Sunday, 21 October 2012
Spend Like There's No Tomorrow - Ireland Around the Millennium
This isn't a political blog. But sometimes intercultural behaviour patterns have repercussions on what happens a decade later.
Between the years of 2000 and 2005 I spent quite a lot of time in Dublin. I can honestly say I've never seen people spend so much money in such a reckless manner, anywhere. I was once in a shop where a totally ordinary woman took about 50 seconds to buy a handbag for 3,000 euros. Those were the days of the Bang Café, Ballsbridge, and spotting Brian O'Driscoll and his then girlfriend Glenda Gilson in a U2 loft style hotel lounge overlooking the foggy Liffey.
People bought, and bought and then they bought some more. Property prices were mad in those days, a house in Ballsbridge would have set you back more than a mansion in Knightsbridge. Idiotic property shows on TV egged people on to buy sub-standard houses at ten times their annual salary. Frantically buying (...investing!), they hoovered up houses in Dublin, in Spain, in Hungary, Albania and Turkey. They became property developers in Bulgaria ("Planning permission for a golf course next door granted!") Mostly they bought up off-plan new developments outside Dublin, in place like Naas - not one, but four, five properties. Investing, you see.
Women had their highlights done in the most expensive lemon shade (full head 230 euros), they were tanned all year round, and dressed in designer clothes so expensive you'd never even heard of them. The Balenciaga Mororcycle bag was the must-have item in those years, and in Dublin you could see them in every colour on every arm (biggest size of course).Whilst I was there, the local department store (Brown Thomas) had both Elle McPherson and Helena Christensen flown over for promotions.
Restaurants... if you hadn't dined in ChapterOne or Patrick Guilbaud (2 Michelin stars) then hopefully at least you'd go for lunch at Dunne&Crescenzi (pasta for 15 euros) Or for a steak at Shanahan's where even the desserts cost 30 euros. The horrible phrase "Maxing out the credit card" was everywhere.There was even a Harvey Nichols in an outlying shopping centre, built by developers. (Conveniently positioned at the end of the spick and spam tram line, built with money from the Eurpean federation).
There was a lot of mirth in the Irish media at the time about the Germans - old, parsimonious, boring,stupid and not up to the game. Hey ho, look at us - our patio decking, sun loungers and cocktails from Italy, neighbours agog oh yeah! And them over there? Just paying their money into their bank account!
I often look back on those days, especially when I read the news nowadays, and the hate-filled jibes directed at Gemany and a naively perceived "Angela Mukle" "Gemany - not prepared to bail out Ireland", "Germany tells Irish: go swivel".
Well, all I can say is, I haven't got a handbag for 3,000 euros, don't own property abroad, have never had lemon coloured highlights, let alone a Ferrari. Boringly, and maybe intercultrally typically, I saved most of the money I earned, and spent within my budget.