An Asian man was behind the counter of the filling station. Smiling, and with a perfect, educated accent, he greeted each customer and thanked them for their custom.
It seemed hard to imagine how someone of such comportment came to be serving in a petrol station on a Sunday morning. The most likely explanation would be that a shortage of health service staff meant that his wife had been granted a visa and that he had come with her, and that the excessive cost of living had forced him to find whatever work was available.
Perhaps for them, there would be a prospect of escape, perhaps they would be able to save and move to a place where they were not gouged by landlords. For most working people in Dublin, there will only be more of what they now endure.
The Irish economy may have recovered from the crash of 2011, but it is a recovery that has been very unequal in its effects, there has been a huge transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, and an indifference on the part of successive governments to the plight of working people.
Standing a a bus stop on the quays, there was a sudden violent squall of rain. Instaed of waiting for the intended bus, I jumped aboard the first that came. It would mean a longer walk from the stop, but offered a refuge from the deluge. Travelling from the city centre toward Ballyfermot, there was a sense that many of those who sat around would have understood Italian writer Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo.
In Marcovaldo, there is a moment of suddenly being pulled up. The tragi-comic Marcovaldo seeks to escape from the grim reality that surrounds him:
For anyone who dislikes his home and finds it inhospitable, the favorite refuge on cold evenings is the movies. Marcovaldo had a passion for Technicolor films on the wide screen, which can embrace the most vast horizons: prairies , rocky mountains, equatorial forests, islands where you live with a garland around your head. He would see the picture twice and never came out until they were closing the theater; in his thoughts he continued living in those landscapes and breathing those colors. But the return home in the drizzling night, the wait at the stop for tram number 30, the realization that his life would know no other setting beyond trams, traffic-lights, rooms in the half-basement, gas stoves, drying laundry, warehouses and shipping rooms, made the film’s splendor fade for him to a worn and gray sadness.
Such a plight as that of Marcovaldo is that of those around here. The neo-liberal policies that are the orthodoxy of the present government offer no prospect of change