A pupil in St Andrews College in Dublin, this single fact put the kibosh on the austerity bit. They don't do austerity down there. Or, if they do, the yummy mummys apply a pretty good face to things.
It was a revelation.
To avoid the congestion on Booterstown Avenue we had been instructed by the parents of the small eleven year old boy to approach the school from the rere. (Yes there is a joke there somewhere but I'm not going scraping that barrel.) There is a lane, we were told, running through wooded territory to the east of the Radisson Hotel. And that would lead to St Andrew's without getting snarled up among lowly commuters. We found it. And got snarled up among large vehicles with copies of Fifty Shades of Grey forgotten in the glove compartments. These large vehicles were being driven (badly) by blondish Mums who, if it had been sunny, would've been wearing sunglasses in their hair.
But it wasn't. It was raining.
I parked the car, suddenly conscious that the vehicle was a couple of years older than the small boy in my charge. It vaguely occurred that there was some rule of thumb or social convention whereas one's car should be younger than one's children...certainly to be socially acceptable in St Andrews laneway. But the thought evaporated. This happens more and more, these days.
It's not actually officially St Andrew's Laneway, more likely an extension of the entrance to that Radisson Hotel, and obviously originally a laneway that ran round the boundary of the onetime St Helen's Estate. I spotted apartment blocks here and there in the woods. Mere glimpses through trees. But then other lives are like that. And I also spotted a playing fields which I first thought belonged to St Andrews but then was enlightened by the beloved H. (Not that she's that beloved when she's in enlightening mode, but whatever.) Apparantly the playing fields belonged to neighbouring Colaiste Iosagain, a different school entirely. Oh yes I know it well. Our daughter went there. And now walking down the lane I noticed clones of my daughter...well clones as she was fifteen years ago, that familiar uniform... coming up the lane towards me. Girls in greenish plaid skirts. Whilst going in the same direction as myself the St Andrew's kids were in their grey and darkish blue rigouts.
I noticed the different factions of young people ignored each other as they passed. The difference between fees of six and a half thousand a year and no fees at all does that I reckon.
"Like what do the St Andrew's kids get" I asked H, "like for their six and half grand? Like what do they get that the free school kids don't?"
"Better facilities?" she surmised.
"But Iosagain is one of the best schools in Ireland, and our daughter got a masters from University College London." (I didn't actually say 'our daughter', I used her name. But I realise she desires anonymity from her father's writing. Wonder about that sometime.)
"Yeah well," said my beloved H, and the matter remained unresolved.
How and ever, that same evening some small chink of resolution did glimmer.
It happened down in Sandymount. I was in the upstairs bar of the clubhouse of the Pembroke Wanderers' Hockey Club. Pictures of old hockey teams on the walls. And among them photographic portraits of deceased individuals important to the history of the club. Women who looked unmarried and men who looked like accountants.
I absorbed all that.
I gazed out over the floodlit expanse of the all weather hockey pitch. Hordes of small boys were rushing around with hockey sticks and I was trying to work out which exactly was my eleven year old charge. They all looked pretty much of a muchness from that distance.
A DART train went by. I imagined myself sitting in the window, looking out at the hockey pitch, as no doubt people were, and as I had done myself so many times. So many times but this, I realised, this was the first time I had ever been in the clubhouse of the Pembroke Wanderers' Hockey Club. But, however, how and ever, it was not at all the first time I had been at the grounds itself. Long years ago I used play cricket here. It was grass then, and the clubhouse then was a shack over at the Churchill Terrace side.
I remembered that.
The next day Saturday I went to the austerity march through Dublin. I wasn't actually participating, merely observing. I like to be in at the start of a revolution. It gets messy later on, but the start tends to be interesting. I walked up O'Connell Street.
A group of thuggish characters had taken over the O'Connell Monument and were waving flags of the IRSP, The Irish Republican Socialist Party. I nodded, but only to myself. I walked on. remembering how thirty five years ago I had walked through Little Bray behind the coffin of Seamus Costello.
There's been a lot of funerals since.
I walked on. A man that seemed to have stepped out of a Victorian cartoon held a large placard on a pole above his head. It prophesised doom in biblical language. A group of Islamic people stood silently along the kerb. Well, two groups of Islamic people, one made up of men, the other of women. I presume they were essentially the same group. They weren't protesting, rather evangelizing, if that be the word. Definitely was the word for yet another group, this one of fundamentalist Christian preachers. And beside them a group who didn't think much of Jews or Israel. All white Irish, the young men wore Arab scarves and the young women were in gear they certainly wouldn't be able to wear when their cause was won.
I walked on.
A solitary and beautiful young woman handed me a Pro-Life leaflet. I took it politely, wondering vaguely yet again why Pro-Life women are better looking that Pro-Choice? It's been something that perplexes me. I suppose nature has an answer.
On and on I walked, my pocket gradually getting stuffeder and stuffeder with leaflets and pamphlets.
On and on I walked, and on and on they came, the leaflets. I took up my position beside The Spire and remembered going up its predecessor Nelson Pillar. And remembered being in Africa when someone told me it had been blown up. Dublin and its revolutions seemed far away then, other wars on my mind.
The protest parade eventually started. It was very very large and none of the people marching looked like they had kids in St Andrews College, nor that they actively participated in the doings of the Pembroke Wanderer' Hockey Club.
The parade was led by a masked girl on a horse.
She was wearing a voluminous black cloak and I suppose she was meant to be death.
I thought these are the days of miracles and wonder.
And went home and listened to the song.
Conan Kennedy's new novel is
now in (Irish) bookshops.
Days of Miracles and Wonder