Crying in the street.

Crying in the street.

My itinerary for today certainly did not include enough time set aside to write a blog. It contained a horribly early start (earlier than a school-day, sigh), two very young sons playing hurling matches in two separate teams, on two separate sides of a huge pitch while two even younger daughters threw themselves (repeatedly) headlong down the concrete steps at the side of CLCG Nas na Riogh’s clubhouse.

A mad scramble home for toast and milk before an afternoon football match at Round Towers in Kildare Town and- in between- a bloody protest bloody march for bloody Newbridge bloody Credit Union. As if I didn’t have enough to do.
Why a protest march with a double buggy and four children under the age of eight? You might very reasonably ask. And I would answer: guilt-tripped.

Newbridge Credit Union is a major sponsor of Sarsfield’s GAA club where my kids train, and also of Newbridge Community Games. As my eldest has stood twice on the podium at the Community Games National Finals, I felt I couldn’t ignore the repeated texts and emails asking for support for the sponsor. Personally, I would rather have eaten a broken bottle.

I’ve never been rich and I’ve definitely never been poor. I’ve never been a member of a Credit Union and I have only the vaguest idea of what the movement is all about. Like many other unions, Newbridge is in danger of closing, due to post-Celtic tiger issues that I neither knew nor cared about. I literally went along so I could hold up my head the next time I meet the fabulous team of volunteers who run Newbridge Community Games.

Probably because I have neither enough money to worry me, nor too little, to keep me awake at night, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the country’s financial situation. You’ll never hear me talking knowledgably about “Fingers” and “Drummer” as if I had shared a locker with them at the K club. I don’t feel victorious or glad that Michael Lynn has been arrested in Brazil, I didn’t foam at the mouth when I saw clips of Brian Cowen on the news last night. I just don’t let it get to me.

But, as I walked down Main Street Newbridge today I finally got it, if only a taste, and if only briefly. Forty five minutes of “Why are we here? What’s a banker? And is that a real skeleton on the back of that lorry?” is enough to make anyone stop and think.
All around me were elderly, stooped shoulders, furrowed brows, whispered conversations. “We need an AGM?”
“What’s happened?” “Is the money safe?”
“What about the jobs?”

After less than ten minutes I could feel the tears welling up behind my giant bug-eye sunglasses. The children kept asking me to repeat myself and I kept tailing off in the middle of sentences. My chin was wobbling and my lips thinned and plumped as I ground them together trying to contain myself.

I’m not a big fan of public displays of emotion. I shed no tears beside my father’s deathbed, nor at his wake and funeral, although (lest you think me some kind of monster) I can no longer listen to “The JCB Song” by Nizlopi without breaking down. Crying on the street is not my normal MO. I could neither understand nor control it.

Outside the Office Centre came the coup de grace. Standing, clutching his rollator, carrying home his few provisions, stood a familiar face. I am sure that a few enquiries would easily elicit the man’s name, he’s an institution in the town. Everyday he pushes his wheeled trolley along the street. His suit is clean and pressed and swamps his frail body. On his left breast he wears a line of campaign medals on their ribbons, stars and circles and oblongs glinting in the Autumn sun. The children were fascinated.

“Wow, he must have been a great soldier, all those wars and still alive! WOW!”

And I wondered if this shaky-legged veteran lies awake at night worrying about the ten euro reduction in his pension, and the new broadcasting charge, and the property tax and the water charge and his grandchildren in Melbourne and Dubai and London.

And I couldn’t keep one tear from spilling over my saturated lashes.

How did we let this happen?

And I finally realised that what I was feeling was shame.

One comment

  1. Hi Orla,

    My name is Karen from the Customer Service desk in Whitewater, the gentleman you wrote about is called Joe, he calls in to the Centre most days during his walks around town. He is a very nice interesting man originally from England but has lived here since the 80’s. He was very interested in the article you wrote – someone had passed it on to him and we laminated it here for him. We could pass on your contact details to him if you were interested on doing a piece on him??


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