One of my early childhood chores was to collect the eggs from our hens. I was the youngest girl, but the second youngest of five children, three girls and two boys. We lived in the city centre but were so lucky to have had a summer house in a sea side location just a half hour from the city of Cork. This access to the wild and beautiful coastal location gave the perfect balance to any childhood and the memories run deep.
My mother grew up in the house right next door where my Nan lived until two years before she passed away. From modest upbringings where my mother often told us of her delight and enthusiasm to be first up to get the cream off the milk. Imagine that excitement in today’s youth! My granddad was supposedly a tasty cook, using every last ingredient to feed a family of 8. Fridges were non existent for the first 13 years of my mothers life and food was stored in boxes or hung in net bags on the back yard wall. Perishables and daily necessities were bought fresh in the local shop, meat was bought when needed and cooked for the dinner, there was not much need for storage containers for leftovers as you guessed it, there wasn’t much left over.
My mother also had the experience of a sea side summer retreat and she passed this love onto us when she convinced my dad to buy a timber summer bungalow when they didn’t really have the finances to buy it. They bought it anyway and I am forever in their debt. An outside loo and we were washed in the sea, as all we did all day long was swim. Saturday nights we had kettles boiled to wash our hair in buckets. We were not allowed socks all summer long and rain or shine we wore ‘summer clothes’ other wise you were labelled ‘Paddy Winters’. Now I know why my mother had these sly rules, every Thursday morning out came the twin tub hand washer and a spinner and she diligently washed an enormous pile of washing, the no socks and winter clothes rule saved her hours of work…she is a very clever lady!
A packed lunch was provided daily and off you were sent to the beach, hordes of us children. Until the mothers came to join us with their flasks of tea you weren’t allowed swim. My mother knitted all five children’s school jumpers to save on buying the shop bough ones that she said “didn’t keep us as warm as her knitted ones” – I can vouch for this!
We were rarely sick as children, we were all breast fed. Another sly rule was the hot cereal rule. Monday to Friday we had to eat a hot breakfast weetabix or porridge to save on the expensive brands of lesser quality, “anything else didn’t keep your tummy warm” – I can vouch for this too!
Windows were open in the morning time regardless of the season to clear the stale air from the night before, this has been proven to be beneficial and can help with allergies and sicknesses. If we were cold then we would put on a jumper, imagine!
Winter time she showed me how to keep a fire going using slack once the coal got the fire started, slack burns longer and is cheaper. The hens were fed all the peels from the vegetables and we ate the most amazing eggs, I can still taste the orange yolks now, delicious! We always said my mother should have been an accountant but I just think she has an amazing sense of survival and common sense. All her sly rules I now keep myself (except the knitting) and I find myself drawn to more and more of her ways. They are simple common sense rules my mother follows but she managed to rare 5 children on one average wage, plus put us all through college.
My mother, Dolores, is amazing and is very ECO savvy without her even knowing – then again I am my mothers daughter.
Thanks Mum for just being you! xx