Over the past few years, I have had countless conversations with old friends, who ask, only half in jest, “Do you know any decent men for [such and such a woman]?”
On reflection, when I go through my net of available single straight friends – and exclude the drunks, the gamblers, the eejits, the bankrupts, the libertines or the plain odd – there are very few “decent” men available.
Yet in contrast, there appear to be an extraordinary number of single women out there. This is not just a hunch: it is fact. Nor is this “Mr Smug Married” moralising about people’s lifestyles and who they live or don’t live with. This is about exploring demographic trends that should be taken into account to properly plan our society.
A city of contrasts and deep divisions, Johannesburg is vibrant, beating with the tell-tale dynamism of a massive conglomeration going places. There is a sense of urgency, relentlessness and possibility. It is sprawling, dangerous and chaotic, yet bursting at the seams with optimism.
The story of cities is the wonderful human tale of individual self-transformation. Cities are places you move to in order to change yourself. Jo’burg teems with millions of newcomers seeking a better life, trying to get away from somewhere and propel themselves somewhere else. Such is the narrative of all great urban centres throughout history. It is the story of the established classes moving out, replaced by newcomers hoping to move up.
On this day 10 years ago, Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl was hurtling up the charts almost as quickly as deposits were hurtling out of the Irish banks. Within a few weeks, Ms Perry would go on to sell millions, and the Irish banks go on to lose billions. Yet, even in late July, when they could see what was happening, those in the regulator’s office were still bleating that the fundamentals were sound and the banks were well-financed. That they believed it is one of the most difficult aspects of the sorry saga to digest.
But they weren’t alone. From New York to Frankfurt, from Dublin to Dubai, banks went to the wall in the biggest boom/bust credit cycle the world has yet experienced. It was on the same scale as the 1929 crash, with the added complication of enormous inter-country leverage, implying that the crash was viciously contagious, jumping not just from bank to bank but from country to country.
On September 20th, 1988, nine Irish students at the College of Europe took their places in Bruges town hall. We were waiting for Margaret Thatcher to give the opening address for our coming academic year.
What West Point is to the US military, the College of Europe is to the EU institutions. It is the academic entry point for the European Commission, European Court of Justice, European Central Bank and the various other orbital institutions that make up the European project. Security was tight. The IRA were active on the continent. In August, the IRA had killed three British soldiers in the Netherlands. A few months previously we had the Gibraltar killings. Tensions were high. As was normal at the time, the Irish students, all of us only 21, were singled out for special but not particularly invasive checks.
Let’s just say it was a long night. All around this village, on an Adriatic island where cars were banned many years ago and the locals amble around at a pace that would make Andalusians look like sprinters, flares ignited, strangers hugged wildly and you could hear an entire country roar.
They say voices carry on the sea. Believe me they do. I am in deepest Dalmatia, Croatia’s rugged and beautiful coast. To see our neighbours’ hearts burst open with pride is truly a beautiful thing because Croatia has been through the mill in recent years.
This week’s publication of bumper corporation-tax receipts reflects largely increased income from multinational companies. It comes hot on the heels of a regular financial-health warning that, were it not for the multinational sector, this tax wouldn’t be generated.
In June, a report from the Public Accounts Committee recommended the Department of Finance should identity ways to reduce our “over-reliance” on corporation tax. The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council issued a similar dire warning last month.