Wild Children – Reminiscing a holiday in Ireland in the 1970s

Published by A.S. Mink on

Wild Children – Reminiscing a holiday in Ireland in the 1970s

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 winds 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 onto the lake.

We left the lake the next day and rented an Irish cottage with whitewashed 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 borrowed a 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 a 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 leap from great heights. She drove up in her black car and left the door wide open behind her, walking up to us with a serious face. We didn’t speak any English yet, but we got the message that we weren’t supposed to mess up the hay. But what did we ‘city kids’ – born and bred in 1960s pastel-coloured Dutch suburbs with black tarmacadamed roads – know?

After that, we visited her in the big house many times. She had hair the colour of tea and was dressed in 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, hid the lump under the hay, ‘too salty’, and wiped our greasy fingers on our trousers. We ate the scones even though they tasted like they contained too little sugar for a biscuit or too much for a bread roll. Our palettes hadn’t been accustomed to Irish flavours yet.

Mrs Connery had a puppy my cousin named Oscar, and we ruined him. He was a sheepdog meant to help on the farm, but after our holiday, he was only good enough to be a pet. Too spoiled, they said. He never picked up any commands, just wagged his tail, expecting to be stroked, hugged and kissed in abundance 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 always hid 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 into the hills. We sang songs we weren’t allowed to sing at home because of what my mother would describe as ‘the rough language’ in them. But nobody could understand us anymore anyway, 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 always needed good dishwashers.

I remember worrying about how far we were going and jumping 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 and catching the material. My trousers were ruined, and I remember walking back, bending backwards, and holding the material together awkwardly so no-one could see my knickers.

But of course, all this was before we made friends with children from the village, after that we really went wild…

©2020 A.S. Mink

What the magazine said: –

[Mink] is a Dutch-born artist and aspiring writer. She has written two books and is working on a third. She is looking for an agent for her first book, which was inspired by her Irish childhood and teenage years. It’s about a girl living in the 1970s who, after moving to an old Georgian Mansion, discovers that history is still alive and very much in the present. The narrative is interwoven with Irish myths and history. This short non-fiction piece is taken from her newest project, Childhood Memories, chronicling the first few weeks after moving to Ireland, and can be found on her personal blog asmink.nl

Why they chose it: –

It’s always interesting to see our native country through the eyes of outsiders, to see how their experiences diverge from our own, and so we greatly enjoyed this small taster from Anita’s memoir detailing her first few weeks as an immigrant to Ireland in the 1970s.

Issue Five: Oxymorons | Silver Apples Magazine

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A.S. Mink, Parkstraat 63, 6828JG, Arnhem, Netherlands

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