I live in a small country. Pretty much everyone in Ireland knows everyone else.
Whenever my husband and I watch the news there is always at least one pundit/reporter/other person whom one or both of us knows. This evening, for example, there was a man from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign talking angrily about the Israeli attack on the flotilla coming into Gaza. “Oh” said my husband, “he was in college with me.” Pause. “He’s Jewish.” However, Mr. Waffle’s moment of the match this evening came when his bicycle (tied to a railing) was visible behind a reporter for several seconds.
Let me tell you another story. I met some new people through friends one evening. We were all chatting quite happily when one of the women I hadn’t met before (v. glamourous, pretty, beautifully made up, terrifying heels, long blonde hair) asked me what I thought of a topical political issue. I gave my view. She gave her diametrically opposed one. We discussed. She got crosser and crosser. Though her concern was legitimate, many of the facts she adduced to support her argument were wrong and I told her so (ever tactful). Our common friend, seeking, I thought, to give the conversation a safer direction, asked what we thought about Bono telling Ireland to meet its development aid targets while moving part of U2’s business to the Netherlands to avoid tax. As my friend said, “Where do they think governments get their money from? They get it from tax revenue and it is hypocritical of Bono to preach that revenue should be spent on development aid and then moving his tax payments elsewhere.” Although this was old news, I felt that it would give us some common ground as who would defend U2 in these circumstances. But no, this other woman mounted a spirited defence of U2’s tax affairs. They gave huge amounts of money to charity, they still paid a lot of tax here, other companies outsourced to minimise their tax liability, Ireland used the same trick to draw in revenue from other countries. My friend remained implacable, I was with my friend. Feeling that matters were getting quite tetchy, I jested “Ireland is full of begrudgers.” “Are you one of them?” she snapped at me. Of course I am but, you know, nobody likes to be called a begrudger. “Do you work for U2?” I joked. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.”
Have I mentioned before that everybody in Ireland is only 2 degrees of separation from Bono?