PHILIP NOLAN MY VIEW
We treat the Famine as if it happened yesterday yet have learned nothing from a decade of boom and bust
If there has been one positive aspect of the austerity years, then it has been the demise of dinner- party chatter about property prices (the demise of the dinner party itself probably is the second-best thing about our readjusted reality – there’s only so much squid ink pasta a man can eat before he demands a decent steak and a platter of chunky chips).
Back at the height of what we used to call the boom and now refer to as the bubble, entire evenings could be whiled away on horror stories of househunters finding that the property they expected to buy for € 300,000 went for twice that at auction.
Of course, a happier view of such excess was taken by those who were selling, when they realised that far from looking to spend the windfall on a bijou mews in Dublin 4, they now could put down a deposit on Bulgaria. All of it.
In the past few years, it seemed as if we had outgrown such nonsense, yet now there is the sneaking feeling, especially in Dublin and other major urban areas, that those days are back.
With new builds virtually at a standstill, existing housing stock cannot offer enough sale properties to cater for demand. Not only are purchase prices rising, rents also are going through the metaphorical roof. In Ireland, we treat the Famine as if it happened yesterday, but seem to have learned nothing from a decade of boom and bust.
And that’s why, this week, I’m telling you what programme I actually won’t be watching. It’s Desperate House Buys, tomorrow night at 9.40pm on RTÉ One.
I’ve had enough of that malarkey to last me many lifetimes, believe me. Tom Hollander gives a compelling performance as the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (above, with Essie Davis as his wife Caitlin) in this feature-length drama, expertly scripted by Andrew Davies. It chronicles Thomas’s final, fatal visit to New York in 1953, where he gave readings, was lionised, and managed to complete Under Milk Wood. But what he mostly did was party, chase women and drink self-destructively. It’s a tribute to Hollander’s performance that he manages to make this self-indulgent drunk so likeable. This is a sad tale, but there are welcome flashbacks to happier times when Thomas’s life seemed full of promise, and well-chosen passages from his writings to remind us of what a talent he once had.