The summer that never came…
The chemist chop I went into to pick up a few things had a notice on the counter to say it wasn’t their fault, it was Mary Harney’s. They couldn’t fill HSE prescriptions and their best advice to patients was to contact Mary Harney – office address and phone numbers supplied – or their local Government TDs, names and numbers also supplied.
I was the only customer in the shop. Perhaps that was normal. Behind the counter they all appeared a bit grim. Perhaps that was normal too. Later that evening the IPU announced that they were calling off the strike. All to do with patient safety, they said.
I couldn’t help wondering if it had more to do with empty chemists’ shops whose customers could be relied on to buy a few other bits and bobs as they waited to have their prescriptions filled? Or the realisation that their protest action was going nowhere politically? Or that a recession-bruised public had more on their minds than sympathy with pharmacists and their shops full of overpriced medicines, shampoos and designer-label bath lotions?
Along the main streets of every small town we passed through on our western seaboard holiday there were 70% off sales in every second shop, closing down sales, shops units with signs for lease or sale, sticking out like a reproach. The unoccupied office and apartment blocks, the holiday home schemes that remain half finished, trim the outskirts of middling sized country towns like jaded baubles on a christmas tree that someone forgot to throw out after the last holiday.
In the pubs and restaurants proprietors claim they’re doing all right themselves, but pity about the other fellow down the street and lament the lack of visitors, the notable dearth of Americans and English this year, while welcoming the French. Perhaps they had not noticed the French so much before because there were so many others around to swamp their presence in other years?
People speak in hushed tones about local businessmen who’ve not been seen around and about for weeks, who are crushed and humiliated by the failure of their enterprises and whose only consolation is that there are bigger players locally who have fallen spectacularly too. They worry about the future and what’s yet to come. It can only get worse before it gets better, they say. They’re resigned to that, if stupified as to the reasons for it and its effects on their lives. They have no space left for sympathy for pharmacists or any other interest group who may seek to protect their own position, and profits, at the expense of the broader community. It’s as if they’re all waiting for something, like the good weather that never came.