When I was a child, everything had its time and its place.
The days were marked by events.
Saturday was bath day, when we all bathed and washed our hair [not all together, I hasten to add]. Because Sunday was Mass day.
Sunday was a big deal. First of all – no breakfast, because in those days, you had to fast from midnight. Then we’d head off to Mass in the car. Sunday was about the only day in the week when we got a ride in the car. Mass, of course was the old style. We stared at the back of the priest as he chanted away in Latin and it all had a great air of mystery. None of this lets-all-be-friends-and-shake-hands stuff. The Mass then had an air of timeless ritual.
On Sunday afternoon, if my Dad was in a good mood [which he usually was], we’d go for The Sunday Drive. This could be anywhere. Slane. Wicklow Mountains. Howth. I never knew where we’d end up, but it was fun.
Monday was wash day. My mother would fire up the big copper boiler, and all the sheets and cloths would be left boil and the place would fill up with a wooley steam. And after they had boiled for while, we had to put them through the wringer and then hang them out on the line. None of your washing machines and tumble driers for us!!
The days themselves had little milestones too. Meals were always eaten at the table. It wouldn’t occur to us to eat anywhere else. And we had to get permission to leave the table! On hot summer’s days, we used to lay the table in the garden, and eat out there. Dinner was at one o’clock sharp. Tea was at five. If you were late, then too bad.
A quarter to two was “Listen with Mother” with Daphne Oxenford, on the radio. My day was incomplete without that [I was only three or four, for God’s sake]. At two, I had to be silent for an hour. This was “Womans Hour” time, and my mother would stretch out on the settee with her cup of tea and a digestive biscuit. I used to get my dose of Virol then too. I loved Virol. It was like liquid toffee. I wonder what happened to it?
Evenings were spent around the fire. This was the time for reading or listening to the wireless. Sometimes my dad would put on a record. It was all very cosy.
Nowadays, people eat around their widescreen televisions that dominate the room. Meals are whenever you want them. Conversation is a dead art. Studies have shown that one of the causes of juvenile delinquency is the decline in the formal family meal. Children identify more with their friends and characters on television than they do with their families. Sad.
I must admit to eating in front of the television myself these days. We have a washing machine and a tumble drier. The car is used whenever we feel like it.
I listen to the radio a lot. But the biggest thing I have brought with me from those days is my love of books.
I’d be lost without my books.