By Jon Kavanagh
My earliest memory sees my mother lighting an oil lamp on a winters evening. It’s the 60s. JFK is in the White House, there are satellites circling the earth, radio Caroline is blasting out pop music from international waters and Bob Dillion tells us The Times They Are a-Changin’. But there’s not much evidence of change in our neck of the woods. Although the gate lodge where I’m spending my formative years is only a few miles from Swords and Dublin Airport, there is no running water or electricity. My father does a circus clown impression as he cycles home from the roadside pump, steering with one hand whilst precariously balancing a bucket of water with the other one. We toilet alfresco. Our humble abode which makes Steptoe and son’s den look like Home of the Year, consists of a kitchen and one tiny bedroom, separated by a wooden partition which stretches half way to the celling. The ice-cold blue flag stones on the kitchen floor serve as a barometer, turning damp when rain is on the way. An open fire multi tasks as a cooker, heater, clothes airer and bread toaster. Double glazing is a sheet of ice on the inside of the window. Home insulation is a sack slung across the bottom of the door to repel the easterly breeze. The duvet is an ill matched pile of blankets and overcoats. Heavy army coats are much sought after for bedding purposes. We live on the edge of a wood which has a healthy population of wild life. Bats, various insects including daddy longlegs, mice and the odd rat are familiar visitors. For reasons best known to himself, a rouge rodent decides to make off with my mother’s false teeth. Luckily, his lack of manual handling skills does not allow him to manoeuvrer them through his exit point and he is forced to abandon his loot. There is a temptation to look back through the lense of today and feel one had less than an ideal childhood. But my rustic upbringing gave me a reservoir of resilience. A resilience I was very glad to tap into when the covid lockdowns came.