This is a story I will publish over the coming weeks in serial form. It’s a story about the Dublin which emerged after I left and which I observed from across various bodies of water. Enjoy..
Debt and the malamute (a story told in kitchen talk) By Jamie Lynch
Text Copyright © James Lynch 2015 All rights reserved HOVEL PRESS:
“Anything worth crying can be smiled.”- Kinky Friedman- “Ride ‘em Jewboy”
It was 2005; the height of the property boom and much of the country was engaged in a massive pagan ceremony of credit.
The idol was false, as they all are but the joy was real, as it always is. Ask the man nailed to a cross in a passion play if he would swap places with the bodies of the polite congregation of an Anglican service melting slowly with the years through cushions on the church benches into a lump of bad posture and fat. Of course, pagan ceremonies run until the participant’s collapse with exhaustion and passion plays spill a lot of blood.
They bought the house directly off the plans and paid far too much for it but that was what everyone was doing then. They were not worried about it; in fact they felt light-headed, giddy; swept along on a wonderful, joyous, mindless, wave of liquidity.
The whole country of Ireland was discovering that endless credit was the greatest joy of all. Huge amounts of money being created from the nation’s collective imagination; huge amounts of money being spent, a credit card between it and you and anyone could dance on the thin, plastic edge. Something about poverty brought shame and something about large amounts of money liberated you from that shame. The national religion and the national culture had been revealed to be empty and here was something, or many things, to fill that hole. Valuation of 54 Bellegrove Park-
1999- 195,000 punts 2005- 600,00 euro 2012- 320,000 euro
The address was 54 Bellegrove Park. The house was a three-storey, terraced, red brick building and the development was walled and gated. There was parking for their two cars. The mortgage was 100 per cent but that was no problem for Jack and Sophie Murphy.
Back then Jack worked for O’Sullivan’s, a company that supplied furniture to the building trade. The firm had started in the 1950’s as a department store, mostly dealing in furniture but with lines in clothes and household goods. In the style of the times it also ran a money-lending arm to its business. You could borrow money in the form of vouchers which could only be redeemed from the store. A man would call on a weekly basis to take repayment and perhaps interest other members of the family in taking a loan themselves, thus building up a ‘loan book’ for themselves.
Jack’s uncle worked for the store in that capacity and it was through his recommendation that Jack got the job. Since the early 90’s the firm had been born aloft on a great wave of global economic growth that saw the company expand with the property boom and specialise in providing furniture en mass to the building trade.
Jack was a salesman but he didn’t have to do much selling. He needed to be friendly, to maintain good relations with manufacturers and clients and to keep the products moving as fast as possible.
It was not possible to meet the demand so his performance was judged simply on a ‘how much’ basis, how much he could move down the chain and how much the clients liked him. He scored highly on both of these measures. He was a naturally friendly and likable man. He enjoyed his job and it showed. He worked long hours, driving form site to site, shaking hands, slapping backs, looking at pictures of foremen’s children, keeping people happy, keeping people confident and it was easy for him. He loved the money, he loved the lifestyle, he loved his wife.
Sophie Murphy worked in public relations. She loved her husband, her job, her Mercedes, her friends, her lifestyle. Eight months after they moved into Bellegrove she gave birth to their first child, Aoife, and she loved her too. Aoife came with endless opportunities for the consumption of brands. Bugaboo and Stokke made not just prams but ‘travel systems’; Petit Bateau, Mamas & Papas, Jojo Maman Bebe, Trotters, for which you had to go to London, but then trips to London were common as were trips to New York. London, in fact had become cheaper than Dublin.
They considered buying a second home abroad but decided against- they were sensible people. Jack sold his Audio A4 to get a larger Audio 4×4 as was necessary to accommodate the ‘travel systems’ that were necessary to move Aoife from place to place safely.
Everything was new all the time. The old was displaced and replaced constantly. No shame from the past and no fear of the future leaked in- this was truly living in the present. Aoife was fat and happy and easy to manage.
Sometimes they received post addressed to ‘.. Castleknock, Dublin 15’, in which case their postman would cross out those last three words with such force that his pen would slightly tear the envelope and he would write in large characters, ‘Cabra West, Dublin 7’. All this meant nothing to the Murphy’s; they found this attachment to the local funny, this out-dated obsession with old social snobbery and inverted snobbery. They genuinely felt like citizens of the world, their central nervous systems keyed into global markets.
Jack and Sophie didn’t send as much time together as they would have liked and sometimes, when he had been working particularly hard, Jack found that his eyes hurt, his vision was strained and he became slightly uncoordinated, but this was a normal price to pay for success.
Jack’s mother, Patricia, helped with Aoife. His father, John, had died in a car crash in England when Jack was five. Luckily, there was life insurance. Patricia lived in a small terraced house in Killester, she never quite got over the luxury of the three toilets in Jack and Sophie’s house. More than that though, she never recovered from the joy she felt at the birth of her granddaughter. She would have lived with that child on her hip.
Sophie could be touchy about any perceived comment on her housekeeping so Patricia would thread carefully around her. When Sophie used bad language in front of little Aoife it made Patricia very uncomfortable but she held her tongue and hoped that Sophie would pull back from that as the child got older and more likely to mimic her mother’s language. Sophie and her mother didn’t get on, maybe they were too alike so perhaps she wasn’t used to getting on with mother figures and she was never quite able to reconcile her self-image as a mother and a career woman.
Mary, Sophie’s mother, had been forced somewhat into being a career woman herself. She had married Bill when he was a sharp young thing on the up and his drinking was charming. She had been an air hostess, been let go when she married, moved form Irishtown to Dalkey as her husband’s fortunes had risen and moved to Walkinstown and back into work as his fortunes had fallen in inverse proportion to his blood alcohol level. Her father was an amiable but useless drunk who needed care more than he could provide it.
Sophie loved her husband but didn’t expect much of men other than being boys grown bigger. She was happy though and too busy most of the time to think about things of that nature. Her life was like an article in a glossy magazine and the good thing was that she knew it and could enjoy it while it was happening.
They didn’t know their neighbours well but they didn’t have any arguments over parking and that was priceless.