Tuesday evenings. To some, just a plain old weekday that didn’t stand out at all. To others, Tuesday evening meant going to Peter’s house after school. The ‘others’ mentioned here may or may not include me. Did you go to a Peter’s house after school on a Tuesday too?
You may wonder why, why this change in schedule took place? Well it all started with a man named Philippe.
Philippe was a French man. One would assume as much, given the name, and one having seen Beauty and the Beast. We didn’t get many ‘Philippe’s around rural Ireland in the 80s and 90s. Now whilst we never really knew the story behind Philippe coming to Ireland, we liked to imagine that he was an athlete, who, after years of training and serving his country in international competitions, decided that despite his crystal-clear automatic entry to the Olympics, his real calling was to come to Ireland, the North West to be exact, and train the young children of Ireland. And what was this sport- this challenge at which Philippe excelled? He gave up a life of travelling around dusty villages on a bicycle (with the required basket containing a baguette), a string of garlic draped around his neck , and for what?
Why, to hold Tuesday evening swimming lessons for 6-10 year olds of course!
So every Tuesday, I would take the bus to Peter’s house instead of going to Kitty’s (my childminder, famous lady) which was quite exciting as the bus route took us by my house, and so I got to exclaim in a ladylike and poised manner ‘MY HOUSE’ as our bus driver manoeuvred the bumpy bus around bends at a speed which was not altogether safe. Peter’s mum, Cathryn, who I’ve mentioned a number of times before, would usher us in, a dinner waiting on the table and smelling delicious, and we would gobble this down before disappearing outside to get some valuable monster-chasing in. If it was dark out, or if it rained (i.e. most of the time) we climbed instead to Peter’s room, where we would play with an almighty fort type apparatus with no fewer than 34 million tiny monochrome soldiers (or so we assumed, given that they were largely featureless). This would generally end when the plastic soldiers had multiplied to the extent that they covered everything from the floor of his room and the table to the bed, and occasionally burst the door open. Anywhere but on the fort. These toys managed to just go everywhere. I distinctly recall my mother furiously brushing my almost waist length hair three days later before The Late Late started, and finding no less than 4 tangled up in there.
Well, having distributed the toys to such extremes, safety would become an issue and we would gently launch ourselves through a sea of grey plastic and down the stairs, and wander off to the back of the house to do some ghost busting. Naturally, our equipment was top of the range. We acquired, from the annual budget, a black box like tape recorder and player, and on a stealth mission to Eugene’s room obtained a generous amount of Daniel O’Donnell tapes, which I believe he fervently denies ever existed to this day. We would then leave the tapes recording (sellotape over the tab so the tapes could be overwritten of course) whilst we refuelled with a slice of whatever was fresh out of the oven that day, and return later to listen to the evidence and discuss the best plan of attack for the ghosties.
But I am off topic. Eventually 4.30 would chime, and we would be sought out and herded into the car with our bags emitting the faintest of chlorine and talc smells. We went to a swimming pool out of town, a place that looked rather grand from the outside, perhaps less so on the inside, and we would quickly go our separate ways and change. I would inevitably struggle with a rubber swim cap that reduced in size every time you attempted to get it over your head, and regardless of whether it worked, would empty a slew of talc into the hat, because that was what my mother did, and it seemed sensible at the time. It also gave me the appearance of being a tiny 90 year old woman when the hat came off after the swim. We would then patter out to the pool area, stepping into a pool of something which I gather was supposed to de-buggify your feet, but really freaked me out at the time, and tentatively dip a toe in the pool before realising it was icy cold. But, fairly sure you’d rather jump in off the ladder than be pushed in, you would lower yourself down and splash about to warm up. Now here’s the kicker. Philippe- being the teacher- never got into the water. Instead, he lay across two stools beside the pool, and vigorously demonstrated the breaststroke and backstroke to us from this grand throne and we flailed about, the most graceful of fishies in the water.
Afterward we’d emerge, shivering and tired, to wrestle the swimming cap off our heads (it had of course become twelve sizes smaller by now, and took a decent clump of talc covered hair off with it) and get changed back into clothes, to get warm and get the feeling back in our toes before the nasty jaws of frostbite set in (It was cold, ok?). Legend had it that an unfortunate 8 year old had lost 3 toes due to playing about for a mere 60 seconds instead of getting her socks on. Then the race to the car would ensue- my Mum or Dad usually picked us up in a well heated car, and we would hop in and bark out the customary greetings, demand the radio be changed, and duly command a stop at the shop before promptly settling back into the seat in warmed bliss. If Mum picked us up, we rarely got to the shop, as Mum was (rightly) concerned with supplying us with healthy and non sugary foods, and offered us a snack at the house instead. This naturally led to a mixture of protest, grumbling, and eventual submission on our part. Now if Dad picked us up on the other hand, despite an initial resounding ‘NO’ to our forcible request, he would always cave. Partly because he’s a Dad, and that’s what Dads do, and partly due to his love of Tayto, and this presented a rare excuse to get a pack and/or eat half of ours. Because, again, that’s what Dads do!
Here’s myself and Peter on my birthday or Christmas- must have been as my cousins Lisa and Michael are also gracing us with their presence! We really had the most lovely carpet and organised house, as you can see!
I had forgotten about this ritual for a while, only reminded after reading this lovely post over at Like Mam Use To Bake (if you don’t follow her blog you really must!), and it seems that lots of lovely people had great memories of their weekly swimming pool rituals, so pop over to her post and read the comments, and please feel free to share your own below!
No recipe in this post, just a memory. I shall be home next week, and then the baking shall commence! Am very excited but fear the snow will thwart my plans if it turns up, so I’m pleading with the snow people not to release it until Sunday at the least!