Veering West

COLM TOBIN: Mindful of the price of heating those billionaires’ big homes

May 31st, 2022 7:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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LISTEN, can you promise  to read this article even if I tell you that I have begun practising a bit of mindfulness of late?

I totally understand your urge to fire the paper into the bin at the mere mention of the word.

I realise every Z-list celebrity chef has their own mental health and mindfulness podcast at this stage.

We’re facing into an epidemic of calm if we’re not careful!

But hear me out. The thing is – meditation is actually quite a practical, no-nonsense sort of thing when you get into the weeds of it. There’s nothing revolutionary about it at all, bar the results.

As those of you who practise will know, it’s all about finding a few small islands of calm throughout the day to reset your mind so you’re not bouncing around the place like a Duracell bunny with monkeypox.

I only mention it in passing this week because it’s been helping me keep things in perspective in the face of some, let’s be honest, pretty triggering headlines.

So when I read this week the report that Irish billionaires’ wealth rose by €16bn during the pandemic, I didn’t revert to type and immediately start firing my shoes at the television. Nope.

And when I read that the wealth of the world’s billionaires rose more in the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic than it did the previous 23 years combined, I didn’t immediately drive to the sea to fling my iPad into the water. No way hosé!

Instead, I focused on my breathing, took stock of all the things I have to be thankful for and took a few moments to consider what day-to-day life would be like for a typical member of the upper echelons of the 1%.

I mean, can you imagine it? The constant ‘earnings’ conference calls? The daily taxi to the runway and from the runway in your private plane, just to keep the tax residency kosher? The wine-ing, the dining, the flying halfway around the world to Davos spewing fumes into the atmosphere so you can do a keynote address on climate action?  Not for me. When I see a big house, all I can think about is how long it would take to hoover the thing.

‘That’d be very hard to heat’, is what I generally say to my wife when presented with anything north of 100 square metres.

You’d have to ask yourself – what would you do with all that money?

Cheaper to buy a car

UNFORTUNATELY, the answer to that question is ‘try taking a holiday in Ireland’.

If recent reports are anything to go by – a thousand, million euro would just about cover a three-star hotel in Dublin for a weekend and car hire to take you on a day trip to Tayto Park. Whatever about the rising cost of living which is hitting us all harder with each passing month, the situation for visitors to Ireland now seems to have reached Father Ted proportions of silliness.

We all know hotel prices are off the charts. Then there was the story during the week about an American tourist who was quoted €10,000 to rent a car in Ireland for three weeks this summer. Do they get to keep the car at the end, like?

And after they fork out all that money, they still have to join a queue for up to three days in Dublin Airport to get home again! They’re trying to leave the country, not secure Garth Brooks tickets!

The whole situation reached its cultural and political zenith earlier in the week when it emerged that Fianna Fail senator Eugene Murphy had to sleep in his car as he couldn’t find a hotel room in Dublin for under €200 a night.

It begs the question – if we’re at the ‘providing emergency accommodation for Fianna Fáil senator’ stage of this economic cycle, maybe there’s a better, more sustainable way to run our society?

A special musician

I WAS devastated to hear about the passing of Cathal Coughlan earlier this week – an undervalued, incendiary force in Irish music, a fascinating, contrary singer and songwriter best known for his work with Microdisney and Fatima Mansions. Later, during his solo career, he made a fascinating turn into a more European style of songwriting and theatrical performance.

Cathal was born in Glounthaune but spent much of his adult life in the UK, ploughing a very singular furrow which though commercially hit-and-miss, was never boring. I had a passing acquaintance with Cathal when he featured in a mock documentary I made about the Cork music scene many years ago called May Fame. He was a gentleman and I only learned this week that his grandmother was from Skibb, something I would have loved to talk to him about, given that mine was too.

Anyway, if you are unaware of Coughlan’s music, it’s all on Spotify and other major streaming services. Enjoy the ride – it gets bumpy!

RIP Cathal.

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