As a child summertime – from the age of six until I left school – was about picking potatoes down in Cobh. The minute we finished school you went out and you worked on the farms for the whole summer – out in the fields, picking potatoes or thinning turnips or weeding onions. It was brilliant. You spent all your time outdoors and you were working constantly.
You’d have a laugh, especially picking potatoes, because the tractor would come around maybe every 15 or 20 minutes. It would dig the drill and if you did your work quickly on your stretch you’d be sitting around and be messing.
Somebody might have a transistor radio playing or people would be playing cards or throwing potatoes at each other.
I remember – I was only a kid – and there was a very hot summer. I remember it being blisteringly hot – like last summer.
We were all burnt. I remember dosing ourselves in Kaolin lotion and the farmers coming out with buckets and sprays of water, spraying us to try and keep us cool. We were covered in water. It was crazy. I’ll never forget the sensation of it. Everyone being constantly sprayed with water. It reminds me of Paris a few weeks ago where people were throwing water over each other.
“Thumbing” is my memory. I was working up the country in the post office in my late teens. I used to “thumb” every weekend, particularly during the summer. It was the most natural thing in the world. You’d be out at Newland’s Cross, or anywhere in Dublin, and you’d thumb home to Cork. When you think about it – it was mad.
All my friends did it. There was no way you’d spend your wages on a bus or a train.
You’d do a sign on a piece of cardboard with “Cork” written on it. Most of the time I’d get a direct lift to Cork, but if not it would be somebody going to Portlaoise or Abbeyleix. You’d get off and start “thumbing” again.
If I was on my holidays I would “thumb” to where ever I was going – to Athlone or to Limerick to see my cousins. I remember some fella singing to me in the car. I don’t know whether he did it for a living or not. At the start it was funny but then it got really uncomfortable because he started to sing Tom Jones songs to me. He was brilliant, but it just went on and on. When you hear It’s Not Unusual about 20 times. I remember thinking: just get me home to Cobh Cross.
The summer for me now is the garden. I’m not good at vegetables or that but I love my shrubs and my flowers. I lock away in the garden.
I’m away from it now [performing in Edinburgh] and I miss my garden. It’s a total haven. It’s sacred to me. I’ve most of the heavy work done before the summer so that I can really enjoy it. I’d do a bit of dead-heading – like, say, taking off old blossoms on a flower – during the day.
Usually I’d do about half an hour, tipping away, and that’s really good for my head. After that it’s reading or writing in the garden.
My best buddy lives across the road. He’s got his back garden as well. We kind of encourage each other about plants and stuff. He’s got a bar in his garden. It’s like a little hacienda. Mine is more artistic-y; his is more like a holiday in Brazil. I’d have music going with a speaker and Bluetooth. A bit of Kath Bush in the garden – you can’t beat it.