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A Loveletter To Childhood
on 27 December 2016
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha recounts one year in the life of a Dublin ten-year-old, Patrick ‘Paddy’ Clarke, especially his relationships with Sinbad (Francis), his younger brother, his parents and his schoolmates and teachers. It begins with him being a mischievous boy roaming around local Barrytown and ends with his father departing from the family, forcing the boy to take up adult responsibilities in his now single-parent home. At the same time, he notes the changes occurring around both physically and culturally, Doyle uses the fracturing urban environment to reflect the fracturing marriage of Paddy Clarke’s parents, attitudes towards class and the confusion and dislocation caused by the rapid urban expansion and cultural confusion seems to be epitomised in the bi-lingual naming of the newly-created roads in Barrytown. One road is called Chestnut Avenue: ‘It was in Irish as well, Ascal na gCastan.’ There follows a neutral comment which can become as loaded as we wish to make it: ‘The turns off Chestnut Avenue didn't make any sense yet. You couldn't tell what shape it was all going to be when it was finished.’
Paddy Clarke notices the ever changing face of his environment and how soon his hometown, the place where he grew up would be gone forever ‘we’d go down to the building site and it wouldn’t be there anymore…there was a new road where there’d been wet cement the last time we were there and the new site was at the end of the road. We went over to where we’d written our names with sticks in the cement, but they’d been smoothed over; they’d gone.’ Class issues are evident when Paddy mentions the Corporation Houses and the distinction between owning your own house and the Corporation people being beneath them in the social order. The Corporation people are looked down upon and Paddy has inherited this from his parents. For Paddy the people living in the Corporation houses have a sense of the Other as well as a source of dislocation, ‘there were no farms left. Our pitch was gone, first sliced in half for pipes and then made into eight houses. The field behind the shop was still ours and we went there more often. Over at the Corporation houses, that end, wasn’t ours anymore. There was another tribe there now, tougher than us, though none of is said it.’
This is a wonderful story of growing up and growing apart in Dublin, Ireland, relationships falling apart, the places around you changing permanently. It is a warm, funny, sad and nostalgic love-letter to childhood.