I admit that my posting regime over the past few weeks has been about as consistent as Bertie Ahern’s explanations about his personal finances.
The reason for my most recent radio silence can be attributed to a short holiday en famille on the wind-blasted Clare coast, where I managed to spend an entire week without checking out The New York Times or, for that matter, The Superficial (entering a web cafe when you’re away for just a week would simply be too sad for words).
It’s also taken a while to adjust after a spell savouring dolce far niente–picking through the bones of the day’s newspapers (why do we buy so many papers on holidays, just when the amount of real news to report is at its annual ebb?), enjoying an afternoon pint, and strolling on misanthrope-friendly empty beaches.
The one black cloud (a metaphorical one–there were more than enough literal ones to gaze at) that loomed over my trip was our dismay at the built landscape of rural Ireland. Once the dual carriageway peters out after Portlaoise, you’re obliged to trundle through some pretty grim bottlenecks. According to our politicians and economists, we’re in at least the top five richest nations on the planet–so why do many of these places along the N7 seem down at heel? Perhaps we all wear rose-tinted glasses when travelling in the rest of Europe, mistaking touristic shells for quaint hamlets. But at least such Potemkin villages make some effort to charm the driver into stopping.
And the holiday towns on the Clare coast, such as Kilkee, Lahinch (or Lehinch as some signposts would have us believe), or Miltown Malbay, that have been touched by recent speculative development have had their character damaged by the introduction of what amount to transplanted suburban estates. It’s almost worthy of The Simpsons, with families from Dublin, Cork, or Galway leaving their home in Meadowbrook Lawns estate or wherever to spend two weeks in a terraced house that’s part of development of 50 other anonymous cookie-cutter boxes.
But, hey, it all boosts those GDP figures–the only meaningful index of our national self-worth.