Friday, May 14, 2010


I started writing these insights into my first 10 years of life in reverse because I was excited- just like a kid- at the prospect of a visit to France on Wednesday, and used them as a countdown from 10.

You may think that I would find it hard to recollect anything aged six. You'd be wrong.

St Patrick's Garth had a common concrete block of a play area surrounded by verandered flats where milk lorries, rag and bone men with their horse and carts, coal lorries and mobile grocery vans parked just long enough to do their business before moving on to leave us to play.

Our favourite was the wedding cars. It was tradition for the bride or groom to throw a handful (sometimes two) of 'coppers' out of the car as they drove off for us kids to scramble unashamedly for as many as possible. It was on one such occasion that I wondered if I would ever have £100. I thought a £100 would last me forever.

No one owned a car in the garth. Some had airs and graces and others kept a scrupulously clean house with lots of pictures and ornaments but we were essentially all poor together.

We played for hours in the garth and always had to be called in. Some mothers called their kids in really early and others called in at critical times when a game was in full swing. I was rarely called in early unless I had to do an errand.

I remember well the games with the girls. Moira Long had a mother who would have graced any screen. She oozed class and their house smelled lovely and was immaculate. We would play doctors and nurses but I was always the patient being operated on or bandaged up. Another game was shopkeeping. Moira had scales, jars of sweets and a till and we would take turns in being the customer or the shop owner. We had to be different types of customer and it was really good fun. Moira was always called early leaving us with nothing good or different to play with.

I vividly remember playing cops and robbers and running up and down those concrete steps trying to catch the bad guys and shouting "You're under arrest". Everybody wanted to be the American arresting officer. We didn't have guns but our pointed fingers worked well. There was always a sheriff's badge available.

Sometimes, everyone came out onto the veranda to watch a full scale football match where coats or jumpers defined the goal posts. Cricket was another popular game, especially if a ball ended up bouncing off somebody's window and better still if the window broke. More often than not the ball was caught by the women who stood guard to protect their property. If there weren't spectators, a broken window usually signified the end of the game as we'd all scatter.

The longest game was 'Kick the Tin'. The tin would be kicked and while it was being retrieved everyone would hide. The object was to get back to the tin without being noticed.

Hopscotch, skipping , chuck-stones, throwing balls, handstands, wooden spinning tops, playing with toy soldiers and marbles were other games played on the block.

Another very popular game but not with the parents was knocking on doors and running to hide as it was answered. Other times we'd walk along the high wall or climb the drainpipe of the top veranda onto the flat roof to play with the TV aerials.

Outside of the garth I had lots of playgrounds most of which were dangerous. I'll include these tomorrow along with the accidents I had.

Back to 2010...a good day of painting. Bev was really tired after work so was very glad to put her feet up while I made tea.

Just three working days to go! We'll be leaving straight after work on Wednesday. We can't stop thinking about it now.


  1. I just have to say how much I have enjoyed reading about your childhood experiences. What a journey! I've laughed and cried, and have felt both anger and joy on your behalf. Although I haven't commented on all, I have read them and stand amazed that you triumphed over those situations. You've exemplified what life is all about--not escaping tragedy, but instead learning to deal with it when it comes our way in a manner that makes us more compassionate, more loving,more understanding.

  2. I also have been reading with interest your Countdowns, and in case I don't get to speak to you again - I hope you have a lovely time when you get over here to France. It is a shame that you are up north, and that we are down south, otherwise we would have popped in to see you. Sending you blessings for a safe journey.

  3. Hi Randi
    You put it so nicely that I don't really know how to respond other than say thank you for taking time to read and think about it when you are probably at you most busiest or upside-down time. How did the move go? Any last minute hitches?

    Hi Vera
    I look forward to the day I round the corner and walk into your fascinating world or self-sufficiency. We are bound to be passing near you sometime in the future en-route to somewhere or other.

  4. As Randi & others have said "You've exemplified what life is all about--..learning to deal with it when it comes our way in a manner that makes us more compassionate, more loving,more understanding" - we know the sort of pressures carbon goes through to shine as diamond! Thanks deeply

  5. It's amazing how many things like children's games are almost similar the world over. Most of the games you've mentioned have been the games I've been playing when I was young. And being the tomboy I was.....have had a fare share of accidents, fortunately none serious! Thanks for the peep into this part of your life.

  6. Ken: Luckily we have had very few glitches in our move. The biggest trauma for me has been that a used clothes dryer that we acquired does not turn off. If I forget about it, we have very hot clothes. My hubby's major trauma is that a week later we still can not find the TV remote. Other than that--all is well!

  7. Hi Raj and Tomboy
    Thanks for your comments and insights. I appreciate them.

    Hi Randi
    I'm glad all went well...except for the glitches which I thought were funny.