Roddy Doyle captures the quintessence of childhood abandon in Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha. For 10-year-old Paddy, the world consists of his friends and family; the universe consists of his small north Dublin neighbourhood. Paddy and his school mates are a rowdy bunch. Their complete lack of restraint can sometimes lead to cruel behaviour, and sometimes to beautiful inhibition.
I’d hold my arms out straight till they ached and I’d spin. I could feel the air against my arms, trying to stop them from going so fast, like dragging them through water. I kept going. Eyes open, little steps in circle; my heels cut into the grass, made it juicy; real fast — the house, the kitchen, the hedge, the back, the other hedge, the apple tree, the house, the kitchen, the hedge, the back — waiting to stop my feet. I never warned myself. It just happened – the other hedge, the apple tree, the house, the kitchen — stop — onto the ground, on my back, sweating, gasping, everything still spinning. The sky — round and round — nearly wanting to get sick. Wet from sweating, cold and hot. Belch. I had to lie till it was over. Round and round; it was better with my eyes open, trying to get my eyes to hang onto one thing and stop it from turning. Snot, sweat, round, round and round. I didn’t know why I did it; it was terrible — maybe that was why. It was good getting there — spinning . . . The world was round and Ireland was stuck on the side; I knew that when I was spinning — falling off the world. (p. 173)
This quotation perfectly exemplifies the weird, random acts kids sometimes feel compelled to do without really knowing —or caring— why. The sensory overload Paddy experiences spinning, takes me right back to Year 2 hanging out in Coram’s Fields. One time, Mateo coerced Davide and I to climb onto the merry-go-round. He promised he would stop when we told him to, and of course, never did. The world was spinning; Mateo was running; and we were shrieking; equal parts terror and delight. Eventually, Davide and I were flung aside and landed with a crash onto the playground sand. Just like Paddy Clarke, I stared up at the sky, feeling a frenzied, swirling state of serious delirium.