Some controversy arose about a year ago concerning the appointment of a water sommelier to a hotel in California. Ah, what can you expect, in California, eh? Evidence of a long suspected decadence and detachment from reality. But, wait. A Dublin hotel had a similar rare creature, years before that, at the height of ‘the boom.’ During ‘the boom’, it was incumbent on us ‘to party.’ ‘Party’ is a noun, not a verb, but when politics and economics are distorted; when Mr. Micawber is derided as a fool who couldn’t get his head around a 110% mortgage, why not distort language as well? ‘ I took the money’ became ‘I would have taken the money’, introducing an element of doubt—tribunal-speak. ‘Lousy’ became ‘sub-optimal’. ‘Dodgy’ became ‘sub-prime.’ The ship of state, careered onto the rocks, offshore. ‘ Offshore’ is where the shrewd operators hid their money. It is difficult to avoid nautical metaphors when a country is governed by incompetents and conmen. (Gubernator, latin, ‘a helmsman.) Conning tower, the lofty eminence from which a submarine commander may look down on his crew. When a yacht ‘goes about’ or ‘gybes’, the crew can get a nasty smack on the head from the boom. Enough of the metaphors.
Were you at the party? Were your children, trying to buy a home and keep their heads above water, at the party? Did you snap your fingers and beckon a fawning water sommelier to your table? ‘A bottle of Blessington, perhaps? Twenty five euros a bottle? A rare Corrib, with a hint of cryptosporidium?’ Coca Cola launched a brand of bottled water, that turned out to have originated from the municipal water supply. Perrier and Evian were engaged in a struggle to out-do each other in shipping bottles of water all over the world. Eventually one of them hit on a wheeze– just sell the concession and ship the labels to the local supplier. No, email them. A prominent Irish supplier fell out with the landowner, where their well produced ‘eight hundred year old water, filtered through rocks millions of years old.’ They moved the whole operation to another county and another well. Strangely, there was still a naked woman cavorting in the pool. Health and safety? ‘Waiter! What’s this naked woman doing in my glass?’ ‘The back-stroke, sir. Shall I get you another one?’ ‘Why not? It’s a party after all. And have one yourself, my good man.’
Them was the days, Joxer. Them was the days. Then we hit the iceberg. The captain and the officers took their pensions and scarpered. The rest of the country ‘took a hosing’, ‘a bath’, whatever aquatic metaphor you wish. (Sorry about that.) It has been ‘all hands to the pumps’ for six hard years. Many have gone under. Life belts have been in short supply.
To the point. The country has gradually begun to get back on an even keel, (Sorry, again) thanks to the sacrifices of many and, to be fair, thanks to a government that took harsh and unpopular decisions. There are still people dedicated to their work, people who raise their children decently and believe in fairness and a civil society. Voluntary effort is still significant. There is a sense of the possibility of better things to come. It is a precarious situation. From one side we hear the whining of the old crew, oblivious of the fact that they ran us up on the rocks. (Can’t help it.) From another side we hear the ranting of the people with the easy solutions; the advocates of rioting in the streets; the people with the slogans.
We are coming close to the local elections. I have been watching the work of the man repairing the breakwater at Holmpatrick. It was severely damaged by the storms. He works patiently and methodically, without drama or shouting. He puts back what was washed away and builds new defences. His work is governed by the tides. He is like a mahout on a mighty elephant, lifting and carrying, urging great rocks into place. His methodical work is done on our behalf. It is reassuring to all who live near the water.
People who enter public life, do so for many different reasons. We at least, owe them the courtesy of going out to vote. If they have all the answers and instant solutions, be wary. If they have a track record of diligent and methodical effort, give them the necessary support to continue the work. God knows, they won’t get thanks. Fingal County has a good record on imaginative initiatives and civic amenities. Their meetings are available online to all who are interested. You can form your own judgement. Look around your town. You may not agree with everything , but you will see many good things. These didn’t all happen by accident. Most are the result of good representation, cogent argument, careful planning and investment of our money. Beware of bar-fly politics: ‘They’re all the bloody same!’ It is incomprehensible that we hear calls for jettisoning the people who are at least, dragging us out of the water and bringing back the kind of clowns who got us in there in the first place. That would be ‘some party.’
Many years ago, we drank water from The Nag’s Head reservoir. It could have been worse, if the opposite end had provided it. Not much worse. It tasted of chlorine. If you poured a cup of tea, you had to add the milk immediately before an oil slick formed on the surface. It contained fluoride also, so at least I can thank it for my remaining teeth. The pressure fell away in summertime, with all sorts of inconveniences, too numerous and too insanitary to mention. The Nag’s Head is empty now. We have clean Liffey water all year round. That didn’t get here by accident either. Now there is an outcry because the bill is being presented. You could refuse to pay it and send for the water sommelier instead. A word of warning. I read that the plastic of the bottles, in certain circumstances, may release carcinogenic dioxins. You are nabbed either way. As the old joke had it: ‘Drink water only after it has been passed by the County Engineer.’
This is the gold standard of breakwaters, The White Wall, two hundred years old and not a stone out of place. It didn’t get there by accident either. A vote of thanks to the builders, perhaps?