Opinion The June bank holiday is made for fun so enough with the finger-wagging
OK, here’s a typically controversial and, dare I say, brave statement — I love bank holiday weekends. But while every bank holiday is to be welcomed, I have a particularly soft spot for the one we’re enjoying this weekend. That’s because, for about 10 years, I spent every June bank holiday down in Kilkenny at the Cat Laughs comedy festival. Covering comedy was my beat at the time, and it didn’t get much better than the Cat Laughs. Kilkenny is a cracking town and that legendary festival elevated the place even more. I spent many days on the lash with the great Johnny Vegas. I had the kind of night out with Canadian comic Mike Wilmot that could never be retold in a family newspaper. I became pally with Emo Philips. I discussed politics with Lewis Black. I swapped recommendations with Rich Hall for the best American alt-country bands at the time. It was all very debauched and decadent and, as you can imagine, enormously enjoyable. Of course, I was younger back then and had the stamina to go for two or three nights without much sleep. Why sleep when you’re having so much fun? Over time, the grind just became too hard. The moment I knew it was time to throw in the towel came when I was driven back to Dublin at 7am on the Monday morning to start my shift in the newsroom and I realised that I was just getting too old for it all. I’ve been thinking about those fondly remembered days a lot this week. Both because it reminds me of when I could still get up to that sort of behaviour — if I tried it today I’d probably just keel over and die — but also because it reminds me that, at the moment, nobody else can have that kind of that experience. This pandemic has brought many home truths to us all. In my case, one of those home truths is that I’m actually beginning to be comfortable with my advancing decrepitude. But for tens of thousands of us, our favourite bank holiday events are simply not happening this year. Some have been cancelled entirely. Other traditional bank holiday staples, such as the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon are just being conducted online and/or postponed to later in the year. While I’m happy to become an old fart and sit out in my back garden, that’s a luxury and a privilege denied to so many of us — particularly younger people who have spent much of the last 15 months stuck inside their apartment or, even worse, forced to go back to live with their parents. That was the thing that really struck me about the frequently chaotic scenes we witnessed around the country last week and which will be repeated, with gusto, this weekend. Contrary to the professional scolds and the finger-waggers, the people who congregated on George’s Street and South William Street weren’t anti-social monsters determined to ruin the lives of city-centre residents. No, they were simply young people who were letting off a bit of steam. In years to come, when we look back and analyse the various impacts of the lockdown, one of the most startling aspects will surely be the way the generations quickly turned on each other. Back in March 2020, when this terrible nightmare first began to grab us all by the throat, one of the main mantras was ‘we’re all in this together.’ That was a rather fanciful platitude. It was also completely incorrect. Because when push comes to shove, people will always turn on each other and look for a scapegoat. It’s one of the less admirable aspects of human nature and we saw numerous examples of it this week. I was listening to one radio phone-in and it sounded like a parody of the genre. Older folk were up in arms at the sight of so many young people gathering together. Younger kids were then quickly on the phone defending their behaviour and condemning the fuddy-duddies for judging them. It was depressing as it was predictable. If I have one quibble with the gangs that gathered together last weekend, and who will probably do it again tonight and tomorrow night, it was the amount of litter that was left behind. The argument about the lack of bins has a point — to a point. But the reality is that if you can bring a bag of cans out onto the street, you should be able to keep that bag to bring the empty cans home with you. It’s hardly rocket science, is it? Frankly, the thoughts of standing in the middle of the street while slugging back a few tins fills me with horror — but I’m not in my twenties. That’s why I won’t judge those kids who went on the lash — they were like puppies who had just escaped from their cage. What did we expect them to do when they saw their first chink of daylight in a year? Things have been hard enough for everyone but there’s a rather unpleasant element of competition about who has it had it the toughest. However, as is often the case, the answer is staring us all straight in the face — everyone has had it tough, just for different reasons. So enough with the judgemental attitudes — from both sides. After all, we’re all in this together, right?