House prices are going a little bit mental again. People are queuing to buy off the plans. Here is my guide on how to survive our latest ride on the property roller-coaster.
1: Repeat after Me
First things first. We’re all in this together. If we’re going to inflate this baby back up to boom prices, it’s vital that everyone stays on message. And here is that message: This is not a bubble. Practise this mantra at home until you are sure you can get through it without wetting your pants from the laughing. That might take a while.
The Taoiseach has taken the lead on this matter, coming out in late July and declaring with some certainty that we are not looking at a bubble in the Dublin property market. Don’t dwell on the fact that Enda isn’t qualified to spot an asset bubble. He has advisers on very high salaries to analyse these things on his behalf. Neither should you dwell on the fact that highly paid advisers failed to spot the last bubble. Actually, you’re better off not thinking about it at all. Just repeat the mantra and you’ll be fine.
There is a strong likelihood you will be approached by agitated foreigners asking for your opinion on the property market. There is a strong likelihood they are from the troika. We hear they are back in town to investigate wild rumours that we are gone mad for the property again. So don’t say “a house on my road just sold for eighty grand over the asking price and now I want to buy a Range Rover.” That just drives them nuts.
There is some useful bullshit you can use when talking to agitated looking foreigners. Such as “it’s just a temporary shortage in the Dublin market” and “how could it be a bubble if the banks aren’t lending.” (If the foreigners are French or Italian, you should also compliment them on their clothes.) If the foreigners keep probing, try and blame the whole thing on Chinese investors. Unless they are in fact from China. In that case you should definitely try and sell them your house. We hear they’re loaded.
2: How to Sell Your House
There was no shortage of crazy house-selling tips during the last boom. The daftest one was fill your house with the smell of freshly baked bread when it is being shown to potential buyers. This was based on the notion that, deep down, most Irish people would like to live in a bakery.
Filling your house with the smell of freshly baked bread is just another way of saying “I’m finally getting some use out of that shagging bread maker I bought in Aldi.” The best way to make your house attractive to buyers depends on where you live. Here is what you need to do if you live in Dublin. Nothing. People are so panicked at this stage that they would buy a place with a chalk body-outline at the front door. (Sure look it was probably just someone killed in the stampede when the house went on-sale.)
Outside the capital, it’s just a matter of waiting for the non-bubble wave of optimism to reach your area. In the meantime you will attract hordes of people who have nothing better to do at the weekend than nose around your house. (That’s the problem with not living near an Ikea – culchies’ options are limited when it starts to rain.) The usual rules apply here. Don’t bother painting the place. First time-buyers always bring their mothers with them to see a house. And Mammy always says “they obviously have something to hide” at the slightest whiff of paint.
You never know who will nose around your house. So makes sure to leave a note at the top of your knicker-drawer saying “get away out of that you dirty pervert.” Unless things aren’t going well in your marriage. In that case, just leave a note with your phone number. I’ll give you something to do on a wet weekend, says you.
3: Myhome? You must be Daft.
People take it for granted you need to advertise your house on one of the two main property websites. That is so Last Bubble. (Not that this is a bubble. We can’t stress that enough.)
This Not-a-Bubble will be driven by news apps and smartphones. You can be pretty sure that a brainbox seven year old is already writing an app that will notify people instantly when a house goes up for sale nearby. It will be a dating app like Tinder — you’ll still be trying to meet someone so you can screw them. The difference here is that you will be trying to screw them out of a couple of grand.
The app will probably be called Bubblr. That way the hipsters can use it ironically, which is the only way they can cope with using anything. It will be ideal for people trading up, who want to flog their house quickly and buy that place in Dundrum before some arsehole with a trust fund pushes up the price by 50 grand. The seven year old brainbox will of course design the app so that the buyer and seller can exchange contracts by just waving their smartphones at each other. The app will make him a billionaire and wreck the lives of millions of people who currently earn a crust selling property. 21st century capitalism baby, you gotta love it.
Of course there is another low-tech approach to selling a house (particularly if it is in Dublin.) 1: Wait for someone on your street to put their house up for sale. 2: Watch the queues snake past your house. 3: Walk out of your house with a megaphone and tell them that your house is for sale. 4: Sold.
4: Holiday Home
At some point in the next year most of us will blurt out the following sentence. “I’ve been thinking, and I reckon there has never been a better time to buy a holiday home in Ireland.” The one thing you haven’t been doing is thinking. A short moment of reflection is all it takes to conclude that your idea is insane. Or maybe a quick look back at your holiday photos from that fortnight in Kerry in 2012. At least no one could see you sobbing in the rain.
It probably still won’t undermine your plan to buy a holiday home. The following two summers of mild sunstroke and sleepless nights have seen to that. The Irish brain is programmed to forget two things: property disasters and shite summers. Hence the renewed demand for holiday homes.
The question now is where to buy. People didn’t just move daft distances from Dublin during the last boom; they also bought holiday homes in places that might best be described as ‘you must be kidding me’. It’s one thing to buy a cottage on the Beara peninsula. It’s another to convince yourself you want to spend every summer for the rest of your life in a duplex outside Roscrea. Here’s the deal. Ireland has a coastline of almost 1500 km. There’s no need to spend two weeks every summer next to a freezing lake in midlands, being eaten alive by a band of furious midges. Buy a place near the coast. Somewhere nice, within driving distance of a beach. That way you can sit in the car in the pissing rain and argue with each other over why anyone would buy a holiday home in Ireland. Forgetfulness, that’s why. Sure we’d be lost without it. (By the way, the next time someone mentions our folk memory of the Famine, tell them to cop themselves on. The Irish folk memory can hardly remember what we did last week.)
5: The International Dimension
Sometime in the next five years there will be no more property available to buy here in Ireland. By then, someone in government might even have released this statement: “We checked the figures there again; we forgot to carry the one. It turns out this is a bubble alright. A right big hoor of a one at that.” Not that anyone will notice. We’ll be all-in at that stage. This kind of frenzy resulted in Paddy and friends buying up large chunks of Bulgaria the last time around. Paddy later found he had a lot in common with the locals. A lot of them don’t like living in Bulgaria either.
So where should we buy this time out? London is out. Their property bubble is so big that you almost can see it from the top of the Wicklow Mountains. Of course you could always try somewhere like Manchester. The danger there is you could end up with a place in Manchester. Jaysus. Google maps is your friend if you are looking for somewhere nice on the Med. Zoom right in to street view. See that tattooed guy in the cut-off Celtic away jersey carrying two overflowing bags of Der CheapenLager up from Lidl. He’s your new neighbour. So try somewhere else.
One thing is clear. We need to show a bit more savvy this time round. European property sellers clearly jacked up their prices when they spotted us arriving in droves during the Celtic Tiger. So this time, let’s try and sneak in under the radar. That’s tricky because nothing is harder to conceal than a group of Irish people in an airport. Sunburn and sheepishness. You’d recognise us anywhere.
6: Room to Improve
Not everyone gets to ride this latest property rollercoaster. Spare a thought for those in negative equity. They get to sit this one out. Lucky them you might say, if you weren’t too busy applying for a mortgage to snap up a ghost estate in Roscommon.
A lot of negative equiteers will transfer their property lust into an extension. This adds value to your house in pretty much same the way that a new car keeps its value when you drive it off the forecourt. Anyway, expect a lot of blatant bullshit in credit unions up and down the country. (“So Mr O’ Mahoney, I see here that you would like 25 grand to buy something nice for your mother-in-law.”)
This extension boom still has legs. RTE should meet this demand with nightly episodes of Room To Improve. They could put it in the Nationwide slot, keeping Mary Kennedy on as a roving MC. We join her walking along under a tree somewhere saying “Dermot went to meet a nice couple in Cashel, who ended up with a glass box in their back garden whether they wanted it or not.”
There’s more good news for architects. (They could do with it.) Having someone you can refer to “your architect” is a must these days for the social-climbing classes. They’re right up there with Mindfulness Consultants, but a lot less expensive. This fantastic value won’t last now that they are back in demand. So make sure to hire one quickly while they are still feeling a bit hungry. And remember this. The glass box they design for you will never go out of fashion. And you’ll never again go out of the house — you’ll be stuck in every weekend washing two square miles of glass.
Property is the worst kind of investment in the world. Except for all the other ones. If you doubt this then start putting money into a private pension. The projected annual income for your retirement is more disappointing than a son who got the points for medicine but decided to become a social worker instead. (The little prick.) Or else you could become a day trader and play the stock market. That involves following a tipster on Twitter called @WhisperingJoe and watching Bloomberg TV, where men roar their opinions at each other in a way that suggests they have unusually small genitals. It also involves losing all your money. First slowly and then very, very quickly.
Here’s our advice. Cash in all your investments and buy an apartment in Dublin. It is now clear that every hipster in the world is moving to the capital, carrying all their belongings in a battered looking leather suitcase from the 1950s. They will need an apartment each because hipsters are allergic to sharing. They need the headspace to figure out if wearing two hats at the same time would be ironic or just plain stupid. They certainly don’t want to live in a house. Imagine if someone saw them cutting the grass. That kind of suburban carry on is kryptonite for your hipster.
A word of warning. Property investment is still considered a form of witchcraft in Ireland. It might have something to do with our difficult relationship down the years with absentee landlords. Or because we hate anyone with a few bob. Answer two looks the more likely lad there. Anyway, the upshot is that investors are the first against the wall if things turn south. Just look at the way the banks enjoy shafting buy-to-let investors with eye-popping interest rates. The trick here is to pretend that an investment property is actually a primary residence for you or one of your many fictitious wives. Don’t worry, half the country is at it these days so they can hold on to their trackers.
8: How Far Will You Go?
The big question in this latest non-bubble is how far the Dublin commuter belt will stretch. It got ridiculous by the end of the last boom. Of course the capital’s catchment area shrunk a bit after the crash. People got sick of the daily commute from the Azores.
Property prices are starting to push people out of the capital again. This is forcing Dublin families to face up to some of life’s toughest questions. How long is too long in the car? Is it worth it for a slight improvement in my quality of life? What’s the point of Offaly?
As we know it isn’t just lower prices that attract young families down the motorway corridors. It’s also those precious extra hours away from their screaming kids. That guy at work who is always on about how guilty he feels about not seeing the kids in the evening? He’s guilty because he’s enjoying it so much. Better still are the long drives back to Dublin at the weekend so the kids can see their grandparents. Tie up your kids anywhere else and the cops will be all over you before you can say “there should be a law against toddlers.” Tie them into a car-seat and you can keep going until the batteries run out on the portable DVD player. Everyone’s a winner there.
There is one question that keeps Dubs awake at night: Will I still love my kids if they have a Monaghan accent? (It can be a shock when your five year old suddenly starts calling you ‘horse.’) This could drive some families south, all the way down the M8 to the outskirts of Cork. The question then becomes will I still love my kids if I can’t understand a word they are saying? Yes, particularly if they are teenagers.
9: The New Cromwell
Times change. About five years ago the most despicable bastard in the Irish property ecosystem was someone with a tracker mortgage. There they were coasting along at one percent above the ECB rate, while bankers used actual shovels to shovel actual shite on people with variable mortgages.
There is a new despicable bastard on the scene. They are known as the cash buyer. They are the modern absentee landlord, preventing young couples getting on the property ladder with their evil cash. You may well be one of these yourself. Obviously you can’t admit to being a cash buyer — you might as well walk down the Falls Road wearing a t-shirt that says I Love Oliver Cromwell. So here is how you should pretend you got a mortgage from the bank.
The first thing is to make sure you name a bank that is still active in the Irish marketplace. That’s tricky, given that about 40,000 banks have limped out of the Irish market, muttering darkly about the dangers of getting involved with a nation of gambling addicts. (Don’t worry, they’ll be back any day now.) Don’t hold back when you’re describing the mortgage application process. We’ve been led to believe the banks are stricter now, so that we can pretend it’s not a bubble. So say something like “they did such a thorough examination of our circumstances that at one stage I thought your man was going to put on a pair of rubber gloves.” People find rubber gloves very persuasive.
Finally, if you are telling someone about your mortgage application, they will probably ask what income multiplier the bank used. That’s just a sly way of trying to figure out what you earn. Not that earnings matter to a fat-cat cash buyer like yourself. You bastard.
10: Gentrification me Arse
Here’s the problem with Location, Location, Location. (Other than Kirstie’s mad looking hair.) Irish people watch the show in the hope of getting insights about our own property market. They draw the wrong conclusion when an awkward hipster couple joins a load of other awkward hipster couples in an area of London formerly known as the Old Slaughterhouse and Whoring District. That’s fine in London, where new areas get gentrified all the time.
It doesn’t work over here. Stoneybatter was the only place in the country to get gentrified in the whole of the last boom; and that was only because some Dubs saw a chance to pawn off their tiny houses on some wannabe culchie hipsters fresh off the train at Heuston Station. Outside of that, middle-Ireland tended to stay in middle-class area. Why? Well, why does anything happen in middle-Ireland? Because of Mammy.
You see Mammy didn’t put you through college so you could move into an area where people say things like “I do be frozen.” How is she supposed to show her face in the bridge club when it emerges that her eldest son now lives on a road named after someone who died for Ireland in 1916? (It doesn’t get more working class that that.) This wouldn’t matter if said son could get a mortgage and let Mammy rot in bridge club hell. Unfortunately he needs 50 grand off her so he can compete with those bastards, the cash buyers. So there goes any chance of that terraced house on Sean Mac Brits Out Road.
Of course Daddy might surprise everyone and give you the cash. But the last time he was allowed to make a decision was back in 1974. And he made a balls of that by all accounts.
First of all, apologies to the people who have been following this blog on my year in self-publishing. I started out with a wild promise to write one post every week. That was back in the day when I thought I’d have something to write about every week, as I rocketed to the top of the Amazon charts. That didn’t happen. My sales tapered off. My baby boy kept us on our toes. I had a busier summer than usual with copywriting and a new gig writing for a parenting website, eumom.ie. The upshot is I haven’t being doing much in the self-publishing realm. Work on the sequel to Keep Away from those Ferraris has been sporadic at best. And I haven’t written a blog entry since June 11th because there hasn’t been much to write about.
It’s time for a re-launch now that the leaves are falling off the trees and I’ve started eyeing the ON button on our central heating. So here’s where I am right now:
- The Sales Report. It’s not pretty. I sold 204 units up to June 11th with estimated revenues at €224. I have sold 6 eBooks since then and no paperbacks. Those were at a reduced price of 99c/99p and yielded a total of €2 in royalties. That number again – €2. There are chocolate bars now that cost more than that. And I couldn’t afford them if I was relying on self-publishing for an income. Because revenues of €226 with expenses of €1517 leaves me €1291 in the red.
- Reviews Are In. My expenses went up €17 since my last post because I did a 2-book giveaway on Goodreads. One of the winners posted a glowing 5-star review, so that was money well spent. I have 21 reviews now on US and UK amazon sites, with about a 4 .5 star average. Honesty time — I know 10 of those 21 people. Weirdness time — not all of the people I know gave it 5-stars! There’s a few names off the Christmas card list, if I had one. So generally, the reviews have been positive. (The book has a 4.25 rating on Goodreads from 8 people I don’t know.) That positivity is important. Here’s why.
- Morale. I’m seriously considering giving up novel writing and self-publishing. I am. It’s a lot of lonely effort with no guaranteed return. That matters when you have two small kids. I love writing novels more than any other writing or broadcasting work that I do. But there are times when it feels like I am asking my wife to stand by and watch me try to make it as a professional golfer. (There are times when I reckon I would have a better chance of making it in golf too. And I can’t hit a golf ball out of my way.) There are three reasons that I plan to keep calm and carry on writing. The first is the 4.5 star average mentioned above. People seem to really like the book. The second reason is that I can see improvements already in the (half-completed) first draft of the sequel. I definitely think it is more marketable. The third reason is that I just finished reading The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis. It’s so good that I’m half-tempted to read it again, straight away. It reminds me that there is nothing in the world like a brilliant book. And that makes me want to write one.
- What’s Next? I don’t plan much marketing activity for Keep Away from those Ferraris. At least not until I’m ready to launch the sequel. (Torn between calling it Payback or Revenge of the Killer Ferraris.) I have about 40,000 words left to write in the first draft of this sequel. I’m going to aim for 1500 words a week (that’s being realistic, given my workload at the moment). So that’s six months to get a first draft. After that, we’re looking at 1 month of re-drafting, 1 month of editing, and then a month to get it on the virtual shelves. So right now I want to get it out there for the 2015 summer market at the end of May. Here’s hoping. In the meantime, a pub owner I know said he will take a few copies of the books and sell them behind the counter. So I’m off in there tomorrow night to deliver 5 copies. I might even have a pint and tell him how everyone should read the new book by Martin Amis.
This blog will go on. I won’t promise a weekly update, because I’d be scratching around and wasting everyone’s time. But what I might do is write shorter posts as things come to mind. See you next time.
Forget about the McCarthys and all that. Ireland in 2014 is made up of Ten Tribes. Have a look and see if you recognise anybody (like yourself.)
1: THE SQUEEMIDS
Ireland’s biggest tribe, the Squeezed Middle. The official definition of SqueeMid is a 30 to 50 year old property-owning Irish couple who wished they moved to Australia when they had the chance rather than stay here and bankroll their kids, their parents and various other layabouts.
Latest CSO figures show that 98% of Irish adults describe themselves are part of the SqueeMids. And why not? Claiming membership of our most put-upon tribe gives you carte blanche to complain about everything. It’s like being a teacher without having to stand in front of 32 teenagers goofed off their heads on energy drinks.
Here’s a simple test to see if you are SqueeMid. Have you recently discussed the difficulties of making ends meet with a nice couple from Athlone while eating al fresco on the Costa Del Sol? Yes? Then you are not a SqueeMid. We hear they are taking on people over at the Quite Well Off Complaining Class – try them. (If you think this doesn’t apply to you because you were indoors on the Algarve with an annoying couple from Mullingar, then you are missing the point. Deliberately. So stop acting the maggot.)
The SqueeMids have a dilemma. They will remain mortgage slaves for the next 20 years unless a political party can set them free. There is only one party which looks willing to take the fight to the banks. That’s Sinn Fein. In fairness, the Shinners have a history of walking into banks and making people do what they are told. The SqueeMids are of a mind to vote for them because they have nothing left to lose.
My Verdict: A Sinn Fein Taoiseach. Then Ireland will really be full of couples who wished they had moved to Australia when they had the chance.
2: THE POPOPROS
There is a simple test to establish if you are a member of the Possibly Poor Professionals. If you ever charged someone €250 for five minutes work and they paid without question, then you are a PoPoPro. Or a prostitute, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
We are not implying that lawyers overcharge people for their services. That is because they are litigious and have a lot of time on their hands. So leave the lawyers out of this. That leaves the doctors and dentists.
It’s not a great time for you dentists. A lot of people simply don’t have money for cosmetic dental work. They are spending it on the essentials like tummy tucks and boob jobs.
Don’t worry, there is a new phenomenon in Ireland which will save your careers. Puritanism. Mick and Nuala are drinking less in recent years because we’re trying to punish ourselves for wrecking everything. We get our sugar kick these days from eating a cut-price chocolate bunny while watching Eastenders. And then another one during Corrie. There will be fillings ahead. So hang on in there.
It’s not so good for you doctors. Your waiting-rooms will soon be full of people with their perfectly healthy five year olds. ‘Why did you bring him to see me?’ ‘Because it’s free doctor.’ ‘You do realise it costs me money.’ ‘Yes. You do realise it costs me €50 every time I need you to write the name of an antibiotic on a piece of paper.’ ‘Point taken.’
My Verdict: Dentists should be fine as long as Aldi don’t put up the price of their chocolate bunnies. Doctors are in for some revenge. And lawyers are sound out.
It’s a tricky time for you Piss Poor Artists. You probably still haven’t recovered after the boom. Remember the time you’d draw three dots on a canvas to represent the madness of money. And then sell it for 400 grand to a culchie builder who thought Leonardo Da Vinci was a type of pizza. Or the 20 grand you got from the Arts Council to write a poem on how the Celtic Tiger had robbed us of our soul. (‘They say money is good for the Irish soul, I’ve two words for that, My Hole.’)
Still, things are looking up. It’s only a matter of time before a PiPoArs gets a massive grant to do a portrait of President Michael D. You will feel the urge to show him posing in the time-honoured fashion next to an Irish Wolfhound. Maybe pick a smaller dog.
There is more good news. 2016. Official Ireland will be lashing out the cash to make sure we never forget the men of 1916. It doesn’t matter what you propose as long as your pitch includes the term Re-Imagining. Re-Imagining is vital for 1916 because the reality is that a small bunch of hotheads took over Dublin and then they surrendered.
We recommend a giant statue of Patrick Pearse dressed as Jedward, mad hair and all. The beauty of this is that it looks profound at first glance but doesn’t actually mean anything on further inspection. There’s only word for that. Art.
There will also be calls for the events of 1916 to be represented in the form of modern dance. If you are thinking four people in green capes standing still for 90 minutes while humming Sean South from Garryowen, then you’ve got the gig.
My Verdict: You are the one group in Ireland who will enjoy the goings on in 2016. Just don’t forget to Re-Imagine.
4: THE NIRISH
Greetings foreigners. You Nirish (New Irish) never cease to amaze us. We were astonished that you flocked here during the Celtic Tiger years because we have a shockingly low opinion of ourselves. More astonishing still is that the money ran out and loads of you actually stayed put. Even world-class self-loathers like ourselves are beginning to suspect you like the place. (We are also beginning to suspect that your home countries must be right shitholes, but we’d never say that to your face. Not when you always saying how friendly we are. We love it when you say that.)
We realise you have faced many challenges during your time here. The Africans among you will have been targeted by large gangs of right-on people. These people will stop at nothing to respect your culture and insist that it is a million times better than ours. You have probably seen them at a World Music event having what looks like a mild fit. That’s them trying to do an African dance. They would love nothing better than to be accepted into the Nirish. Unfortunately they are already paid up members of one of our largest local tribes, The Gobshites.
The key to your successful integration lies in an organisation we call the GAA. The GAA’s main role is to occupy children during the summer evenings so their parents can get smashed on cheap rosé in the back garden. It also runs a number of popular sporting championships. One of those is hurling. It’s the one where guys look like they are trying to get revenge on other guys for sleeping with their girlfriends.
Here’s the problem – if Polish and Nigerian kids start to outshine our lads at hurling we’ll never forgive you. We are world champions at hurling. This is borne out when we romp home in hurling-shinty internationals against Scotland, who in fairness are shit at everything. Hurling is our thing, a noble pursuit, ideally suited to the temperament and guile of the Gael. The last thing we need is Nirish kids proving otherwise.
My Verdict: It’s a great time to be Nirish – as long as Pawel Kowalczyk doesn’t captain Clare to a minor All-Ireland. Mind you, we’d pay good money to hear the RTE commentator pronounce his name in Irish.
5: THE REMICS
The Irish middle-class is split in two. You have Hopeless Social Climbers and Real Middle Class – the HoSoCli and ReMics to you and me.
Wondering where you belong? Then take this quick quiz. 1: Have you ever spied on parents picking up their kids at a school gate to see if that school is suitable for your child? 2: Do you have a strong opinion on hake? If you answered yes to both, then you are pure ReMic. If you replied what is hake, you are Lower HoSoCli. That’s low. Our guess is you watch Catchphrase and know someone with a tattoo.
As a bone fide ReMic, your biggest challenge has always been to show off your wealth without appearing vulgar. That’s a bit easier these days now that Michael Noonan has taken all your money. (You still wince at the thought of those leopard skin panties you bought for 250 quid back in 2007. Look, we all partied.)
Mindfulness brings you great consolation. Your motto is Live in the Now. Particularly since you took a look at your pension statement and resigned yourself to flipping burgers at the age of 83.
Thanks to Tripadvisor you can still enjoy the classis ReMic holiday on the cheap. That’s the one where you manage to avoid other Irish people. Who cares that you end up spending a week in some obscure Croatian mountain-top village with a busload of Belgian bird-watchers? At least there was no one in a Celtic jersey talking about their second-hand Hyundai.
My Verdict: The government are talking about middle-class tax cuts in the next budget. The last time they went down that road, you ended up in leopard skin knickers. So be careful how you go.
6: THE UNHIPS
You could be mistaken for thinking that Ireland is full of hipsters. Particularly if you live near a cycle lane. But the truth is that a large group of Irish people wouldn’t touch the hipster look with a rare 1970s Belgian racing bike. They are the UnHips. Here is a simple test to see where you stand. Did you spend a lot of money on vintage clothes and still end up looking like Olly Murs? Yes? Then you are a hipster. If not, well done.
The UnHips are largely invisible around our cities and larger towns. That’s the way they like it. They are more prominent in the smaller towns and villages, where hipsters are known as Queerhawks and shunned by the local population.
Your average UnHipster has an excellent grasp of history. He knows that after a good run in the 1960s, hipsters were an international laughing stock well into the noughties, when news reached Ireland that some guy in Brooklyn had grown a beard. The UnHipster knows this ridicule will come around again. And this time around, the hipsters’ fashion fuck-ups will not be recorded on an obscure black and white East German camera. Well actually they probably will. But they will also be recorded on smartphones and uploaded to Dropbox, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and one other multi-billion internet photo-storage app that was invented since I started writing this sentence.
In other words, there is one thing that an UnHipster will never have to hear from his kids. ‘Jesus Dad, how did you manage to score with anyone in those clothes? You look like Olly Murs.’
My Verdict: Your time will come around again, UnHips. Very very soon.
7: AN SLUA NUA
A sub-tribe for our second most popular language. (If you exclude Polish, Mandarin Chinese and probably Spanish.) The Gaeilgeoir tribe is now split in two. There is the old hard-core crowd who still scour the trad music scene in West Clare. They are cultural purists who find something deeply erotic in a black-haired beauty working her magic on the squeezebox.
The new Gaeilgeoir tribe, An Slua Nua, is made up of subtle snobs and rugby fans. (There is a crossover here as you can well imagine.) The snobs (Na Snobí) are those who reckon that sending their kids to a Gaelscoil is the only politically correct way to keep their kids away from the lower classes. (They are not wrong.) Na Snobí are usually members of the Quite Well Off Complaining Class who can’t afford to send their kids to a fee paying school. Of course sending your kids to a school where the parents must speak Irish could be seen by some as a form of racial segregation. Na Snobí are at pains to point out they are not racists. They usually point this out in English. Na Snobí tend not to use Irish unless they are talking about a nice summer day at the beach with Maura and her dog, Rustaí. Féach ar Rustaí, say Na Snobí.
The second pillar of An Slua Nua is rugby fans that are forced to watch Heineken Cup and Pro 12 matches on TG4. They are fluent in Irish at this stage. Seriously, ask them anything. As long as it is ‘would you agree that Hugo needs to front-up more in the lineouts going forward?’
My Verdict: There are only two things that could stop the march of An Slua Nua. The working classes might decide to reclaim Irish. And TG4 might decide to focus on traditional Irish sports. We have our doubts on both fronts.
8: THE GOMTES
As in Get Off Me, Two’s Enough. It’s the catchphrase of modern Irish parents. It is now widely accepted that anything more than two children is a bit common. It also means a couple with two young kids managed to have sex, which means one or both of you is a nymphomaniac.
It’s been a bad decade for you GOMTES. You put off having kids until you could build a career and get together a decent deposit for a house. The upside is you went on four city breaks a year until you were 35. The downside is your own parents are now too old to provide the only thing they are good for – free child-care. Was it really worth that wet weekend in Brussels? No.
Child care costs are ruining your life. The only upside is it’s easy enough to get your kids up in the morning for the drive to crèche. That’s because you have been forced to live in your car. A third child at this stage could push you over the edge. (Or into a station wagon.) The result is sex once a month, with condoms, the coil and the pill in case the vasectomy didn’t work.
GOMTES are facing a huge dilemma. One the one hand you want to advise your kids not to waste away their 30s traipsing around European cities in the rain. On the other hand, you don’t want them to start their own families too early or you will get stuck minding their babies. Our guess is you’ll give them a Lonely Planet European Guide for their 30th birthday. And who could blame you?
My Verdict: There is always a chance that the government will do something about the cost of childcare. It’s slightly less than your chances of getting pregnant with number three. Sorry about that.
9: THE ORCATS
It’s not an easy time to be an Ordinary Catholic in Ireland these days. All around you are angry, divisive people who seem hell bent on dragging your faith through the mud. And that’s just senior figures in Catholic think-tanks.
Gay weddings are obviously a complete disaster for your average ORCAT. It’s hard enough to find money for presents when all your straight friends get married – it could be close to impossible once the homosexuals get in on the act.
Another problem is the couple sitting next to you at mass. There is a good chance they have been dragged along by their snotty little seven year old because he has to go to mass once a month to make his communion. It’s hard to say your I Believe in One God when the hipster dad next to you keeps muttering about crazy people who never read anything by Richard Dawkins. With any luck he’ll go to hell.
But there are some real positives for Irish ORCATS. The main thing is you can look forward to life after death. It used be that heaven was a place you went at the end of your life to meet God. Now it’s the one place where you can draw a line under your past and finally get away from your creditors. (Unless you’re David Drumm, who also has Connecticut.)
And then there is Pope Francis. A papal visit would be a great boost for ORCAT morale. Even Hipster Atheist Dad would probably feel an urge to go and see him. Let’s face it, as benevolent father figures go, Francis is almost up there Johnny Giles.
My Verdict: Looking good as long as you can take the financial strain of gay weddings.
The YOOF stands for young people. The FEES stands for what they cost. Which is a lot.
Here’s a quick YOOFEE test. If you start welling up while watching Reeling in the Years, you are not a YOFFEE. The problem isn’t so much that you watch Reeling in the Years – it’s more that you watch television. Young people don’t do that anymore. Welcome to middle-age.
This isn’t a great time to be a YOOFEE. There’s no easy way to put this. Your parents can’t afford you. Neither can they afford for you to be seen in last year’s runners. That’s social hari-kari. So they are wearing some old thing from Penneys while you are in that brand new pair of orange Adidas. If you think your parents won’t hold a permanent grudge for that sacrifice, then it’s true what they say. Young people have a lot to learn.
Here’s an economic update. It looks like most American multi-nationals have the same business plan – move all our jobs to Ireland and hope for the best. The upshot is you won’t have to leave Ireland to find a job. Sorry about that. Lack of jobs has been a great excuse to get off this shit-bucket of a damp rock in the north Atlantic. Now you’ll have to come up with something else. It will need to be good or Mammy won’t let you go. (She might seem like a cool older friend now in her skinny jeans and Converse. But, trust us, when you’re 22 and ready to leave home she’ll be wearing an apron and saying things like I hope it always stays fine for you. It happens to the best of them.)
Your parents are complaining about you spending all your time on social media. They haven’t said it to your face, but you’ve seen them mention it on Facebook. Don’t worry, they will never take away your mobile phone or iPad. Not when the alternative is to spend time discussing your concerns and anxieties. To be honest, they find all that stuff really tedious. You might have seen them admit it on Twitter.
My Verdict You face a rainy life in full-employment Ireland unless your elders blow the future on another crazy game of property roulette. We fancy your chances there. Australia here you come.
Ireland is on its bike. There was a 16% rise in cyclists in Dublin last year, where nearly one in ten journeys is now made by bicycle. There are plans to build a cycle path from Dublin to Galway. There is a National Bike Week every June (how do you mean you missed it?) The Dublin Bikes Scheme is busier than a family-planning helpline the morning after the Leaving Cert results. Entire aisles of Aldi and Lidl are given over to cycling accessories, like stalls selling souvenirs above in Knock. It’s hard to grasp why a wet hilly rock in the North Atlantic would suddenly take to the bike. Unless you view it as a religion. Let’s call it New Cycling.
Look at it from a non-believers point of view. A drive in the country isn’t complete until you get stuck behind a gang of middle-aged men cycling two abreast. A ten minute walk along any urban foot-path will probably involve three near-death experiences with someone on a bike. You could be mistaken for thinking these cyclists are careless assholes. They are not. They are just devotees of New Cycling. They are like the busy parish priest of old who didn’t mind breaking the rules because he was doing God’s work. These cyclists are righteous people. And unfortunately the path of the righteous man happens to be the one you are walking on to get to work. So be careful out there.
The self-righteous New Cycling brigade is convinced that cycling is the cure for what ails us. They take it as given that the environment can be saved and middle-aged men will live forever if only the country would get on its bike. Crucially, in a country where your inferiority complex comes as standard, they believe that cycling can improve our standing abroad.
Thanks to the Dublin Bikes Scheme, the capital is currently ranked 9th in the Copenhagenize Index of bicycle friendly cities. You read that correctly, it’s called Copenhagenize. You might say that has the whiff of a sinister mass movement about it, if you were being generous. As you can imagine, the top two cities on this list are Amsterdam and Copenhagen. This makes sense. The New Cycling is a huge hit with the type of liberal hipsters who are disgusted we aren’t more like the Dutch. In fairness most Irish people suffer from a touch of Dutch envy. It’s because a lot of Irish men went to Amsterdam, took some space cake and paid €50 to do something very new with a young woman from Indonesia. That’s not the kind of thing you can tell Mammy. So we pretend to admire their social democratic model and the way they keep the North Sea in the North Sea. Not to mention the way they look so cool on bicycles.
One of the key tenets of New Cycling is Be Like The Dutch. That would be fine if we were just talking about soccer. It’s daft when it comes to bicycle worship. The Netherlands is a flat, densely populated country with an okayish climate. Ireland is none of the above. Most of this island is up there with the Sahara in terms of places unsuitable for a bike. There was a time when we understood this. That was the time you’d pass a Dutch couple cycling up a mountain in Kerry in the rain, with 50 miles to the next shop. You’d feel sorry for the poor eejits because they didn’t understand that large tracts of Ireland are off limits for a pedaller.
We have lost that basic insight about our own country. We have gone crazy for the bikes, particularly in Dublin. That’s understandable enough. The capital has flat, wide roads and is overrun by a plague of hipsters. That ticks a lot of bike-boom boxes. But most of the rest of the country does not. A majority of the streets in Cork City can just about fit a donkey as long as he has small ears. And still the City Council put down a patchwork of bizarre cycle lanes which have left locals scratching their heads. Lanes crop up promisingly only to disappear into a footpath 100 metres down the road. A lot of these short isolated strips of tarmac look like the work of a guerrilla street artist looking to make some obscure point. (You could call him the Banksy of My Own Lovely Lee.) But then religion makes people do strange things.
You can see why New Cycling appeals to some people. Bikes are pure catnip for a certain parts of the middle class. Particularly that strand which is constantly on the lookout for new ways to rub their world view into other people’s faces. They recently converted from Being a Foodie to New Cycling. You can’t blame them — cycling is a much more elegant form of showing off than wearing a t-shirt saying “I just bought some kale.”
Extreme Cycling, where you might travel from Rosslare to Singapore, is picking up followers all over the world. Devotees aren’t just in it for physical fitness. Extreme Cycling is also a form of penance for anyone who spent twenty years on the piss and is pre-disposed to feelings of guilt. Step forward your average 40 year old Irish man. And get down to your nearest Aldi for a head-to-toe dose of Lycra.
It might have its attractions, but New Cycling is on borrowed time. In fact the backlash has already begun. Gardai can now issue an on- the-spot fine to cyclists who crash a light or mount a pavement. The middle-class snob brigade will find something else to advertise their superiority. The middle-aged men will return to the couch with swollen knees. And we’ll eventually look out the window at the rain and say shag that, I’m taking the car.