Róisín Ingle: Do your patriotic duty and give in to your raging consumerist instincts

It will feel nothing but fulfilling to spend in Irish restaurants, hotels and surf schools

‘It will feel positively patriotic to spend money at surf schools this summer.’ File photograph: Eamon Ward

‘It will feel positively patriotic to spend money at surf schools this summer.’ File photograph: Eamon Ward

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Later, when the documentary we are living through is finished, part of the soundtrack of this particular episode will be all those radio ads telling us to get back out there and consume. I was laughing with a friend about this the other day, about the copywriters of the ads trying to reflect everything we’ve been living through before they remind us of our raging consumerist tendencies before lockdown:

“We know you’ve taken up yoga/learnt a bit of Mandarin/mastered the art of sourdough and that’s fantastic and all, but remember when you used to go to shiny motor showrooms and think about getting a new car? Well come on down, you can do that again, the regulations have lifted. Isn’t it only fantastic? Terms and conditions apply.”

One of those radio ads had got it so deeply on the money, right down to a detail about a father’s daily table tennis practice with a young daughter in lockdown, that my friend thought someone in the advertising agency had been spying on him. And he doesn’t even have one of those “creepy” smart speakers listening to him in his house.

You don’t need to be David McWilliams to know that, economically, things are grim for the country, and will be for some time as the true cost of getting the virus under control emerges. The economy needs to get moving again and we need to start spending, but you’d wonder will those lucky enough to have money to spend be as keen to go back to spending it on the same things they were buying before.

Listen to enough of the ads – “Spend, spend! Buy, buy!”– and you could start to think it was nothing short of our patriotic duty to get back out there and flash the cash.

So how exactly will you be answering Ireland’s call?

Well, I don’t want more stuff. I don’t need more stuff. But I’m keener, since the pandemic, to spend money on experiences like a holiday in Ireland, or a “staycation”, as we all seem to be calling them now.

Not everyone is happy about this development. The travel writer Philip Nolan is killed telling people on social media that a staycation is not the correct term and should only be used if you are exploring local attractions and sleeping in your own bed every night. Holidays in Ireland are, strictly speaking, called “home holidays”. I saw one person on Twitter trying to get “Stalliday” trending. Stalling the ball, holidaying at home.

For better or worse though, the “staycation” horse has well and truly bolted, even as people rage against it in a country where we go on holliers, not vacations. Some are even blaming The Irish Times for the now widespread use of the abominable Americanisation.

As Enda Kenny might have said, this is the best little country for a forced staycation

And sorry but the paraphrased refrain of a song keeps playing in my head: “Staycation once again, staycation once again!” Whatever about shiny new cars, it will feel positively patriotic to spend money in those Irish restaurants or hotels that are able to open. In the ice-cream parlours and surf schools. At the tourist attractions and gift shops.

I am heading west soon, to Co Clare, where the caravan and camping holidays of my childhood took place. Since having kids in 2009 we’ve only been on holidays outside Ireland a handful of times. After months of restrictions and limitations, the idea of pointing the car west, driving for miles and even stopping for a break at the Barack Obama Plaza for doughnuts and coffee feels exhilarating and exotic.

As for consumerism, I want to spend money on a seafood platter in Linnane’s seafood bar on the Flaggy Shore while I watch my kids pier jumping. I want to buy scones in the Rock Shop with my mother. I want to splurge on face cream in the Burren Perfumery and on truffles from the Hazel Mountain chocolate factory. I want to dive into the ocean, into the water and the waves at Lahinch and White Strand and Fanore and Inis Oírr, if the islanders are letting people in.

As Enda Kenny might have said, this is the best little country for a forced staycation. From Kerry to Achill Island, from Donegal to the Antrim coast. How lucky we are to live in a country that facilitates magical and mystical holidays come rain, hail or shine.

We can chill out in our special, favourite places: from the Dingle Skellig Hotel in Kerry to Roundwood House in the lovely county of Laois. We can pitch a tent, or park up a camper van, from the mountains to the sea, everywhere close to somewhere else full of the kind of natural beauty money cannot buy.

Sing it with me:

“And from that time, through wildest woe,
That hope has shone a far light,
Nor could love’s brightest summer glow
Outshine that solemn starlight;
It seemed to watch above my head
In forum, field and fane,
Its angel voice sang ’round my bed,
Staycation, once again!”

roisin@irishtimes.com