That Saturday feeling was never one they forgot. It was the only day of the week they were allowed to watch TV in the mornings. The sisters would sneak out of bed and sit on the couch to watch cartoons on RTE. These girls never confused a Saturday for a Monday.
Their father would be up not long after to poke the fire in an attempt to awaken the last dying embers. The stove being their only heat source for the small cottage. The living room was the actual living breathing heart of this home with four doorways leading off it to other rooms. All doors must be kept closed at all times for fear of artic winds ricocheting through.
Once their mother got up she would cook them breakfast. A hearty Irish fry, sausages and rashers and toast. (incidentally one of the three girls is now a vegetarian along with their mother ). Their mother liked to fill the girls up knowing they had a full day of adventures ahead of them.
After breakfast the girls would dress in their old worn track suit bottoms , a rain jacket and green wellington boots. Their father would carry a small packed lunch and they would say goodbye to their mother leaving her in peace for the day.
They ventured up the narrow windy country road. Their black muscley and eager dog pulling on his lead desperate to be free. Once they rounded the twisty corner they would see it, stretching as far as the eye can see. The Bog , infamous, mysterious and mucky. A stretch of marshy damp brown soil where once ancient majestic Irish forests stood. Now left behind is their fertile soil used as fuel for fires warming the hearts of many an Irish home. Running through the middle of the bog was a small railway track. This would mark the beginning of the children’s journey into the sodden mucky wilderness of mid-lands 1980’s Ireland.
They would follow the track until about half way where they were surrounded by nothing but brown muck and large ditches that their nut case dog liked to attempt to jump across. At times failing, they would watch helplessly as he slid down the unstable peat bog embankment to the sludgy hole at the bottom.
The girls father would tell them stories of people and animals disappearing into bog holes like quicksand only muckier. The children would listen to these stories with morbid fascination and avoid even putting their big toe near a bog hole. Sometimes on a Friday night to scare the girls right out of their cotton socks their father would tell them about the Bog Man who liked to rise up out of his bog hole and come to visit some of the local houses looking for children to take with him into his peaty grave, but only those children who were not already asleep. The girls never did find out if he was telling the truth or not but sometimes late at night they thought they heard tapping at their bedroom windows and felt a presence in their room.
The girls would walk for an hour or so and listen to the tall tales from their father and laugh at their uncoordinated dog. Then as if by magic a small forest would appear. Tall grass wet with silvery rain drops led a pathway into the wood. It was warm and quiet inside, it had a comforting feel. The trees grew so close together that the light was dim. They would venture through the wood until they came to its heart where a small stream with fresh sweet bog filtered water ran through.
The children would sit upon a log and eat their cheese and Tayto crisp sandwiches. They would watch their loopy dog run around and around like a bullet that had lost its direction. His tongue hanging out the side and foamy saliva spraying the girls as he zoomed past.
Their father would lay back onto a bed of pine needles and twigs and breath in the sweet smell of decaying vegetation. Laying across the stream was a large tree trunk. Its roots exposed to the damp air. The girls knew this was the fairy fort and on a full mooned night it would transform to a glowing palace where the fairy folk would dance in the silvery rays of the moon. Collecting water from the stream for their fairy tea and casting blessings upon this sacred bog land.
While their father rested the girls would jump from bank to bank across the stream each playing out their own magical fairy tale. Until their father knew they must begin their journey back before the autumn darkness washed over their small piece of magic.
The girls would trudge through the peat bog once again always grateful when they came upon the train track which they knew would lead them safely home. Oh my was that road home an exhausting one. The girls legs would be so tired that they imagined crawling home on their hands and knees round the twisty corners and down the hill to their house. Their father, led by their crazy dog would be way ahead not even looking back, no sympathy for the tired children. They must stand on their own two feet.
Pizza and chips and the Saturday night movie never felt so good as when the girls had been to the Bog.