Whispering Blue comes into the living room bearing two strong sweet mugs of tea.
“Thanks mate. Don’t know what came over me today in town, but I know I didn’t like it.”
“Why? What happened?”
“I left a trail of destruction in my wake, that’s what happened. Mad, really. Out there alone with the dog for days, really looking forward to coming into Galway, and then, oh dear god….”
Dropping my face into my hands I sigh and groan.
“Just went mental, mate. Shouting and screaming at people in shops and banks. Everything just seemed so bloody annoying. I apologised though, didn’t leave innocent victims wondering what they’d done. ‘Cept for the woman in the bank, She got no apology. Soon as I saw her grumpy face I knew she was on one. Not one please thank you hello or goodbye. Makes me go the other way, so I’m saying please and thank you as many times as I can, smiling at her to try and get a response, but there was no point.”
“So you shouted at her?”
“No, not her. Before I left I just turned to her and said I was sure that somewhere in her training the use of ‘hello, please, thank you!’ must have made an appearance. No, she was out of order, but it’ll be a while ’til I show my face in Marks and Sparks again, I can tell you!” My friend smiled, sipped his tea and leaned back in his armchair.
“Go on. What happened?”
“Well it was the special offer. I’m having a bit of a problem in the head at the moment with so-called special offers, because my local SuperValu have been sending me coupons that I never get right. Either I forget to take them or have them in my wallet and forget to use them, or the date’s wrong or I haven’t spent enough.
“When I used to shop at Tescos I felt a bit scared about how accurate their marketing was. They offered me coupons for products I bought regularly and money off any shop over 25 quid. But the Supervalu send me vouchers for stuff I never buy and they keep changing the amount I need to spend.
“Used to be a tenner off a 60 quid shop, but now some weeks I’m meant to spend 110 quid, 100 another, but most weeks my shopping comes in just under the ton. If they’re trying to get me to spend more than I need so I can save money, they’ve chosen the wrong punter.
“Anyway, so Marks had this offer with the Indian and Chinese - three sides two mains for 14 quid. Curry and rice, Singapore noodles and mini ribs, lovely jubbly. ‘Cept at the checkout I didn’t get the offer and just flipped my lid. I was roaring and shouting and swearing, the lot. Shocking behaviour.
“The women working there are well nice, didn’t deserve it, so I made sure to apologise, but turns out that the bloody Singapore noodles weren’t part of the deal. Same size, same shelf pretty much same ingredients as yer chicken chow mien, but one is on special and one isn’t. Bottom line though, not feeling good about losing it like that. Not at all.”
“Ah, it’s not just you mate. I was raging in town the other day and I couldn’t even tell you why.”
That made me feel substantially better. Whispering Blue is a calm gentle man. During a friendship of over 20 years, I’ve seen him lose his temper on rare and memorable occasions, but never without good cause.
“I know what you mean about the special offers.” he continued.
“The ones that drive me crazy are the Sky Eircom UPC deals, where you only pay 35 for the first three months but then you’re tied to a contract for a year paying 70 a month.”
“I know! It’s like they think we’re absolute morons. Trouble is they wouldn’t keep doing it if it didn’t work, so there must be loads of people out there stuffed to the gills with bills they can’t pay. Then there’s those mad offers that make me worry for us as a species. Like, y’know, if you buy your car insurance from idiotdrivers.ie you’ll get a free soft toy? I mean, who decides to buy their car insurance with a company because they’re going to get a teddy bear? I ask you.”
For a second we mirror each other, sitting back in our chairs, sipping our teas in silence. Inevitably it is your scribbler that makes the first noise.
“It just feels so Us and Them out there. Maybe that’s why we’re getting angry. They pretend they’re offering us something special, when all it does is make us feel like we’re getting screwed yet again.”
“Sure, if it’s bad now, just wait ’til they bring in TTIP.”
“God I know. Out of our hands, negotiated beyond our control, it’s going to turn Europe into America. Workers rights? Gone. Free healthcare? Gone. Food safety? Gone. Data protection? Gone.”
My friend sighed as he replied.
“Crazy days indeed, and you know, one of the worst things about TTIP is the way it allows corporations to sue countries. Right now Germany’s being sued for 4.7 billion by some Swedish energy company, just because it voted against using nuclear energy after the Fukushima disaster.”
“Bloody hell, I didn’t know that! Pure madness, mate.”
“Yep, it’s an insane Merry Go Round. You’ve got corporations suing the same governments who offered them billions in tax incentive bribes - ”
“ - while we're getting done over by both!” I interrupted. “Void of humanity they are, mate, monolithic predators prodding and teasing each other. We’re nothing more than fodder to them. Here, d’ya remember those huge piles of sugar beet that used to be left at the side of the road? That’s us now, that is. We’re the sugar beet. We’re the fodder.”
“Another cuppa mate?”
“Lovely, thanks! Now, what about the footie? City are looking good, eh?”