Friday, January 29, 2010
Sunday, January 17, 2010
I've been in Cairo on the ultimate recessionistas holiday (paid in full by the Bank of Mom and Dad) and the phrase 'culture shock' would be a mild understatement when describing a place where six year olds make a living selling postcards by the Sphinx and, as the family tour guide Manal enlightens me, Pizza Hut is considered a chi-chi dining establishment for a young, hip crowd.
I'm not quite sure how gullible Manal thinks I am, but the fact is evident that Cairo is Poor with a capital P. Driving in from the airport I could count on one hand the amount of apartment blocks that had actually finished construction. Tenants were evidently so assured that the buildings might never be completed that satellite dishes peppered the flat makeshift roofs amongst ancient tarpaulins and creaky girders. On the way to the hotel a car crashed on the motorway and cars stopped across eight lanes of traffic as men swarmed over the accident to check the damage. It was chaos. My father leaned over to me and said in an unnecessarily confidential tone for a minivan occupant, "This is what Ireland was forty years ago". It made me wonder where in the home country Daddy Dearest had seen a satellite dish circa 1970, but I presume he must have been driving down a now lost Irish Autobahn as he did so.
However, I get his point. Ireland was capital P Poor until the mid nineties. Our country became affluent in the course of half a generation. It only took fifteen years or so to beget a whole new cadre of young adults who were incapable of remembering the poverty of a thousand years past. My parents often remind me that, while I may be cruising down the Nile now on a boat worthy of an Agatha Christie novel, twenty years ago we were living in a damp three room apartment with suspicious-looking (and sadly, inedible) mushrooms growing on the bathroom walls.
I wouldn't be the first person to suggest that a recession is merely a return to normality for the land of saints and scholars, and I certainly won't be the last. But what is normal? The new generation of Celtic Cubs adjust their idea of normality every day. We were rich yesterday - now we're not. Today a cruise ship, tomorrow a chilly house share on Barrack Street. It's best just to enjoy the good things - no matter how small or how fleeting.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Regular readers of this column may have gathered now that when it comes to holidays, I'm a devotee of the 'Bah, Humbug' Christmas tradition. Every year I get sucked into a whirling vortex of panicking people at a shopping centre at 5.55pm on Christmas Eve and emerge with a twelve pack of socks and last April's Easter Eggs to be shared out between visibly deflated family members.
Every year I decide that resolutions are useless for a variety of reasons, then halfheartedly try for a size 8 on the basis that I can't afford to go to Tesco anyway.
Not so this year. This year my loosely-termed resolution is to rearrange my boundaries. By the time you read this, I will be dead. Actually no, I won't, I'll be in Egypt on the first family holiday I've been on since I was sixteen (in Italy - all I remember is my father's face going puce outside the Duomo trying to control three teenage girls amongst all the swarthy Florentine brawn on Vespas and the unfortunate spaghetti-throwing incident that followed).
So, in the interest of family togetherness, breaking old boundaries and, er, gawking at disinterred mummies, I'll be eschewing January Sales for trips down the Nile, a monumental change in not only location but attitude. I'm set in my ways. I don't do sun. I don't do sightseeing. I get frustrated when I'm with my family in a confined space for an extended period of time. Especially if spaghetti is involved.
Sometimes a full and frank appraisal of the year is needed. Fully and frankly, if my 2009 was graded, I'd just about scrape a C. It started promisingly, with a job, a degree and a great boyfriend. 1 January was rung in with a bubble bath and a White Russian (the cocktail, not the man). Then it lost momentum and gradually petered out, eventually turning me into a hermit-like Howard Hughes figure with Kleenex boxes for shoes who constantly made excuses for herself and her woes.
I can't change my circumstances. However, my attitude could do with a bit of a tune-up. I needed reminding that agonising over an all-expenses paid sun holiday in January was a very foolish move when one considered that the alternative was shivering at home under twelve duvets without a sympathetic mommy on call.
There is never a good time for questioning your life choices, but if there was, surely the end of a year would be the most opportune. The most prevalent question at the moment for myself and many other people is a hard one: Was 2009 bad because of the recession, or because of me?