Friday 18 October 2019

May '03 – a date that will live long in apathy

So, tell me – what you were doing on this date 10 years ago? What? You can't remember? Have you developed amnesia or summink?

Being a super clever-and-much-smarter-than-you columnist I can, of course, utilise my perfect recall to remember precisely where I was 10 years ago.

Actually, that's not entirely true. Normally, I can barely remember what I got up to yesterday, let alone a random date a decade ago.

But then, that day in question wasn't so random.

Because I got married 10 years ago today, May 3 2003, marking this as the 10th anniversary of . . . a date which will live in apathy (I really hope the wife doesn't read that last bit, in fairness).

And all I can say is . . . what the hell just happened in the last 10 years?

But first, the wedding.

The only thing I was entrusted to take care of was the music and that, as far as I am concerned, is all it takes for a good wedding – forget about the food, forget about the location, get some good tunes in and you're half-way there.

The day itself remains a bit of a blur – although I do remember one particular seating problem when it emerged that two of our mutual friends were actually in the process of suing each other for libel and simply refused to be seated at the same table.

The pair of them spent 20 minutes between them angrily shouting that they would die before breaking bread together.

So how did this seemingly intractable stand-off finish? Well, I'd like to say it was the result of intensive diplomacy on my part, involving the kind of intricate negotiations that could teach the lads in the Middle East a thing or two.

However, when it comes to diplomacy I'm probably more Henry Kissinger than George Mitchell and the two spanners in front of me insisted on digging their heels in – neither one even cared at that point, they just wouldn't be the first to back down.

Thankfully, the situation was resolved when the missus appeared, appraised herself of the situation and simply said something along the lines of how she respected their position. Now she only had to choose which of them would like to be blamed, and subsequently punished, for causing a scene at her wedding.

This ensured that the two hot heads bravely ran away from the possibility of conflict and they quietly sat down and had their dinner together.

Look and learn from that incident, Bibi Netanyahu – bring a stressed bird in a wedding dress into the territorial negotiations with the Palestinians and automatically every bloke in the room will simply back off and give her what she wants.

But what's been puzzling me is . . . does all this feel like yesterday or does it seem a lifetime ago?

I suppose the latter, to be honest. Not because every day since has been a long, arduous trudge through domestic mundanity and marital discord (I really must brush up on my romantic writing) but because none who were there that night had a bloody clue what was coming down the pipe.

That's not to say we were all into property or had been bitten by that ludicrous speculation bug that has left so many Irish people destitute.

No, we were, for the most part, (relatively) young men who worked hard, played harder (it's still a source of amazement to all of that group that none of us were sacked during that period) and felt that we were on the verge of something big.

Not that anyone was going to give us anything for nothing – myself and my friends had more disposable income because were getting more work and paying less in tax than we are now.

Like the vast majority of people who would have just turned 30, back then was a great time to be alive in Ireland – the possibilities were everywhere and not just here, either.

I found myself writing for some American magazines and somehow managed to get bits of TV and radio work in the States – fast forward a decade and the publications I occasionally scribbled for simply no longer exist and all the American news networks have effectively shut down their European bureaux.

Fast forward to now and how have things changed?

Well, as could be expected, half the people who were there that night are no longer around for one reason or another – four of those who attended have since died, for instance.

On the odd occasion when that day does come up in conversation – usually in terms of the music that was on offer – we tend to look at each other in bemusement, as if we were reviewing someone else's home video – was that us? Were we really that convinced we could take over the world?

Well, you know what?

That was us – regardless of the occupation of the people who were there that day, they all had one common denominator: confidence.

I don't mean that horrible, tacky brashness that some people had. I'm simply talking about a bunch of people who were confident in their own ability – rightly or wrongly – and felt that if the breaks went their way they could do anything they bloody well wanted.

Ten years ago (plus a few days) I would find myself sitting in Solas in New York meeting up with some old friends before heading down to Maui on honeymoon for a few weeks' R+R – a little slice of heaven that became a tradition we only stopped last year when it just became financial madness.

That confidence is largely gone from my friends these days, and the possibilities that seemed so reasonable back then now, in an age where having Sky Sports is apparently a sign of extravagant wealth, seem other-worldly.

So, from the blind, benign optimism of a decade ago (work hard and reap the guilt free rewards), I now feel like Ray Liotta in the very last scene from Goodfellas: "I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I'm an average nobody . . . get to live the rest of my life like a schnook."

Oh well, it was nice while it lasted . . .

Irish Independent

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