‘Ghost Estates Can Do This To a Guy’
by Caroline Carey Finn
You remember how it was, 2007, one minute you were sailing the Iberian coastline, downing Sangria, like you’d shares in the Spanish stuff and gyrating your designer swimming shorts with tribal girls chanting “you’ll never beat the Irish! “ When all of a sudden you’ve slop dunked your final garibaldi over your mothers coffee table. She slips you a few grand and suggests “Jonathon its time you’re feet were up a rung on the property ladder, take the spare telly with yea, why don’t yea?”
Wind forward five years: My civil service salary is slashed to stagnate, cash flow zilch. I’ve negative equity around my neck the envy of Elizabeth Taylor types. My ringworm is acting up and I’m convinced NAMA¹ has me in its sights. But according to the mother, “I’m one of the lucky ones.”
Initially lying on the memory foam Odearest, (A generous enough house warming gift from the old dear) I had visions of myself chairman of the neighbourhood watch, hosting the estates book club, B.Y.O. dinner parties and rave ups. But life doesn’t always turn out how you dreamt.
I’m still the only occupied house in block A. I’m wary of the acrid fumes, miserable barking and a Dickensian squatter sort at 6B, it still in a state of half built. From the margins I wouldn’t class him book club material though I shall keep a note of him if the neighbourhood watch ever gets off the ground.
Speaking of ground, it’s rough under foot. (My weakness has always been shoes. As mother was known to say “He’s no Imelda Marcos” but I do appreciate a Cuban heel and can tremble just stroking a horse leather loafer.) I forked out for Wellingtons by Dunlop. Their addictive rubber newness is the nearest I’ve got towards owing a car. The boots remain parked by the backdoor or reversed into hawthorns on the outskirts of the estate allowing a swift gear change, saving the designer shoes’ blushes.
When word filtered through that us ghost estates were exempt from the household charge, oh how we dreamt of partying like for Euro 2012. Beer, babes and bunting (the big bra variety) strung from the lampposts. Oh no wait, there are no lampposts. That’s a length of washing line to steer me safely home on navy ink nights lest I stray into the black hole marked recreational green area on the plans.
The months tick by. That hunch-backed telly is a time bomb. I’ll need a lotto win to fund Free to Air² and Saorviews’ digital top box is out of my price range.
A typical night after work I’ve the feet up in front of Quasimodo watching for any good news with Brian Dobson, (and the way he might look at yea) with a bowl of my three bean soup. (Now that’s one thing; I make a mean recession-busting bean soup) So one night Dobo warns, “In ten years Ireland will have run out of water! The Hill of Tara will be reduced to a desert sand dune”.
The isolation, no tv channels, the price of toilet rolls and the Troika…. well… it’s enough to spur a guy into his canvas desert boots, to wander the barren badlands to block B, armed with only a billycan of warm soup, and seek out the company of the black dog and Bill Sykes from No.6. But then, these clouds pass and a silver lining shines through. The Sun’s headline: “Your water meter will be your friend!”
I sweet dream that night, the newly acquired water meter (I’ve affectionately called Matilda) and I cruising our luv boat down the Boyne³ until that major regret! That mother hadn’t gone the extra kilometre, and splashed out on a double Odearest instead of this 3ft bed. It does gets a tad cramped what with Matilda being a martyr to wind, since she’s been on the three bean soup.
I wake up just in time with mothers warning of gold diggers ringing true.
Bill Sykes has the right idea after all. “Forget your fancy running water. A rainwater barrel and cavity block lav-pot are your only man. (I’m telling yea, what this man doesn’t know about Higgs Boson isn’t worth knowing.) A bunch of dock leaves at the ready and ease up on the old three bean soup and I’ll be laughing.
Yes Ghost estates can do this to a guy!
1 – NAMA – National Asset Management Agency (set up to manage bad bank loans)
2 – Free to Air / Saorview – Digital television receivers
3 – Boyne – River in County Meath, Rep. of Ireland
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Caroline Carey Finn Bio:
Her essays have been broadcast on RTE Sunday Miscellany. She has pieces published in Dispatches from the developing world, Soundbites the LMFM Listeners Anthology of Short Stories and Poetry, The Irish Daily Mail YOU magazine’s This Life Irelands Own and Boyne Berries.
Photo by PF Duda