I’m staring at a battered old photo from the early 80s. It’s a family photo. We are all lying in a sun soaked field cushioned on a half made tram of hay. Our faces reflect the beaming sun. My mother is clutching a glass lemonade bottle infused with tea. My siblings are thrusting plastic cups towards the camera in mock celebration. My younger sister, the joker of the family, is missing. Then I realise she’s behind the camera, making silly faces at us. There’s a half effort of a mullet going on with me. The scene is vibrant, seeping with the summer sun. I’m there, drawn back to that field and swamped by the sweet smell of hay.

It’s 1982, a snapshot in time. It’s good to be alive. Alive in the 80s, the greatest of decades.

I know many readers would disagree, but I believe the 1980s was a massive decade in the social and economic annals of a somewhat confused Ireland.

Coming of age in the 80s

For me, it was a coming-of-age time, the first time to leave home, a chance to peel off the boiler suit and park the pitchfork until the weekend. Catching a bus from the midlands to Cork was a complicated business, a rattling four-and-a-half hour journey involving changing buses midstream and hoping to catch a nap before the looming spectre of University College Cork came into sight.

It was a time of feeling one’s own way, like a tentative boxer in the opening round. Ireland was wobbling and trying to find its feet during a recessive time and I was doing the same, a fledgling, floundering for a flight pattern, the warmth of the nest quickly becoming a distant memory.

Musical renaissance

The New Romantic movement was a popular music genre in the 80s. It began as a reaction to the punk rock music of the ’70s and delivered a blow to the hippie scene where florals, beards and being barefoot were on the wane, receding as fast as the Jesus-like hairdos of the time. Fashion and style were elevated to new levels.

The 80s gave us the best love songs of all time. From Madonna’s Crazy for You to Jennifer Rush’s The Power of Love and sandwiched in between, we had a plethora of classic hits from Whitney Houston, Phil Collins, George Michael, Spandau Ballet, U2 and Bryan Adams, to name just a few.

MTV was also launched, where music and video were cemented together in harmonious fusion. When it comes to Christmas, the majority of hits they jingle out on the airwaves come from the 80s.

This decade also gave us some iconic soaps and some of the greatest films of all time. By the time E.T. the extra-terrestrial had touched base on Earth, Steven Spielberg was already a household name, delivering classic movies; the guy with the fedora and bull whip comes to mind.

Unfortunately, this decade was not all sunshine.

It’s 1982, a snapshot in time. It’s good to be alive. Alive in the 80s, the greatest of decades

Ireland in the 80s was blighted with emigration and unemployment. The Troubles in the North erupted on a daily basis, scarring the landscape with bloodshed. The CSO tells us that the unemployment rate was 7% in 1979, but by 1986 it had climbed alarmingly to 17%.

Governments collapsed regularly like stacks of cards, with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael playing musical chairs and vying for a chance to wield the hands of power over an increasingly disillusioned electorate.

I think there is something to be said for those who lived through that difficult time – to have experienced the austerity (tax rates were as high as 60%), to have endured the ignominy of not being able to get employment, to have seen the battering rain lodge an entire crop of corn in the wet summer of 1986 and repeat the feat in 1987 – and yet came out the other side a lot stronger.

Inside me, it’s still 1982 and the sun is still shining

Before the 1990s had stealthily crept in, Ireland had turned a corner and was on its way to economic recovery. Jack’s Army put the final kibosh on recessionary times when the guys in green lit up the football fields in the Euros of 1988 and ignited that feel good vibe about all things Irish.

1 July 1990 - The Republic of Ireland squad are cheered by supporters as they are brought by open top bus from Dublin Airport to College Green in Dublin city centre on their arrival home for a homecoming reception after their participation in the 1990 FIFA World Cup Finals in Italy. \ Ray McManus/ SPORTSFILE

I’m squinting at the photo now. Dusk and the evening chill are competing for attention. I feel rejuvenated with a giddy energy. I place the photo back into the album. Inside me, it’s still 1982 and the sun is still shining.