Ah the 1980s. A time when it was perfectly acceptable for your family to have sofas and chairs that didn’t match. You had those stretchy nylon covers wrapped tightly over them, secured by a web of elastics underneath. The exact same elastics that you played with in the schoolyard. The good old game of ‘elastics’ – a precursor to smartphones and sloth.
Saturday mornings were for Scratch Saturday and Batman. Afternoons were for cutting the grass with your father and going to the dump with rubbish. If the sun was shining there’d be fishing involved – nowhere exotic, just the local shores of Ervey or Ballyhoe. Ramor and Sheelin were that bit further away, so they were reserved for special occasions. They were the days where you went off in the car from early and fished till your feet were numb and your fingers blue. Catching the odd pike was like Christmas coming early. They were good old days.
Just as interior design hadn’t yet made it to Ireland, fashion wasn’t high on anyone’s agenda either. Nobody cared if they wore branded runners or designer gear. You wore whatever was in your drawer and you were fine with it. It didn’t matter where the clothes had come from, or what state they were in. Cardigans from cousins in Dublin, coats from the woman up the road, sure they were only clothes and who’d be minding what you had on? A good rigout was mandatory for Easter and Christmas, but outside that, the only good gear you needed were a pair of Clarke’s shoes for going back to school in and that was you elected!
Back then, kids went to bed early on school nights. On Sundays there was a minor extension allowed and you got to stay up until the minute Glenroe was over. There was one telly in the house with terrestrial channels, BBC and Channel 4. There may have been a hanger in the back of the telly. The sum total of digital devices in your house was the alarm clock in your parent’s room. We read books. We went to the library every week to borrow our next haul. Learning was fun and we never needed a charger to get through a lesson.
The stars in our eyes were Kylie and Jason, Bros, Charlie Haughey, Charlie Redmond, Joe Dillon and Ray Houghton. When we made our First Communion, we went to a local hotel for a meal with parents and grandparents. There was none of the bouncy castle and a ‘soiree for 100’ nonsense that you see these days. I bought a doll and some Matchbox cars for my brother with my takings. Tastes were purer then and there was no ostentatious spending. Dolls, books and toy cars were all it took to put smiles on our faces. Ice creams often did the trick too.
It’s not with nostalgia that I look back on the eighties and reflect on them as good times. It’s with absolute certainty that they were the best of times to be born. Life was less complicated. The world wasn’t as distracted. We followed a simpler path and enjoyed the journey more for it, in our hand-me-downs, on our un-matching sofas, reading Ladybird books or watching Dempsey’s Den. If I could do it all again, I would.