independent

Monday 15 September 2014

Just for once, it's good to look back with no regrets

with Yvonne Joye

Published 16/02/2012 | 11:03

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I HAVE always felt that the best thing about the Celtic Tiger was the underlying sentiment that you could be whatever you wanted to be. Of course it was that same sentiment that spurred the construction of castles in the air which, as we all know now, crumbled spectacularly with the first gust of wind.

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Yet, it was a unique time and unlike any other we have known. It was okay to take a gamble because, if you lost, there was always a job in construction. It was as if the Irish had pocketed the American Dream, sailed it across the ocean and sowed it in Irish soil – the only difference being that the Irish dream was bankrolled by credit whilst the American one comes with deep pockets.

Notwithstanding all the background noise of that erstwhile era, there did exist for just a sliver of time, a celebration that any dream would do. I grew up with the mantra of the '80s where a steady number in the bank or a pensionable job in the Civil Service was your only man. It was in stark contrast to the abandonment of the boom, where entering the arts, entering a circus or entering a bloody pyramid scheme – was there for the taking (or giving, depending on your timing!). Yet forgetting and suspending for just a moment all the dire consequences of that time, did it not do the soul good to shed the traditional route and embrace the road less travelled? (And I am not talking about wanting to own 10 houses here or even the aforementioned pyramid scheme for that matter!)

I was reminded of this recently when enjoying a late evening coffee. An accordionist struck up and from behind a velvet curtain, a brunette Marilyn Monroe look-alike emerged with the dulcet tones of Edith Piaf. Although the singer's shape belied that of the 'Little Sparrow', her voice did not. Instantly, we were in post-war Paris and by the end of the night we were belting out "Je ne Regrette Rien".

Her songs were interrupted with biographical titbits of the iconic singer, yet it was what she gave away about herself that had me thinking. A product of the Tiger, she resisted her mother's pleas to go into Aer Lingus and her father's championing of the Civil Service. All she ever wanted to be was a Parisian café singer. And though, like the rest of us, her dreams have been shaved, she is still a café singer who, in true recessionary style, brought Paris to our doorstep, saving us all the price of the flight.

It did make me wonder, however - would she have run away to France without the confidence the Tiger instilled? Would Michael Fassbender have opted for a guaranteed gig in AIB (such as it was back when) had the fat cat not purred. Who can say? But for those of you who dreamed and won, I know of a café singer who has just the song for you.

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