Thursday 20 July 2023

My First Holiday by Eamon O'Leary, a cup of tea - strong!

Last weekend, as I looked from Haulbowline over to Cobh, a cruise ship of enormous dimensions lifted anchor and glided out of harbour obliterating my view of the majestic cathedral in the process. My brain slipped into memory mode.

 Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps must’ve been easier, but after bus, train, hackney and finally donkey and trap, our trek from Dublin to Mother’s homestead outside Elphin, County Roscommon finally ended.

My first holiday.

No cooker for Mum. All meals prepared over an open turf fire, a menagerie of pots and pans hung from an ancient cast iron crane. A steady relay lugged bucket after bucket of water from the well.

 ‘C’mon,' Da said, 'I’ve made a discovery.’

He’d called us early one morning before the sun dried the silvery sheen from the grass. After throwing on our clothes and wellies we headed off, sleep in our eyes, down through misshapen fields of rushes, thistles, and nettles. Da lifted me through a gap filled with muck, cow poo and flies and then we saw them. The field white with mushrooms. Millions of them.

‘A present from the Gods.’ he said. ‘Now, stop gawking and start picking.’

 Within minutes, we’d filled two enamel buckets. Back at the cottage, Da, using a poker as long as himself, encouraged four of five sods of glowing turf to the edge of the hearth and let them rest. Ma busied herself plucking out the stalks and chucked them into a nearby skillet.

‘They’ll not be wasted,’ she informed us. ‘We’ll make soup with them tomorrow.’

After she’d put a knob of butter and a pinch of salt into each, Da took over. He lay the mushrooms, one by one, in military formation on each dusky grey sod. Then we watched and waited. It didn’t take long before they turned the colour of marmalade with a puddle in the centre.

Mum explained. ‘That’s the butter, salt and the juice, all mixing.’

Then, as if handling sticks of dynamite, Da lifted each with a tongs and placed them on a plate to cool. Mother took a still hot loaf of soda bread from the bastible and after cutting thick slices, slathered butter on each.

Then we feasted.

The taste has never left me.

I wonder what treasured memories the holidaymakers on the Celebrity Apex will look back on in 50 years.  

About the author 

Eamon's short stories have been published in a myriad of anthologies. His latest highlight is reading a number of his stories on RTE, Ireland's national broadcaster. 


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  1. What a wonderful memory!

  2. A great story, I could taste the buttered bread and mushrooms.