First kisses and 99s: Memories of an Irish summer
Close your eyes and think of summer at home...The familiar scent of salt air and campfire smoke on the dunes of the west and east coasts. The sounds of bike bells, ice cream trucks, merry-go-rounds and mammies calling their little ones in from a day of play. Irish summers live so vividly in our memories that even tastes, smells and sounds can bring on waves of nostalgia. We can all relate to so many of these memories, so we thought we’d share a few today to celebrate the launch of our new summer box Now That’s What I Call Nostalgia. Here’s what so many of us with Irish connections did on our laethanta saoire…
Beach Days… with or without the sun
If a beach day was planned, a beach day was happening. Rain, hail or shine (the former being a lot more likely than the latter) you were going, and that was that. A picnic by the sea was an essential part of the Irish summer experience, though that experience could differ dramatically depending on our undependable weather.
Your car would be packed with everything but the kitchen sink, just in case. Every piece of rusty, collapsible garden furniture would be fitted around you and your siblings or cousins as you squished into the back seat. You were also encouraged to bring supplies for all four seasons from sun cream and swimming togs to wellies and woolly hats. Packets of Tayto would be passed around, along with sandy ham rolls, soggy Kimberly Mikados and multiple Capri Suns. Brightly striped windbreakers and broken brollies would be pounded into the sand to protect babies and grandparents from the howling wind, sideways rain or blazing sun. Suddenly, out of nowhere, something incredible would appear in the distance. A familiar melody would drift over the sandcastles and picnic blankets and every child would turn to their mam and utter that infamous request…
“Can I have a 99?”
Fun fact: 99s used to cost 99p. Now, you’d be lucky if you got one for €2, and that’s excluding the flake! However, no matter how much we complain about inflation, we all know that when it comes down to it, we’d happily pay any amount for the sweet, creamy taste of a 99. The crunch of the fresh cone, the snap of the rich Cadbury’s flake. 99s were the epitome of summer in Ireland. You’d remember your first of the season as school let out, and you’d savour your last as the stretch in the evening became shorter and shorter.
Piles of Bikes
Whether you spent your summers galavanting around your neighbourhood or ‘loitering’ around a shabby caravan park that looked NOTHING like the boujee mobile home parks of today, there was always one sign that summer had begun: the bike pile.
Back when we had to make do without mobile phones, the only way to find our friends was to seek out the distinct pile of hand-me-down bikes discarded outside shops, homes, caravans or literally anywhere else. It was amazing the lack of regard we had for our vehicles back then, knowing that they had been used by at least 100 cousins in the past. We’d dismount and dump our rusty, worn bikes at the entrance to every park and beach we fancied. There were no locks or name tags. If your bike was stolen, someone in your crew would magically pull another old one from their dad’s shed as a replacement and you’d go on as if nothing happened. Nowadays, seeing piles of bikes makes us feel all warm inside, reminding us that some things never change.
Game games and more games
Do you remember when your only plan for the day was to play? Your gang would ‘call’ for you after breaky and you’d be gone til sunset, only returning home for a quick bite to eat.
The warm glow of streetlights signalled your curfew and you’d arrive home exhausted after a day spent playing various versions of Tip The Can, British Bulldog, Manhunt or Rounders. Games of football and hurling were also on the cards, as were card games on rainy days. Even when you had to kick a bust ball around the green or play 21 with a deck that was missing 2 queens, summer games were the best… until a fight broke out and you were all called home for disturbing the neighbours, god forbid.
The Local Fun Fair
Looking back, the sheer tackiness of the fun fair was what made it amazing. You’d wait all summer for the ‘hurdy gurdys’ to arrive at your local open space. Then you’d spend all the money your granny gave you on dodgy waltzers, underwhelming rollercoasters and fun houses with inappropriate images of Marilyn Monroe and Sandy from Grease spray-painted on the front. The amount of SUGAR consumed was nothing short of dangerous from freeze pops and dib dabs to candy floss and yes, even more 99s.
The Gaeltacht was, and hopefully still is an Irish institution. Defined by craic, ceol, cupán tae agus cúpla focail, spotty sunburnt teenagers dressed in their county colours would gather to experience their first taste of freedom in the shticks of Connemara or Donegal. A pivotal milestone in every child’s upbringing, stories of Irish College shenanigans would be embellished dramatically when summer was over and we all returned to school.
Were you even Irish if you didn't have your first kiss in Gaelo? It was either that or at your mate's holiday home in Wexford or Achill Island. Wherever your fist ‘shift’ or ‘meet’ occurred, you can bet the person you kissed lived far enough away that they could never be called on as a witness.
Irish summers are ICONIC, to say the least. Yes, we all love a bitta heat in Malaga or Majorca, but we have to admit that when the weather is good at home, there's no place you’d rather be from June to August. There's just something about those cool evenings wheeling around your estate or mobile home park in your shorts and sandals. The gang of pals that accompanied you to the sweet shop every day. The icy water that always felt baltic no matter how hot Met Eireann said it was…
Get your fix of summer nostalgia with our latest box filled with the taste of Irish summer. Featuring your favourites from Refreshers and Dip Dabs to Winders and Snax, add the Now That’s What I Call Nostalgia box to your bag today.