Monday 16 September 2019

Roslyn Dee: 'Kingdom brings golden childhood memories back to life'


The Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe

Roslyn Dee

It's Kerry, and it's August. I'm standing on a sweep of beach, the golden arc of sand disappearing behind me into apparent infinity. With bare feet, and wearing dark trousers and a red top, my blonde hair is swept away from my face and clipped up high on my head in a kind of messy top-knot.

I'm nine years old, on a Cork and Kerry holiday with my parents and my sister, and I'm posing for the camera against the glorious backdrop of Inch Strand.

I came across that photograph a few months ago and recall it again now because this August I found myself back there, back on Inch Strand for the very first time since that holiday snap was taken on that August day in the Sixties.

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As I drove around Kerry on a "one-woman-and-her-dog" kind of odyssey, it all came back to me. Magical childhood memories that suddenly soared to the surface.

The boat ride out to Garnish Island on a showery afternoon; my father breaking into appropriate song - 'The Wild Colonial Boy' - as we drove through Castlemaine; the visit to Barley Cove, recommended by my mother's friend, Jack, who sang with her in the church choir; the excitement of riding a pony through the Gap of Dunloe.

And walking, of course, for what seemed like miles along the golden sands of Inch Strand. All past memories that were suddenly so very present again. And so very welcome.

For childhood is a rather ephemeral thing, yet it hovers persistently out there on the edge of memory, its little droplets of monochrome remembrance flitting across the consciousness every now and then, just waiting for a trigger to magic them back and let them burst forth in full-blown colour.

And this summer in Kerry I kept encountering those triggers time and time again. A signpost here. A particular sight there. And that was all it took for my parents to become alive to me again, catapulted into my mind not in their most recent form - both in their aged nineties and close to the end - but rather as a vibrant and alive and handsome and pretty couple, just as they were all those endless summers ago.

And I basked in the poignancy and pleasure of that remembrance.

Inch Strand itself is such a joy. And as I walked its watery edge on a cloudy/sunny afternoon, I couldn't help smiling as I passed by a particular family.

With rugs arrayed on the sand, a stripey windbreaker hammered into place, and a picnic in progress, here was a family making the same kind of memories in the very same place that were - at that precise moment - flashing through my head from half a century ago.

I remembered being on Inch Strand as a child. And going to Garnish Island. And being on horseback at the Gap of Dunloe.

But Muckross Park? No, I'd have sworn blind that I was never there. But I was. I know that now. For on an early morning walk there, passing by a sign for 'Muckross Abbey', I felt a little of flicker of something.

I walked on, strolling towards Muckross House itself. I looked to my right and there was the lake, with a mistiness rising off it, the sun still trying to break through the early morning moisture blanket.

And suddenly I remembered. The house. The lake. Like a vision it all rose up from the seabed of my memory.

It was the writer William Faulkner who said it best: "The past is never dead. It's not even past.'"

And what a joyous discovery that can be.

Irish Independent

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