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Archive for the ‘My Corner of the Recession’ Category

There has been a lot of muck-raking in the presidential election.  My campaign is still in its infancy.  In fact, I have no policy platform at all, just a strong desire to live in a nice house with staff. You can be assured of my strong convictions on that score at least.   But rather than have my campaign side-tracked by minutiae, I thought I’d  get all my muck out in the open in one go.  Prepare to be shocked.

1. I’ve had two speeding tickets.   One was for speeding in a twelve-year-old Nissan Micra.  Yes, I’m as shocked as you are.

2. When I lived in Germany, I occasionally rode the underground trains without buying a ticket.  My excuse was that as a native Irish person I was utterly bamboozled by a properly functioning, highly efficient and completely integrated public transport infrastructure.  You can see how it would take a bit of getting used to.

3. I have four overdue books from the local public library. I can’t help it.  There’s no parking nearby.

4. I have occasionally told people I have no babysitter when in fact I do, just to get out of going to something I don’t want to attend.

5. In a previous job, I told a client that a series of numskull mistakes I’d made had been made by a temp.  We’d never had one.

6. When I worked in a hotel kitchen, I was told to wash the lettuce by swirling it gently in a sink and then patting it dry.  I used to turn a power hose on it.  Who cares that much about lettuce?

7. When I worked as a chambermaid, if I was feeling lazy I didn’t always strip the beds.  And, since I am in a confessional mode, sorry to the guy who left the lovely box of Swiss chocolates open. But, really, what did you expect?

8. I used to walk around with earphones on but with no sound coming through them, just because I was tired and cranky and wanted to be left alone.

9. I used to tell people I hadn’t called them back because I had no credit in my phone.  I’m on a tariff.

10.  I had crushes on several actors in Falcon Crest.

11. I have a crush now on John Stewart of The Daily Show.  One of my reasons for wanting to be president is so he might ask me on his show.  I can tell you it wouldn’t be much of an interview, though – him asking incisive, cogent questions about modern Ireland, the peace process, Irish-American relations in the context of the 21st global economy etc; me drooling like a Basset Hound.  Ratings death, but possibly a sleeper hit on YouTube.

There you have it.  All the skeletons in my closet are well and truly aired out.  Very cathartic.  Not too damaging to the campaign, I hope.  I think the Irish electorate has the sophistication and nous to distinguish between minor infractions such as those listed above and grievous errors of judgement like being a member of Sinn Fein or having appeared on Celebrity Jigs and Reels.

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Instead of dispensing my customary wisdom to all and sundry, I thought I would give a little bit of timely advice to just one person. That lucky individual is Angela Merkel.  But, first, let me tell you the story of my first and thankfully only meeting with the man who would be Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

Were I to consult a calendar, I’m sure I would find it was at most two years ago that I met Enda.  And yet it seems so much longer, chiefly because of how heavily the events of that night have weighed on my shoulders and caused my previously carefree self to flee.  It started out as a fairly harmless event.  It was one of those meetings in a local hotel where a ragtag bunch of moaning windbags turn up to complain about local issues and the politicians make a lot of ill-advised and unsustainable promises.  Enda Kenny was to be there, so a group of us went.  I was going to ask a question about the shortage of school places in our area.  Mostly I wanted to get in and out in time to get down to the bar before the kitchen closed, because the chips in that hotel are lovely.  And the loveliness of chips is a subject on which I can speak at length.  But that’s for another time.

We were late.  The meeting had already started.  Enda was in full flight.  He had much to say, which was not a surprise.  He made all the right noises about the awfulness of everything.  I asked my question about local school places and went on – as always, at great length – about How Awful It All Is.  Total strangers in the crowd were nodding in time to my ranting about How Awful It All Is.  Forgive me the lack of modesty, but it was me at my whingeing best.  Nonetheless, I wrapped it up as it was coming up to nine and the kitchen was about to close.  I cared quite loudly and stridently about local schools, but not enough to forego the pleasure of having a plate of carbohydrates handed to me. Enda agreed with me.  How could one not?  I wrapped it up and bequeathed the remaining acoustic space to other moaners.

Enda made his closing remarks and whipped the assembled crowd into a frenzy of enthusiasm with promises of puppies, Ikea kitchens and five good summers in a row.  Or, at least, he might as well have for all the relationship his promises had to reality.  I was making my way towards the door and the warm, loving embrace of my chips when a local worthy asked me if I would like to meet Enda.  I was kind of keen to see how this played out so I went along.  I was ushered into the presence of the Fine Gael leader as one might have been into the vicinity of say, a Christopher Moltisanto.  (He’s no Tony Soprano).  While I was waiting, a local party hack asked me if  would like to join the Fine Gael cumann.  I muttered something about being too busy with work.  She persisted and said they only meet once a month.  I just muttered.   Then the crowds about Enda parted and I was able to bask in his immanence, such as it was.  I was re-introduced as the woman who was concerned about local schools and How Awful It All Is.  Clearly I made an impression as he bypassed customary social decencies such as, say, a handshake and clutched me with great zeal unto his bosom.  I can still feel myself braced against his immense slightness.  I made some joke about the inappropriateness of it all and wrenched myself free.  Thwarted, he moved on to embrace a woman whose people, she said, came from Swinford.  No mere crushing embrace for her.  For such an emotional  connection with Enda’s home turf, it seems the response is for him to cup your face in his hands and stare with wistful adulation into your eyes.  I made my excuses and left, still being asked to join Fine Gael.  I wondered if maybe I had a smell that attracted them.

So there it was.  A future Taoiseach tried to go to first base with me.  I stumbled in shock and bewilderment out of the room.  Worse, the kitchen was closed so it was just scampi fries for me.  There was the postmortem in the bar with my friends.  Was it something I should confess to my Present Husband?  The consensus was yes.  And so I went home and confessed.  My Present Husband reacted exactly as one my expect a man to react if he found out a Fine Gael leader had manhandled his wife.  And then the doubt set in.  Did I lead Enda on?  Maybe being The Woman Who Talks about How Awful It All Is makes you catnip for a certain type of aspiring politician.  And of course, the what-ifs started.  What if no-one else had been there to restrain his longings?  What if I had been won over by his charm?  What if my granny had been from Belmullet?  Who knows where it might have ended?

So now, for good or ill, we find Enda is our Taoiseach and about to negotiate on our behalf with the EU and the IMF on the terms of our bailout.  He seems to have his beady eye on Angela Merkel.  Which brings me to my advice for her.  Whatever you do, don’t talk about How Awful It All Is, make sure he keeps three feet away from you at all times, and for God’s sake keep quiet about your relations in Mayo.

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The country in the midst of the storm in a teacup that is the general election and you’re of course so busy with pondering the ideological nuances of it all.  You have probably not had time to turn your mind to the matter of dealing with pesky canvassers.  I thought I would turn my attention to the this difficult and sensitive area by providing some tips, which you can employ to scare them away or cause them to linger in agonising embarrassment at your door.  Either way, very entertaining.

First of all, try loudly and cantankerously asking them where they were last week when you left that bumper bag of old tea towels out for the Ukranian orphans. How are those poor starvelings supposed to survive without anything to dry their dishes with?

Bring a screaming child to the door and ask them to help.

Answer the door in the style of Jack Nicholson from “The Shining.”

Smile sweetly and tell them you are perfectly happy with your bin collection/electricity/broadband provider, thanks very much.

Tell them in any other circumstances you would give them your number one, but unfortunately you cannot vote as this right is quite cruelly denied to convicts and members of the Royal Family.  Then for bonus points, encourage them to guess which one you are.

Tell them that last year’s X Factor was clearly rigged and demand to know what they are going to do about it.

Answer the door looking like this…

… or this …

… or this.

Peep out and whisper “How do I know you weren’t followed?”

Offer to bring your canvassers inside for a cup of tea, a slice of madeira and a detailed discussion on why they should turn away from the path of sin and embrace the way of Jesus, who is our one true Lord and who will save us from our recent economic woes if we would just pray to him for mercy (and a few billion quid).  Bonus points for signing “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”

Ask them to loan you a tenner to feed your ESB meter.

Tell them you’ll give them a tenner if one of them will provide you with a clean sample you need for an unfortunately timed random drugs test.

Respond to everything they say in the style of Mrs Lovejoy from The Simpsons, i.e. by shrieking “WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!”

Tell them you think NAMA is the best thing since sliced bread and you are looking forward to being on the pig’s back as soon as this generous arm of the state takes on your debt, which will allow you to go back to what you’re good at, which is building three-bed semis in suburban Dublin (i.e. Drumshanbo).

Open the door, shout “BOO” and close it again.

Promise them your number one if they will deal with the couple across the road who stink the neighbourhood with their noxious cooking and who you are fairly sure are living in sin.

Stand there and try to guess what characters they have come as.

Finally, and my personal favourite, have your eight-year-old child talk to them.  Warning: this is likely to be too intellectually strenuous for many politicians.

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My theories on how to rescue the Irish economy are so wondrous – if only someone would implement them – that I thought I would turn my attention to helping individuals in financial strife to improve matters in 2011.  What follows is a small selection of my tips to manage your money in the coming months.

First, reduce your energy bills.  Never mind switching electricity suppliers or turning down the thermostat.  You need big sweeping changes.  Reassess your personal hygiene norms.   Water charges are imminent so we need to adjust our habits now to prepare for this. Do you need to shower every day?  Do you need to don clean clothes daily?  Probably not. However often you shower, halve that.  If you start to lose friends over this new regime – and I’d be surprised if you didn’t – they weren’t friends in the first place.  Your compadres in filth are there for the long haul. 

There is much talk about shopping around to compare interest rates and bank charges.  Again, not sufficiently drastic.  Keep what little money you have under the mattress.  If you are posh, keep it in a biscuit tin under the bed.  Surely someone gave you a tin of Afternoon Tea for Christmas?  That’s the tin to use. And that person is a true friend.  Suggest bringing down costs further by sharing showers. 

School related expenses are very difficult for families of young children.  If you have more than one child, save money on books and uniforms by sending them to school on alternate day.  Don’t let the fact that not all your children are of the same gender inhibit this plan.  You don’t want to lay all sorts of crippling emotional baggage on your children through imposing normative gender values, do you?  Also, don’t be put off by the fact that your children don’t all attend the same school.  You want them to get out there and make new friends, don’t you? 

There is an election in the air.  Tout your vote around amongst the candidates in your constituency to see who will pay the most for it.  It succeeded the other way around for a bunch of property developers and that all worked out fine, so why not?

Get undressed, walk around a hotel naked and sue.  I have to confess that despite my vast expertise in the field of economics, I can’t fathom how this works.  Nonetheless, I hear great things about it, so all I can say is good luck. 

Recycle unwanted Christmas gifts as kindling or explosives.  There’s often a thin line.

Go and live with Eddie Hobbs.  He seems genial, I’m sure he’d take pity on you.

Start planning ahead for major festivals that require gift-giving.  Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and is, by general consensus, a colossal pain in the wallet.  So split up with your loved one in late January.  Mother’s Day follows swiftly after that in March.  Fall out with your mother about a week beforehand.  If your mother is a warm and loving presence in your life, this is going to require much planning.  Map out all birthdays and other events for the year in your diary and engineer a variety of rifts.  Don’t forget to stage an emotional reunion before your own birthday.

If that seems all a bit cynical, to say nothing of involving a lot of planning, you could explore the many world religions that do not celebrate festivals such as birthdays.  One such group are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, although I can tell you as a recipient of a blood transfusion that this religion, like most others, has a downside.  Buddhists seem like a lovely bunch of people and certainly the idea of karma is very pleasing when you see the way the banks have laid waste to our public purse.  And, in addition to saving you a fortune at Christmas, converting to Buddhism opens up the possibility that you might be reincarnated as rich person. 

Turn your estate into a zombie one through a carefully planned programme of neglect, and then invite Prime Time Investigates around.  Film crews are hungry beasts, so you can do a nice line in breakfast rolls. 

Volunteer your services to your local drug dealer as a mule.  Nice job, sociable hours, opportunities to meet new people and plenty of foreign travel.  Make sure your travel vaccinations are up-to-date in case you end up in a foreign prison.  But, again, that will reduce your food bills.  And your policy of adopting poor hygiene habits will stand to you in the prison environment given that you won’t want to use the showers, even if they are free. 

Stop using your credit card.  The rate of interest is usurious.  Just reserve it for cutting cocaine in your drug den, which you will doubtless be setting up when you have proven your reliability as a drug mule. 

Explore polygamy – polygyny or polyandry, depending on your gender.  (Try both if you are confused about your sexual identity – if  for example you are a male whose mother made him wear his sister’s uniform to school.) You can save a fortune on gifts for your spouse by clubbing in with twelve others on the one present.  Ditto Valentines Day and Christmas.  Not sure how this works in practice on wedding anniversaries, but I’d imagine a degree of compromise is necessary in all facets of the polygamous lifestyle.

Yet again, more helpful tips.  Feel free to add you own.  They won’t make you popular, because outrageous parsimony and poor hygiene never do, but at this point in our national development we need drastic measures.  I can’t help but wonder what state our economy would be in if I had been consulted a few years ago when I was forecasting doom like a modern-day Cassandra.  I suspect the answer is that we’d be in actually the same mess.  But with more convicted criminals.  And smellier.

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It seems churlish to find an upside to the recession, but many of us still – gratefully – in the world of work have noticed our commuting times shortening because there are of course far fewer people making their way to and from work.  Thus, journeys themselves are becoming, if not quite pleasant, then certainly not filled with the remorseless grinding indignity of yesteryear.  You occasionally get a seat now.  Even if you are standing, you can fold a newspaper over.  You can do a crossword and not struggle to manage the pen.   Would that it had been ever thus.

Commuting at peak times by means of Irish Rail during the Celtic Tiger was not something anyone did to recapture the golden age of the locomotive.  Brief Encounter it was not.  It was much more like Close Encounters of the Excessively Close Kind.  It was at times eye-wateringly intimate.  There were mornings where the only thing that distinguished it from the thronged trains of downtown Tokyo was, frankly, punctuality.  There were mornings where it was just as easy to read the other person’s book as your own.  And times where you could make an approximation as to what someone had eaten by a close study of the crumbs down their front.  If you forgot a pen to do your crossword, you could have filched one off someone else’s person with barely a flicker of movement.  There were evenings where we were huddled so closely together that I wept for the hygiene norms of the nation. I don’t know where those pretty boy metrosexuals were during the Celtic Tiger years, but I can assure you they were not on the 17.22 from Dublin Pearse to Drogheda.

But burned forever into my consciousness is the time I stood so close to one particular man that in some cultures we would have had to marry.   When I got home, I was overcome by the need to confess all to my Present Husband, who was very understanding and in time learned to forgive me.  I can’t speak for the other man in the affair at all, but I daresay he still has quiet moments when he ponders where it all might have led.  I read a story a few years ago about a couple who had sex on the DART one evening and I wasn’t a bit surprised.  Hundreds could be at it in moving trains and nobody would notice.  Unless they lit up a cigarette afterwards, of course.  Then there would be tut-tutting.

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One of my all-time favourite TV characters was President Josiah Bartlett of The West Wing. Witty, articulate, principled, engaging, intelligent – so like me in many ways, I think many would agree.  Well, a few might.  So of course it’s no surprise that I will similarly be awarded a Nobel Prize for Economics for my great advice on how to get us out of our current crisis.

My next suggestion is controversial and likely to cause a knee-kerk reaction, but give it a few minutes and the wisdom of it will unburden itself to you.  It’s so brilliant in its simplicity.  We have a National Museum full of gold treasures from our rich archaeological heritage.

Torcs, earrings and other mysterious, beautifully crafted objects that I would classify under the general heading of “yokes.”  They are sitting there, looking lovely, yes, but requiring much maintenance – you should see what this country is shelling out on chamois leathers despite the precarious national finances.  Meanwhile, cash for gold outlets are springing up hither and yon about the place paying out money for all sorts of broken bits of tat.  So we send off those beautiful but ultimately useless yokes to those nice people at the cash for gold place – they even supply jiffy bags, how helpful is that – and, ke-ching, we are solvent again.

And if any cash-for-silver outlets spring up, we can make some serious wedge with the Ardagh Chalice.  Think of all the people we could get off trolleys in A&E with that baby.  And we could have schools lousy with SNAs if we cashed in the Tara Brooch.  We could maybe do them a deal where we throw in the Derrynaflan hoard too and – boom! – there’s your new state-of-the-art children’s hospital conveniently not located amidst traffic chaos and not ex-Taoiseach adjacent.

While you are digesting the utter brilliance of that idea – and running your tongue along your teeth to check if any of your fillings are gold – I will give you a sneak preview of one of my other ideas.

National Sell your Kidney Day.  If you are healthy, you could probably survive on one.  It’s a surprisingly lucrative idea.  In fact, my Present Husband and I are of such offensively rude good health that we are going to survive on one between the two of us.  We will work out a sharing arrangement so that we get the remaining kidney on different days.  I will have it on all days with a ‘y’ in them.

(Disclaimer: Seek advice from a qualified medical professional before following this advice, or indeed any other that I might give)

Yet another brilliant idea to solve our economic crisis.  Fear not, there are plenty more where those came from.  The National Museum might be a bit peeved at losing all those lovely shiny wotsits, and of course the place will look a bit bare.  But they will be more than compensated by getting to display my Nobel Prize in the Quite Contrary Wing.

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I’m nothing if not helpful.

There’s really no point in just sitting down and complaining about the state of our economy.  It’s time to get off our collective backsides and do something.  I suggested previously how we might torch Anglo Irish Bank premises to make some quick cash.  Ingenious, I think you’ll agree.  Don’t fear, though, that I am a one-trick pony as far as economic stimuli are concerned.  I have, in fact, a fund of creative and innovative ideas to get the ball rolling and stimulate the hell out of our economy.

Tourism:  Invite fact-finding missions to come and observe us.  Economists could come and study how we got into this mess and have a bit of a giggle at our ideas to get out of it.  Psychologists could study how on earth a race with the world’s highest per capita consumption of tea could have been persuaded to spend nearly a fiver on a feeble latte.  Fans of the British Empire could be invited to just walk around tut-tutting at the state of the place.

Film Industry: Make zombie estates around the country available to film companies who needs sets for futuristic, postapocalyptic, dystopian dramas.  Kurt Russell could probably shoot the forthcoming blockbuster “Escape from Ireland” entirely within a two mile radius of Kinnegad.

TV: “Fair City” should be shown five times a day, every day.  There would be work for unemployed actors taking on all the new topical characters – the guy who reposesses 4x4s, the suddenly very busy shoe repair guy et al.  Unemployed carpenters could also be employed to make backdrops for all the new premises that spring up around Carrigstown – the Lidl, the Social Welfare Office, the Cash for Go ld shop and so on.

Manufacturing: Open a factory that sells voodoo dolls bearing the likeness of politicians and senior banking figures. This would have the ancillary benefit of stimulating the needle industry.

Construction Industry:  Build public stocks.  (Self-explanatory)

Also, we could retro-fit zombie hotels to turn them into prisons for when heads start to roll over this mess. *

Service Sector: Hire astrologers and other new age types to determine the best direction for our economic policy.  They couldn’t do any worse that the people in charge now, their dress sense is better and it would be a laugh.

Set up mini-counselling booths on street corners (or we could house them in unused retail units in cold weather) for members of the public to rant about how we are all doomed.  We wouldn’t have to employ real counsellors, of course.  Anyone thick-skinned person with time on their hands would do.   I can imagine plenty of estate agents would fit that description right now.

Well, there it is.  My economic stimulus package.  I can hear the green shoots sprouting already.

I’m busy at the moment with work and the kids, so the Nobel people would have to mail me the cheque for my prize in Economics.  I’m not doing it for the money, of course.  It’s mostly just for the glamour.  And because, like I said, I’m helpful.

* There will be no investigations, much less any arrests, and no heads will roll.  This one was a red herring to see who amongst you was paying attention.  Sorry.

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