The happiest Christmas memories don't cost a fortune.
The happiest Christmas memories don't cost a fortune.
By Grainne Flynn
Every time I put on the radio these days all I hear is doom and gloom, so as I look out this evening and I see little lights twinkling on the Christmas trees, I forget about the bad news and enjoy the warmth of Christmas memories.
Everyone remembers their childhood Christmases, running down the stairs to see what Santa had left for them, the wonderful aroma of turkey cooking, the crackle of the open fire and the gentle sound of Christmas carols, tins of Afternoon Tea biscuits, red lemonade and of course a good classic film, like 'It’s a Good Life'.
Life was effortless, or were we just looking through our rose tinted glasses at Christmas Memories? We all try to put our worries aside for that day and enjoy time spent with loved ones. Even back when we were all children our parents did the same as we do today, they put aside worries and made Christmas as enjoyable as possible for their family.
I was a teenager during the last recession, I remember my mam and dad watching the news at night with worried looks. Today Tonight came on after the news to deliver even more bad news and all I wanted to do was listen to Marc Boland on our small record player. My parents had seen the world rebuild itself after the war with so much hope for the future. People were careful and took nothing for granted. How wonderful it must have been to see the progress of Ireland during the 30 years after the war.
By the 70s most homes had electricity, quite a lot had a phone. Televisions were making their way into most homes and Rentel, hire purchases, or 'paying on the drip', as it was known then, made it possible to make our lives much easier.
I remember our clothes being washed by hand in a bath full of OMO and fed through the mangle in the back garden before being hung out on the endless line to dry, but I also remember the excitement of the new top loader washing machine arriving, welcomed like a new baby, with people dropping in to have a look at it and congratulate us on it’s arrival.
Life was getting easier and we appreciated it. So when things got bad again, it hit hard, people had so little and every penny of the weekly income was accounted for. There was no excess income, the little new luxuries we had acquired were now in danger of being taken from us. Luxuries, yes that is what the washing machine and TV were considered, not necessities. Times were really tough then, it was the mid 70s and we hoped that the 80s would be better. How wrong we were!
1980 dawned with Charlie Haughy telling us “We are living way beyond our means”… what he actually meant was “My imported hand made shirts are costing you a fortune, but I look great”.
Unfortunately this was the worst decade we had seen for a long time, strike after strike, sit in after sit in and unemployment reaching an all time high. I still remember Dunnes Stores workers striking and the rubbish not being collected during the bin collection strike. 30,000 people emigrated in 1986 and many families saw all their children leaving Ireland forever.
However during all the hardship we still managed to see the first of a lot of things. The end of cash in our pockets and the start of the ATM Pass card, seems like a life time ago, but it was only in the 80ss. Pirate Radio stations, like Sunshine and Radio Nova, Fab Vinny on a Sunday afternoon bringing us all the up to date music.
The 1980s saw the birth of Knock Airport, The Eastlink and Ryanair. We saw statues moving almost as frequently as the governments changed, and we forgot how bad things were when Jack Charlton lead the Irish team, and Johnny Logan won the eurovision twice.
The 80s soaps like Dallas and Dynasty inspired fashion designers to inflate our shoulders bigger than the incredible hulk and flick our hair out so much that we looked like we had walked through a wind tunnel .The mystery surrounding JR’s shooting caused more commotion than the announcement of a new party, The PDs.
The 90s roared in, things were on the up again. Ireland Riverdanced their way into the Celtic Tiger. We purchased our first home in 1989 at a cost of 34,000 pounds, which was a lot then, but with in two years the prices had shot up and the property boom had started. People started going on two holidays a year, and not to a caravan like Fr. Ted's in a windswept beach in Ireland. People were travelling to very exotic places.
More and more people had new cars, and even two cars. Homes had microwaves, video recorders, central heating and ensuites. My father thought our downstairs loo was the best thing since sliced bread. Everyone had so much excess money that they started taking out gym memberships, going on spa weekends and taking out extra insurance and pensions.
No one thought about the previous decade. They were too happy planning BBQs and landscaping their gardens, but the haunting voice telling us “We are living beyond our means” was beginning to be heard again. More than a full decade of living the good life, the bubble had to burst, and it did.
Now I sit and try to explain to my children what a recession is, but do they really need to know when they are young. Hopefully by the time they are looking for a job we will be looking back and talking about the recession of the noughties and how we came through it. I hope we learn from the past, this has all happened before.
The most important things in life do not cost an arm and a leg, children remember time spent laughing over a family meal, cuddles in front of the fire watching a film movie, stories being told from their partent past. Maybe next time we will only allow ourselves to live with the Celtic Cub and not the whole Tiger.
Things will never be as bad as they were during the last recession, yes we have further to fall but we have so much that we don’t actually need. I know I don’t need to be a member of the leisure centre, I have never put my foot in the gym. I know I don’t need the weekend take away, even though I really enjoy it. I know I don’t need wine during the week, although I tell myself I deserve it. I know I don’t need to go and buy new clothes, although retail is my favourite therapy.
The list is endless, so when someone mentions the recession to me, I can’t help feeling that we will get through it and rise once again. We still have enough and as the song says…..things can only get better.