Broken sunglasses, old-school 99s and shoes on the beach are the markers of Bernard O'Shea's Irish summer 

Bernard wonders if there's a massive conspiracy that keeps him and his family stuck in traffic on the way to the beach
Broken sunglasses, old-school 99s and shoes on the beach are the markers of Bernard O'Shea's Irish summer 

With three older sisters it was always Bernard's cone that got dropped. Photograph Moya Nolan

Before you could get stout, gin or sea salt flavoured ice cream there was the age old 99. The predominate flavour was red. Not even a flavour just a colour. It would be be draped over your cone like an axe murderer had just raced behind the petrol station counter where you were inevitably purchasing it.

The real tragedy of course wasn’t that the flavour was a colour, it was that there was always a cone sacrificed to the filling station four court deities. Akin to a votive offering once given by our Celtic ancestors to their gods, except this time it wasn’t a ceremonial sword but a badly pulled Mr. Whippy that couldn’t defy physics and toppled over because your sister tried carrying four of them to the car instead of going back twice.

With three older sisters it was always my cone of course that was the one that was lost. The only benefactor in this traumatic albeit homogenised and pasteurised event in my childhood would be the dog that lived beside every filling station in the country. They would roll themselves out, stomachs gorged and bloated with lactose and start licking your ice-cream off the ground until their tongues would hit the zesty piquancy of cobble lock and petrol.

In our car my mother would try and solve this creamy catastrophe by telling my father to give me his cone. This was worse than having no cone at all as he would take a big mouthful off its wafered crater before passing it on to me. My Granny would always offer me hers but as much as I appreciated the gesture, John Player Navy Cut cigarettes was never a flavour I liked.

Rumours would circulated that if you dropped your 99 in certain petrol stations that the shop would give you another one. This simply wasn’t true. It was one of those summer rumours spread by bored children like me who sat on pebble dashed walls and played Wimbledon on the road. June, July and August 1989 I wasn’t a pale faced freckled red headed nine year old, I was Ivan Lendl. I even got that one wrong I should of been Boris Becker.

Lendl never winning Wimbledon was a tragedy but it doesn’t compare to sitting on your expensive sunglasses. Have I ever lost or broken the really cheap pair I got in Poundland ? No, I have those for years and they seem indestructible. It's almost like they follow me around constantly reminding my guilt ridden catholic consciousness whispering “you shouldn’t buy expensive sunglasses you’ll lose them.”

This year I decided for the first time ever to buy a pair of Ray-Bans. I even puckered up for the polarised set. I convinced myself that I'd never lose them and keep them in their stiff leather pouch all the time. Then last week on on a beautiful sunny day off to collect the kids I sat into my car seat and heard that crunch. I destroyed them. Immediately the 3 euro plastic Poundland spectacles landed on my lap saying, “you called?” How ironic that my big fat culchie arse had destroyed the one sinew of cool that I tried to inject into my drab summer time wardrobe.

I've tried wearing linen trousers and free flowing white shirts. When I put them on I felt like Bradley Cooper effortless hanging out in Cannes or Monte Carlo. But when I saw my reflection in a shop window it looked like I’d stolen a duvet cover and got into it.

You know that man at the beach still wearing his shoes, jeans and jumper? That's me. There’s no point in pretending that I’m going to wear shorts or a t-shirt. It's not that I don’t want to be comfortable it's just that my beautiful begrudging Irish soul keeps reminding me: “There’s no point Bernard sure its going to piss rain in a few minutes anyway.” So I sit there letting my jeans cut into my groin like a cheese string while my jumper is working busily away on my heat rash. Meanwhile my shoes are collecting enough sand to start work on the much needed Limerick to Cork motorway.

It's almost obligatory that when I eventually decide to pack the kids into the car and head to the beach that we end up in a week long traffic jam. I wouldn’t be surprised that after my death a file is uncovered that shows a massive conspiracy involving every state agency that colluded in making sure that I got stuck trying to get into some tiny carpark beside a freezing cold beach while my kids screamed “ARE WE THERE YET?”

Finally, I remember growing up when the electricity would go my mother would would call our neighbours and ask them “is yers gone?” Then like professional domino players each house would call each other and find out how extensive the outage was. If only Telecom Eireann knew this vital information at the time, it could of made a fortune on forcing power outages.

Now she take takes great pleasure in asking me “what’s the weather like there?” Every time I say it's raining her reply is fast and furious “well its only gorgeous here sun splitting the stones and I was talking to your sister in Kerry and they said that it hasn’t stopped raining for six days straight and they're building a boat and putting two of every animal into it just in case.”

Then there’s that pegged out well worn phrase that we all swap with each other every day from May to September “the weekend is supposed to be lovely.” And therein lies the truth behind an Irish Summer. Even with all the apps and science that predict the weather we’re all trained like barristers in the court of drizzle to make sure we use the word “supposed.”

So if anyone wants to buy a slightly damaged pair of Ray-Bans and a collection of lovely linen fashions keep your eye on eBay for a bargain. You might need them because apparently this weekend is supposed to be lovely.

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