Bus and boots

School was an ordeal for me until I got the hang of it (and it got the hang of me). For dverse.

First day at school I am put on the bus because mother has a new baby father’s at work and Grandma is minding the other two so I travel with Seán Leamhnach and his big boots to the stop at the stop of Steep Hill and I avoid his boots till we reach the school and he goes to his class and I go to the baby class where I sit in uncomprehending silence watching from the sidelines never joining as if it’s optional and dinnertime sitting next to Conn Ó Donohue who plays war with his peas and mashed potato so the peas go on the floor and he doesn’t have to eat them and Bernadette Duffy says she can’t eat the carrots because they have bones in them and dissects one for Sister Theresa to prove it.


Crystal clear still and the feeling of being outside it all. Not much changes.


Days roll by

always summer or winter

I take a ghost’s hand.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

55 thoughts on “Bus and boots”

  1. Wow– a terrific slice of life, stream of consciousness treat. School was our first taste of the big World. I forget sometimes that was not a carnival for everyone.

      1. The pubils have to get fun with books and knowledge. Here the produced and produce fear against books, actually against computers as one of the best and effective tools for communication and learning too.

      2. The danger with instant access to ‘knowledge’ through the internet seems to me that it encourages students to think they have all the answers at their fingertips. They don’t research anymore, or learn how to be critical of their sources.

      3. I made a longer way, not directly to high school. I used four years of our so called “Realschule” too, and had to learn cooking, handcraftig, machine writing (the only good thing there). Then comes high school with Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Religion, Math. After another time of four years i was reall prepared for university with theology and law. ***lol***

  2. I agree with the others about it being a wonderful stream of consciousness. I imagine little Jane was a bit lost at home and school at this time–and Seán’s boots are really nightmarish.

    1. Funnily I don’t remember being frightened about having to get to school on my own. Often I didn’t pay the fare because the bus conductor just didn’t see me, but I was terrified of those boots. He used to kick everything and everyone in sight with them. Lethal boots must have been something to be proud of where he came from.

  3. Parents today are so protective of their kids. Preschool visits, Take them the first day. Wait for them at the bus stop… How different from our generation.

    1. If it had been a school bus it might have been less of an ordeal, but it was just the town bus and everything was huge—the step to get into it, the step to get inside, the seats, the hand grips too high to use. I remember using passengers’ elbows to guide me to a seat inside. My mother must have been terrified for me though. When she had time to think about it!

  4. I love sewing a slice of your life. School was daunting for most in the beginning, Duffy explaining the reason for not eating carrots was super but I bet the scary Nuns didn’t fall for that. I wonder if someone writes remembering me by my brown lace-up tuf shoes they were pretty scary for me.

    1. Sister Theresa wasn’t scary. She was a powerhouse of a woman. When Catholicism got trendy and everybody wanted to send their kids to our school, she left and went out to Sarajevo to set up a home for children orphaned by the war. She said her work in helping poverty-stricken Irish kids get a good start in life was over and there were children who needed her more. Last I heard she was still there.

      1. In Ireland at that time, if a woman didn’t want to be tied to a farm and a family, there was only one way out—the convent, and a teaching order for the bright ones. It covered a multitude of sins, of course, but there were some pearls among them who simply weren’t offered any other outlet for their energies.

      2. The whole idea of nuns makes me shudder, but I can appreciate now that the society of the time forced many energetic women into convents because it wouldn’t allow them to play a significant part otherwise.

      3. It’s changing quickly now. The younger generations won’t stand for it, the men neither, and even among the older people there’s a realisation dawning of things they never knew about that were covered up, exactly because they would have been denounced. It’s all good 🙂

  5. This is great! I love the stream of consciousness writing – it very much evokes how a child would feel on their first overwhelming day of school.

  6. Getting to school is always the tricky part, Jane. Your stream of consciousness reminded me of James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist. Very Irish and bloody brilliant!
    When I read the haiku again – mainly because I love anything to do with ghosts – for some reason I slipped back to my first day at junior school. Our next-door neighbour was a few years older than me and she promised my mum she’d take me on my first day and show me how to find my way around. I was so terrified that I wouldn’t let go of her hand and ended up in her classroom. They had to prise off my fingers!

    1. Thank you, Kim! I should have had the odd cow in it 🙂 You took the hand of a ghost.
      I went to such a lovely school, and a good one too. It was hard to get used to, but I managed it.

  7. kaykuala

    It is just amazing that your recall of the first day could be right up to the minutest details.


    1. I think it was Seán Leamhnach’s boots that knocked the memories in. The school cantine memories are from the first days, not necessarily the very first, but near enough. Starting school was such a bad experience for me. I had to start after the Christmas break because my youngest sister was born mid-September and there was no one to get me organised for school in the mornings. Thankfully I don’t remember the terror of it, only the strangeness.

  8. Well this amazing piece of writing has reawoken many moments and memories for people and like all really good writing opened up a ‘grand discussion’
    Did you intentionally write this soc, it beautifully done and the haiku is beautiful truly the last line especially. I remember telling you before that school was bad experience for me, something I always think I have laid to rest until it resurfaces.
    I do love the way this had inspired so many to comment. Jane you have a real talent and I really enjoy reading you blog you should maybe write somemore of these remembered days, ‘Bus and Boots’ would make a wonderful title for a memoire.💜

    1. I know you had a very different experience of school. I was just lucky to have had a head teacher (even though she was a nun) with progressive and egalitarian ideas. Starting school was difficult which is probably why I remember those first days so well. Seán Leamhnach and his twin sister Margarita (who I thought looked like Snow White in the Disney film) went back to the bog that bred them before the end of the year, but I had the pleasure of being kicked in the shins by his big boots until then. It marked me for life!

      1. Strange isn’t it I wander what became of them both. It’s a sad thought whatever promise the had buried forever no doubt. Still you have imortalized them now. 💜

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