As August turns to autumn, you’ll notice that every fella you come across (young and auld) is sporting a farmer’s tan. Complete with faded freckles and patches of white where they managed to shlap on a bit of suncream, these lads – and sometimes ladies too – love to pull up their sleeves to proudly display the “great colour” they got on one of the 5 “good days” over the summer. The only appropriate response is to congratulate them with a “fair play” before producing your own arm to compare tans. Classic.
It’s around this time of year when the Mammy WhatsApp groups are hopping with the exchange of Debs photos. Every one of these Irish mammies believe that their Ciara or Aoife or Oisin looked the best in the thousands of photos taken at the universal pre-drinks held in the house. The parents wait awkwardly sipping flat Prosecco and one-upping each other about their kid’s Leaving Cert results.
Eventually the couples pose in a line in front of the fireplace grinning as multiple variations of the same photo is taken. This phenomenon happens all over the country at this time of year and, though we don’t want to admit it, we just love surveying the get ups!
The Rose of Tralee Festival
The concept of the Rose of Tralee, for those who need a refresher, is unlike any other festival. The event is held in the Kingdom of course, and Kerry people treat it as a celebration akin to a royal coronation. From the outside, it looks like a beauty pageant. In reality, it’s a gathering of selected contestants of Irish descent from all over the world who battle it out to be crowned the “Rose of Tralee”. Essentially, these women are not judged on their dresses or talents, but on how sound they
appear to be and how much craic they are. Irish families everywhere sit down together to watch the competition on the telly, taking bets on who they think will win. If you grew up watching “The Rose” every year, you’d come to recognise it as the last hurrah of the summer, the heralding of back-to- school and an event filled with memories and nostalgia for summers gone by.
The annual black berry picking excursion was a wonderful outing back in the day – and hopefully it still is. It was your granny or grandad’s time to shine. They would examine the blackberries and reveal whether or not they were ripe enough to start picking. If it was a no, disappointed kids would return inside to wait another week or two. If the berries were deemed ready, the gang would head out to fill bags and bags with the sweet fruit. They’d come home that evening delighted with
themselves, full to the brim with berries and fingers stained in deep purple as a reminder of a successful day out.
The Last Beach Day
There is still a stretch in the evenings… but its waning. Families around the country are making the most of what August has to offer. In practice, this looks like breezy beach days, togs that no longer fit and forcing the gang into the water with the threat that it might be “the last swim of the summer”. The little ones, teeth chattering and blue with the cold, will undoubtedly being handed a sandy sambo and cup of weak tea from a flask to warm up. From brightly coloured windbreakers and hand-me-down wetsuits to packs of Tayto crisps and chocolate Digestives, they’ll savour the last beach day of the summer until next year.
The Last 99
Traditionally, the Irish family would stop for a cone of whipped deliciousness on the way home from the final beach excursion. Speaking of savouring, the last ’99 would have you thinking back to the first one of the summer. It tasted of excitement, adventure and the anticipation of what the holidays would bring. The last ’99 in contrast, is sprinkled in bittersweet nostalgia and drizzled with the realisation that this was your very last lick until next year.
Back to school
Uniforms, books and afterschool schedules. You’ve had the whole summer to get organised but of course, there is always the last-minute rush. The back-to-school haircut was a big one back in the day. As a kid you’d line up with your siblings
and get a good chop for the term ahead, one that would hopefully deter any nits visiting the classroom. Uniforms were patched up and handed down to the younger ones and they’d look on as the eldest flaunted their brand new one. Typical. Your mam would head off to do the big shop for school lunches and midweek dinners. You’d help her unload the messages, painfully noting the absence of the holiday treats.