Rain or shine, Curracloe is the stuff of dreams, writes Sheena McGinley
It’s 9pm, and my usually unsociable five-year-old is roaring “I wanna be in the fart squad” somewhere outside. The playground is just two caravans down from our pitch – the proximity of which could be seen as a blessing, or a curse. Being a rather unsociable sort myself, any other summer it would be considered the latter. After the last 18 months, however, the feeling of freedom this holiday has given us, and our kids, is golden.
Our first week here at The Raven Holiday Home Park was like being in Brittany. Days of endless sun, white sands, and the clear blue sea reflecting the sky over Curracloe Beach in Co Wexford. Given the high-twenties heat, we had just enough energy to schlep up and down to the dunes daily.
Hauling our rations of sandy sandwiches, and armed with our beach umbrella, my mini battalion attacked the waves and traversed the wooden walkway leaving us fit for the pit by sundown.
We are in one of the (many) holiday home parks within walking distance of the shore. During last week’s lovely weather, a number of cars were thrown upon the roadside, resulting in traffic cones strewn in front of driveways and grassy banks.
The volume of traffic was such that the field across from Hammel’s Centra in the village is still open for overflow parking, complete with makeshift ‘Entry Here’ signs scrawled on fruit punnet boxes. Demand for parking by beaches is particularly high in our second Covid summer.
This past week has been a very different story. In short, our blazing heatwave is now a very distant memory. Relentless rain plus impromptu and thunderous hail storms (yes, hail), with lightning and accompanying rumbling claps have ended our day-long beach trips. In short, we’re spending a lot more time at the bustling caravan park. A lot more time.
Anyone who’s experienced lockdown with kids knows it’s infinitely easier to work when the sun is shining and, if you’re lucky enough, you can throw them out into the back garden, or the other half can chaperone them somewhere.
With Covid, spontaneity is understandably on the back burner. You can’t just rock in somewhere on spec and set up camp in a café for an undefined time to use the free wifi. So when I have to work, it must be done from the confines of our increasingly shrinking caravan.
So, there you have it. I’m a mobile-bound mum with two young kids attached to screens, thanks to an endless cycle of rain, hailstorms, and lightning, all while trying to work. Again.
And then, just when you think things couldn’t get more intrusive and oppressive, there’s a knock at the door. Several children, in various stages of disarray, are wondering if your kids want to go and make “hailstone slushies” and “fairy ponds” in the sodden playground.
Looking beyond their damp, tousled heads, there’s a flurry of activity swarming around, and the fledglings seem to be replicating. There’s one pedalling a red Audi go-kart at speed around a corner. Another smaller one is pushing what appears to be her marginally younger brother around in his buggy, while he reclines under a blankie gnawing on his bottle.
Older kids dominate the swings, flinging the seats over the bar so the younger ones can’t reach them. Teens are having waterboarding competitions, seeing which one can stand a torrent of gutter water down the back of their neck the longest.
A riotous treasure hunt is under way the next row over. A mammoth game of hide-and-seek (which largely involves lurking in the murky underbelly of the nearest mobile) is happening directly beneath my feet. A wall of giggles emanates from barely visible imps galloping around at dusk.
I’d be lying if my brain didn’t instantly go to: “Christ, it’s like Lord of the Flies out there. They’ll be using Lara’s glasses to burn stuff next.”
That thought had barely passed when the husband said: “Yeah, go on so, have fun girls!” To say immediate emotions were mixed would be an understatement.
Thoughts included: “Well, I’m not driving them to the hospital when the inevitable happens.”
The overriding gut feeling, however, as they tentatively ventured into the twilight was: “This. Is. Amazing. Kids free from screens, and painfully orchestrated Kids Club style ‘fun’. Could my children actually have the childhood I dreamt of?” It turns out they can – if only for a few weeks a year.
Our eldest has never had any issues chatting the ears off everyone and anyone. Our youngest isn’t quite so inclined. She takes after her mother.
She was three when the first lockdown happened. Her urge for interaction dwindled, leaving her more than happy to stare at the telly. Like mother, like daughter. In the last week, however, she has gone from being a virtual recluse to going door-to-door trying to sell rocks she and her newly acquired friends spent the morning painting.
She’s progressed from being unable to leave the mobile home without her older sister, to shouting: “I’m off to find Grace” before disappearing from sight.
As for her older sister? Well, she’s expanded upon her repertoire of colourful language, as any eight-year-old worth their salt should.
More importantly, they are left to their own devices and not the electronic kind. And, by extension, we parents are left to ours (apart from the odd door burst, proclaiming, “Water! I want a drink”, then a Lewis Hamilton level of acceleration back to the playground). What you are getting here is Free-Range Children.
They are afforded a level of independence not confined by the perimeter of a family room or swimming pool complex. This is where they will make friends for life.
Of course, the adult in the room has to step in at some point. Currently, there is a four-year-old doing a joyous jig on our sun lounger, with an Ireland jersey tucked into his back pocket. It could be Italia ’90 all over again. It’s not, though. It’s 2021, 18 months into a pandemic.
Not that you’d know it here, in the best of bubbles. We’re still keeping our distance, but also bagging precious childhood memories along the way.