3 Ages of Summer: Joanne McNally

3 Ages of Summer: Joanne McNally

Childhood

I’d a lovely childhood. We grew up by the sea in Killiney, Dublin. I remember it being sunny all the time and ice-cream floats — my parents used to give us pints of Club Orange with a lump of ice-cream in it. Now they’d probably be illegal because of obesity but at the time we were fed on a staple diet of that stuff during the summer.

I only had one brother. I remember him playing the choky race where he would make me run up the stairs and then pull my legs out from underneath me so I’d fall flat on my face. Yeah, fun things.

I was big into BMXs. I was a bit of a tomboy growing up. My favourite game was petrol stations. I used to cycle around the estate on my own, stopping at various corner bushes and pretending that the leaves were diesel and shoving them into my spokes and cycling on. I ended up working at five different petrol stations as a teenager. Still to this day I love the smell of petrol. I’m lucky I’m not a petrol-head.

Young Adulthood

I went to this Gaelic camp when I was young in Dublin. It was called Brú Éanna. I loved that. It was my first experience of boys. 

In the evening assembly before you all went home, you’d sing Irish songs and then they’d say, “Anyone for lista an grá?” and people would chant your name if they knew you were in a child relationship with another child.You’d go up and have to kiss them and you’d be given a lolly and your name would be on the love list.

These days you probably wouldn’t get away with it — they were encouraging relations between 13-year-olds. 

My first kiss was in that summer camp with this guy called Richie Stokes. It was like that thing where his friends came up and said, ‘Richie wants to meet you in the cowshed’. I knew what was going on. So I went in and I kissed him. I checked and noticed his eyes were open and thought, oh, you must have to keep your eyes open. 

That began this terrible habit of me kissing boys with my eyes open. I remember walking down the street in Carlingford — where I used to go every summer with one of my best mates because her family were from there — and a guy shouting across the street at me: “Oi, you — blinkered!” Obviously the word got around that I was the girl that kissed with her eyes wide open like a freak.

Once I hit 15 or 16 I had a lot of jobs. I worked in a Chinese takeaway at the desk, taking the orders and stuff. Every night I’d take home a dinner – chicken balls, chips, sweet ’n’ sour sauce – and eat it at one o’clock in the morning and I couldn’t understand why I put on three stone at the end of the summer.

Today

I love the long evenings of summer. I love barbecues. I’m not really a beach person. I get bored very quickly. Now my summer is kind of built around Edinburgh [Fringe Festival in August]. It’s the big event in the comedy calendar. The summer is spent writing and previewing your Edinburgh show, which is like a showcase really.

My holiday now is in September. Also summertime now is not like when you’re young and you have all this time off and the excitement of the summer holidays, knowing you’re not back to school for a few months. Now it can kind of drift away quite fast. A lot of beer gardens call me, a lot of hanging out with the girls. The second the sun comes out I just instantly assume I need to be in a beer garden.

— In conversation with Richard Fitzpatrick

— Joanne McNally’s show The Prosecco Express, Dublin Fringe Festival, Sept 10-15. www.joannemcnally.com

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