Mum’s attic clear out stirred up a lifetime of memories...

Evacuating 30 years of stuff from her mother's attic threw up some interesting finds, writes Kathriona Deverux
Mum’s attic clear out stirred up a lifetime of memories...

Among the finds in her mum’s attic, was Kathriona’s old Walkman. Picture: Stock

IT was a scene straight out of 1987. My kids at the kitchen table, one colouring while listening to a Sony Walkman, the other playing a strangely mesmerising classic Tomy Waterful game - you push a button and a jet of water propels small colourful hoops onto a pole. Remember them? An innocent but absorbing game from the pre-Nintendo era.

The only functioning cassette tape we could find in the house was a vintage Billa O’Connell album so the nostalgic playtime scene was punctuated intermittently by bursts of loud lyrics from my son “she didn’t have a tooth in her head since 1952!”

My mother was getting her attic insulated, a process which involved excavating 30 years of stuff from the dark recesses.

It is a strangely emotional process to hold a toy that you haven’t seen in three decades and yet have a deep physical connection to. 

Or to flick through a disintegrating copy of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice and be transported to a particular secondary school classroom.

Some boxes were untouched from when I left home to go to college in 1997. A faded desk tidy bulging with pencils and paper clips and a special golden pen with a miniature Eiffel tower attached; a present from my 2nd class teacher’s trip to Paris. Holding that pen 35 years later and all the fondness for Ms Deasy bubbled up.

And a treasure trove of teenage turmoil, a shoebox of handwritten letters to friends, penpals and old boyfriends. Alas the builders were coming, there was stuff to be shifted in a hurry so I didn’t have the time to pore over them. I’ve transported them to my own attic and hopefully in time will be able to dedicate an afternoon to deciphering the trivia that consumed my teenage years.

Do teenagers write letters to each other these days? How will they look back on who they were when all their Snapchat messages have disappeared?

The nostalgic deep dive made me wistful that young people nowadays don’t get to enjoy the simpler pre-phone, pre-screens life. Want to listen to music? Choose one of your twelve tapes and take it for a walk. Want to communicate with your friends? Phone them on their landline and have an awkward conversation with their mother first.

It wasn’t all rose-tinted sentimentality in the 80s. I couldn’t keep many of the books with their outdated representations for my kids. Old annuals of ‘ Twinkle’ full of pretty blonde girls playing cooking, cleaning or tea parties; old copies of the Beano packed with ads of various sweet brands as well as characters mocking each other’s body shapes; “Hey Fat boy” being the opening greeting of one strip. There wasn’t a brown skinned character in a single book and the notion nowadays of reading about girls perpetually separated from their parents in a boarding school is not really appealing.

A lot of the stuff went into recycling (I don’t need my Leaving Cert history notes any more), to charity (Debs dresses that haven’t seen daylight since the 90s and are again the height of fashion), Donedeal (unwanted wedding presents) and the bin. Apart from stirring up a lifetime of memories, the overwhelming feeling of the attic clear out was “why do we hold on to so much stuff!”

Lords of Strut.
Lords of Strut.


So it was quite fitting to find myself on Saturday afternoon ensconced in the Everyman Theatre watching a musical medley mocking humanity’s propensity to crave “stuff”.

Acrobatic duo The Lords of Strut’s latest production Dream Factory is a call to action, a cry for help, a wake up call to the climate crisis and how our consumerist ways, driven by the marketing machine of big corporations (“their tactics are dirty, their brand is clean”), are destroying the planet on which we depend.

If that sounds heavy for a family show at four in the afternoon, it wasn’t. Blending silliness, song, slapstick, juggling, dance and circus with catchy numbers, enormous shoulder pads and lashings of lycra made for a heartwarming extravaganza of talent with a sombre message at its core.

In this production the “Resistance” to the earth devouring corporate “ Dream Factory” is dance which causes glitches in the edifice of corporate consumerist perfection.

The weekend’s performances were a preview of a supposedly even bigger production coming next year and I can see it becoming a big touring hit as it speaks truth to power with tight pants, a talking bee and a demonic sheep. The message to reject the pursuit of unnecessary “stuff”, embrace sustainability and find a deeper meaning in life beyond consumer culture has never been so entertaining!

The transport improvement scheme continues on MacCurtain Street.
The transport improvement scheme continues on MacCurtain Street.


MacCurtain Street and Coburg Street are getting a facelift, which is perfect timing to boost the already thriving scene of independent businesses in the area.

I wonder if, as part of this street refresh, the area would consider embracing the historical name of the street and call it the MacCurtain Quarter instead of the Victorian Quarter. Yes, much of the architecture in the neighbourhood is from the Victorian era, but travel to any part of the former British colonies and you will find a reference to the Queen who ruled the empire from 1837 until 1901. Unique it is not.

MacCurtain Street is named after a man who challenged everything that Queen Victoria represents. Tomás MacCurtain’s assassination in March, 1920, three months after he became Lord Mayor of Cork, reverberated around the world. As part of the outpouring of public grief, the street was changed from King Street to MacCurtain Street the month after his death, an idea proposed by his ill-fated successor, Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney.

It is wonderful to see MacCurtain Street evolve and thrive today. It certainly feels like it is having a moment with its eclectic mix of restaurants, bars and unique businesses.

The new streetscape will no doubt mark an exciting new chapter, but if you really care about the heritage of the neighbourhood, please don’t call it the Victorian Quarter.

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