| 13.4°C Dublin

Mary Feely: My pampered sprogs don't know how lucky they are. Childhood was one long cold snap for us

Bloody kids -- do they have to get EVERYTHING their hearts could desire?

Here they were, moping through the last day of the Christmas break.

As everyone who was ever a child knows, this is the second worst day of the year.

Only the last day of the summer holidays is even gloomier.

All the signs were bad.

The uniforms were washed and ironed.

Schoolbags had been dug out and relieved of ancient, rotting sandwiches. Official bedtimes had been reinstated.

And then, for thousands of children, the best of all possible late Christmas presents arrived by text message and radio broadcast: schools are staying closed!

The ice and snow may be making parents miserable, but they have made children's dreams come true.

Aww. Isn't that sweet? As if they didn't already get everything their parents missed out on as kids.

Did WE get fancy foreign holidays? Two days in a B&B outside Castlebar if we were lucky.

Did WE get taxied about by Mammy to Scouts and ballet and birthday parties at the water park?

On your bike, more like.

(Not that there were birthday parties at the water park, mind. Or even a water park. But you get my drift.)


As for extra days off because of a cold snap -- our entire childhoods were one long cold snap.

At school, we had that uniquely Irish set up: warm radiators and freezing rooms. (Our parents had no sympathy. In their day, only the teacher and the doctor's daughter got to sit near the tiny fire that had "heated" their classrooms.)

The nuns who controlled my academic destiny didn't give us time off when the Pope died.

They didn't give us time off when an inspector from the Department of Education visited and, his work done, asked that we be sent home early.

They certainly didn't give us time off when we were, gasp, cold.

We shivered as we took down notes in geography class about our temperate climate.

When the ink froze in our biros, the nuns simply told us to rub the pen between our palms until the ink thawed. That worked a treat.

We weren't warm at home either. The oil shocks and stingy parents put paid to that. Only the very posh had central heating. And only those with more money than sense actually switched it on.

In our kitchen, we ignored the ice-cold radiators and huddled around a gas heater. The poor shivering dog got so close to the tiny flame that he filled the room with the odour of singed fur.

Even now, if someone's having her hair straightened at the salon, the smell of scorched hair brings me back to childhood. Oh, happy days.

No wonder most of us had chilblains for years, just like poor little Oliver Twist.

But did WE ever get an extra day off? Not a bit of it. Our suffering was of international interest, you know.

Years later I'd meet Canadians, used to digging their cars out from 15 inches of snow on a typical winter's day, who'd shudder when they heard I was from Dublin. They'd visited and had never been as cold in all their lives.

Me too, I'd say. Me too.

Today my own pampered sprogs are yelping in front of the telly, rejoicing that again everything is going their way. The heat is on, the fire is lit. One of them insists on wearing shorts. Why not? It's tropical in here.

Not content with their good luck so far, they're eagerly tuning into weather forecasts. "No end in sight! We may never have to go to school again!"

It's hard to see beyond the mist of envy and self-pity that surrounds me, but my heart does go out to one group of kids.

Can you imagine being one of the poor unfortunates whose school did re-open on time?

I know just how they feel.

As my kids wail to me ten thousand times a day about much, much smaller injustices: