It's not uncommon to look back on your childhood and feel like the entire thing could be condensed to one year. Irish childhoods in particular are known for being, at best, profoundly dull, and at worst, profoundly psychologically damaging.
If you didn't manage to get a depressing bestselling memoir out of your Irish childhood, then chances are, you don't really remember most of it. You remember wet summers, telling shopkeepers that you wanted all your change in penny sweets, and maybe a nun or two. This stuff could have happened to you at age five or eleven, in 1960 or 1996. Such is the nature of the Irish childhood: if it's one thing, it's consistent.
I've had friends tell me that the only way they seperate the years of their childhood is by the school trips they took in primary school, and to an extent, I can relate to this. The school tour was the focal point of every child's year, and preperation began months in advance. First of all, who was going to be your partner? Choosing your school tour partner was more stressful then choosing your life partner could ever aspire to be, and there were many factors to consider.
It should be said that I only subscribed to one of these five factors. Guess which.
After that matter was settled, it was time to obsessively wonder what your school tour was going to be. Maybe they'll take you to the zoo! Dublin zoo maybe. Maybe you'll go to an adventure park, where you'll learn more about yourself and your peers via the majesty of physical activity. Maybe - and there have been strong rumours of this - maybe it'll be the Aquadome.
Oh sweet Jesus.
If you went to my school. however, you could wish and hope and wonder all you want, but that didn't change the fact that nine times out of ten, you were going to a farm.
I don't know if this happened in every primary school in the mid-nineties, but my school seemed very concerned over the state of agricultural public relations. I guess it was a fair concern, as the decline of Ireland's rural population has been a talking point for old people since, say, 1935. As such, once a year everyone in my class was taken to a farm.
Our teachers were very careful to offer us an insanely propagandic view of what farmyard living actually conisted of. On reflection, we weren't taken to farms as much as we were taken to farm-like petting zoos. These places would consist of one stern-looking goat, one adorable donkey, a handful of hens, three lambs, a very silky looking cow and her calf, and enthusiastic teenagers wearing dungarees. The idea here, and I'm not sure why they were so bothered with this idea, was to let children know how absolutely awesome living on a "farm" was. And it worked. We'd spend four hours becoming best friends with the livestock and then go home and eat most of their relatives without realising the connection. It was a wonderful time.
Until, of course, you came into contact with a real farm. This is a somewhat more disenchanting experience, and it usually happens when you're somewhere weird with your parents, like Tipperary. "It's all farms around here!", they'll usually crane their necks around to the backseat to tell you. "Ah, farms" you think to yourself, "I know about farms". And you decide, because of your experience with your school tour, that you will pay a visit to this farm, because you are, after all, a dab hand at farming.
This is how you end up in a field, alone, being stared at by ten thousand cattle, while you piss your pants in terror.