I GREW up in Ireland in the 80s and 90s. I don’t know how different that was from growing up in England but hear me out. When I was in primary school, we moved from what you might call the suburbs to a village in the countryside. It’s a bit more built up now. The fields we played in now have family homes, which is fine by me because families need homes. When I was still in primary school I used to go home for lunch.
Let me state that again, when I was about nine or ten, I left school and walked the very short distance home to have my lunch. The primary school is still there but I’m not sure the kids in the village still go home for lunch.
Now, don’t get me wrong, not all the children went home for lunch, but my best friend did, as her house was even closer to the school, namely across the road. So did the boy I had a crush on for the entire time I was in primary school and for some time after; he lived two doors down from me. If I got to walk back with him, I was happy.
I share this, dear reader, as I really enjoyed many of your comments on my piece, about what we lost when all the mums went out to work. And this moment of indulgent nostalgia is along the same lines.
Think about what must be in the air for a nine-year-old girl to walk home from school to have lunch with her mother. First, the place where she lives must be safe enough for her to walk on her own, no matter how short the distance. You have to be sure she won’t be grabbed off the streets by some psychopath, or stabbed, or shot in the crossfire of a gang feud. Second, there must be someone at home to make lunch and let the child in. There was someone in my home at this time, my mother. My mother did go out to work later when we were in secondary school (the local convent, obviously). But when I was in primary school she was at home. Or chained to the kitchen sink, the feminists would say.
I can probably date this time to 1990-91, as I remember watching the first Gulf War unfold on the TV, when I was having lunch at home with my mother. This dastardly war meant that Neighbours could no longer be shown at the usual time of, I believe, 1.30 on the BBC (we got to watch the BBC free as we lived on the east coast). Neighbours never went back to that slot, much to my disappointment. I remember walking back to school, on my own, to get some playtime in. You could do that in those days, due to the lack of aforementioned psychopaths, stabbings and drug-related gang feuds.
Of course, this could not happen these days. These glorious days of the modern world are just better. Certainly, better than Ireland in the 80s and 90s if you consult anyone worth consulting in the current Irish Establishment. (No place on earth was worse than Ireland in the 80s and 90s according to them, not even present-day Afghanistan.)
These days kids can’t walk home for their lunch. First, they live too far from the school, and, second, they might be stabbed on their way there. But most of all, they would have to let themselves in and make their own lunch, perhaps a pot noodle, as their mother would not be there. She would be out doing something Much More Important. In fact, a lot of kids barely eat their breakfast at home, as they have to be dropped off at 5.30am or something at school for breakfast club, and they may well stay there until about 11pm, as both mummy and daddy are working. Now I’m not sure on those times. Don’t quote me on it, but it’s something like that.
I finish with that charming story, The Tiger Who Came to Tea. You remember the one: the tiger knocks on the door, comes in and eats everything, and Daddy comes home from work to save the day. Very unrealistic. No, I’m not talking about the tiger knocking on the door; I’m talking about the fact that there is a mother and a little girl there to open it and let the damn tiger in. You simply wouldn’t have that these days. These days, the story would be: tiger knocked on the door, got no answer, and left. The End.
So, do tell me about your childhood school stories if you have time, dear reader. Tell me if you will, about the bad old days, when mothers were at home.