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First person

How our mothers were right about ‘fresh air’ all along

By February 19, 2022No Comments



Claire Murrihy certainly doesn’t remember loving fresh air as a kid. But she thinks her mother might just have been on to something when insisting she experience it…

Do you remember loving fresh air when you were younger?

Nope, me neither.


Much is said and written about the youth of today and how they’ll never know what it was like to run around in open fields and forests for hours on end, playing games created entirely from their own imagination and gaining that all-important life grit that comes from a scrappy, resourceful, adult-free day.

(I believe 80’s kids have a tendency to look back on their childhoods with Enid Blyton-tinted glasses).

Indeed, there were plenty of days where my sisters and I left the house to play with friends after breakfast on a Saturday morning, came back for lunch (somehow intuitively knowing when it would be on the table), ran off again before traipsing back in for tea, exhausted from our escapades and ready to watch the epic double bill of Gladiators followed by Blind Date. What a time to be alive.

Back then, I didn’t give two hoots about fresh air and when my mother suggested I go for a walk with her to get it, I would moan and complain before grumpily acquiescing. Why would I leave my warm home [read: TV] to go outside when there was nothing happening?

Fast forward a few years (okay, decades) and I’m of the opinion that you can’t beat a bracing walk on a clear day. Personally, I love when it’s really cold but you’re wrapped up with just the right amount of layers so you’re cosy but not sweaty. If given the choice, I’ll choose the beach every time but a good park or canal will work fine too.

My boisterous Labrador ensures I get out for a walk at least twice a day but even before he came along, things had already started to change. As I got older, I started to appreciate the little things about going for a walk in my own company. I loved nothing more than plugging into my Discman (in my late teens) and mp3 player (in my twenties) and letting my imagination run wild as I pictured myself on stage belting out whatever Disney/Broadway/pop song I was listening to. But it took some time to get to that place…

Mom was tireless in her campaign to get us ‘out in the fresh air’ and would be highly unimpressed if we were still lounging around in our PJs with the sitting room curtains closed at midday during the summer holidays! Luckily for us, living twenty minutes from the most beautiful beaches in the country meant that we spent many a happy weekend swimming, making sand castles and running up and down the sand dunes of Banna Beach.

That was the issue, I suppose. In my pre-teen mind, being outside was associated with fun, friends, swimming, playing – to go outside simply for my health was an alien concept.

When I visited home during my college years in Dublin, Mom used to bring me out to the beach before I got the train back to Heuston station to get some fresh sea air in my lungs. She reckoned ‘if you could bottle it’, you’d be a millionaire. ‘It’ presumably being the tangy, salty freshness and overwhelming sense of wellbeing.

Does this mean Irish Mammies were the original wellness influencers?

These days, every Instagram health expert worth their (pink Himalayan) salt widely extols the virtues of spending time outside, the power of green spaces on our mental health and the soothing effect water has on our oft-troubled minds. There are endless books, podcasts, articles and studies devoted to how our minds and bodies relax in nature and how getting fresh air – particularly first thing in the morning – can alter our mood.

At the time, I took it totally for granted but during lockdown, I found myself envying the people within five kilometres of those wide, sandy beaches and resenting the fact that my nearest beach was a forty-minute drive down a motorway followed by a battle for parking if the day was sunny. (And let’s face it, would you be making the journey if there was a chance of rain?)

It’s one of the main reasons I’m excited about moving back to Kerry.

Once I moved to Dublin to attend college twenty years ago, I never left, renting in various locations around the capital and loving it. For years, I lived beside the Phoenix Park and it remains one of my favourite spots in the city.

But the pandemic opened my eyes to the possibilities of a different life. One of remote working, of reconnecting with old friends, of quality time with my parents, of reigniting previously loved hobbies and, yes, one close to beaches with fresh air. Lots of fresh air.