Wednesday, March 22, 2006

If you're Irish, get out of the country

If you're Irish, get out of the country!
I HAVE a confession to make. (And no, before you all start going and making assumptions, I am not pregnant nor do I have intention of being so any time in the immediate future).

My confession is of a more shameful nature because today, while a nation of my peers will be drinking the green beer and singing about those lovely fields just outside of Athenry, I will be taking to the skies and leaving this fair land for the weekend.
I won't be heading into any pub at lunch time nor shall I be wearing a curly wig bedecked in our national colours. I doubt I shall even attach a bunch of withered shamrocks to my lapel or sing a resounding chorus of 'Hail Glorious St. Patrick'.
It's not that I don't have a great love for the land of my birth, or that I'm not terribly grateful to St. Patrick for chasing all those snakes out of the country and introducing a little religion- but I can just think of better things to do with my day that sit in an overcrowded and smokey bar drinking myself into a state of maudlin stupidity.
St. Patrick's Day has never really been much of a big deal for me. As a child I remember getting rather stupidly excited when my mammy would knit me a white cardigan with a shamrock motif, and I would get to show off my new 'style' at Mass.
Beyond that and making coloured cards at school, I can't say it really stood out in my memory all that much. (Although I seem to remember some really godawful film called 'Flight of the Doves' being shown or 'Darby O'Gill' scaring the holy bejaysus out of me with that freaky Banshee).
Moving into adulthood it somehow became nothing more than an opportunity to go to the pub and get that silly kind of drunk you can only get when you drink in the afternoon.
I remember with particular fondness going to the Student's Union after lectures with a few classmates and enjoying my first proper St. Pat's session in 1996. In all honesty though, the bonding with my classmates was much more enjoyable that the inevitable flinging of ourselves round the dancefloor to the 'The Last of the Irish Rovers' in the name of national pride.
The last time I think I even acknowledged the day was three years ago (pre-baby) when myself, my friend and our two husbands met in the pub after work for a quick drink. We joined in half heartedly with the traditional Irish art of Karaoke and stopped off on the way home for that traditional Irish supper of curry chips.
Latterly I've just fallen into the brigade of old farts who go up the town on the day to tut at all the "young ones" off their heads on drink and God knows what else.
You see, I think we should celebrate St. Patrick's Day, but I don't see why we have to use it as an opportunity to make a holy show of ourselves.
Yes, we all love a drink- but do we have to drink to such an extent that we throw up in the street? Or start a fight with each other at the taxi rank?
So, when the opportunity came up to jet off to foreign shores for the weekend (foreign being Scotland), I felt no qualms at leaving behind my native Ireland for the day. Instead I'm looking forward to a day or two with my best Scottish pal, her family, a nice hotel to stay in and a couple of drinks- none of which will be dyed green.
Instead of getting caught up in whatever melee may erupt in town, I will swan around the lobby of my hotel speaking in an exagerated accent, saying "bejaysus" and "begorrah" a lot, and waiting for the offers of drinks from kindly strangers wanting to drown the shamrock with me.
I will gather my friend's children around my feet and tell them magical tales of Leprechauns, the Blarney stone, and Finn McCool (and leave out all references to Banshees- no child need ever fear the howl of the wind in my opinion).
I will tell them of the magical pathway between Ireland and Scotland and promise to take them to the Giant's Causeway some day to see it for themselves (should I ever manage to pass my driving test).
If I'm feeling really adventurous (or slightly drunk) I might even sing a wee chorus of 'Cead Mile Failte' or 'Paddy McGinty's Goat' (In fairness I would have to learn the words to the latter first).
I'm sure, if pushed, I'll even tell them the story of St. Patrick and how he came to Ireland and chased the snakes out. (I find young children more intrigued by snakes than religion these days).
So I won't be here to join in the hijinks and hoolies, but I'll be having a perfectly fine and lovely time all to myself, feeling distinctly Irish without the associated hangover.
No doubt, however, as my plane takes off over Derry and flies across Northern Ireland towards the Irish sea I'll get a little misty eyed at thoughts of home- but what better way to see your home country on its national day than from the skies? On Erin's green valleys, I'll look down with my love.

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