When I asked my nana, Eileen Kingston, if I could ask her some questions about what life was like when she was twenty-three and then try to imitate that, I believed that I could come to some sort of self-discovery through the looking glass of 1964.
Marcel Proust wrote a book called “In Search of Lost Time” which was translated from French to “Remembrance of Things Past” in which he narrated his recollections from childhood to adulthood amidst a landscape which he believed to be lost in time or meaningless. This is not to say that I find my life meaningless, but I wondered if I could view it differently, view it through the eyes of someone who grew up in a different world to the one we live in now.
I decided that I was going to spend a month without social media and with the bare minimum of technological devices. I was to be without night-clubbing and notions, Netflix and Starbucks. All these components are integral to our age group if not necessary in today’s landscape. I thought if I could break myself from those chains, I could figure out more about myself.
First it was time to lay down the groundwork of my investigation and what better way to begin than sitting down to a cup of tea and a chat with your grand-mother.
What was going on in the world around you when you were twenty-three?
When I was 23, in 1964, it followed the assassination of J.F Kennedy and everyone was bewildered, people didn’t know if it was an accident or a conspiracy, but we were broken hearted. It was as if a relative in America had died.
At this time, for me, there was a fear which I had had from childhood of World War 3 because you see, we were post World War II, my father was quite old at the time and when he and his friends would meet it was always talking about the war, the first world war, the second world war, the atrocities of the camps. I mean we’re talking about a totally different time when communication was only really starting to bubble up to the top. It was all about what you were hearing. It was the hearsay of the papers. Radio reports were tailored to suit whoever was sending out the messages, so I guess in other words, it was propaganda that was being used.
Nelson Mandela was jailed in South Africa in 1964. The total realisation of how awful the segregation was in the world was dreadful.
We were all horrified and absolutely appalled at what was going on in the Vietnam War which was a lot of what was going on in the world at that time. It really was.
Martin Luther King received the Nobel Prize and Che Guevara was diverted to Shannon, that iconic figure, that iconic poster we all know, there was an interview held at the time by Teilifís Éireann.
Mostly there was a fear of war, it was a very uncertain time, the Cuban Missile Crisis was only the year before. I can remember the apprehension and fear, I was the chemists in Limerick waiting on a prescription for my dad who was really ill at home. The worry of Dad was even superseded by that dark, dark day.
What was happening in your life when you were 23?
My world was wonderful because I had got engaged the previous year. I was looking forward to getting married, I was really, really happy. I had my first baby Anne that year and we had just moved to Dublin. We lived on the North Strand Road. Here I was in Dublin, it was totally different, I had left home. We were a very close-knit family, it was all great although after a little while, I missed home, I missed the fields, I missed the countryside, I missed the neighbours because there was a certain anonymity in Dublin though I made friends. It took a while to get used to city life. I remember the first time Denis came home for lunch and I had big news, a fire brigade had driven past the window! I couldn’t get over it!
What did you do for fun in 1964?
Window Shopping: Shopping was quite limited because our budget was limited but I used to go out window shopping and of course when I was expecting Anne, I would have been looking in the baby shops.
People- Watching: I used to love going into Bowley’s and sitting there and drinking coffee and people watching, I suppose is what you would call it.
Listening to the radio: Before I got married, I was up in Co. Donegal, Denis gave me a beautiful transistor radio. I adore radio, that was my real lifeline for so long. You could call it my sonic friend. It was comparable to today’s apps. We had the BBC world service, we had the all the soaps, on radio. When it’s audial, it’s even nicer because you create the pictures in your own head. I love radio drama, it used to be on and of course, the dance music, there was always requests on the radio. It was a community.
Pop-Culture in the 60’s
My love of musical has always endured, the ones that have really left an impression include My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins of course.
I loved Jim Reeves and so did Denis. The day I was getting ready to go out and get married, the radio was on as it always was, and Jim Reeves was singing “I love you because.” It’s beautiful.
Elvis of course, the royal showband, the dancing! Then the Beatles came around, I loved The Beatles, the year before I got engaged, I was up in Ballyshannon and I stayed in a guest house which was over a chipper and The Beatles were on the juke box every night. They were wonderful, Yesterday, Twist and Shout, Strawberry Field, it’s lovely. The Dixies, of course, we need to think of them as well.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back?
It’s very easy to look back with the age of twenty/twenty vision thinking this should have happened and that should have happened.
If you’re in a situation right now which has been influenced by your birth, by all that’s around you, your environment, the people you live with, everything, you can’t really prescribe what should happen for people who have gone before you. We can all look forward, but we can’t do anything about what’s gone past.
Over 50 years later, if I could go back and give myself advice. I don’t think I’d be able to offer much, after all, we’re all products of the era in which we are born, we don’t know any better until later on in life. Would you agree? Well you can’t because thank God, you’re not 50 years on from where you are.
With this in thought in mind, I decided to look to a future where I shared more in common with my grand-mother and less in common with my generation. Was the task going to be easy? No. Was it going to be enlightening? I certainly hoped so. Follow, in the words of Proust, my voyage, in not seeking new landscapes but having new eyes on tigersindresses.ie.