I stood in the middle of the living room with a hurley in my hand, now and again swinging it to emphasise my point. The Hannigan boys, at least the two of them old enough to use the toilet by themselves, were sitting on the couch, a captive audience. Two weeks into their summer holidays, I’d become heartily sick of them declaring themselves bored on a daily basis. Their punishment was to receive a lecture about their lack of imagination.
“What is this?” I asked, brandishing the hurley.
“A hurley,” said Abe in a note-perfect, disaffected pre-teenager tone.
“What’s it for?”
“Correct. But it can be used for much, much more than that.”
They weren’t impressed by this statement. They just shrugged their shoulders so then I gave them both barrels about how they need to learn to create fun that doesn’t involve video games, television, computers, iPods, Kindles, and all the other electronica they have at their disposal. The ensuing lesson involved a full-on trip down memory lane to the Cork of my youth. The 12 year old rolled his eyes and the five year old looked at me as if I was suddenly speaking a foreign language. Which, in a way, I kind of was.
You know you’ve turned into your father when you start waxing lyrical about how, in ye olden days, we had enough imagination to make the best of our limited resources. The boys were unimpressed when I held the hurley up and explained how, to us, a hurley was never just a hurley. It was also a sword (more of a Claymore than a rapier in terms of size and heft), a rifle (the lack of a trigger or anything resembling one never a big obstacle) and a club (woe betide the boy on the other end of a smack of the bos).
Of course, I continued, hurleys could even do other sports. For a few weeks each summer when the cricket tests were live on television (the only thing live on television it often seemed), hurleys became cricket bats. That we never wore white and couldn’t bowl properly was no hindrance to our attempts to mimic Viv Richards and Ian Botham. We stepped to the crease, well, the area in front of the largest lamp-post in the square in Togher. That lamp-post was another incredibly versatile piece of equipment. Aside from proving a place for us to hover around in the evenings, it also did time as a cricket wicket. Indeed, it was the perfect substitute wicket because if a ball made it past your hurley and even grazed the hollow metal it made a sound, thereby proving you were out.
All of this was flying over the heads of these American children so I tried another tack, explaining that hurleys also doubled as oars because hurleys were what we used when we took to the ocean wave. Well, not exactly the ocean wave. There were no waves really, just the tiny ripples in the otherwise still waters of the Glasheen Stream where large, brown rats swam in front of our boats (well, not boats, actually bath-tubs liberated from nearby building sites), obviously as scared of us as we were of them.
Finally, the kids’ eyes grew wide at one of my anecdotes. So I paused and then the eldest spoke.
“Will you buy us kayaks?”
Slowly, I put the hurley down for fear I’d us it as a murder weapon.