Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spanish Miracles

Rain rain. Go to Spain.
Come back on Mammy's washing day.

There are many variations to that little nursery rhyme. That's the one we used back in the day. Chests leaning against the back of the sofa. Football in between leaving an imprint, like a giant measle.  Looking out the window on sullen summer days. Heads peering out under Mother's lace curtains, looking for a gap in the clouds. Anything that might give us hope of a 12-hour kick about. Trying to ignore the shouts from herself for breathing on the window and drawing - well, mine were matchstick somethings. Yep, that bad.
   If memory serves me correctly - summers of the '70, '80 and '90's were not as bad as they have been over the past decade or so. A months rain fell in 36 hours this week. Flowers drowned. In June?
   Luckily, kids don't have to rely on a football as their sole source of fun these days. If it rains they just shift inside, that is assuming they actually do wander out occasionally. Big screen TV's and play - boxes now. (No free-advertising around here. There's a depression on)

The rain may never have went where it was willed to go, but the dark clouds of a bank bailout loom large over Spain as I write. Sums of between €40 and €100 billion are being mentioned. Spain are in a strong negotiating position on terms. By strong I mean, they have the capacity to take the whole Euro down. They know it and I'm sure the Germans and Co do too. Just can't see them applying the same interest rates Ireland accepted. Steered willingly into an economic abyss.
   The terms aside, the situation does threaten to throw the country back to the days prior to the Spaniards own Celtic Tiger, the Spanish Miracle.
   Franco's Spain, having been shunned after the Second World War, set technocrats, many of whom were members of the Opus Dei Catholic 'movement'- set polices in place which would see a dramatic change in Spanish fortunes, before eventually becoming the 9th largest in the world.
   The boom lasted until the mid-seventies when the oil crisis stunted it phenomenal growth. Spain continued to grow as they entered the Euro in 2002, but an inflated property bubble... well, you all know the rest.
   With unemployment bordering on 25% - the Euro zone's worst - and austerity the name of the game - the bailout of Spanish banks would seem to be the final nail in the Spanish economic coffin and perhaps also in the Euro itself if contagion catches on and spreads. A run on Spanish banks since the beginning of the year has seen the departure of €100 billion, with a notable acceleration in recent months.
   Across the pond in the US, Barack Obama is calling Europe out as the source of American economic ill. But with a debt of $15 trillion themselves - much down to the fighting of illegal wars - he perhaps should be thinking about taking back control of his own currency from the private Federal Reserve and serving the people currently holing up in vast tent cities springing up right across the US. Not their American dream, for sure.
   Who knows? A new currency. A bonding. A whole new order. 

'I'm sorry, you not get job,' Gus said, relaying the bad news to me. Linda had done what she could, but...
   'I sure you were in the bag,' he said, looking like a puzzled mathematician trying to figure out the meaning to all.
   'Don't worry about it,' I said. I meant it too. It didn't seem to matter to what appeared to be a person close to despondency. For feck sake! It was 12-15 hours a week. Alternative night. The latter end of them. A smidgen above the minimum wage.
   'Everything must be finished by 7am,' Angela had said. A broad lady in a corporate suit. Slightly 'tached in the corners of her mouth. Bowler haircut. Linda told me she was the head of Human Resources. Out from HQ for the week. To conduct interviews. Countrywide. I hope she hires a few. Unemployment is up to 14.8% - another damning stat to weigh against government policy. She listed the duties, the expectations and the wage.
   'Any questions?' she said, taking up my application forms and hitting them end-up off the desk in front of her.
   Fuck it!
   'How soon can I have your job?' I asked.
   'Pardon me,' she said.
   'Advancement?' I said. 'Within the structure.' I tried to sound like one of those interns - so hungry for success I'd work for nothing. Even take scolding. To get to where it is they need to go. Before they're shown the door - reduced to a new societal low. The booted contemporary slave. 
   'Shall we just get you started first?' she tried to smile.
   'So, you're offering me the job?'
   'Sorry. If we get you started.' I looked around. Nope. No-one else.
   'We?' I asked.
   I could almost see her face cheeks begin to blush. Not that pale shy blush. More like that wine angry blush.
   'I"LL let you know,' she said, rising. That hadn't worked out as planned. I thought a little pre-employment foreplay might have worked in my favour. I'm no oil-painting - but I reckoned Ang was there for the pulling. Call it intuition. I began to rise.
   'Any idea when?'  I said - sounding pleasant.
   'How about right now, Mr. Booker? she said. I gulped. Why did I even open my mouth? That table would never hold the two of us.
   'I've seen 17 candidates since 9-30am this morning. You have been the worst. If I count in all those I've seen this week, which is 159 - you rank in the bottom three.'
   That's the table out, so!
   'You can read between the lines,' she began, before referring to my application again. 'Yes. You being a writer and the such?!'
I was beaten. The pain of rejection never felt so good. We stood there for a few seconds. Eye-balling. Hers, a steely grey. Mine, trying not to blink. Trying hard to win.
   'Bottom three. That bad?' I asked - breaking the stare-out. My eyes were watering.
   'Bottom three,' she confirmed - firmly. 'To be perfectly honest - I don't know how you even got the interview. The companies weaning protocol seems to have been abandoned for some reason.'
   What? I was just about to mention Linda's involvement when a sudden good idea passed through my numb-skull.
   Take the good fortune and run.
   'Thanks for the opportunity,' I said, dismissing myself.
   It poured from the heavens as I made my way home. Smiling - like a hung-over stop-out. That had just got laid. My shirt was nearly through my skin by the time I got in. Felt great.
'Linda could not have word for you. It is only reason. Usually her friend, she do hiring,' Gustav said. 'Don't worry. Next time. We make sure.'
   No. There would be no next time. Not there anyway. I confessed what had happened. I confessed I didn't really want the job. I confessed to having worked in the past for rogue traders - of the building type. When Ireland had such types. Before NAMA ended up employing most of them.
   I told him how pay never met the conditions. How, when a particular job ended - it meant JOB ENDED. How safety infractions were blindly encouraged. A 'no-one around to see' policy. How unions were crap. How my knee and hip flare up in the cold weather now. How, if I possibly could, I wanted to rely on no-one now. Paying tax at over 40% - and still paying for every service out there. No, there was no sense being sycophantic at this stage. No-one to rely on except the balding 40-something, live-in recluse that sat drinking tea before him.
   Not that that had worked either. I told him of my difficulty since in that pursuit. He sat and listened. Like an unpaid therapist. Like I used to for Leon.
   'You know what it is you do,' he said, with a wink. 'I am happy for you.' But that was the trouble. I don't! No-one has a clue what they are doing much anymore. Not even those elected with that responsibility.
A few years ago the mere mention of The Bilderberg Group led to taunts of nutty conspiracy theorist. Now the elite secret little club with a chequered history has seeped into the mainstream. They met for cocktails and ceremony last week. Not quite as far behind the shut door behind which they used to sit - talking. Drinking brandy. Talking shop.
   Who was among this invitation-only exclusive billionaire club last week? Good old Michael Noonan. You'd wonder why? What a finish to his final days in politics. Who'd have thought that when he stepped aside for the Kenny reign to begin. The tongueless taoiseach.
   While such swagger goes on and the gap between the wealthiest within society and the rest of us widens at record pace - in times of austerity - whatever is going on in Syria now threatens to implode, as government forces loyal to the Assad regime butcher civilians - women and children amongst them. One Syrian I saw on TV last night cried with his eyes to the heavens shouting - 'The Jews didn't even do this to us.'
   Assad denies it all - as any elected, unopposed dictator would do. UN resolutions have failed and the country stands on the verge of civil war. Veto's remain the block to international intervention. The Russians and Chinese on this occasion. Putin didn't turn up at the recent G-8 summit at Camp David - instead sending his swap-a-role, right-hand-man, Medvedev.
    An intervention is the best case scenario from what I can see - for if things kick off in that region, well, as some might say, it would be like opening up the gates to Hell.
   Does beggar the question though. Who is arming the Syrian rebels? One would have thought in a dictatorship, controls of such things would be top-priority.
   It can't be the vetoing countries. That wouldn't be protecting their interests. No. Definitely not them. Geo-political interests exchange terms like 'genocide' for 'condemnation' sometimes. To serve those interests.
   It's easy to see why the Americans want to move in. Right next door to Iran - current public enemy number 1.  They must be feeling awfully claustrophobic with all those NATO and American bases surrounding their immediate borders at the minute. Watching. Waiting. Wanting.
   Best shut-up. Wouldn't want a droning. You never know what can happen nowadays. When Mayo is rattled with an earthquake - anything is possible. 

'So how did the test go?' I said, breaking a silence.
   'Exam. English exam.'
   'Don't even talk,' he said. 'Seamus Heaney - he never showed up.'
   'That's unfortunate,' I said - not sure what else to say. I'm sure Seamus Heaney didn't have to do the exam.
   'I think it will pass though,' he said.

Here's praying to it.

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