In four and a half years a lot has changed in my home country of Ireland. As I sit here in a fancy little café (one of the few surviving the recession) nibbling on a croissant and sipping on a tea, it suddenly hits me that I don’t recognize my hometown of Tralee, Co. Kerry anymore.
There are more boarded up shop windows than there are open shop fronts, there are far fewer people on the streets and less cars on the road (and very few 2009 cars).
The crime rate is higher (last weekend I witnessed a massive brawl in a fast food restaurant resulting in a young lad having extensive brain injuries.) People look sadder and every third house is up for sale.
About an hour ago I popped into the bank, and there I met some old friends carrying out their business. It was lovely to have a brief catch up with each of them, but it also saddened me. In that short space of time three of them were quick to inform me they had lost their jobs.
One, an accountant, was let go three months ago and has been joining the dole queue outside the post office every week to collect his money from the state. “I have way too much time on my hands so do give me a call and we’ll meet for a coffee,” he said. I guess I’ll be buying the coffee!
A girl I know from our schooling days is also in the same boat. An architectural technician by trade, she had been working with the same company in Tralee for nine years.
Last week she received the news that she has three weeks to tie up her loose ends. The company she works for is closing it’s doors.
“I only bought the house (that comes with a € 1,200 mortgage) a year ago. It’s going to be a tough 2010,” she said.