November 2008: Recession Man

Today, I am making the prediction that the glorious Irish pub will soon be back to its former state of greatness. Why do I speak such madness? Have you got a minute or two and I’ll tell you? Of course, you have, aren’t you receding into a recession at the moment. You have plenty of redundant time on your hands.

Granted, up until I had this vision, I could picture myself telling my grandchildren about these places, where we went almost every evening to have a couple of pints, a quiet smoke and a chat with our neighbours. They would be enthralled by the fact that we were still allowed to light a peat fire, never mind smoke a cigarette as you sat chatting. They would be excited by the notion that we were still talking to our neighbours back in those days.

But, I digress. I was about to tell you about how the pub will be making a come-back over the next couple of years or so. This might sound like the rant of a poor pathetic alcoholic who cannot admit that there will be a drink drought in 2009 with not a pub in sight. But, I am willing to bet you the price of a pint that I am right. The pub will become the centre of attraction in our lives again.

Once more, very soon, it will feature on tourist ads populated by happy smiling faces. It will be the reference point when you are giving directions to the tourists that the same ads will attract. You mark my words. Let me lay down my overwhelming evidence in your mind.

The one most powerful argument for my prediction is the fact that the country is in a state of disgrace (as opposed to the kind that you are supposedly in after confession or death). In times of trouble, man turns to drink or religion. In Ireland, in the past, when there were enough priests to go around, we went to mass. Nowadays, the tendency has been to turn to drink, although, I’ll admit, we had this same urge in the past as well. And that is exactly what is happening, even as I write these words.

All across the country, the beleaguered publican is opening his doors on a Monday morning to find a customer waiting, with a rolled up tabloid newspaper under his arm. Ten minutes later, just as he plants the first bottle of the black stuff in front of him, Johnny-Come-Early is joined on the adjacent barstool by another man of similar ilk, the only difference being that he does not have a newspaper. He borrows yer man’s and soon both men are swapping racing tips, comparing notes and teasing out form with the paper spread on the counter before them. As the days and weeks wear on, another straggler or two joins the company.

Mr. Publican soon notices that his regular custom has grown. Pretty soon, the afternoons in his pub have become fairly raucous affairs, with much merriment and back-slapping, tip-swapping and counter-banging. In fact, there have been occasions when every barstool in the pub was occupied, something that has not happened since Ireland last played in the World Cup finals. He scratches his receding, greying hairline in puzzlement, wondering about the turnaround in his fortunes. The explanation is fairly simple. It is because of the recession (as opposed to his hairline) that these men are frequenting his pub once again.
You see, in the good old days, these men had jobs. They were making money. They worked hard, knew the bank manager by his first name, went on nice holidays. They hardly noticed the wee pub on the corner as they brought their wives or girlfriends, or both, out for meals on a Saturday night. They didn’t go to the pub to watch the football on the telly. Instead, they went to the games to see them live, grabbing a quick and cheap budget flight and a slow but expensive steak in the clubhouse restaurant after the game. But all this has changed.

With the job gone, as well as the girlfriend, Mr. Recession Man has more time on his hands. He is slowly realising how he has missed the pub. He remembers how he used to wish he could go in there and relax, as he drove past it on Monday mornings, starting his hundred mile round trip to work.. Now he suddenly realises that he can indeed do just that and he also discovers that he is not alone. There are many more Recession Men out there, just like him, who wished for just the same chance.

It’s back to basics, folks, for these lads. Recession Man needs to fill his time. He needs to feel wanted and understood. He can’t stay at home with the wife because he is not wanted there or, indeed, understood. He can’t even watch the football on the telly as he can’t afford the Sky package anymore.

So it’s off to the pub, just like the old times. He can do a bit of male bonding, have a flutter on the horses and not feel guilty about it because they are all in the same boat after all, jobless and footloose, if not entirely footless just yet. Except for the publican. He’s the only one who’s breaking a sweat and worrying about the taxman once more. Long may this recession last, he thinks as he pulls yet another pint to fuel his recession session.

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