HEART BEAT:Classic fairy tale has resonance for us in present times
'IRELAND IS the old sow that eats her farrow," wrote James Joyce in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It's a bit like the tale of the three little pigs. In case you have forgotten this instructive story, I will endeavour to re-tell it, casting it in present times.
A little background to this story- telling exercise might be appropriate. My return to Dublin this year from Kerry was through the beautiful, remote, fuchsia-laden countryside of west Cork. I was bound for Baltimore and thence by ferry to Clear Island, Ireland’s southernmost island, lying eight miles off the coast and three miles from the Fastnet Rock.
The HA and I were there, courtesy of Anne Murray, director and the committee of the 16th Cape Clear Island International Storytelling Festival.
It was my first visit to this beautiful island. It won’t be my last. If you never heard a story it is still a magical place to visit. It is breathtakingly beautiful, with magnificent seascapes viewed from rugged cliffs which overhang sheltered coves and mysterious caves. It is the foremost site for bird watching in Ireland with a year-round warden and observatory. It has been settled for 3,000 years and from a population of 1,200 in the early 1800s it has declined to about 120 people now. About half of these are native islanders and the rest are folk who have come here to appreciate the quality of island life.
Is there any way to help Ireland’s island communities? They are hardy self-contained groups, but they do lack amenities freely available to their mainland cousins. To encourage their tourist potential, could we make the islands VAT free? To encourage residence and local entrepreneurship, could we make the islands income tax free or taxed at token rates?
In any case, there we were, listening to great practitioners of the art of storytelling and luckily not being required to sing for our supper. This leads me to try a tale on you.
Once upon a time there was a mother pig that had three offspring. They grew up eating and drinking and scrounging until she threw them out into the world with a warning about wicked wolves. The first little pig got a job and bought a straw house from a developer (dressed as a sheep) at a vastly inflated price.
The second little pig was a bit smarter, he got a better job and went to a friendly bank wolf, in a pin-striped suit, who lent him all the money required to buy a fine wooden house. Furthermore, he gave him all the money to furnish the house and for good measure to buy new cars for himself and his wife.
The third little pig looked around the bubble in which they were all living happily and thought, “This is money for old rope. I’ll join the big pigs in the tent in Galway and become a Developer Pig.” He built himself a fine brick house in a choice location and got a helicopter, a yacht and a few horses, living as his friends did “high off the hog”. He lost touch with his brothers who were working hard to pay their mortgages on their grossly overvalued properties. Developer Pig couldn’t understand that. He never repaid anything. He simply borrowed more and built another folly.
One sad day the bubble burst and the little pigs were exposed to the real world. A really bad wolf called Nama was unleashed and quickly blew away the straw house of the first pig, who had just lost his job. The second pig lost his wife’s car, the private school fees, the VHI subscriptions and finally the wooden house itself. A sadder and wiser pig, he emigrated to Australia.
Developer Pig was made of sterner stuff. He baldly asserted that he had done nothing wrong and that Nama wolf could blow as hard as he liked but that he’d still be secure behind his brick walls. He threatened that if Nama wolf tried to come down the chimney after him, that he would have his friendly lawyer pigs move a vat of boiling water into the fireplace.
There ends the morality tale. The first two pigs, the little pigs, were eaten up and destroyed. Developer Pig just told Nama and everyone else to hump off while he moved his assets offshore. He gave them all the two trotters, seemingly secure in the knowledge that his old buddies, whom he used get hoarse with in the tent, would save his hide. Maybe he should realise, by the hair on his chinny chin chin, that those porkers save their own bacon first.