I’m a bit of a genealogy buff, so I have a soft spot for Northern Ireland, as some of my ancestors come from County Antrim. That was back in 1729, but still. You can take the Irish out of Ireland, but you can’t take the Ireland out of the Irish, if you know what I mean.
I’ve been following the economic decline of that great country for years now, and this morning I read something that stopped me in my tracks and elicited a bout of hysterical, bitter laughter:
Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on a Fermanagh facelift as the county prepares for the G8 summit in just under three weeks’ time, but locals complain the work paid for by the local council and the Stormont Executive is little more than skin deep.
More than 100 properties within range of the sumptuous Lough Erne resort which hosts the world’s wealthiest leaders, have been tidied up, painted or power-hosed.
Just a few weeks ago, Flanagan’s – a former butcher’s and vegetable shop in the neat village – was cleaned and repainted with bespoke images of a thriving business placed in the windows. Any G8 delegate passing on the way to discuss global capitalism would easily be fooled into thinking that all is well with the free-market system in Fermanagh. But, the facts are different.
Now, you might wonder why this struck me as so funny, as it’s ridiculous, but not really shocking. It’s just that it reminds me of a story than a former Russian soldier told me once.
He said that they were stationed in a town that was relatively poor and run-down. It was also a rather dry place, and could no longer afford to water the grass, so all of the grass turned brown and went dormant. Then they got a message that a Russian flag officer would be arriving the next week for a visit, and they went to work cleaning up the town for him.
The first thing they did was spray-paint all of the grass green.