Cold winds

Mar 23rd, 2009 | By | Category: Ireland

Carlisle Pier 2

Memories of the Holyhead ferry were shared.  A man who had worked for British Rail remembered selling thousands of single tickets to destinations in Britain in a single weekend; another man recalled travelling back to Ireland just before Christmas.  The boat was packed and the atmosphere was electric; this was the only time in the year many of them would get home.

The Carlisle Pier stands as a derelict, mute reminder of those days, fifty years past.  It is redundant now as the old lightship tied up beside it.  The lightship is up for sale – the options for the pier are much more limited.  Various plans were presented in a public consultation: the public favoured strongly one plan and the authorities thanked the public for their interest, but said one of the other plans was their preferred choice.  Nothing happened; with the collapse of the property market, nothing is likely to happen.

A monument to the fifties, perhaps the pier will serve also as a monument to the noughties: a crumbling, decaying reminder of what was and what might have been.

The March wind was biting on Saturday. Sitting on a bench on the harbour wall, looking at the departure point for countless thousands of Irish people, there was a sense of frustration that the outward flow had again begun.  This time it is a fast departure by air, and the options for returning on a regular basis are much more plentiful, but the warning that the forty-somethings might be the first generation forced to leave twice is in danger of coming true.

What happened to all the money?  Why, like the Norwegians, were huge sums not salted away to tide us over the difficult times?  The social welfare fund will be exhausted sometime this summer; the pension reserve fund is being used to prop up the banks; where is the money for our old age?

The Mirror dinghies raced around in a tight circle; getting wet in such temperatures seemed an activity for only the most devoted.

Had that been what we did? Raced around in circles? Had we no money to set aside because whatever was made had to be put back into the economy to keep the spiral going upwards?  Had there been anything other than a huge bubble inflated by colossal indebtedness?

Have we all been the victims of a huge Ponzi scheme? (Or should it be a Madoff scheme, now?)  The earlier entrants to the property market being paid from the loans made by the banks to the later entrants?  Has it all been a scam?  Was there anything more than fairy gold underpinning the whole process – money from nowhere that evaporates as soon as it is realised that assets can no longer be sold for the price at which they were bought?

Time to go home and watch the rugby.  In times when nothing seems to have substance, John “The Bull” Hayes is one solid certainty.

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  1. We have lots of old piers like this which have been converted into apartments, theatre space, hotels . .even got an old red lightship at the maritime museum! I’ve certainly been spinning in circles! My retirement fund is my property but it’s not worth a brass razoo at the moment! And congrats on winning the Rugby! Seems to have cheered a few people up!

  2. I’m usually the biggest pessimist around, but I can’t agree it has *all* been a scam! Before the property bubble, and alongside it over the last ten years, a real high-tech economy has produced goods and services wanted by people around the world. Perhaps most important, we have raised a generation of young people over the last 20 years who are well educated and confident in their own talents and abilities. When I came home from Britain in 1990 to work as a software consultant, one thing that struck me was how little confidence Irish software people had in what they were doing, although it was very good. That changed within 5 years, thank God, and these young people now know they are as capable as anyone. They will recover! But it looks like my pensions gone (:(

  3. Ireland’s win at rugby was the best thing to happen this country in a long while.

    I’m hoping it’s a sign that if we knuckle down as a country and become team players, we’ll get our just reward in time.

    btw When introducing the replay of highlights of the match on Sunday, I loved the way Tom McGurk said “Don’t worry, we still win!” 🙂

  4. Baino,

    Like myself, you have a few years for the retirement fund to recover; I feel really sorry for people who have worked forty-odd years and are trying to retire at the moment.

  5. You’re right, Joc, there has been loads of good stuff happen. There is much of which to be proud. But there is a palpable anger amongst many people. I try to point out that countries recover, but it is hollow coming from someone who has a secure house and job.

    I think I shall be working the full possible term in the Church of Ireland – to the end of the quarter in which one is 75!

  6. I love John Hayes – always there, always reliable, always determined, Bit of what we need.

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