Tuesday 21 November 2017

Tanya Sweeney: We're having notions about ourselves again

Tanya Sweeney
Tanya Sweeney

Proof positive that we are back to having serious notions about ourselves: earlier this month, a doughnut shop opened in Aungier Street.

So far, so unremarkable - we've had doughnuts on this island for many a year. But these ones, created in the mould of the shotput-thick American classics, were a different breed entirely. Within minutes of opening, the amusingly-monikered Aungier Danger had sold out of their stock. And so it went for days.

Weeks previously, the American burger chain In'n'Out popped up for one afternoon in the capital, prompting an orgiastic Instagram flurry and people foaming at the gills as though they'd never seen meat sandwiched in bread before. Elsewhere, a 'gourmet hot-dog' restaurant, Porndog, serves hot dogs with truffles and prawns. All very humorous for us bystanders, but seriously. No-tions.

Rarely a day goes by where we don't hear of Dubliners forking out for €5 cups of tea, €7 pints and, in one unfortunate city-centre case, a €43.30 hotel fry-up. We're having avocados on everything and flat whites with everything.

Officially, the boom is back… albeit with a facelift. And a new haircut.

If we are indeed in the throes of the 'Celtic Phoenix', the Phoenix Cubs are an even more maligned species than their forebears. A decade ago, Celtic Cubs had distinctive markings and mannerisms. Men proudly wore highlights and bad tans; women squeezed into bandage dresses and Swarovski stilettos. Life was bling and proudly showing off your ostentatious wares was nothing out of the ordinary. Nor were weekend shopping trips to New York, helicopters to the races and a blast of fresh air at Brown Thomas' oxygen bar in 2001. Citywest's Tassagard Green was the cubs' Ground Zero and the rest of us could only stand by and marvel at the high-octane shenanigans of star players like Mark Kershaw, Marcus Sweeney, Kevin McGinley and PJ Mansfield. As if that weren't enough dolla-dolla hi-jinks, it was reported that Rosanna Davison took a private plane with Johnny Ronan for an impromptu overnighter to Morocco, as you did. Or in most cases, didn't.

Cometh the hour of the recession, there was much blather about going 'back to basics' and 'back to our roots'. The subtext being, we'd lost the run of ourselves and it was time to end the gaudy, heady panto. For a few years, going back to basics meant cartwheeling off the daily grind, bidding adieu to the carousel of spending and smelling the roses. It became gauche to be waving about designer labels and wallet-busting gadgets.

So now, we find ourselves at an interesting juncture. Mindful of how their Celtic Cubs predecessors were derided, the Phoenix Cubs are a slightly different breed. Far from being showy or flamboyant, the Phoenix Cub flaunts his aspirational streak in a different way.

Part hipster, part SoCoDu tyrant, the Phoenix Cub doffs his cap towards the creative, the individualistic and the artisanal (while being none of them).

They frequent nu-shabby bars with painstakingly faux-distressed furniture, like Blackbird in Rathmines or P. Mac's on Stephen Street. They drink Fevertree tonic water or 'homemade coolers' (far from it etc.). They look to Ian Madigan and Gordon D'Arcy for grooming tips They know how to pronounce Staropramen and enjoy 'fauxronic' karaoke. They stand in the front row of vogueish gigs like Father John Misty or Beach House and chat loudly about the demise of the tracker mortgage.

A different breed, certainly, though no less annoying than their permatanned, frosted-tipped equivalents from yesteryear. At least the Celtic Cubs were honest and unapologetic about their grandiose consumerism. Instead, the Phoenix Cubs are likely to believe that they are being earthy and down-home.

Whatever the future of the species, it looks as though interesting times are ahead for everyone. Is the recession over and done with? Certainly, the numbers add up to light at the end of the tunnel: look at the profits in joints across the capital from Copper Face Jacks (€5.6m in 2013) to Patrick Guildbaud's restaurant (€356k for August 2012-3). And in August last year, the two-Michelin-star eaterie reported its best trading year in its 33-year history.

It all begs the question. Are the good times really here? Or are some of us just carrying on like they are in a fit of wild optimism? Throw a dart at a bus stop and you're likely to hit several folk for whom the 'good times' are little more than fiction. Personally, I miss the dry spell. Things were so much nicer when we were all in this together, getting our credit cards declined in Tesco and drinking builder's tea in the comfort of our own homes.

And of course, all the Staropramen in the world won't soften the cold, hard truth. Were things to go belly up once again, we won't even be able to blame folly or naivete this time. Avocado-topped kale for thought.

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