After seven long years on the Seven Seas, Gulliver deemed that it was about time that he and his crew headed home to inform the populace about the astonishing sights that they had seen on their travels. Besides, bereft of female company for so long, some of his crew were beginning to whisper of mutiny.
Facing a terrible tempest in the English Channel, Gulliver decided to detour for a few days to Dublin, of which he had fond memories as a student. As the ship approached at first light, thick fog enveloped the Liffey and the Misadventure almost wrecked itself on a strangely shaped impediment [the handsome new Samuel Beckett Bridge]. “My, my,” said the Captain, “that wasn’t on the map last time we docked here!”
At that, the fog cleared and Gulliver espied a barren landscape that he did not recognize, although he had spent several years as a student in this very quarter of the city. Alternately, glass palaces and grotesque unfinished buildings; all alike, empty and forsaken. Then, he spotted a huge sign on one of the empty buildings – IFSC, it read. In truth, dear reader, the name connoted the International Financial Services Centre, but having convinced his shipmates that he ‘knew the Gaelic’, Gulliver confidently reported that the sign read “For God’s sake, Mind the new bridge.”
“Away, me hearties,” bellowed Gulliver to his crew, “this place looks accursed, let us to the Temple Bar where we are sure to find my old drinking companion, Johnny Swift.”
But even though last Saturday’s ceili was still going strong (due to an invasion of Lithuanian hen parties) Gulliver could not find his old friend in any of the many bars.
“Try Trinity College,” suggested one barman, eyes propped open by matchsticks.
“Must quickly to my Alma Mater,” said Gulliver to his shipmates and scurried off alone, as by this time the sailors, long starved of womanly company, had decided to become more acquainted with the mating habits of Lithuanian hens.
As he crossed College Green, Gulliver observed in the distance his old comrade entering Trinity gates. “Swiftie, hi, Swiftie, you old sheep shagger from Skerries, it is I, your old mate, Lemuel Gulliver. Hold up!”
“For God’s sake, pipe down and stop calling me Swiftie, it’s Dean,” admonished his old friend. “But your name is not Dean, it’s Jonathan?” answered a bemused Gulliver.
“It is Dean, not Dean, you idiot,” said Swift, “keep your voice down, they just made me head gaffer at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and I left a few embarrassing details out of my CV.”
Swift cheered up, “Will you walk with me to my rooms where we can have tea and something stronger as we talk of old times?” As the long-lost friends walked across the wet cobblestones of the old quadrangle, they reminisced about the good times and scrapes they had had in this very place, many, many years before.
Settled in front of the Dean’s roaring fire, over strong tea and copious nips of whiskey, Gulliver held forth about his wondrous voyages and the fantastic things he had seen. He told of the midgets of Lilliput and the giants of Brobdingnag, the flying Island of Laputa, the regal horses and base human Yahoos in the country of the Houyhnhnms. He had traveled far and had met good and bad in all places, but all extremely curious.
When he had finished, Swift drained his dram and mused quietly, “Truly wondrous, Gulliver, you have traveled the world and seen many splendid and unusual sights. But let me tell you that such wonders pale compared to what we have seen over the last years in the Fair City.”
Swift’s eyes misted as he began his tale.
“And it all started so well. After centuries of digging ditches and pulling pints, we discovered
something we were really, really good at – computers. We found we had the knack of massaging megabytes with the best of them, and the world beat a path to our cottage door. Before long, we had French, American and numerous other oily foreigners setting up factories to cut the old computer code. We began to get paid very well indeed and our young students no longer had to board a ship the morning after graduation. They could find plenty of work in the Old Country. And even though most of us had never seen such an animal outside of a Disney film, we revelled in being christened the Celtic Tiger. It was a miracle.”
“And then, on top of that, we became ‘cool‘ . The world loved our music, dancing and gobbing. Before long, anyone with any excuse to celebrate anything, high-tailed it to Dublin for a weekend of good craic.”
“Boy, did we milk it,” remembered the Dean.
“Any shop assistant from Finglas who could strum a guitar felt able enough to lecture the crowned heads of Europe and America on how to solve world hunger, global warming and the likes. And us only half a generation from traipsing the lanes of Ireland with holes in the back of our breeches. It was a great gas, though, while it lasted,” smiled Swift.
“But, what went wrong,” quizzed Gulliver.
“We lost the plot,” replied Swift sadly. “No! Better to say that we sold the plot for a handful of Euros to a man whose wife’s cousin worked in the council planning department.”
“Like Adam and the forbidden fruit we had discovered the Leverage and boy did it taste good! If you could borrow a bit, you could lend it out, then borrow a bit more and lend even more; it grew and grew like fungus on a fetid forest floor. Before long we were rich. Ireland’s rain sodden earth, useless for anything but sowing potatoes and digging turf, suddenly became as valuable as a king’s ransom. If your granny left you as little as a cabbage patch you were an overnight millionaire!”
“And then came the Cronies, far, far worse than those Yahoos you were telling me about. They bought and sold and sold and bought and became multi-billionaires in a few years. Sure, any country gombeen with football connections could put on a Paul Smith suit and get millions from a bank to build a small town of faux Georgian mansions in a bog in the back of nowhere. For a few Euros more he could even sit on the bank’s board and then give out free loans to other Cronies.”
“The Cronies – verily vultures in human form – were everywhere, pillaging this and appropriating that. They lived high on the hog and acted like pigs. And their wives and mistresses, in whose names assets were conveniently registered, never was so much mutton so lambly dressed.”
“But what about the banks?” asked Gulliver.
“Banks, overpaid bankers!” huffed Swift, “Sure they were as bedazzled as the rest of us by the Leverage. You could walk into any bank on College Green with a wheelbarrow of soil and walk out with the same barrow filled with 100 Euro notes. Sure, sometimes they’d even give you half the turf back because you were over-collateralized.”
“And didn’t even your old friend fall under the spell of the Leverage and easy money,” groaned Swift, “For only 300,000 Euro, I am now the proud owner of an exquisite, off-the-plan flatlet on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast with free holidays and a substantial tax-free rental income for life, if ever it gets built.”
“But what about the politicians?” asked Gulliver.
“Well may you ask. For a round of golf and a Michelin dinner you could buy a politician, or for a game of darts and a pack of crisps if they were in opposition.”
“Did no one see the folly of Leverage?” said Gulliver.
“None,” sighed Swift, “Especially after the President decreed that all mirrors should be broken so that we could not see the culprits.”
For what seemed like hours Swift told the stories of the great boom: the Eurovision wins, Riverdance, the designer shops, the restaurants, the Aviva Stadium, new TV channels with even swearing on TV, Bono.
Gulliver’s head was spinning. “But what happened?” he asked.
“No one really knows,” replied Swift. “What was there, suddenly wasn’t! What we owned, evaporated, poof! No one knows where our money has gone. And, of course, the Cronies have skipped, doomed to spin out the rest of their miserable days on Caribbean islands living in their wives’ properties. The once proud Irish have become a cargo cult, waiting for the good times to return, and maybe one day they will,” sobbed Swift.
At that, the first light of an autumn morning shimmered through the College windows and stirred the friends out of their melancholy.
“My old friend,” said Gulliver, “I had planned to return home to England and become rich on tales of my weird and wonderful peregrinations, but I can see that they are mere children’s stories compared to what you have lived through. There is obviously no market for my Travels. I must leave you here in your misery and go find solace in warmer climes, far from home with dusky maidens and definitely no Cronies,” farewelled Gulliver.
“Go, my boyhood friend,” said Swift with a tear in his eye,” there is nothing for you here. You must emigrate – again. God speed and safe voyage.” At that Gulliver wished his old companion goodbye and hurried off to the Temple Bar, which was closed, wet and sad as the Lithuanian hens had all returned home on their Ryanair flight to Sofia with only a 27 hour coach trip to Vilnius.
“Come shipmates, cheer up,” ordered Gulliver, “let us back to our vessel, a hearty breakfast and then away again,”
“Helmsman, set the tiller for a new destination,” called out Gulliver, “My old friend Swift told me that Albion is in as much trouble as Hibernia, so we must off to find peace on a most beautiful island, once described to me by an old Portuguese seafarer, where I can write my memoirs undisturbed. To Krakatoa!”
As the wind billowed out the mainsails of Gulliver’s ship, he strolled to the stern to see the country one last time. As he pulled further away, the island appeared to be sinking into the sea – and as the ship disappeared over the horizon, Ireland sank!
(Written by Pat McConnell of Bowral, Australia (the birthplace of the greatest batsman that ever lived)