said.
I suppose we did go wild then. Mr and Mrs Connery lived on large estate, with parklands and a river running through it. My first meeting with Mrs Connery was when we were jumping on heaps of hay and burying each other in them, we even climbed a tree so we could take a leap from great heights. She drove up in her black car and left the car door open behind her, walking up to us with a serious face. We didn’t speak any English, not yet, but we got the message, we weren’t supposed to mess up the hay. But what did we ‘city kids’ –born and bred in Dutch 1960’s pastel coloured suburbs with black tarmacademed roads– know. Anyway after that we visited her in the big house many times. She had hair the colour of tea, and wore a twinset and pearls. The hems of her tweed skirts were always well below the knee and sometimes she wore green wellingtons. She had a laughing, screechy voice and let us run all-over the place. She served us scones thickly buttered with salty butter, which we pretended to eat. Back in the stables we scratched the butter off and hid the lump under the hay, ‘too salty’, and wiped our greasy fingers on our trousers. We ate the scones even though they tasted as if they contained too little sugar or too much ‘our palettes hadn’t accustomed to Irish flavours yet’.
Mrs Connery had a puppy that my cousin named Oscar, although we did ruin him. He was a sheepdog meant for helping on the farm, but after our holiday he was only good enough for a pet. Too spoiled, they said, never picked up any commands, just wagged his tail expecting to be stroked, hugged and kissed abundantly when taken out into the fields to herd cattle. They had kittens, we loved them too. You had to sneak up on them in the stables, as they were always hiding from us. And they had a calf that would suck your hand and even try to swallow it if you gave him the chance. Sometimes Mr Connery would take us on his horse-drawn cart up into the hills. We sang songs we weren’t allowed to sing at home, but nobody could understand us, so we sang at the top of our lungs. My mother had warned us not to stray too far away from the cottage because of the gipsies, –they were always in need of good dishwashers, she had said– so we jumped off the cart while it was still moving, and I ripped my trousers from mid calf all the way up to my thigh on a rusty nail sticking out. I knew my mother would kill me, the trousers were ruined, but she probably didn’t as I can’t remember. I do remember walking back bending backwards, holding the material together in an awkward way. But of course all this was before we made friends with children from the village, after that we really went wild, well that’s what we were called.
* This was the fourth post in the series: Childhood Memories
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