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School & ‘The Olden Days’

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‘Mam, did you go to school in the ‘olden days’? asked my son last year. While lifting my jaw of the floor and re-establishing my heart rhythm I asked him exactly how old he thought I was!!?? He smiled at me, knowing he had obviously said something he shouldn’t.

Times like this I wonder what on earth our kids view of world must be? Try as I may I cannot remember much of my childhood or school days. I’m not sure if this is unusual, if I have selective memory or if there is some trauma which has caused me to experience some sort of amnesia.


One of the few things I do remember is getting my new school books; one of my favourite things as a child. I have always loved the smell of a new book, even a school one. But what I dreaded was what my mother would produce in an effort to preserve their pristine condition in order to sell them the next year. Yes, SELL THEM, people of Ireland. In those days there was such a thing as second hand books, when there weren’t 3 new editions since the previous September that included 100 new words and rendered your version obsolete. But the problem with having a second hand book culture was that every household had parents that produced the mother and father of all book preservations……..the unused roll of wallpaper. I kid you not!


I’m assuming my mother was not the only one who did this, and that it was possibly an Irish thing. But I hated the sight of the roll appearing. Not only did it look hideous, it doubled the width of every book which meant you had extra weight in your bag. Then on the first day of school you prayed you didn’t have the most unsightly pattern in the class or you would be the butt of the jokes for the entire year. Mine was almost always bubble style paper, and I yearned for the smooth sheen of some of the other cooler kids paper.

Today I was putting clear sticky covering on my kids new books. (Before you gasp in shock, I am NEVER this organised, but I have a new job to start next week and I don’t know how August is going to shape up, so I decided to be ahead of the game). Anyway as I fought with the rolling, sticky cursed ‘stuff’ I actually thought for a moment how I missed the wallpaper. It was easier to use, just stick it down with selotape. None of this fighting with curling adhesive that folds into itself, sticks to the table, wraps round your wrist and then you scrunch it up in temper to have to start again. (I might add by book 3 I had it nailed and am now an expert book wrapper.)

Anyway thinking about the paper I wondered if anything else was simpler then. But then I couldn’t really remember much. I know there were times I hated school, just like my kids. There was that one teacher I loved, just like my kids. There were the cool kids everyone wanted to be friend with, the messers in class everyone laughed at, just like in my kids’ classes. There was the excitement of holidays, and the excitement to go back after the holidays, just like my kids. So really things haven’t changed…..apart from the covering on the books.

I must admit, I would love to see my 11 year old daughters face if I was to emerge with a dodgy patterned wallpaper roll to cover her books in. I am actually tempted to buy a cheap roll just to see the look on her face.

I may be ‘Old’ in my kids eyes, and the ‘Olden days’ may be a long time ago, but there’s still a kid in me somewhere. Hopefully she will never grow old.

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