Monday, December 06, 2010

The Brendan Voyage

Brendan Cardiff is proud to be a Northside Dubliner. Unlike that other "northsider", Bono, Brendan has not ensconced himself in a southside mansion. In fact he hasn't ensconced himself on the southside at all. He has, however, had an exciting and distinguished career on both the Irish and international stages.

His childhood stories resonated with me. We are, after all, both Dubliners and from the same generation.

Before I mention a few of them, and in order not to detract from the more weighty considerations of Irish economic development in the latter half of the twentieth century and from our tunnel visioned relationship with Europe, I should say that I have commented on these in my review of Roots on Amazon.

In the 1950s British sweets were a luxury, probably as much due to their scarcity value as anything else. A visit to the UK always ended with a ritual purchase of the unavailable at home, such as Spangles. Brendan mentions a visit to Northern Ireland in the 1950s when he couldn't buy the sweets because post-war rationing was still in force there and he didn't have a ration book. Well, maybe nobody told him where to get one. My family visited the North in the 1950s and we were directed to the coupon distribution centre to pick up our ration entitlement. Having used this up during the first week of a fortnight's stay, we went back for the second week's coupons only to find that we had already consumed our two week allocation. An early onset of Lent followed.

Brendan very wisely defines the difference between clothes and presents. As a child I sold raffle tickets for the Franciscans in Cork and, as was usual in these matters, there was always a draw for the promoters. I won six dozen of stout. However, as there was a rail strike on at the time and the stout could not be got to Dublin the Franciscans sent a cheque. That was fine by me. I know where the stout would have gone. I had the cheque spent in my head long before it arrived only to find, when it did, that my mother requisitioned it to buy me clothes. Much needed I'm sure they were. Presents they were not.

He reminds us of the time milk was delivered via the tilley out of the churn, only to be replaced by the new fangled bottled milk. He mentions the extra drop out of the tilley to make sure you weren't being short changed. This was the first time I heard tell of a baker's dozen of milk. I wonder does he remember the cutting-edge-of-technology foil-milk-bottle-top opener distributed for free by Hughes Bros. Round piece of plastic with a bump in the middle. Worked a dream.

While we're still on the milk, he mentions the transition from horse drawn to motorised delivery. He doesn't, however, mention one of the downsides to this bit of technological progress. No more manure. I remember well following the horse drawn carts down our road with a bucket and spade gathering manure for the back garden. Maybe they didn't do that on the Northside!

Joshing aside, this is a fascinating book. Apart from the purely personal stuff, Brendan has recorded his experiences in the early days of Irish economic development through his work in the private and public sectors, both in Ireland and abroad. He was in Uganda, representing the EU Commission during Idi Amin's reign, and this, among other things, has given him a deep and no-nonsense approach to development.

He is an inveterate traveler and the book contains wonderful cameos of his favourite places along with some beautiful, and very professional, photos from his own camera.

Significantly, the book is published by Liffey Press, a Northside publishing house, headquartered in Raheny, Dublin 5.

A backseat on the Brendan voyage is yours for the asking. Try it. It's a worthwhile trip. Available at good booksellers or, in extremis, from Amazon.


N said...

"Maybe they didn't do that on the Northside!"

Maybe we should have. I can remember my father taking delivery of a half-ton (would it have been?) of manure, which was delivered around to the back of the house, and sat in front of the coal shed until he got it shovelled away. He grew a huge variety of fruit and veg - and of course good potatoes - in our long back garden. I assume he paid for the manure, although I don't know where he got it. The milkman's horse would have been a cheaper source. Being a Donegal man, he paid great attention to the potatoes, and I can still see the neatly hilled rows in my mind. And then the treat of baking a new potato in the embers of a garden fire when he burned the (organic) garden rubbish ...
Gosh, we were well fed as children. Fresh french beans, peas, onions, turnips, carrots, potatoes, broad beans, etc, along with gooseberries, blackcurrants, blackberries, strawberries, apples (eaters and cookers), and a whole lot more that I can't remember!

shane said...

Paul long time no see (Shane from the old Studies blog!). Merry Christmas to you and yours.