At the risk of sounding like one of the Dail Eireann mutterers, I think I can see the green shoots. Not, perhaps, green shoots of a fast recovery to the ridiculous financial highs of recent years but green shoots of normality. I see green shoots of a world where success is not totally determined by material goods and where we once again get excited by the little things and are grateful for the positive.

Along with all the difficulty of job losses and the obvious economic pressures, those that can keep their heads might also wish to recognise the raft of societal changes for the better that are currently cropping up everywhere. Sadly they are not the things that make the headlines. As a nation we appear to have a much larger appetite for the negative. We’ve seen a proliferation of front page stories that portray Ireland’s gangland like something from a Hollywood Mafia drama. Our politicians and bankers are portrayed like the murky well heeled figures who lead double lives in those same Hollywood Mafia dramas. Every now and again we have the odd singer or TV presenter’s marital woes thrown in for a bit of colour and again you reach the conclusion that it is like something from a Hollywood Mafia drama. In every good Mafia movie there is always some link with the entertainment world. It’s a front page news trend that is becoming boringly predictable.

In the real world

Back in the real world of you, me and everyday life where we’re not running our drug empires from palatial apartments in the Costa del Sol, dodgy housing estates in Limerick or a cell in Mountjoy, things are definitely changing. I was at a function this week and ended up chatting to a socialite from Dublin. I learned from this beautifully groomed creature that it’s ‘alright these days to attend functions in clothes that you already own’. Apparently, and I know you’ll be very shocked by this revelation, some people wore dresses they’d worn before at the recent TV Now awards! I was further advised by this sage that it was very ‘now’ to ‘shop your own wardrobe’. (Her words, not mine) I mentioned that I’d obviously been very ‘now’ for years then as I’ve always considered it alright to ‘shop your own wardrobe’ (many times it is the only shop I can afford). Isn’t that why they put washing instructions on clothes? I think my observation about the washing instructions was lost on this innocent. To be honest a little part of me was silently screaming, “How in the world did you manage to get your head so far up there” but the better part of my brain was recognising something else; a touch of humility, reality and even an absence of that horribly gauche air of vanity that has prevailed for so long.

As we chatted I actually found myself warming immensely to this person and I enjoyed the conversation. Now let’s be clear about something, cheap isn’t necessarily good and expensive isn’t always frivolous or to be frowned upon. I still admire and uphold quality and even luxury but I have always been very uncomfortable with excess and, in particular, showy excess. Thankfully that pressure of being successful according to the world’s logos is lifting. I never fully subscribed to it anyway, but occasionally I would find myself lusting over the odd designer handbag or shoe in an unhealthy way. I would then have to talk myself around to the fact that life isn’t better by having them, which, of course, it isn’t.

We can breathe again!

We can breathe again and not be considered odd if we choose to live in modest homes or holiday in Wexford. All talk of property prices has finally ceased as who wants to sound depressing? Our thoughts are being re-educated and once again we are coming around to the idea that experiences and time spent with other people have more value than ‘things’. We are also more inclined to participate or avail of community events. Spraoi launched in Waterford last Friday and the line up for Spraoi in the Park at the beginning of July and the Spraoi Festival for the August Bank Holiday, as usual, looks fantastic. On reflection Spraoi is always great, but maybe because I read the programme with a little more gratitude it just seemed even better. At the launch Miriam Dunne of Spraoi made the very good point that, during the festival, ‘the world comes to Waterford’. We need to grasp that fact and celebrate it. We have an indigenous company that has created a unique, free public festival that brings acts from every corner of the globe. As locals all we have to do is pop into town or make the effort to come to the city if you live outside it. It’s always a worthwhile event and you can’t help but forget about the recession for a few hours when you find yourself in the middle of such colour.

And we have so much more also. There’s a great line up of shows for both Garter Lane and the Theatre Royal for the summer. Most of them are local productions so, again, the tickets are affordable without compromising the quality of the performance. For younger audiences, Seussical the Musical is coming up in Garter Lane shortly while Gary Power Productions is alternating Blood Brothers and Shirley Valentine at the Theatre Royal. And talking about the Mall, it has been totally transformed by the new House of Waterford Crystal.

House of Crystal

I have no doubt that Waterford Crystal may still be a highly emotive subject in some Waterford homes but even the most embittered would have to recognise the value of its presence. The new gallery and visitor centre stands strikingly on our widest boulevard and replaces the shabby former ESB building that stood there forlornly for far too long. Just up the street The Munster Bar has reopened it’s doors onto the Mall, The Tower Hotel and Leisure Centre, as always, looks great and all in all things are beginning to look good again. (If someone could just be encouraged to do something with old Reginald night club building it would be the icing on the cake.) Admittedly the sunshine helps, but seeing such regeneration in that area should make us all proud and give a glimmer of hope for the future. Green shoots? Yes, I think they are definitely visible.