In one of my previous posts, I mentioned how my father recently published a book. It’s a collection of local history, stories, poems and so on. He sent me a copy the other day and one of the first stories is about a trip to town when he was young. It goes something like this;
“When growing up in the townland of Ballycleary, near Roscrea, I was well accustomed to going to our neighbour Willie Franks for puncture repairs. Willie lived with his wife May in a railway house. They were the kindest and most loving couple anyone could wish to meet. Bill Bergin was a Sergeant in the Gardai and a cousin of my foster mothers. Bill had a noisy old volkwagon and Bills arrival always meant a trip to town. So one Saturday morning, Bill, Mrs Franks, Delia and I headed to Roscrea. Mrs. Franks warned Bill to “take it easy, sure don’t we have all day”. When we reached Roscrea there were several grocery and other stores that needed visiting. When Delia was finished, we went to collect Mrs. Franks. The two bags outside the window were the first sign of a successful shopping expedition. Nobody even thought to steal from people’s bags in those days. After loading everything in the back of the car, we headed home with Mrs. Franks holding a brown paper bag in her hand. Bill, being a Garda was enquiring to know what was in the bag, but Mrs. Franks wouldn’t tell him. When we got back to Mrs. Franks house, we entered the kitchen and slowly Mrs. Franks unwrapped the bag to reveal a sixpenny ice-cream for her husband Willie. This was the greatest gesture of pure love I had ever witnessed.”
After I read this story, I began to wonder if those days when people had all day to go to town, neighbours would help each other out and everyone had time for a chat and a cuppa were gone? Or were they gone and are they now reappearing with the recession?
I’ll be the first to blame technology for the disappearance of the good old days. Before, if you told someone you’d meet them at 6pm the following Saturday, you had no other choice because you had no other way of contacting them! Now, it’s all too easy to call or text someone and cancel because you don’t feel like it. It’;s the same with emails. When was the last time any of us actually sat down and wrote a letter by hand? Or received a letter in the post??????? Don’t even get me started on televisions.
Then, you must take into account, the boom in Ireland. People finally had full-time jobs and money. We went out and spent our time spending our newly found money on whatever we could; weekends away, second houses, holiday homes, boats, cars and second cars. With all that spending we lost sight of what was really important and instead of stopping for a chat, we rushed by, claiming to be busy and promising to call.
But now that times have gotten tough in Ireland, are we, as a country slowly reverting to the old days? The last time I was home was in September 2010. I had only been away for a year, yet my parents, sent out word that there would be a “little gathering” in our house. Well someone did an excellent job spreading the word because when Saturday night arrived, people came by the trailer load. Of course, much and all as I’d love to claim they came for me, they didn’t. They came, in some ways because it was the one night where they didn’t have to worry about drink driving laws or staying out past closing time or any of that. It was a night when anyone who could sing (or thought they could sing) sang, anyone who played an instrument played and it went on and on until well in to Sunday morning. In other ways, they came because it was a chance to catch up with neighbours and friends in a setting where everyone could be themselves and there was no social pressures.
And it’s getting to be more like that in Ireland. We can see it everywhere. The arts are making a serious comeback and our traditional music and dance is as strong as ever. Communities are becoming communities again and slowly but surely we’re beginning to realise that you don’t always have to pay for the finest things in life. Volunteering Ireland shows a 115% increase on the number of volunteers from last year. It’s sad to say but this can only be seen as a positive consequence to the economic situation in Ireland. The reduction in work hours or lack thereof means that people are getting out into the community more often and using their skills to the benefit of other, thereby acquiring new skills in the process. Surely this can only be seen as a positive thing?
So while times are tough during the recession and we’re poorer than we’ve been in years it’s fair to say that in many ways we’re richer we’ve ever been. I’ve had this conversation with my friends hereand everyone has mixed views on it so feel free to leave thoughts and comments below………..