Life, Living, Becoming...
Gerry Coughlan


Every Summer, for a few years, we used to head off to Rush to spend a fortnight at the seaside. We'd collect periwinkles in our little plastic buckets and once we even boiled them and ate them ... hardly worth the trouble; by the time you'd bent a safety pin and managed to prise free 1 milligram of salty, periwinkle meat, you could have starved.

The one year we met up with a bunch of kids, also on their holliers and set about making a camp at one end of the beach. It was all very World War 1; trenches all over the place and shit weather! One of the older guys was in charge and I remember us marching up and down the beach for a few mornings straight after breakfast.

The worst holiday I recall we spent at least a week in a caravan - which was great. BUT in a remarkable display of timing, my body decided it was the perfect time to tick Mumps off the list of childhood diseases. So for the whole time I wandered about feeling miserable, taking dreadful medicine and probably having my head stuck under a towel breathing in Vicks Vaporub, melting in a hot vat of boiling water;

It's burning me eyes, Ma.
Shut your eyes and breathe deeply
It's burning me face
It's making you better, don't be a baby

In case any doctor is concerned about this wholly inappropriate cure for Mumps, my memory may originate from any one of the 6842 common colds Irish children experience.

Blow your nose,
Stop sniffling.
Will ya look at the state of your sleeve? DON'T WIPE IT!

If Vicks Vaporub was the miracle cure for most things, Dettol was a close second.
It has to sting if it's going to make you better

I remember distinctly waking up one morning in a caravan with the weirdest light-tapping noises on the roof. It sounded like something out of "War of the Worlds". "Jaysus, this is it!", I thought. The whole family's asleep and I was lying awake with swollen glands wondering when the creatures on the other side of the ceiling were going to stop playing around and force their way through the thin metal roof and devour the lot of us!

"Are you awake there, Ger?", me uncle asked. "Yeah", says I; thinking to myself - probably only got a few more minutes left of my short life.
"Those bloody seagulls would wake the dead, eh?"

"For sure". Bleedin' SEAGULLS ... a menace to every housewife on washing day, every clean car in Dublin, everyone trying to catch some sun in the garden on a summer's day and, yeah, every young child trying to sleep past 5 o'clock in the morning on their holliers!

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