I’ve blogged before, more than once, about the long summer holidays I used to spend in West Cork as a nipper. No apologies for that though – they were my salad days.

Dad would generally take me over to Ireland. Usually it was the boat train from Birmingham to Holyhead in North Wales (change at Crewe), the boat (the Inisfallon) across to Dun Laoghaire and bus or train down to Cork.

And there I would spend the long summers at my aunt’s cottage (Tonafora) which lay a mile or so west of Dunmanway town. And down the lane lived two of my cousins, Mary and Ann; Barry was too young to count at that stage. Their father, Uncle Jimmy, was the level-crossing keeper where the West Cork Railway bisected our little lane.

Of course, fifty plus years ago the sun always shone brightly. Me, Mary and Ann played in the lane and the fields from dawn until dusk. Mary in particular stopped me wandering too near to the railway track and, even more so, the deep river that ran alongside. I complained to my aunt about Mary’s bossiness only to get short shrift, though I think I understood.

Ireland was a land of milk and honey. My few pence would last for days and I marvelled at the cheapness of everything, notably the sweets in the sweetie shops.

Most summers I seemed to have an accident though. One year I caught my foot in the spokes of my aunt’s bike – she was riding it with me on the carrier. Another time a dog bit my lip and I cried when he was put down as I had sort of been teasing him. Once I was riding my aunt’s bike and a chap led a cow out of an entrance right into my path. I slammed on the brakes and sailed clean over the cow. When I’d picked myself up (as you do at that age) the man and the cow were  strolling on up the street not taking a blind bit of notice.

And at night I’d sit in the corner of a pub with a red lemonade and some crisps looking at all the liveliness, chat and music going on all around and occasionally accepting a sixpence from a complete stranger.

Today they buried Mary, my bossy guard of long ago. Despite contracting Hep B years ago, and never being fully well, she brought up five great children of her own. She was a lovely person and I’m gutted that it was impossible for me to get over for the service. She’ll always be young, happy, beautiful and healthy in my memory.