Soft day, hard landing…
Just got back from San Francisco a few days ago. It always takes a while to settle into the flow of Ireland after the 18 hour journey, like dipping my toes in the water again…
First impression on driving from Shannon Airport was how quiet the road was…much fewer trucks than a couple of months ago, not that many cars and no backlog outside the town of Gort. In fact Gort seemed to have slipped back a few decades, like I remember it in the 1970’s, a quiet town minding its own business, silently recalling the times when Yeats, Lady Gregory and other scribes did their shopping and worshipping here. In the last decade, the town experienced a huge influx of Brazilian immigrants, plus ‘plane loads of Poles, Lativians and Estonians — all eager to ride the Celtic Tiger. Brazilian stores opened and local shops posted signs in Portuguese, Father G even had a Portuguese Mass for his new flock. Gort hadn’t seen so many changes or such an influx of bodies and cash since the British garrisoned there in the 19th century.
And now the Celtic Tiger and its promise of luxury for the masses has disappeared like the Leprachaun and his crock of gold. It was just an illusion and instead of gold, people are left with sheaves of bank loans and credit card bills. Many of the Brazilians left, others have joined the dole queues, along with the remaining Poles and the disheartened Irish. Ireland is in shock and nobody has any dosh to pay the piper for all the merry tunes he played for the last few years.
Anyway, I stopped in Gort for a few bits and pieces. Two of my favourite shops were closed for the day, so I reluctantly went to the supermarket. The PA brashly announced:
“Shoppers! We have great value for you this week! Pork chops are only €20 a kilo, Cyprus potatoes €5 a kilo. Gaga gin only €20 a bottle…”
Terrible shit to hear after a long haul flight. So I grabbed fruit and bread and went to the checkout, to be served by a bored lady with a ring in her nose and a tattoo on her neck. My bill has €11…about $14. I felt ripped off, because I’d have bought the same goods for half the price in San Francisco.
Rain began to fall as I crossed the car park. I passed two country women muttering about depression. On the car radio talking heads rabbited about the risk of social unrest and secret training that the army and cops were undertaking. Was this the same country I left two months ago?
Instead of an answer, a song played in my head — “I left my heart, in San Francisco…”