I met an old friend yesterday and we rambled for a while together. He is in his seventies and hadn’t been well so we chatted about his health for a while. He’s feeling ok but has to take meds now all the time. I could see his vulnerability.
’I didn’t think I’d ever feel like this again’, he said. I knew what he meant. He had some mental ill-health about ten years ago and I had helped him through it.
‘You’re frightened?’ I asked. He nodded.
’It’s alright to be frightened. Acknowledge it, then get on with the normal things you do.’
‘But I could be dying!’ he exclaimed.
’We’re all dying. It’s how we handle the fact makes the difference.’ He nodded and I saw some of the trouble leave his face.
Not for long though. We started to discuss the election result, or rather non result.
’I can’t believe it,’ he said. ‘Are people that stupid and short-sighted?’ Do they not remember what Fianna Fail did? Do they not realise that our children and grandchildren now have to live abroad, away from us, because of their short sightedness? Their greed!’ He continued venting and I teased him to calm down or he’d have a ‘banger’. He laughed – a big shouty hearty laugh.
‘D’you know’ he said. ‘I meet two fellas I used to work with regularly for a drink. Both of them ended up at the top of the pile in their respective industries. One has a pension of about 60k , the other about 80k. And they voted for Fianna Fail. Because they felt too much had been taken from them by the FG/Labour coalition.’
‘Greed,’ I said, ‘pure greed. Still trying to keep up with the Jones’ I suspect’
‘That’s exactly it.’ He replied, ‘Bloody fools. Selfish bloody fools. I thought the government were doing a fairly decent job of cleaning up the mess. Well, I wash my hands of the whole damn lot of them.’
We parted then and I walked on thinking about how he felt. This man worked hard, paid all taxes and bills as they fell due. With his partner he reared a family, educated them, helped them out when they had to go abroad for work. One child is gay and chose to leave because Ireland of that time was so stifling for anyone different. The second child settled in Australia, has a good life, a partner and children. They don’t come home much.
I saw a great tee shirt logo some years back. It was the face of the iconic Peig Sayers (much hated by my generation of Dubliners) and underneath it was the legend ‘Recession, Mo Thoin’. It was the first time I ever got a laugh out of Peig! We have a great little country, lots of resources and resourceful people. Whatever the outcome of discussions over the next number of weeks for pity’s sake let there be no more Civil War and grandstanding politics, no more egos and squabbling. We’re all tired lads. Just get on with your bloody jobs and stop trying to keep up with the Jones’.