Saturday mornings in my childhood I would awaken to an empty house. My father would be off working somewhere, my siblings somewhere unknown, and my mother at the fancy new supermarket on Taylor's Lane, Ballyboden. It would be a quick change into outdoor clothes and wellington boots and then into the kitchen where one of Mam's notes would be waiting with some coins wrapped up in a bank note.
"Pay the coal man" would be scribbled there. I'd groan, because paying the coal man involved a long wait by the road for the open-backed coal truck to wend its way up to the bottom gate. I'd scuffle off down the lane with my hands in my pockets, toss pebbles into the river and hang around on the low wall until he came. He wore a big money bag on a long leather shoulder strap like a bus conductor. He'd grin and take the money and mark off the account in a grubby notebook, signing off on my freedom for the rest of the day.
Saturdays were late-rising affairs for many of my pals, though one might appear through a gap, or at a bend in the road, or poking over the boundary of the pitch and putt course, watching out for my uncle who hated them short-cutting across his manicured putting greens. We might kick a football for a bit in a field, or talk about a football match on the television, or make plans for the afternoon. Everyone was up before their breakfast, as we said. Food on Saturday, at the beginning of a new pay week for our parents, didn't come until the groveries had been bought and that meant a trip to Ballyboden or to the modern Rathfarnham Shopping Centre with its several shops, this latter location limited to those whose parents had the use of a car or the time to make a two-bus journey.
My mother would appear off the 47 bus and haul the shopping bags to the farmhouse door, dropping them onto the floor and puffing on a Players No. 6 cigarette.
"I'm home," she'd say, pulling off her coat and hanging it in the hall. A headscarf would be untied from under her chin and dropped in a drawer. She'd start to pat her auburn coloured hair, feeling for any hairpins which might have come unlodged. She'd smooth out her skirt with both palms then join me at the table.
I would be agog, poking through the packages. She'd slap my hand away gently from the fresh fruit, scolding me mildly for mauling the new Vienna rolls without having first washed my grubby paws in the basin in the back kitchen. She'd ask me about the coal man. If he'd said anything? Had he given a receipt? Meanwhile, she was unpacking a straw-coloured palm-leaf woven shopping basket of white plastic butchers bags tied with red tapes and putting the meat away for the week.
As the kettle was filled from a jug dipped in a galvanised bucket of drinking water, the two objects of my searching would appear from a bag. A pound and a half of PG Tips tea and a comic from the newsagents beside what had been called Perry's shop. The tea was poured solemnly into the tin tea caddy one packet at a time, the rich smell of the dried leaf filling our nostrils. Then the paper envelope inside the cardboard box would be pulled out and I would see if I had a new collectors card for my album or just a repeat from a previous packet.
"Inventors and Inventions" was the promotion that was on at the time. We had sent a postal order to England in the princely sum of 10p for the album into which the cards were weekly gummed. And I almost had them all.
The other item of interest to my eight-year old self was the weekly comic, Warlord. This relatively new publication was a collection of impossibly heroic tales of the mighty Brits against the dastardy Hun in comic strip form. Lots of "Achtungs!" "Arrghs! and "Ka-pows" were sprinkled liberally throughout. Sometimes the Brits fough the Japs, and some "Eeee-i-eees" were thrown in for luck.
I'd spread the crude paper out on the kitchen table and pore over the contents, usually heading straight to my favourite first: Union Jack Jackson, an English soldier who had somehow been separated from his unit but had ended up joining an American outfit where he painted a Union Jack on his USA style helmet.
In the background, the kettle boiled and the frying pan heated up and my mother bustled about, cutting slices of bread and humming quietly to herself.