Two shiny black Range Rovers passed each other at the crossroads of our suburban village this morning. A mother on a school run drove one; the other was driven by an earnest looking man in his thirties, white shirt, tie and city suit. 2006 and 2007 registrations, hard times, neither had an 08 plate.
Did either need a Range Rover to navigate the roads of what was once a sleepy community outside of the city? Of course not, it was once commented that “off road” for such drivers meant two wheels on the pavement outside of the nice school attended by the children. Nor were these horsey or sailing people using the vehicle for the horsebox or the boat, neither even had a towing hitch. The Range Rover was a statement of wealth, “I have money and I am going to show everyone I have money”.
A writer friend complained last evening of Ireland’s obsession with money, but perhaps he would say that. “Call up for a cup of tea”, he said back in January.
“I must do that”, I thought and turned on the television two days later to see him being interviewed in Davos.
“Call up”, he said last evening when he phoned, “but not next week, I’m in New York”.
His signs of influence and affluence are much more subtle, but they are there as much as those of the Range Rover drivers.
Amongst the juggling of his diary and our discussion of a neighbouring house selling for over €2 million, he did say he believed that the Irish had forgotten how to be happy.
“Perhaps we’ll never be the Germans or the French”, I thought.
“No”, he said, “but we can’t even manage to be like the Brits. Conversations like how much you paid for a car or for a house would never take place amongst my friends in London”.
Perhaps they wouldn’t need to. His friends would probably be from families who had no need to show anyone what money they had, they would be secure and content.
Perhaps we need time to grow up. The money here is so new that it is still a novelty. Perhaps in a generation’s time we will learn to sit easy in a battered old Volvo and threadbare jacket. Perhaps the cars will be small enough for two to pass without one driving up the pavement.